Sam's Writing About His Work:
I have been working with clay for 48 years and most of that time I have spent working with porcelain with some kind of surface decoration. I predominantly choose forms, functional or not, that are reduced to the elemental such as cylinder, sphere, or plate. I keep the surface smooth to not compete or interfere with whatever decoration I use. Over the years I have pursued three distinctly different bodies of work.
An inveterate doodler I have always filled space with some kind of pattern. Designs I choose are rarely representational but always abstractions. With my brushwork decoration observers sometimes see representational images, but the concept is always to create a pattern, that flows rhythmically around the form. To me they are more Rorschach Ink Blots with the viewer seeing the image they project on to the patterns I have created.
Over the years I began to develop a facility with pouring the glaze on the form with great control. As I investigated this skill, I began to create shapes that enveloped the surface of the form. I formulated a flat matte glaze to use on the white porcelain surface, this contrast energized the surface. The development of this glaze has allowed me to employ new forms of decoration on the clay surface, juxtaposing biomorphic poured shapes in contrast to the dense white porcelain. These drips create a graphic tension that is enhanced by orienting the directional flow of the glaze from both rim and foot of the piece. The shape of the pot informs the pouring process creating overlapping patterns which integrate the form, surface, and decoration, unifying the overall design. Although the process and appearance of this decorating technique is vastly different from my brushwork, the elemental concept is the same. The goal is to activate the surface of these simple and clean forms. The black and white contrast is a further expression of the abstract.
More recently I have created a body of work that leaves this inclination to make abstract patterns and designs. In these “Impression Plates” I investigate the fossil-like quality of clay. As a fossil is a permanent document of an object that once existed, so clay, once fired, permanently documents the object pressed into the clay. As a fossil is not the actual object but more an abstraction of it, so are these impressions of the objects I choose to use. They are reduced to their elemental form and the abstraction is further enhanced by the use of black and white instead of color. I have only introduced color on a few plates to imply real objects instead of their abstraction. These plates explore my interest in science, technology and politics and their impact on society. The contents of each plate are meant to “serve up” commentaries or provoke observations of the ideas, decisions and developments that impact our actions and leave an “impression” on our society.
I was born and raised in Seattle, WA and began working with clay at High School in 1968. I went to the University of Washington to work with Robert Sperry, Patti Warashina and Howard Kottler. Receiving my BFA in 1975, I proceeded to set up my studio in the Seattle area. Over the years I’ve taught at the University of Washington and Everett Community College and have given numerous workshops and currently teach at Shoreline Community College. I have exhibited extensively, been published and have work in Museums and collections.
As the work evolves the continuing thread of abstraction has remained in pattern, design and content