An Interview with Dorothy Craig
When did you start making art?
I always loved to create—even as a child. I remember playing with paper dolls but making the actual dresses from wrapping paper instead of using the little clothes that came with the sets. I started working with ceramics when I was in fourth grade. At the time I lived in Queens and Mrs. Eickle gave classes in her home. There was no wheel throwing but it was the type of ceramics where you picked a piece out, prepared it for a bisque firing, glazed it, and prepared it for a glaze firing. My first piece was a bottle green ashtray that I made for my father. I was fascinated with the glazes and overall process. I learned how to slip cast from Mrs. Eickle and when my family moved to New Jersey, I helped another home ceramist with her classes and also did slip casting for her. She paid a whopping $2.00 per week for my help! My first experience with the wheel was in high school. I went to a comprehensive high school and took four years of art covering all forms and media. I made a few wheel thrown pots and completed a few hand-building projects. My art teachers—Ms. Maars and Mr. Keller encouraged me to learn how to “kiln sit” – which was the old way of firing a kiln where you had to watch it and examine cones that were placed on a kiln shelf to be sure that it was getting hot enough.
As an elementary education major in college—I took numerous art classes because programs back then prepared you to teach everything—from reading to art. I worked on the wheel and learned to hand build with Dr. Lon Nuell at Middle Tennessee State University. I still have one hand built piece of a little man sleeping that I call, Siesta. Siesta has been with me ever since and he has sat on every desk in every classroom and office that I have professionally occupied.
In 2004 I attended a Parade of Homes tour and found out about Lewis Snyder and Studio S in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I was once again intrigued with clay and convinced my husband to take wheel thrown pottery classes. We worked with from Lewis at Studio S for over ten years and then decided it was time to start our own studio. We opened our studio, Summer Triangle Pottery, in June, 2013. It is located at The Clay Lady’s Artist Galleries and Co-op in Nashville.
Why did you choose this medium?
I think I was first drawn to clay because it is really gritty and dirty; but, you can take that mud and make something beautiful with it. Also, functionality can come from a ball of clay—which makes the medium very appealing. I have two favorite clays. One is a red terra cotta called Brooklyn Red (but it reminds me of the “red earth of Tara!”) and the other one is a deep chocolate brown clay that when used with the right glazes brings out vivid colors.
What is behind these particular pieces?
Over the years I have observed many professional potters and am always in awe of the delicate pieces that some create with porcelain. For me, however, I like functionality and continue to study the work of the old Appalachian potters known as “turners and burners.” I try to blend my own cultural background and experiences living in both the north and south and like to think of my work as Geoffrey Zakarian meets Loveless Café—to use a foody analogy! By this I mean that the pieces are somewhat clunky, unrefined, and functional but the finishing and glazing techniques helps to reflect a more culturally-urban look. …like the Brooklyn Red Clay blending with the “red earth of Tara!”
These particular pieces include some of my favorite glazing techniques and are pressed with handmade, crocheted lace made by my mother and grandmother. Some are hand built and others are wheel thrown. As I make each piece—I am able to recall a memory of Rosie’s and Gracie’s kitchens in Brooklyn, Queens, Jersey, and Franklin Tennessee. The clay baskets are my version of fanners—which are traditional African baskets. I create a template for each shape and then slab roll clay. The clay is then manipulated into the shape and pressed with lace.
Do you have a favorite? If so, why is it your favorite?
My grandmother was an Italian immigrant who came to Brooklyn as a child because her father (my great grandfather) hit a man in the head with a shovel and thought he killed him. The family came in steerage and really didn’t have many belongings because they left in the middle of the night.
From this collection, I would have to say that my favorite piece is the Baby Blue Rectangular Fanner. I like it because it reminds me of a lead crystal basket that my grandmother kept on her dining room table. A polish woman named, Anna, gave the lead crystal basket to my grandmother as a gift and she treasured it because of the challenges she faced growing up. The color was selected because it was my grandmother’s favorite color. The fanner is a tribute to Gracie!
What is like being married to an artist? (How do you influence each other, benefits of being in a creative relationship, etc.)
This is a tough one! I would have to say that we feed off of each other. While Paul is really left-brained in that he is very analytical even though he creates, I am extremely right-brained. To put it in perspective—Paul dreams in black and white and I dream in vivid color with dreams that include talking animals, flying shoes, intricate music, and dreams within dreams. This is true! I like to think that I encourage and influence the creativity in Paul and he does his best to offer an analytic picture of life…even though I despise math and would much rather be playing the fiddle. ;-)