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The Creative Voice of a Potter

Monday, 25 January 2016 00:00  by Yolanda F.

Potter blog imagery

During my short but incendiary love affair with making pottery, I thought I was hooked forever. And I was, in a big way, that is, until life got in the way.

My friend Lori encouraged me to give it a try and although I found the process rather challenging, I continued for about a year or so and enjoyed every moment of manipulating the smooth wet mud-like clay, carving symbols of my heart-mind continuum, and glazing with colors I could just about dive into.

The entire process captivated me in ways I never expected. Perhaps the most important gift of pottery was the time it allowed for profound decompression. How I relished the necessity to leave my depression, anxiety and crisis du jour at the door of the studio, knowing I could either pick it back up where I’d left off, or choose to let the joy of pottery resonate throughout my entire day. Often, it did exactly that.

I’ve never stopped wishing I could still do pottery. Someday I’ll get back to it. In the meantime, I have friends I can admire and share the joy of their involvement.

Judi Tavill is one such friend, who has made it her livelihood. After college, she became a fashion designer and became head designer for Lilly Pulitzer before leaving to become a full-time mother.

She says, “I absolutely found I was in deep need to reclaim my creative voice. If Mommy ain't happy, NOBODY is happy!"

So she took up painting, but eventually began her own love affair with clay. Currently, two of her vessels are included in a juried show at De La Naturaleza at the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio, opening Jan. 9 through March 9. She also does a podcast and has a YouTube channel.

About her work, which I’ve found myself drooling over from time to time in her studio not too far from my house, she says, “I am inspired by the beauty of shapes and textures that I observe in nature. When I create, I choose to re-imagine, not replicate, these memories. Coastal discoveries, woodland finds, or lush flora influence my exploration in the studio. It is reflective of seaside moments and meditative pauses in the natural world. My process results in unique art objects that elegantly accent contemporary home decor and interior design.” Not too far off in the distance of her memory, there was a time before the process of pottery became part of her daily fabric. As with many artists, depression was the dark cloud hanging over her creative tendencies. “I have had various issues throughout my life,” she shares. “Bulimia in college, for instance, that reared its ugly head, though I see it more of a manifestation of something else. I have had therapy on and off for years.” Judi is fortunate enough to have a gorgeous studio with a kiln in her house in Rumson, New Jersey, which makes for a very happy potter.

“Having a space to create and most specifically ceramics/clay has been essential to my well-being since 2003. Before we built our house, which enabled me to have a studio on the second floor (over the garage and next to the laundry room).”

But she has always carved out a space to work---pun intended---no matter where she’s lived. “Even when we rented, while building our house, I coated the floor of the basement of our rental with heavy duty plastic so I could buy a wheel and throw clay,” she says. “I have been known to keep chunks of clay in my car to pull out in the event of a deep desire to work with clay.

“When I am working with my hands, I feel most in the zone, the present moment,” she adds. “Not to say there are not ups and downs working with this precarious material that can blow up in the kiln, crack or just generally not turn out as I have intended, but the actual process of working is of utmost importance to my well-being.”

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