I feel so lucky and blessed to have had the opportunity to get to know Malcolm. I will treasure the fun memories I have of him. Posted on NCECA’s website is the transcript of the closing lecture that Malcolm gave at the 2010 Philadelphia conference. Click here to read it. Malcolm was such a treasure in our world, not only his pots, but his personality. He will be missed by so many. What follows is the information he had provided for the workshop which was to occur here at Brackers in May. I thought it important to leave this information up in memory of his wonderful and full life.
MALCOLM DAVIS – Biographical Information
“I first touched clay at age 40 and knew immediately that I had been a potter all along. I love to make pots! For me, the joy and the challenge comes from making things that will become an intimate part of the daily lives of others – pots that will be held, eaten from, poured from, sipped or even licked from. For me the making of pots is a way to celebrate the mundane rituals of daily life and to make them holy.”
Malcolm Davis has been a full-time studio potter since 1984 when he left his previous life as campus minister. He took his first ceramics class in 1973 and now maintains his mountaintop studio in Upshur County, WV. He is internationally recognized for his work with shino-type glazes, specifically for the creation of a unique shino-type formula with a high concentration of soluble soda ash, which encourages the trapping of carbon in the early stages of the firing.
He is the recipient of numerous awards, including four grants from the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and was a finalist in the 1995 Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation/NEA Visual Artists Fellowships. Other awards include the Purchase Award at the Ceramics Monthly International Competition (1999), First Place in the 1996 Strictly Functional Pottery Show, Feats of Clay XIII and XIV Merit Awards, Orton Purchase Awards, Crosscurrents All Media Award at the Stifel Fine Arts in Wheeling, WV Juried Exhibition Merit Award and Awards for Clay Cup VII and Clay Cup IV.
He has exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, the Smithsonian Craft Show and the American Craft Council Craft Shows. He has been an artist-in-residence at Artpark in Lewiston, NY; Baltimore Clayworks; Greenwich House Pottery (NYC); The Clay Studio in Philadelphia; Red Star Studios in Kansas City; Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis; Waubonsee Community College in Illinois and the Lee Arts Center in Virginia.
Malcolm’s work is included in collections at the Yixing Museum, China; American Crafts Museum; The Schein-Joseph of Ceramic Art, Alfred, NY; the Everson Museum, Syracuse; Mobach Collection, Utrecht, Holland; Orton Permanent Collection; Arthur and Lillian Weiss Collection; Bailey Ceramics; Old Church Cultural Center in Demarest, NJ; Highwater Clay Permanent Collection; AMACO Collection, Indianapolis, IN, The Twentieth Century Collection, Sarah Lawrence College and the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, CA.
He has been featured in over 30 books and publications, published articles in American Shino by Lester Richter and Stayin’ Alive by Robin Hopper; and curated an issue of Studio Potter Magazine on carbon trapping. The December, 2003 issue of The Studio Potter Magazine featured an extensive interview: “Malcolm Davis, Shino Warrior.” His work with carbontrap shinos was recently featured in Ceramica (Spain); Ceramic Review (England); Contemporary Ceramics, by Emmanuel Cooper (Thames & Hudson)
Malcolm has taught and lectured widely throughout the United States and abroad. He has been a regular participant for over 30 years in the Pottery Invitational at the Old Church Cultural Center in Demarest, NJ (curated by Karen Karnes) and recent exhibitions include AKAR, Iowa City, IA; 18 Hands Gallery, Houston, TX; American Pottery Festival, Northern Clay Center, Minneapolis, MN; Greenwich House Pottery, New York NY.
Malcolm recently curated two international invitational exhibitions of work with shino-type glazes, “Endless Variations: Shino Review 2005,” featured at the 2005 NCECA Conference and “Shino Redux 2010” at The Clay Art Center in Port Chester, NY. He juried the 15th annual Strictly Functional Pottery National and was a presenter at the 20th annual NC Potters’ Conference in Seagrove. He has taught for five years at La Meridiana in Tuscany and will be a presenter at 2012 Functional Ceramics, Wooster, OH.
Malcolm Davis – Artist’s Statement
I work exclusively in porcelain. My goal is to make fresh, spirited, graceful pots for daily use, searching for fluidity and clarity of form within the context of function and striving for elegance rather than drama. My desire is to bring to life pots that are friendly and intimate, growing ever more personal with daily use.
The style of my work and the nature of the forms are simple and fluid. In my search for glazes that would not compete with the form, but allow the pot to assert its own life and liveliness, I began to experiment with Shino glazes and developed a red Shino that provided a lively surface for my work and did not distract from the subtleties of the forms.
The appearance of Shino ceramics in the late 16th Century is one of the most significant events in the history of Japanese pottery. Shino Ware was first made during this period at the Mino kilns near Seto and began the trend away from imported and imitated Chinese and Korean wares toward the creation of wares distinctly Japanese in shape, glaze and decoration.
The primary characteristic of Shino is its color, introducing a depth and softness not found previously in either domestic or imported wares. Its warm surface, subtly varied in thickness, inspired a new sense of form in direct contrast to the refined, symmetrical perfection of Chinese wares. Where uneven in application, the citron-skin surface ranges from thick, milky white to orange or rust, and sometimes offers a rare red “fire color”, highly valued by tea masters. The characteristic shapes of Shino ware, simple and rough, warped and distorted, make them expressions of delightful spontaneity and lively individuality.
My work is inspired by such folk traditions. Whether the early pots of the first century in Korea or the dung-fired pots of the original inhabitants of the Americas, pots were made to be used. These pots were often primitive and fragile, but always embodied a feeling of warmth and friendliness from their pure functional intent and the simple processes of their making. Through these ancient pots, the hands of their makers have reached down through centuries to communicate their spirit and their energy, their history and their hopes, a living inspiration to all those who see, touch and use them.
These are the kinds of pots for which I strive. I seek not to imitate the forms nor the processes of their making, but to emulate the vigor and spontaneity in the making of lively utilitarian wares. Hopefully, my pots move out of a ceramic folk tradition to express my own individual nature and spirit, having energy and a life that passes from my hands to that of the user.