April 2023 Featured MCA Member: Wishbone Clay
After taking a detour from Maine to Oregon to receive her BFA at Oregon College of Art and Craft, clay artist Stephanie Haynes landed in midcoast Maine to establish her studio practice and launch a line of functional pottery known as Wishbone Clay. Now nestled into the scenic coastal village of New Harbor, Haynes pulls the details of her surroundings into her work through texture, color and form. She uses porcelain as her medium: Sculpted, wheel thrown or a combination of the two, the white clay becomes an elemental canvas to hold her explorations, resulting in a unique collection of tactile finishes on functional homewares and decorative forms.
A few patterns have emerged in the work and become a signature style. Layered black and white forms are achieved by building textures with wax and black oxide. Many layers built together are then sanded away, revealing peaks and valleys of tonal variation on an incredibly smooth surface. Haynes leaves these portions unglazed, allowing the user to enjoy the satiny smoothness and topographical lines on the surface of the porcelain.
Textured blue & white vases are reminiscent of ice and snow. Haynes uses a variety of tools to create heavy textures and slashes on a freshly thrown or handbuilt pot. This textured surface becomes a canvas for a thick application of icy blue glaze. Heat from the kiln causes large blue drips of glaze to run down the sides of the pot, running over the heavy texture and creating glassy pools of color.
Maine Crafts Association had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie on the subject of her work. Read on to learn more about her process, inspiration and more!
Q & A with Stephanie Haynes
Q: When did you realize you could build a business from your artwork?
A: It’s still very much a work in progress. I have worked with clay fairly regularly since high school but had always kept it separate from a day job. I would make sculptures in my free time and most of them never made it farther than my friends’ backyards. When I had my daughter in 2016 I needed work that was flexible and that’s what finally pushed me to try and make a go of it. Ceramics was the only work I had stuck with and truly loved doing over the years.
Q: What are the most important elements you consider when designing your forms?
A: The two elements I’ve been experimenting with most recently are textures and layers. I look for the sweet spot of pairing a minimalist form with a richly textured and layered surface.
Q: Where do you go to find inspirations for your designs?
A: When I look at a bronze sculpture, I always look for the tool marks in the plaster or clay that was then cast in metal. Permanent proof that a person was there making that object and the process to get there. I’m also drawn to wear and tear, erosion of things around us.
Q: What are your favorite tools to use?
A: My current favorites are a small curved rasp and a wire cheese cutter. They leave great marks, especially on freshly thrown clay.
Q:How do you go about planning and making your pottery?
A: Very slowly! I wish I sketched on paper but instead I have pounds and pounds of 3D sketches in boxes. When I look back through the boxes I am often surprised by repeating design threads that I unintentionally keep playing with.
Q: What is the best compliment you’ve ever received about your work?
A: It’s a huge compliment when someone touches one of my pieces and is surprised by the texture. And then keeps touching it.
Q: Do you have any major influences?
A: I find that I’m often inspired by people’s approach to making rather than the final outcome. It’s refreshing to work in the studio with my 6 year old. If she wants a cat to look fast she gives them more legs or longer legs. She tackles an idea without reservation. The college I went to had the motto “learn the rules to break the rules,” and I appreciated the intense focus on craftsmanship. But I love that it hasn’t occurred to my daughter that there are rules in the first place.
Q: What advice would you give to emerging artists in your media?
A: This is probably fitting for most media, but make stuff with the intention that will never see the light of day. I find it easy to get carried away with production numbers. How many handles can I pull in an hour, how long does it take to decorate a mug. Set aside time to make disasters.
Q: What do you do in your spare time? What brings you joy?
A: Walking and looking. In the city and on the coast. The ocean looks different every single day and there is always some new sign of life in the city. I love them equally.
Wishbone Clay can be found in a variety of galleries and craft shows throughout the East Coast, including the Center for Maine Craft in West Gardiner and Shop Maine Craft’s online gallery of handmade work by MCA members. Visit www.wishboneclay.com to learn more about the artist and their upcoming events.
The Maine Crafts Association was founded in 1983 to support and connect Maine’s craft artists. This non-profit organization provides educational programs, public events, mentorship, artist promotions and an inclusive community to connect emerging, mid-career and established craftspeople.
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