Jill Usher

My journey with clay began in the Fall of 2010 when my daughter and I took a wheel throwing class together. It was love at first touch, and some who know me well might say that I became obsessed with all things related to clay. In the Fall of 2012, after pushing the boundaries of conventional clay production one too many times, I was strongly encouraged by my teacher to invest in my own equipment and follow my endless questions to their ends. I took the plunge and purchased my own wheel and kiln, and then spent the next six months figuring out all of what is required in setting up my own home studio.

In the Spring of 2013, as part of my immersion into the world of ceramics, I enrolled in a year-long intensive Journey Workshop, with Steven Hill. Through this program, my understanding of the tremendous depth and variety of processes that are related to ceramics grew up exponentially. It is also through this journey that I began experimenting with combining oxides, stains and glass with clay. While my skills and knowledge have solidified (and continue to develop) over the past four years, it is the creativity that I have been able to achieve through working with this medium that has always been my driving force.

I continue to develop and explore this creative world through ongoing experimentation and continuing education, including: NCECA (Kansas City, March 2016), Chris Gustin Form workshop (Allison Palmer Studio, Kent, CT, April 2016), Jon Townley Design workshop (Allison Palmer Studio, May 2016), and Steven Hill 2016 Journey workshop (Saratoga Clay Arts Center, June 2016 to June 2017).

My ceramic work has been shown at the Saratoga Clay Arts Centre, as part of the Steven Hill Journey Show (June 2014), the Winter's Gift Show, Georgian Bay Foundation for the Arts (December 2014), the London Potter's Guild Spring Show (April 2015), the Summer Show, Georgian Bay Foundation for the Arts (July 2015), the Ontario Crafts Council Materialize juried show (July-August 2015), and the ToDo Festival juried show, In Series, Toronto, Ontario (January 2016).

A selection of my work is also available online and through Rational Expressions Gallery, Stayner, ON. I am a member of the London Potter's Guild, the Hamilton Potter's Guild, The Ontario Crafts Council, Fusion (the Ontario Clay and Glass Association), and NCECA.

Artist's Statement

My Enlightenment series is inspired by personal spiritual growth and the recognition that it is inherent in our nature to embody ever evolving degrees of darkness and light - ignorance and awareness, fear and love. Both are essential to who we are and our own, very personal journeys.

Creating this body of work begins by using a unique, finely grained, very white porcelain clay from Australia, which is called Southern Ice. Black oxide is worked into this clay to the point of maximum saturation. Then this black porcelain is carefully combined with the pure white clay before being thrown on the wheel where the two colours join together in endlessly unique combinations as they are shaped into functional cups, bowls and saucers. During the one-two week drying period, these vessels' shapes are refined and they are burnished by hand several times to highlight the interplay of the black and white clay bodies. A final firing to 2381F causes vitrification of the clay body, making it fully functional.

Jill Usher

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