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In the late 1990’s, I began the full-time pursuit of clay, and produced a wide range of wheel-thrown and hand-built sculptural forms that were Raku fired. Elegant, uncluttered surfaces interested me as a counterpoint to the wildly organic patterning that resulted from the smoke and flame of Raku. I focused first on glazes rich in copper luster; and later explored slip-resist techniques, whereby smoke penetrates masking layers of slip/glaze to deposit organic carbon patterns into the clay’s surface.
In time, with the historical study of clay works and the advancement of my technical skills, I could fulfill my passion for bas-relief ceramics. In bas-relief, sections of clay project out from a flat background. Bas-relief tiles were used extensively for centuries in Asia and the Middle East to record military exploits or religious deities. Bas-relief was the ideal bridge between two of my greatest passions: clay and nature. I began a series of 3-dimensional landscapes in 2006 which have now become my signature ceramics.
Chinese screens were the inspiration for my method of slicing an image into component elements, which are placed adjacent to one another--each panel or tile functions as an independent work and as a part of a greater whole. The tile is a canvas, but unlike one on which you would simply paint. My clay landscapes have tangible depth and texture that play with light and create shadows that shift around on the tile throughout the day. My color process relies wholly on ceramic mediums (no paint) fired to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. This process leaves a matt, earthy surface that echoes the natural world of my native New England, from which I draw my inspiration.
Rick Epstein works and lives in Westfield, Ma. with his wife, Susan; children, Sam and Hannah; and dog, Blue. His work is available through galleries and juried shows throughout the year. Feel free to contact him at 413-575-7337; www.rickepstein.com
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