holding on

Sequoia Sempervirens Cone - Botanical Watercolor Illustration

Spoon | ceramic (1″x15.5″) • jul 2016


Taking stock of all of the ceramics I have made, I noticed that a majority of the pieces I have held on to — hold things. Here are some of those pieces and their stories…

During my time at Jenni‘s ceramics studio, I learned that ceramics requires patience – waiting for a piece to dry before its bisque firing, waiting for the kiln to be filled before firing, waiting for the kiln to finish the bisque firing, waiting for the kiln to be filled again after glazing but before the final firing, and then waiting to see the transformed piece as it emerges from the kiln. Even then, sometimes things don’t go as planned in the blazing heat of the kiln – glazes run amok causing pieces to stick together or stick to the kiln shelf, pieces break or even blow up – which often means starting all over again. During all the in-between waiting times, I found myself sketching and doodling in clay.

I would slice a randomly sized chunk from a block of clay with the wire cutter and without a particular goal in mind, I would start to knead the clay, press the clay with my hands and fingers, and a form organically materialized. Magically as the forms took shape – so did their purpose. These clay “sketches” – a brush rest, countless bowls and dishes – are now part of my everyday – holding snacks, paintbrushes, knick-knacks, and more.

Brush Rest
Brush Rest. Ceramic

Brush Rest
ceramic (1.125″x1.5″x1.5″) • feb 2016

Brush Rest with Brush

Brush Rest with brush
ceramic (1.125″x1.5″x1.5″) • feb 2016

3 Bowls
Three Handbuilt Bowls. Ceramic

1-2-3 Bowls
ceramic (1.5″x4″x3.5″, 2″x5″x4.5″,2.75″x5.25″x4.75″) • dec 2014

Three Handbuilt Bowls. Top View. Ceramic

1-2-3 Bowls
ceramic (1.5″x4″x3.5″, 2″x5″x4.5″,2.75″x5.25″x4.75″) • dec 2014


Towards the end of 2016, I walked into ceramics class one day and Jenni was ready with a prompt – “Make a basket”. My basket is shaped more like a toolbox, but nonetheless, it is a basket that sits proudly on my desk holding many of the tools I use for my illustrations (mechanical pencils, eraser shields, Copic and Sakura Pigma Micron ink pens, gel pens, metallic markers), some of the tools I use for bookmaking (bone folder, bookbinding needles, waxed thread) and my magnifying glass.

Basket. Ceramic. Handbuilt.

ceramic (5.75″x12.5″x5.5″) • dec 2016

Basket | Side View. Ceramic. Handbuilt

Basket – Side
ceramic (5.75″x12.5″x5.5″) • dec 2016


As much as I have learned to love the organic quality of handbuilt ceramics – the symmetry of thrown pieces and the mesmerizing transformation of clay on a spinning pottery wheel have always intrigued me. Some time in 2015, I approached Jenni about teaching me how to throw. The hardest part for me was getting the clay centered on the wheel. A piece has to be centered in order for it to be properly thrown. A big hint for me that a piece wasn’t properly centered – I would get extremely dizzy from staring at the spinning wheel. After throwing countless lop-sided dog bowls, I got the hang of centering the clay (eventually) – resulting in more “presentable” pieces. I haven’t thrown since that time in Jenni’s studio and I still have so much to learn. Maybe one day I will pick it back up again. Here are a couple of my most “successful” (in other words, symmetric) throws:

Thrown Bowl. White and Black. Ceramic

ceramic (2.25″h, 4″ diameter) • 2015

Thrown Cup. Ceramic

Tea Cup
ceramic (2.5″h, 3.25″ diameter) • 2015

To learn more about my journey in clay, read my post Learning : Ceramics.

photo credit: michael cinque