Nell Devitt

1 piece(s) in the gallery


1. How has the material, clay, determined the direction of your work visually?
Working alone in my clay studio in rural Indiana, I am challenged by the physical process of making and firing clay tiles in a simple, direct smoke firing method. There are endless possibilities when working with clay, but I continue to work in this limited format and by seeing a direct connection between the parameters which limit my choices technically and the visual impact that my tiles make, I am motivated to simplify my images as well as the process.

2. Does one series of pieces lead you to other series or in other directions?
I work from drawings and my images evolve within certain self-imposed constraints and limitations. The architectural feeling of a grid combined with curves and references to organic images, challenges me to see the ever- changing abundant world within the context of social constraints and political limitations. Smoke black clay tiles with unpredictable straw marks hung in an orderly format, as if each were the same; display their irregularities while making the point: we are all different.

3. The synthesis of taking clay and making something new has many processes. Which process (forming, firing, painting, etc.) gives you the most satisfaction?
The most immediate part of the process of making tiles is forming a tile from soft, wet clay. I love the way a newly formed tile glistens and the terra sigillita slip that I use reproduces this glossy look on the surface of the finished tile. The black color and straw marks are a result of the final smoke firing process which is the most physically demanding. After the clay tiles reach maturation temperature in the kiln (1850 degrees F), they are individually removed with a pair of tongs and placed in a closed reduction container full of straw. The straw ignites and carbon molecules enter the clay in search of oxygen and turn the tile black. This process produces a highly irregular, imperfect surface and is also very immediate and exciting.

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