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Devin McDonald


Devin is a clay artist who has been at RWS for almost two years. Devin’s process is complex and intuitive and mirrors other creative practices like monotype printmaking and writing poetry. She starts by pinching out a collection of bases that will become forms she calls ‘collage pots’. The collage aspect comes from Devin’s process of creating multiple layers of slip that she pigments by mixing in different Mason stains and then prints onto a slab of clay. The layers include some drawings and words inspired by dreams and poetry. When she sits down she has a loose idea and begins a conversation with the clay, “It’s like stretching a canvas and asking it ‘What do you want now?’.” To create the layers, Devin paints a thin coat of slip on a plaster board, carves into the surface, adds another layer of slip, then carves some more. This process is repeated several layers deep until a clay slab is placed on top and adhered to the slip. When the slab is lifted up from the plaster board, the layers come with it, creating a printed surface. The drawing and painting steps are intuitive as she builds one layer on top of another like a monotype print. The resulting clay slab is anywhere from four to seven layers deep. The slabs then become like paper in a collage, built into different forms. Devin has been practicing this layering technique for some time. When she moved from Colorado to Maine she switched from atmospheric firing (soda firing) to electric kilns and changed her clay body. These changes have allowed her to dive deeper and continue to develop this process. She often thinks of poetry while she’s making. She thinks of what she’s taking in, where she’s at in the day or moment, and continues where she left off with the last slab. Devin pushes a little bit deeper with everything she makes. “What have I learned? What can I add to it and how can I go deeper?” She stays curious and likes to see what else can happen when she tries something a little different or builds upon something in a different way, by changing the way she puts a layer down or making more or less marks. Poetry is a theme in Devin’s work because she admires the transformation in meaning of a word between the first time you see it and when you come back to it later. “It’s this never ending unfolding of what’s possible. I think about that a lot when I’m making marks and textures and building up those layers.” As the stratified clay thickens, the slip surface starts to form organic rips and tears and wrinkles caused by air bubbles, dry spots, or places where the clay sticks when she scrapes and wiggles the slab off the board. She can always put more clay on top and carve into it. There are a lot of unexpected results, and discovery is a part of the process that Devin embraces. These surfaces remind her of an old brick building facade with paint that’s chipped and painted over. She calls these spots of texture ‘moments of history’ and finds the history of surfaces intriguing, “I wonder what happened to this thing to create this surface? There’s such a story that’s happening there.” Devin works a lot with plants (she works on a farm) and thinks about their life cycle and the decay of things, how they go back into the earth, and how to recreate the feeling of that surface or form. When the layers are bonded and the slab has reached its final state, Devin attaches the slab to its base. As she assembles the forms she thinks about how you put words together in a poem. She’s currently inspired by Argentinian poet Alejandra Pizarnik and American nature writer Annie Dillard. She appreciates poetry because “it’s heady and short; it’s easy to come back to and look at.”

For Devin, making art is a way of asking questions without language, “You can keep asking questions forever with clay. There’s always another turn down the road that you can take.” The work she creates is her tactile way of interacting with the world around her and within. The work creates an opportunity for the viewer to slow down and wonder about the history of the object, to inspect these dynamic surfaces with curiosity, to hold each piece and pause like it’s something to be read. Devin will be participating in the RWS Holiday Market and Open Studios, and currently has work for sale at Jordan's Farm Hands of the Harvest artisan market that runs through December 17th. Contact Devin at dmcdonaldceramics@gmail.com.

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