Nancy Utterback Pottery

Nancy Utterback Pottery

Nancy Utterback pot

About Nancy:

My current work is thrown, altered, slip-decorated, salt or wood fired, and rooted in function. It incorporates every aspect of my daily life. I weave together my family, clay, teaching, recreation, and artistic expression into the flow of days, months, and years. I spend four or five days a week in my studio, happily working and painting, recording my day-to-day existence from my journals and, hopefully, creating exciting and interesting pots. The rest of the time I teach and give workshops.

Inevitably, the questions always come up. Where did you study? Who did you study with? Years ago, these questions would make me shrink. I felt inadequate and embarrassed about the path I had taken.

It took me more than twenty years to say I shouldn’t have to apologize for the choices I’ve made. I have come to understand that having a degree in ceramics doesn’t necessarily mean you know more or less about clay, firing, or marketing. You simply have a different beginning. Now I am able to appreciate that each of us has our own journey. I can answer these questions honestly and without shame. I’ve studied everywhere I’ve ever been. I’ve learned from everyone who has ever touched my life.

For me, degree or no degree, it is always about the work. As a teacher, I can help with technique and, if I’m lucky, I can inspire and enlighten. But the individual must do the work. So, in a sense, we are all self-taught. We choose what to listen to, work on, express. Whether we study with the most famous of potters or alone in our studios, we have to find our own way. To capture a moment is the greatest compliment of our achievement. My work gets stronger and more to the point with each firing. I hope that my work, and work of the potters around me, will at some time capture a moment and be frozen in time.

Being self-taught was a choice, perhaps a gift I gave to myself. Allowing me to find me. My struggles have given me my freedom. I have broken the rules, sometimes with great success, and often with great disaster. But I have learned and moved forward.

My love affair with clay is filled with romance and adventure and risk. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

How long have you worked in clay?

I have worked in clay for 30 years.

What specific ceramic experiences have helped to form you as a potter and/or ceramic artist?

I am self taught; I built my first kiln in 1975 before I knew anything about kiln construction or firing. Taking risks and solving problems became part of my nature. I discovered the joy of salt firing which helped me define my surface and then I was introduced to wood firing which helped me define my forms.

Who has inspired your work in clay and how?

Everyone I know. Life is full of creative, inspiring and amazing people. I have been lucky to have the opportunity to share life experiences with my husband, my family, friends and my students. All of them have inspired my work in clay. I also have great appreciation for the work of Hamada, Hans Coper, Don Reitz and many others.

Why do you like teaching ceramics or pottery?

For me, life is learning. Clay is the greatest teacher I know. It teaches us patience, honesty, integrity and it inspires us to do our best. We learn compassion and composure. Being able to share what I can, to guide students to find their own state of bliss is an amazing experience.

What is the moment in working with clay that most thrills you?

No question, leather hard. The work shows so much promise and possibility. I simply fall in love with it.

What advice would you give to a student just starting out?

Relax and enjoy.

© 2009-2011 Nancy Utterback