Remnant | Sculpture

In November of 2015 I was in a sculpture class with Lee Benson. Clay had opened up a whole world of understanding materials. The sculpture class gave me an opportunity to explore other materials--learning their meaning and significance on earth. One of my largest projects was an earthworks assignment. I decided to use one material for the project in hopes to understand it better by the end. I chose ash. Ash is a material so rich with meaning and significance and history. I thought it would be helpful for me to understand this material a little deeper.

This project beautifully coincided with our annual woodfire kiln firing. Never pass up an opportunity to experience a woodfire kiln. It's one of those moments when you feel you're having a deep life experience. All the weeks of anticipation gathering wood, watching the first little flame ignite the kindling and turning into a ferocious furnace, the rush of stoking the fire, it's one of my favorite ceramic experiences so far. And was helpful in thinking about ash.

After solidifying a clearing in the woods for my project location, I needed to determine my ash source. I began collecting the ash by going into the woods makings fires within the clearing. Often I would go by myself, mostly during the day, sometimes at night. A few times others joined me. I spent a lot of time trying to determine what I wanted this project to be. I had decided early on as I explored the material of ash, I also wanted to better understand the act of forgiveness. 

It was a time when I was struggling to understand forgiveness in a way I hadn't experiences before. I wanted to forgive a wrong, but as hard as I prayed, I couldn't within my heart feel the freedom that I usually associate with forgiveness. Something still remained within me. Maybe it would take time to dissipate or maybe it would always be there. Through this inner struggle I started to feel more and more connected to this material of ash. Ash is what remains after a fire. Fire--a beautiful source of warmth and comfort, a destroyer ready to devour a city, the means by which the element of clay can be turned permanently into stone. It's quite amazing, fire. And after it's had it's way, ash remains. 

After forming this connection with the ash, I knew what this piece was going to mean to me. I would mark the earth with the fire's remains. It needed to cover enough ground with ash to give it a strong presence. This is real. As this ash has remained from the fire, so has forgiveness left something within me. I am marked by what has remained. 

The piece was coming to an end, and I still had some surface to cover. So, I grabbed some buckets and went to the woodfire, collecting ash from the mound that remained. I spent two days carrying buckets of ash into the woods and spreading it. Usually you don't think about the weight of ash, but I was able to physically experience the weight of what to fire left over as I carried them back and forth into the woods for miles. 

I'm not good with words (that's why I married Zack Clemmons). Pottery is a little more straightforward than sculpture, not as much explaining. Even though I only do pottery these days, I still have a deep passion for sculpture. And it's really hard to put words to that work. Coming up with a piece, explaining it, giving it meaning. I don't usually know how to communicate a piece to others. I just know I need to touch and work with the material world. I can't put words to what I inwardly experience. But I can shove my hand in clay or know the texture of ash with my hands and say, "Ah, yes. That is what my soul feels."

We were required to create a video to aid our installation. It includes shots of various parts of the process of the piece, as well as, scenes from the woodfire.