Ceramic Sea Life

Marine biology has always been one of my chief interests and I very much like sea creatures, whether it’s an urchin, sea star or nudibranch. I especially remember trips to the marine laboratory in Charleston, Oregon, and the areas nearby, which offer superb tide pooling. If you are patient, you can even dig for geoducks on the beach…large clams pronounced ‘gooey-ducks.’ Further up is the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and even further, into British Columbia, which has a coastline that affords endless tide pooling opportunities and many marine parks.

Maybe I thought of the sea because I’m quite inland, at present. Ever curious, I have come across some amazing artisans who make anatomically correct sculptures with a  sea theme. The first is Betsey Rice Ceramic Sculpture. Rice’s bio states that she grew up on the Eastern seaboard and has been a studio potter for over 40 years. Her sea star is beautiful. So often, people try to make sea creatures cute, but this has little appeal for me, so I very much appreciate Rice’s work. Sea stars are very interesting: they have eyes on the tip of each arm. Because they don’t have a very developed system, they can only see light and dark…nothing defined. I remember when I once saw a sea urchin stampede. Truly! Sea stars are predators and sea urchins are part of their diet. The urchins I saw moved could only move very slowly as they tried to escape, hampered as they were by shape and mobility. But, for them, it was stampeding. They cannot outpace sea stars, which proceeded to dine on the freshest sushi in the sea. Another site I find of particular interest is Rebecca Degagne’s Biological Sculpture. Even the name appeals to me, let alone the actual sculptures which are wonderful. One of the most beautiful of creatures is the nudibranch, or sea slug. It’s name does not impart an nth of the delicacy of the creature, which seem to be a form of wordless poetry. Degagne’s work is exquisite and she does a fine rendition of a nudibranch. She uses a number of different glazing and firing techniques and I can only imagine holding one of these pieces and studying the intricacies. I was only able to find the work of the next artist in galleries. Her name is Dianne Lee and she’s a North Carolina potter. I am so taken with her work, I will give you links to some of the galleries as I write. My father was very generous and a couple of the things he gave me are especially dear. One is a metal sculpture of a crab in a fighting posture and the other is a big, red crab pillow. The first one I call ‘Louis’ and the second is so big it graces an entire shelf in my bedroom. In the recent past, I volunteered as a beach-keeper and one of my duties was to help with a crab study…during which time I had to handle many of them…gingerly. Anyway, when I saw Lee’s artwork, I was taken by it and want to share it with you. She’s really captured the feel of a crab in motion. And so, as I sit here in eastern Washington state, amidst snow and basalt columns, I think of the sea…the heady scent rising up and washing over our deck and I think of the tiny shore crabs the size of a fingernail, as they scuttle and duck when the tide is out.


About Jan

I have a background in ceramics, graphic design and journalism.
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