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  • Writer's pictureichimuj

Wall Dolls

I was recently invited to show my work in Kyoto, Japan by my first ceramics instructor, Megumu Horiuchi. She was having a solo exhibition and she invited former students to show work with her. I was flattered...showing work with the artist who inspired me in the place where my love of ceramics started many years ago.

I decided to send a "wall doll", which is a little figure made by combining pinch pots and adding arms, legs, and a few little embellishments like scarves, hair buns, teardrops, etc. These dolls started out accidentally as a way of teaching students how to make strong attachments with clay and slip.

Here's the first one I made. I think it was around 2019. She lives on a wall at a colleague's home in San Francisco now. She's about 8" tall and her head is about 5" wide. There's a notch attached inside the top of the back of her head to hang her on a wall.

I've probably made 6 or 8 of these dolls now, I'm not sure. Some of them were given away, some were failed glaze tests. The one that went to Kyoto was a bit smaller and I used a different clay body. I made her sometime during the pandemic shutdown...maybe mid-2020 or early 2021. She is about 6" tall and 3" wide. Here she is:

The scarves and the boots are fun to sculpt, and the scarves also help secure the big heads to the little bodies. I use underglazes and stains to add depth, texture and a little color.

Here's the statement that went to Japan with this doll:

Humans make connections through empathy and understanding of others. I made this “wall doll” during the pandemic shutdown. My small figure captured feelings experienced at that time: isolation, uncertainty, and anxiety, but she still remains strong...

To me, the transformative quality of clay resembles the human experience. We are always growing, learning, and changing. Soft, wet clay gradually stiffens and dries, and during a firing it transforms from clay to ceramic. The original form remains, yet the material has been strengthened. With this idea in mind, I often say my work is about the “process of becoming”.

My journey with clay started in 1994 at Megumu’s studio and I continue to explore with this material today as an artist and professor.

Thanks for inviting me to participate in the show, Megumu.

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