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Bryan Johnson

Bryan Johnson, Artist

As a potter, I take a little bit of the earth and make something useful that displays earth imagery. Since the early 80s, I have primarily used one set of techniques to do this: neriage/nerikomi/agateware.

My interest in these techniques was first sparked by an exhibition of work by Ban Kajitani shown at a gallery in Naperville, IL in 1983.

Most examples of thrown neriage/nerikomi/agateware feature random spiraling designs of colored clay. My pieces are unique in that their designs are non-random and non-spiraling. Instead, I layer the clay to reflect the patterns of land, water, and sky.

Recently I have been developing some new ways of creating patterns in clay through a unique variation in this process — a variation that uses an unthrown assemblage of colored clays to create highly-detailed designs. I mostly use this process in my jewelry-making, creating striking images on earrings, pendants, and pins.

A finished piece displays images of water, waves, beach, shoreline, rocks, foliage, and a cloud-filled sky. These complex designs develop both before and during the forming of each piece. Their appearance is influenced by the placement of the different clay layers, and the amount of wedging (mixing), cutting, and other manipulations. More variations can arise depending on my choice of forming and shaping techniques.

Neriage/nerikomi/agateware has allowed me to integrate the decorative and formative process. Forms that appear soft and fluid as the clay is being shaped become hard and rigid after firing — and so a lump of wet clay from the earth becomes an earth-patterned vessel used to hold food or drink.

Just as we get our sustenance from the earth, we can get our sustenance from this little piece of reshaped earth. Within the context of utilitarian forms, I am thus able to unify beauty and utility.

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