Wise Hands

Lisa Cohen’s balanced and centered vessels
As I child, I was convinced I had no artistic talent and so I avoided drawing, painting, and sculpture for the rest of my schooling and into my adult life. My only creative outlet was writing and I focused on the artistry of words.
 
I came to ceramics as an adult and under protest: my then middle-school aged son wanted to take a parent/teen ceramics class and he needed a parent. He volunteered me. We took that one class together before he discovered he loved music more than clay. Over ten years later, I am still at it and continue to find the joy of self-expression through hand building and wheel throwing.
 
My inspiration emerges from two distinct sources: my creative writing and my background as a physical therapist.
 
After a twenty-five year career as a clinician, I have learned to trust the wisdom in my hands. I interact with the clay initially through touch, rather than sight. I can tell by feel if something is centered and balanced, if the trimming is even, if it will fit comfortably in the hand of the user, if it will feel pleasant to touch and use.
 
My years of writing science fiction and fantasy novels helps me create ware at the intersection of imagination and function.
 
I primarily create ware for practical use, rather than decorative items for display, believing it is important to surround oneself with beauty and whimsy in day to day life. My handbuilt pieces tend toward the whimsy side of my personality and are typically textured and deliberately off-kilter. My wheel-thrown work appeals to my sense of form and balance. I love that clay allows for both and I don’t need to choose between them.
 
Clay is an interesting medium, as it allows for experimentation and alteration up until the time of its first firing, which locks the structure into place. There is a sense in which the clay, like writing, allows the artist to ‘edit’ her work before deeming it complete. And, of course, the unfired clay can be recycled an infinite number of times and reused. Other art forms, like stone work, painting, and drawing are less malleable during the process. Clay is not only an elastic substance, but an elastic process.
 
Beyond form and structure, clay work also involves elements of many other art forms including sculpture, decoration, and painting. While my own work focuses more on texture, other ceramicists use clay objects as a 3-D canvas. This is showcased by the astonishing depth and breadth in the field of ceramics. And more than that, ceramics is the art of alchemy: the intersection of earth (clay), air (the kiln environment), fire (the heat of the kiln), and water, which appeals to the fantasist in me. 
 
To view more of Lisa’s work, please visit http://dragonbellyceramics.com/
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