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In the Galisteo Basin - New Mexico

As the air cools and the days decline I always feel the need to get out & ramble – to see the land & the empty space while it is still accessible before winter. It’s great to go see the changing aspen leaves in the mountains, sure – for some reason though I’ve been drawn the last few weeks to wide-open desolate places – empty expanses, from where you can see a hundred miles or more. It is an invigorating time of the year. 

Heron Lake New Mexico

Conveniently, I need to visit these places anyway because in a couple of these spots at least I collect clay that I will want to use all year long back in the studio – now’s the time to get a last load before the ice & snow. 

Raccoon tracks in mud

Here’s a spot I first visited about eighteen years ago. I trekked back to it, pleased to see it’s still there, unchanged – eighteen years isn’t very long in a place like this, fortunately – and spent some time looking before bagging up as much clay as I could carry.

digging earthenware clay in new mexico

This is a fine-grained, sticky, iron-rich clay. In the past I have added a lot of flux to it – wood ash or calcium carbonate – causing it to melt into a beautiful glass that covers the ceramic ware beneath it – a glaze. 

wheel-throwing local clay in New Mexico

This time, for whatever reason, I was like what would happen if I tried to throw some of this? As I centered, I had to pull a few rocks out. 

earthenware bowl local clay

It really throws beautifully. There is really something about throwing clay that’s right out of the ground – six hours before this picture was snapped this clay was getting covered in raccoon tracks down along the Chama River – it’s as though the earth itself, as it turns, is doing the work for you, which it is – it is the substance of the clay, especially in a form like this one, that is the source of beauty. As maker, you’re kind of along for the ride. 

Galisteo Creek new mexico

This time of year I always have a sense of limitation – of the finite nature of even the most energetic of artist’s efforts. That’s what’s so invigorating. Now’s the time to get out & explore – now’s the time to go see the land & empty space. That’s where the best pots will still be, when winter comes.