Clouds of Clay

Cumulus Clouds

Last night, I thought “clouds.” It just popped into my head. Okay, what kind of clouds? Nimbus… cumulus? What form and how big? Murals, tiles, 3-D? Well, clouds are one of my favorite things and am I glad learned about them in a geography class. Not a big one for imagining shapes emerging, though, except for the time my mother and I took a road trip to Montana. Big Sky Country: clouds galore and plenty of time to see dragons and pigs! Mainly, I like to watch colors play over clouds, lights and darks, to see them roll by my field of vision. I have been enamored of clouds made of clay since I first learned of Ruth Duckworth‘s Clouds Over Lake Michigan in the mid-1980s. The mural is 9′ x 27′ and viewers ‘hover’ over the clouds, peering through them. Unable to find a link which shows the actual colors, this one must do. It’s my all-time

"Clouds Over Lake Michigan"

favorite mural. Divided into a grid, the design is not much different from sections and townships on a topographic sheet. Knife-like clouds hang over contours and features of land and water. I just wish you could see the contrast between the incredible blue of the water and the stark white clouds. So, what kind of clouds do I want to see here today besides Duckworth’s? Porcelain translucency, heavy stoneware tiles? The next piece is a rendition

"Dirty Needle"

of Seattle’s Space Needle against a backdrop of clouds, which is the best way to see. In fact, I did last week. This tile is called “Dirty Needle” and the description on etsy explains that “the dirt from the old camera of this TTV image adds a great deal of character to this composition of the Space Needle.” Also, that this photographic “image is printed with an Epson R2880 Exhibition quality printer.”

"Galahs & Chinese Clouds"

Basically, an adhesive material with the image printed on it is affixed to a ceramic tile, coaster size. Kind of a coaster geek, this image appeals to me. It is only moisture resistant, though, so unglazed tiles might be the better material. To the right, is Peter Cooley’s “Galahs & Chinese Clouds,” shown in a Melbourne gallery. It is listed as 20 x 24 cm. Galah sent me to the dictionary and I learned that it is a Rose-breasted Cockatoo. I appreciate how the bird image travels over the edge and into the vessel. According to the Gould Gallery, Cooley’s earthenware often depicts nature and he is fond of vibrant color. I do like the clouds on this piece…they create a lightness, an airiness. Let’s move on to another Australian. In an interview posted on Pieces of Eight Gallery’s blog site, Katie Jacobs said she “created a limited series of large raining clouds which were intended to function as a kind of talisman which

by Katie Jacobs

would bring rain to a parched land.” While I have not experienced the drought conditions, friends have and it something that will only get worse in Australia because of Global Warming. So, Jacob’s work is poignant, too. Now, let’s go back in time to depictions of the heavens and cosmology, which often combine images of clouds with sun, moon and stars. Some of it is religious art in the form of ancient mosaic or frescoes. While this next image is not ceramic art, it is one of the most famous images we have and one of the most beautiful. Note the clouds on the top left.

Cosmology Clockwork

Moving on, I surveyed examples of Christian art, I noticing the representations of the heavens. Many included clouds. The people who created these artworks were relying on a known quantity, clouds, to imply or infer spirituality or religiosity. The 9th century Mosaic of Angels and Saints in Basilica di Santa Prassede shows small,

9th century Mosaic of Angels and Saints

regularly spaced clouds. The mosaic styles in the basilica “all demonstrate the early-Christian revival of the Carolingian Renaissance,” according to a travel site which featured this basilica in Rome. It seems that the range of clouds depicted in art serves to either accent, suggest, or delineate, judging from what I’ve seen and observed. I quite agree with Henry David Thoreau, who said,”you must not blame me if I do talk to the clouds.”


About Jan

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