Palul's interview with Adam Mankowski, 2015
Re: Clay Hand-Building and Beyond
First, give me a brief bio.
Born: 1940. Education in New England. BS Degree from University of Rhode Island: Zoology major, chemistry minor. Off to seek my fortune at age 22. The next 10 years are covered in Vision-Quest: A Saga of The Sixties. From the 1970s on, although I worked full time in hospital labs, my heart beat to the rhythm of clay. While still working at the lab, I also started teaching Ceramics part time for Shasta College in 1985. I am now retired from both jobs and write as well as maintaining my clay-quest.
You touch on it in the book - Why do you create?
There are 3 reasons artists create. (1) We can't help it, we've been inoculated by the muse, we are compelled to strive for artistic perfection. (2) Recognition, a desire to fulfill the glory of the ego's fantasies, and (3) a dream of financial stability. These three motivations fluctuate and are dictated by the immediate needs. I, like so many other obsessive artists, was inoculated by the muse as a child. However, when it's time to pay the rent number 3 becomes important.
How do art and science come together when working with clay?
Over the years I've had two callings–laboratories and studios, test tubes and paint brushes. Eventually I found they were one world. Science is the objective or the technical part of art. Art is the subjective or inspirational part of science. They work together like two wings on a bird. You fly around in circles if you are using only one wing. You need them both in order to fly. In clay there is the wing of spontaneous creativity balanced by the wing of technical skills. Physics, geology, chemistry, math, along with the useful knowledge of history, archeology and even music are all involved.
Tell me more about the elemental theme of your process overview.
Over the years I learned a lot about working with clay. Perhaps much more so as a teacher than as an artist. My basic thought, my basic drive for this book, was an urgency to share what I've learned and perhaps inspire, or at least speed up the process of those beings who must be clay artists.
You have been on a writing spree. How was making this book different than your biography?
This book was wrapped around my technical knowledge in ceramics with some artistic thoughts tossed in. It's quite focused. On the other hand, Vision-Quest is a story of self discovery, a transformation where the budding scientist and artist merge. It's about a remarkable journey, both physical and mental. The biography as a memoir, ends just as I discover clay.
Who is the audience for the book?
This book is for high school students, college students, college dropouts, clay addicts, serious artists, lay people with an interest in clay art, and teachers wanting to improve their skills in ceramics.
Specifically, how can teachers use it?
Clay Hand-Building And Beyond is broken into sections that flow through the ceramic process from beginning to end. Classes can be simply set up and taught one section at a time. The pictures and stories always have a specific connection to clay–very useful in making the process more relevant to life. Through clay, sciences such as geology, physics, and chemistry, along with history and even philosophy can be introduced to the student. Also, as an E-book, the cost is low enough ($3.99) that most students can easily afford it as a "pocket" supplemental guide.
I like that you weave personal stories throughout. Give me your favorite anecdote from the book.
I think getting my mind blown at an old Phoenix museum where I actually handled the ancient pots was unique. Hundreds of pots were exhibited on open tables. I picked one up and closed my eyes. Running my fingers over the form I sensed the primitive hands forming the pot. I imagined all the hands and peoples that had used this pot generation after generation. Then I realized I was now also part of the pot's history–and this pot would continue to live on and on. I'm thanking those negligent, laid-back pink ladies who had no idea that their one-and-only guest was feeling up and bonding with the museum's 1000 year old pots. Thanks ladies.