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A Life with Clay

I use clay to translate the patterns and rhythms of the natural world into tangible and tactile form. I am especially attracted to the energy of repetitive pattern as it combines with the freeform approach of my carving. I've been a traveler for the past twenty years and a deep source of inspiration has been the many trips I have taken to various regions of sub-Saharan Africa. The natural wonders there are incomparable and provide me a very rich palette. I am similarly influenced by visits I have made to the ancient ruins and mountains of Central and South America, the forests of Indonesia and the lands of southeast Asia. At home in the New York Catskills, I fuel my spirit and creativity through long time passions for gardening, architectural design and observing the natural world. My hope is that this stew of inspiration has created an art that reflects all the aspects of a rich and cognitive life.


My lifetime relationship with clay began 33 years ago with an elective ceramics class at a community college in New York. This led me to Florida Atlantic University where I earned a degree in the arts with ceramics as a focus. From there I took a position in Louisville, Kentucky, where I created, directed and taught a ceramics program at Sawyer State Park. Three years later, in 1978, I moved back to the Hudson Valley region of New York to establish myself as a full-time studio artist.


After many changes in my work – from raku to white earthenware to high-fire terra cotta – my home and studio remain in the Catskill Mountains. Throughout my career, my work has been exhibited in museums, showrooms, and over 200 galleries across the US, Europe and the Far East. It has been featured in various periodicals and publications including The Best of Pottery (Volumes 1 & 2) from Rockport Publishers.


Terra Sigillata Series


This new series has been evolving ever since I attended a lecture on 19th Century Japanese block print artists. My compositions are taken directly from my photographs which I transform with a sketch App to reduce a photo to its essentials. I then manipulate that image to create a new image focused on pattern and contrast. Terra sigillata is polished clay, not glaze. Through a multistep process, a clay slurry is decanted, leaving only the finest particles. This forms a base to which I add colorants. Using a variety of techniques, the colored clays are applied to the unfired greenware and polished, then a bisque firing secures and sets the surface. Finally, the piece is stained with a highlighting oxide and fired to 2100 degrees. This series is not meant for functional use.


Glazed Earthenware Series


In this process, a preliminary bisque firing is required. Following the first firing, the entire piece is stained with a highlighting oxide and fired a second time. This gives the raw terra cotta clay body a buttery luster. To prepare the earthenware for its third firing, all areas that are to remain unglazed are masked with a combination of latex and tape. Layers of glaze are applied with an airbrush, which allows various gradations of color. Once the masking is removed, much time is spent detailing the carved lines. Any white glaze is hand painted with a fine brush. The final firing to 2200 degrees creates a vitreous, waterproof clay body.

Nancy April on Kangaroo Island
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