Every so often an artist needs to get away from it all to rediscover herself. Durango ceramicist Lisa Pedolsky is about to embark on a metaphorical journey that will literally turn her world upside down.
Earlier this year, Pedolsky was accepted for an international residency through the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts. The organization offers three global opportunities annually to its artist members. This year’s choices were Israel, Hungary and Chile. On Oct. 29, Pedolsky will pack up and head south to spend Springtime in the Andes.
She’ll travel to Centro de Arte Curaumilla, a state-of-the-art clay center on a remote piece of coastline in Chile, where she will be artist-in-residence for four weeks. After her residency, Pedolsky and her husband will spend another three weeks exploring the country.
Pedolsky’s compelling work is a result of uncommon hand-building processes and reflects her interests ranging from mid-century modern design to the traditional textiles and decorative arts of Africa and Japan.
“From my earliest years with clay, I was attracted to hand-building. I’ve spent my career studying, researching and developing methods to achieve my goals, technically and aesthetically,” she said.
In her Durango studio, flat file drawers are filled with paper and roofing felt patterns of her own design used in the construction of her forms. Straight edges, right angles and drawing compasses seem more the tools of an architect than a clay artist. She uses a 6-foot-long slab roller to prepare her clay; there is no potter’s wheel to be seen. (The slab roller likely won’t make the trip to Chile.)
“I work very much like a package designer or dressmaker, attaching patterns to clay slabs, followed by cutting, folding, darting and connecting.” And this, Pedolsky says, is just the beginning.
After she constructs a form, she works the surface many times to create the visual and tactile depth that is characteristic of her finished work.
If it sounds like Pedolsky has everything figured out, the artist would be the first to dispute it.
“I have an insatiable appetite for learning and feel there is no end to what can be discovered,” she said. “Continued growth keeps my work interesting and exciting. At this stage in my career, I feel the need to dig deeper.”
For her, this meant looking into a residency “to leave the routine, the phone calls and grocery lists to discover what has been lying dormant amid all the commitments and the distractions of daily life.”
While there is an abundance of residencies in the U.S., Pedolsky sought one that would take her away from the familiar.
“I’m heading to the Southern Hemisphere where I’ll be immersed in a foreign culture, surrounded by a population that doesn’t speak my native language. I have no doubt this will have a great impact upon my work and life experience, providing me with new insights and perspectives,” she said.
Pedolsky will be working in a spacious studio in the company of the center’s founder and director, Marilú “Pelusa” Rosenthal, an accomplished ceramicist.
“I’d like to improve my Spanish, and Pelusa has offered to speak only Spanish in the studio, if I choose,” Pedolsky said.
She will be using clays with which she doesn’t typically work. Electricity, provided by a generator, is at a premium at the clay center. There is none of the electric kilns that she uses exclusively at her own studio. Instead, she will be firing kilns that burn wood, oil and gas. Farther afield, she will meet artists in their studios, visit galleries and museums and other pieces of the Chilean culture.
“Every aspect of this experience will stretch or challenge me in some way,” Pedolsky said. “Organizations like NCECA that recognize the value of residencies are a boon to all artists. Through their support and partnership with clay centers around the world we have the opportunity to take something like a sabbatical – a time during which we can immerse ourselves holistically, not planning outcomes but experimenting, exploring and opening up to any and all possibilities. When I return, I’ll have much to share.”
Michael Thunder, a friend and longtime collector of Pedolsky’s work, will host a reception for her Friday, Oct. 18, at his White Dragon Tearoom and Gallery.
“This is a celebration of Lisa’s accomplished career and also a sendoff as she embarks upon this exciting journey in Chile,” Thunder said.
There also will likely be another reception when Pedolsky returns in a few months, but don’t expect to see any of her Chilean creations. She said she expects to finish only one piece during her residency, and that will be donated to the art center. Her work schedule will slow down to focus on the piece.
“I think this is going to be a lesson in detachment, and getting ceramics back won’t be an easy task so I’m not going to make too many,” she said. “It’s such a process, but I’m willing to let it go. I know what I’m capable of creating in a month, but this isn’t going to be like that. I don’t want to put my nose to the grindstone. And when I get back, I’ll do a show that reflects what I do down there, but it won’t be what I did down there.”