I began working with clay at the University of Texas. Later I studied with Gary Huntoon at the Museum School in Houston, Texas and built the studio at the Peaceable Kingdom School, working with Richard Cabral of the University of St Thomas. I then had an apprenticeship with Ishmael Soto and later had a chance to study with a student of Marguerite Wildenheim. I am also self-taught, as are all clay artists.
I have focused on images and themes that are primarily Buddhist for the past eighteen months. I have done some similar pieces earlier but with less intensity. From the very beginning of my relationship with clay, the process has been meditative and, therefore, therapeutic. I knew this on some level from the outset, but I have only recently acknowledged that my desire to lose myself in clay has a much greater significance, metaphorically and, somewhat, literally.
I began with a Zen Buddhist teacher of the Maria Kannon school in Alpine, Texas. Shortly thereafter, I moved to Austin and joined the Austin Shambhala Meditation Center where I continued for about six years, gaining some “credit” through Warriors’ Assembly (in Chile)! I lived in Mexico for fifteen months, teaching English; and I had an opportunity to study with Lama Keith Dowman, in the Dzogchen mode. Returning to the States, I found Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche with whom I took Bodhisattva vows. I am sticking pretty closely to Ven.Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, happily.
In some ways my work with clay parallels my Buddhist practice. They are both intrinsic to my daily life. Because I don’t have daily contact with a sangha, I have found that creating images in clay that reiterate what I am visualizing/contemplating in my practice, has a sweet resonance that keeps me engaged. When I make simple, press-molded Buddha faces that I later clean up, tweak, stain, and fire, I am gratified by what my hands are doing. I also like the fact that others like the faces and relate to his visage on some level.
As I said earlier, there are parallels between my clay work and my practice. The visceral quality of shaping the clay, frequently with limited thought process, has allowed me to unify my body, mind and spirit. The Buddhist subject matter reminds me that it is all as fleeting as a bone-dry vessel when placed in water…gone.
I should say that I totally identify with the dakinis, yoginis, and so on. I would like to bring them “to life” to spread their strength and wisdom. It would be very helpful for “modern” cultures. If I have any power, may it be the power to inspire others toward good.