I grew up in Santa Fe during the fifties and remember it as a small town peopled by a lot of ordinary folks and a few exotic artists. Floating around the fringes of the local Bohemian culture and being interested in art, I hoped that one day I would grow up to be just like them.
At Colorado College I majored in art and graduated with not a single clue about how to make a living, and postponed that reality by joining the Peace Corps where I lived in Peru for three years. There, high up in the Andes, I became involved with the world of handcrafts and participated in efforts to start marketing co-ops among the region's craftspeople. My introduction to pottery making was on a home-made kick wheel in the altiplano village of Pucará between Cuzco and Puno.
Back in the US, I began taking ceramics classes at Ohio University. Making pots was the answer to combining the need to make a living with my training as an artist, a career which I've been pursuing since 1968, first in upstate New York and then in Santa Fe since 1980 when my family and I returned to my beloved Southwest. During my time in New York I participated in a number of juried shows and craft fairs and served as a juror for the 1980 American Crafts Enterprises Wholesale Market at Springfield, Massachusetts.
In the early eighties I married well-known Santa Fe potter Frank Willett, and since then we've been collaborating to produce a full line of beautifully designed and superbly crafted pottery. For thirty years we produced a line of functional work, "Sunridge Pottery", combining our skills in wheel thrown pottery and slab-made work decorated with a landscape motif; designed and produced "Santa Fe Lights", a line of clay architectural lighting fixtures; and owned and managed Santa Fe Pottery, a fine craft shop on historic Guadalupe Street carrying the work of over eighty local and regional craftspeople. Selling Santa Fe Pottery in 2003 gave me the freedom to pursue a career-long desire to develop my own personal work which I present here.
Luisa's work can be seen and acquired on this website
Taos Blue Gallery, Taos, New Mexico.
White Mountain Pottery, Ruidoso, New Mexico
The saggar firing involves placing the piece in several sheets of crinkled aluminum foil along with a variety of combustible materials, such as peanut shells, pistachio shells, weeds, banana skins, pine needles, tea bags, sawdust, excelsior, Spanish moss, etc., along with a handful of salt and copper carbonate. Thin copper wire and copper “scrubbies” (chore girls) wrapped around the piece create black lines and patterns. The aluminum foil is wrapped loosely around the pot, holding the combustibles close to the piece. The “mummy” is then placed into a kiln and fired to about 1400 o F. After cooling, the aluminum foil, which has turned into an ash, is brushed off of the piece and the result is all of the tell-tale “fuming” that the combustibles and chemicals leave on the work. Each firing is different, unpredictable, surprising, and most of all, lots of fun.
A Few Words About How I Make My Pieces
Initially a piece will begin with a slab of clay, rolled out and then formed into a cylinder, bowl or platter. In some, air is trapped in the cylinder making a “balloon” which helps the piece take shape as it is rolled, paddled, pushed, flattened or gently nudged into its final form. Air is sometimes blown into the “balloon” to expand it through a small hole made with a pinprick of the needle tool or air is let out to deflate it a bit. Sometimes the surface is left without marks, other times complexity is added by pressing into the clay scraps of fabric, string, seed pods, bits of dried clay, textured rocks, stuff culled from the kitchen junk drawer or picked up on walks in the arroyo.
When the piece is dry and before the first “bisque” firing, it is covered with two or three coats of a thin terra sigillata slip, then polished lightly to give it bit of a sheen. Engobes with an assortment of ceramic coloring agents are sometimes painted on to areas of the piece. During the final firing, the “terra sig” picks up the fumes from the combustibles and chemicals in the aluminum foil saggar. Whatever control I think I’ve had up to this moment is given up to the more-often-than-not unexpected, unpredictable, surprising, sometimes disastrous, but mostly happy-making qualities lent by the fire.
Clay for me has always been a dance, lending itself to the exploration of form and surface and always within the vessel context. I have been a vessel maker all of my clay life. I am intrigued by containment, volume, negative/positive space. It is important to me that my pieces work visually in all three dimensions. Saggar firing the work keeps me from taking it all too seriously.