Elephant in the Room
But you and I, we've
been through that, and this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late".
All Along the Watchtower
As I become
increasingly concerned about the impact of global warming on our planet, I am looking
for ways that will allow us to continue to work with clay while at the same
time reduce our energy consumption. Every
time I fire a kiln, either in my studio or at school, I am cognizant of the
effect on the environment. Over the course of my career,
I have made thousands of ceramic forms, both pottery and sculpture. In the
process, I have consumed a lot of fossil fuels, probably more than my share.
When I factor in the work of my students for the past thirty-plus years, the
number of fired pieces would reach tens of thousands. There are a lot of ceramic artists in this
world with similar stories.
Ceramics is one of many
human activities that burn fossil fuels and release greenhouse gases during the
production process, whether using gas or electric kilns. I doubt that
scientists studying climate change have given much thought to ceramics
specifically as a source of our climate issues. If they have, emissions from ceramics would be found to be a
portion of all industrial emissions of carbon dioxide which, according to the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, constitute 20% of the total of U.S.
emissions. Ceramics is a small part of a much larger problem. No matter how small, given what is at stake,
we should give it some serious thought, and search for effective solutions. For those of us who are teachers,
this is an opportunity to inform our students about the impact of human
activity on our planet.
have no illusions. My guess is that all ceramics could come to an immediate
halt and the amount of carbon we humans put into the atmosphere will continue
to rise. So, even if this is a merely a symbolic gesture, it is urgent for all
of us to be both conscious of and conscientious about our use of fossil fuels.
, are a commentary on our present dilemma. In making these sculptures, I
did find a more energy-efficient way of working with clay. They are modular
forms, once-fired in a small electric kiln to a relatively low temperature(2100o
F.) and treated with a non-fired surface. Since the completion of these forms in
2013, I have decided that the most effective way for
me personally to address this issue is to stop using fired clay in my work. I
am now experimenting with other, more energy efficient ways of making
sculpture. Currently, the only solutions to making ceramics more
environmentally sound mirror the solutions found in other arenas—reduce waste,
increase efficiency, use local materials and products, recycle. This is how I
am approaching my work in the classroom. We will find a way forward that
preserves both the environment and the rich ceramic tradition which has played
such a significant role in the development of humanity.
Artist’s Statement July 2015
1979 M.F.A., University of California, Los Angeles
1975 B.A., California State University, Northridge
1990-present Professor of Ceramics and Three- Dimensional Design,
Cerritos College, Norwalk, California
2000-2008 Art Department Chair, Cerritos College
2006 Guest Curator, “62nd Annual Scripps Ceramics Annual", Scripps College, Claremont, CA
2006 “Four Stories”, Shane Keena, Cindy Kolodziejski, Steven Portigal and Akio Takamori, California State University, Los Angeles Fine Arts Gallery
The Long Beach Museum of Art
Lynn Myers, Pasadena, California
Simon Rattle, Berlin, Germany