Maureen Karlstad, potter
I have been throwing pots for over 30 years. I also spent those years raising seven children and teaching. All of my kids are up and grown now, and I am working part time at Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School, so I have more time to be in the studio. One of my favorite things to do in the studio is to play with clay with my grandchildren. I think they like it too!
This photo of me was taken by my daughter-in-law, Hanna Agar. I am honored that she wanted to take some photos of me and my work. Hanna asked me to write about my pottery and so I wrote the paragraphs below.
Hanna worked in NYC as a photographer for 5 years and now lives in Viroqua. You can check out more of her work at hannaagar.com
How I feel about making pottery on the wheel
I love the way it feels when I get the clay wet and move my hands over its smooth surface. I love being able to move the clay into a calm and centered place. I love pushing down into the centered mound and then pulling the clay outward into the walls of a bowl or mug. I love being able to make a shape with as few pulls as possible, so that the finished piece has a sense of freshness about it, with the finger marks still in it from the pulling. I love making the same shape over and over again.
Each time I make a particular shape I am trying again for perfection—I may make 50 bowls but only one will have that elusive sense of perfection, or maybe none of them will. But all of them come close in one way or another, and they become beautiful and useful in their own ways.
The feeling of oneness I experience with the clay when I am able to effortlessly create a beautiful form as it turns on the wheel is an amazing thing. It is gratifying and humbling. It is a form of meditation—a meditative act, not a thinking kind of meditation, but a doing kind of meditation. The turning wheel and the movement of my hands on the clay work together to create forms that are truly magical. I have never lost the feeling that what I am doing is a magical process, and that I am blessed to be able to do it. I also get despondent if I am away from clay for any extended period of time. It is my creative outlet and my therapy. Whenever I am able to spend time in the studio, I have more energy for the other things that I do in my daily life.
I never get tired of making pottery on the wheel. And I never get tired of all of the aspects of the work—from the wedging of the clay to the throwing on the wheel to the trimming and the loading of the kiln and glazing and firing. At times I can get very frustrated—when pots crack, when glazes run, when kilns don’t fire correctly—but that is frustration in the moment and not frustration with the process itself. The process is a part of my life, a part of my being and something that makes me feel truly alive.