Studio Assistant: Molly Spadone
Michael Wilson: Director and Filming
Chloe Beaven: Video and Sound Editing
Miles Beaven: Music
Here's is Ayumi's video transcription.
Best artist statement I've seen, heard, AND read, lately!
Like a lot of people, I split my time now between the digital world and the physical one. My head’s filled with amazing stuff I see online, and yet I also need the messiness of the clay and the materiality of it to feed me on some fundamental level. I remember going outside on a freezing cold winter night when I was at the Archie Bray almost twenty years ago. I looked up at the stars and remember thinking that it was the cold that made me feel alive and part of this world, it wasn’t just seeing the vastness of the sky. It was the sensation of touch, the cold air on my skin. And I think the importance of touch gets lost sometimes in the digital world, because it’s all about the visuals now. Being cold or being uncomfortable makes you aware of your physical self. I don’t think we necessarily need to be uncomfortable to be aware. Awareness can come in different ways and clay is one shortcut to this kind of awareness. It makes you remember being human and being vulnerable. And that’s a lot of what my work is about.
There’s a meditative quality to all this repetition we do as potters. It requires being completely present in order to make work. You’d think that this kind of repeat would make you spacey and not pay attention, but it’s the opposite, where things become focused and you notice all the tiny details like a scrap of clay hanging on, or crack starting to develop. This is the kind of work that hones my ability to see each pot as an individual and it’s a different level of quality control than what happens on an assembly line, because certain pots take on a personality. It’s like oh- “that’s the one with the snaggletooth or oh that’s the one with the pimple on it’s handle”.
Play is a huge part of my work. In making pots, in drawing, in taking pictures and in thinking about how I get work out into the world.
There’s this incredible sensuality to soft clay that I hope lives on it the finished piece, so that other people can enjoy it and be aware in their own way of play and being present. Soft clay is so much like holding someone’s hand or giving someone a squeeze to say hello.
The thing that photography and ceramics have in common is their ability to preserve the ephemeral. Clay can record a spontaneous moment, just like a picture can. I love the cycle of ceramics. Clay is basically decomposed rock, so in the studio, we record this spontaneous gesture into it, into clay, we fire it and then this piece comes out hard as a rock again and lasts forever. That lovely moment of play is frozen in time.
Most of my work is fairly graphic, so it reads well online. But my white decal pots are different, actually they’re pretty much the opposite. They’re invisible unless you’re up close. And then even when you’re up close, they’re still impossible to read unless you handle the pot. Turning the pot lets the light catch the opalescent drawing. Potters can’t exactly compete with our culture’s addiction now to cell phones these days. And I don’t think we should, but I think it’s part of the dialogue when we’re talking about making hand-held objects. So what makes these pots unusual is that touch and holding them is integral to understanding what they are. There aren’t any shortcuts to that. And this brings us back to this notion of being present. I think of them as slow pots, because slowing down allows us to notice things. When I take pictures, I say, here, look at these beautiful things in life. And when I make pots, I pay attention to all the tiny beautiful details that make a pot what it is. The way my tool furrows through the clay or mashes an edge or how a handle can be crooked to hold a finger. All these things matter because then when I also put a white drawing on a white surface that’s very subtle, I’m asking the user to work harder, to meet me half way, and to be present in that moment.