Artist: Dr. Gail Nichols

Where to start…. Dr.Gail Nichol’s reputation resounds in all ceramic communities in the world as the person who took the Soda Fire movement of the 70’s and 80’s to a whole new level. She is an American gal who re-rooted in Australia, with her husband to raise a family. That is where she stumbled across pottery, across salt firing and eventually soda firing.

Here is her biggest web presence is at Craft ACT, a great organization to check out if you’re ever in the capital of Oz. Here is her Artist Statement, it is always nice to hear what an artist has to say for themselves. Before going to Australia National University on exchange to learn about soda firing I found it was shrouded in a foggy mist of uncertainty. There isn’t much to find as way of information on it (that is certainly changing today and with the publication of some books you can order and on the net if you know where to look… you’ll find enough, but you certainly have to know where to look). Here it is:

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Artist’s statement

I make generously rounded, eccentric vessels, thrown and manipulated, with lush dimpled surfaces inviting tactile as well as visual responses. The surfaces on these vessels have evolved through years of technical research with soda glazing, development of materials and processes, and investigation of glaze microstructure. The research was done to satisfy a curiosity that was largely aesthetic: a desire to work directly with clay and fire, and to achieve close integration of form and surface. The subtle interplay of technique, materials and aesthetics is an essential part of my art practice.

I am intrigued by the sculptural contrast between closed and open forms, and firing effects on exposed and shadowed clay surfaces. I enjoy playing with impressions of volume and movement. Some forms are seemingly stretched from the inside out and blown up like a balloon; others appear to dance in slow graceful curves or lively waves. For the past several years I have lived and worked at the foot of Mt. Budawang near Braidwood, New South Wales. Moving from a Sydney urban environment to a 120 acre rural property highlighted my sense of space, and consequently, of form. The gently curved yet complex and rugged terrain of the Budawang range is reflected in my fascination with form and its interaction with surface.

My aim as an artist is simply to create beautiful objects: not just pretty things to look at, but a powerful beauty that quietly overwhelms, moves, and reveals some of what human beings are capable of, beyond the ordinariness of existence.

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I was able to carpool to Sydney and attended the opening of Shades of Mass and Form at the beautiful Sabbia Gallery. (See pictures to left) Here is the artist card from the show:

This week’s posts will all be about soda firing and therefore Gail’s name will pop up then and “What is Soda Firing” for a quick explanation. Tomorrow check out the kiln I made this summer, on Friday some beautiful pots full of warmth for this cold fall and on Sunday a look at some books on soda firing!

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