Letting Go of the Wheel

Visions of a Shaman totem stick, black and white sgraffito

© Carolyn Bernard Young, Visions of a Shaman, 39 x 6 x 1″, stoneware, slip, sgraffito, poplar

After more than 20 years as a potter who loves the wheel, both my hands have developed chronic tendinitis. As it became more difficult and painful to wedge, center, and throw, I resolved to create more sculptural work, while letting go of the wheel.

Inspired by my love of totem poles, my first attempt at creating sculpture that would both reflect my heritage and include my signature sgraffito* work were what I call Totem Sticks – a totem pole for your wall.

Historically, animal totems significant to a family or clan were carved into totem poles. These were often used to tell a story, illustrate a legend, identify a clan, or document tribal history. Although totem poles are usually associated with northwestern tribes, evidence has surfaced that even Southeastern tribes used totem poles to identify clans.

Figure of woman bathed in turquoise with sgraffito dragonfly

© Carolyn Bernard Young, Serenity Heals, 12 x 3 x 3″, stoneware, slip, glazes

Letting Go

As I continued letting go, figurative sculpture was a natural progression. Serenity Heals embodies Woman…the nurturer, family healer, leader of adventures, able to switch gears on the fly, and a vessel of unbounded joy.

Turquoise is the color of healing, and the dragonfly totem is known for joy & adaptability – a perfect combination for this piece.

Dragonfly Garden

Lidded jars and centerpiece bowls have been my trademark for many years. While letting go of the wheel, I began to explore ways to create a vessel form with a slab of clay.

Hand-built footed vessel with black and white sgraffito and bright red glaze inside

© Carolyn Bernard Young, Dragonfly Garden, 6 x 11 x 11″, stoneware, slip, glaze, sgraffito

Dragonfly Garden is one of my favorite slab vessels so far. It has the lovely volume so important for a bowl form, yet it stands alone as a work of art.

Letting go of the wheel is taking me places I never expected to go. As the adventure rolls on, I can wait to see where it leads.

Honoring My Ancestors

The goal of my work is to honor the culture of my ancestors, rising from the dust of genocide to a vibrant community devoted to preserving our history, language, and traditions.

Tikba Ihiya (Keep moving forward!)

 

*Sgraffito is an Italian word that means “to scratch”. When the clay is firm to the touch, three layers of black slip are applied. As a I carve through the layers of black, the creamy white clay beneath is revealed.

 

 

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