Randolph Artist Takes Pieces to the Carolinas
Randolph’s Holly Walker is packing her van this week with 30 or more pieces of earthenware ceramic destined for the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina’s northwestern hill country. She’s returning, by invitation, to a place of profound influence upon her art, where she will mount a one-person exhibition of works, all relating to the English alphabet.
The show is entitled “Abecedarium.” At its center are a series of 26 plates, one for each letter of the alphabet.
The Material, The Artist
Several pieces will accompany the plate series in Walker’s exhibition, including several letter cups, bowls, and this A to Z alphabet platter.Holly Walker remembers playing as a young girl in the summertime, outside an open window of her family’s home in southern Ohio.
“A tree had been cut down. There was a place where no grass was growing, filled with leaf-mold, soil, rotting stump. I would take a bucket with water from the spigot, adding bits of leaf and muck. My mother taught piano, and I could hear the notes through the open window.
I remember saying, “This is a ‘b,’ this is an ‘a,’ this is a ‘d’ as I added to the pail a leaf, a piece of bark, or some dirt. Stirring this mixture of musical notes, occupied me for hours.”
Walker, deeply contemplative, has followed those experiences of mindful, childlike play for a lifetime. She still uses muck, red clay, the most basic of materials; a slurry of soils, ground minerals, and decayed plant. Her resulting earthenware creations, at once playful and challenging, seem to dance, to tabernacle with the life of the artist, expressions of music assuming shape and color in ceramic form.
Walker’s extensive palette choices are fired on small earthenware chips, filling a small wall and several boxes.
Walker’s more formal training in the arts began with a BFA in painting from Ohio University in 1974.
She is still a painter. The slips and glazes with which her pots and jars and plates are decorated can be combined and applied in myriad ways. In her studio, a small wall and boxes are filled with casting examples, a palette of color and texture for finishing each piece.
Unlike a painter of canvasses, however, Walker fashions the ground for each work from red clay.
Eschewing the wheel of production pottery, she hand-forms each piece. Slowly, intuitively, the work is created from bits of clay pinched into place.
“It’s a collaboration between me and the material,” Walker muses, adding, “I feel the piece speaking to me as I proceed.”
Next, color is added and fired into the surface of the work. The handwork is embellished, not hidden, by delicately applied slips and glazes. They pool and flow over the surfaces, adding intimate visual detail to the fingerprinted textures of the clay beneath.
In the end, the clay becomes something at once familiar and fantastic.
At first, Walker’s pieces seem utilitarian, like the cups, plates pitchers, and tureens from our grandmothers’ tables.
Upon closer examination, however, they are entirely new. These vessels are less for food than imagination and contemplation.
They feed the soul.