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Cover, left: "Diamond Platter, by Everette Busbee; 36 inches (90 cm) in diameter, handbuilt red earthenware, coated with white slip, accented with colored slips, clear amber glaze.

  Extremely Recent Work

by Everette Busbee

        A cover portfolio of work and a statement,       
           Ceramics Monthly, September 1987

ust one month prior to exhibiting my work at Syracuse University during the 1987 National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference, I had a show in New York City sell out in less than an hour. Unfortunately, it was while I was having dinner at a Korean restaurant, after having taken the works from the Greenwich House Pottery and loading them into my van. A witness saw four men break into the van, carry the pieces to Broadway and sell them to passersby for a couple of dollars each.

Oval platter, 24 inches (60 cm) in length, handbuilt red earthenware, coated with white slip, accented with colored slips, clear amber glaze.

So a janitor may be flicking his ashes into one of my platters while he watches Saturday night boxing. This egalitarian scene, out of place in the eighties, would have been heartwarming in the sixties. In fact, certainly someone back then peddled his or her show on the sidewalk as a political and/or artistic statement. The theft occurred on the last day of February. Within 36 hours, I was mixing clay with Just 27 days remaining to produce an exhibition for NCECA and to make four pieces to fulfill previous commitments to two other shows. Whether I have pushed the limits of clay remains to be seen. It is certain, however, that I have pushed my own mental and physical limits, as well as the limits of my relationships with those with whom I am close.

"Pottery for me is a combination of poetry and science, beauty and function, based on the physical act of doing."

Pottery has affected me as nothing else, probably because it is a blend that satisfies several parts of me. My bachelor's degree was in English literature, and I was a part-time student in an M.F.A. program in poetry writing while working on a master's in zoology. I also took horse breaking and horse shoeing courses at a state university in West Texas while I worked on a master's in ceramics. Pottery for me is a combination of poetry and science, beauty and function, based on the physical act of doing.

I am in awe of old pots. My passion for collecting them is almost obsessive. Each evening I choose a tea pot from my collection, perhaps a turn-of-the-century Oribe pot, and while the tea steeps, I put cheese and bread on a Yellow Seto or Pennsylvania Dutch plate. My girlfriend once said, "You are such a pagan, yet each evening you perform this ritual, this religious rite of worship." Perhaps. At times I do get glimpses of pots as windows through which I see parts of the universe I could never see before. I hold a sixth-century Zapoteca bowl. In it are the mundane and the aspiring, the brief and the eternal.

I like the full form and color of Mediterranean pots, especially Renaissance Spanish pots, but it is their line quality that affects me most. I once watched an old potter in southern Mexico paint with a stick he had to chewed on one end to make a brush. The brush held little slip, and the clay quickly sucked it dry. But what a line he laid down! It was not pretty, not rtful, had nothing in common with the Japanese brushstroke. That old man, rugged and solid as stone, laid down a line that mirrored himself. As if to balance this, the Mexican filled areas with color. The result was a soft, almost sad joy. The reaction I prefer most toward my own ceramics is a smile.

"Art is born when personal experience fleshes out the skeleton of what has preceded."

Color pervades my work. As a zoologist I worked with birds and fish, animals which have given me my most vivid visual memories. I once watched a flock of macaws in the cloud forest of Guatemala. Feeding in a tree, they would clean a branch of fruit, then fly out, circle, hover, and finally enter the thick tree again. The jungle canopy, broken slightly, allowed a few shafts of noon sunlight to cut into the dusky growth below. One macaw took flight, caught in a spotlight. Pure pulsating color. I also swam among the coral reef fish off the Yucatan. The surface above was so flat as to have been a mirror, except that breezes darted about, creating tiny ripples that made the tropical sun shimmer across the sand, coral and fish below. The then, with wings beating and tail spread, hovered as if fish, like the macaws, became pure pulsating color.

Art is born when personal experience fleshes out the skeleton of what has preceded. My work here reinterprets the Spanish Renaissance theme of four fish in a circle around a platter. Any pottery historian would recognize the 500-year-old source; none would date the treatment more than a year or two prior to our present decade. In this reinterpretation I am after an effect that I can describe only as a feeling of humanness. I fantasize my platters and bowls flowing over with fresh fruit, salads, pasta, seafood stews and roasts; surrounded by huge jugs of red wine; surrounded by the music of a hot jazz quartet; surrounded by laughter.

"Houseboat Teapot—Yes, but are you happy, Georgia Boy?'" 13 inches (33 cm) in height, red earthenware with colored slips and clear amber glaze, by Everette Busbee
Red earthenware platter, 19 inches (47 cm) square, with slips and fritted-lead, clear amber glaze; Everette Busbee's interpretation of Spanish Renaissance decaration incorporates four fish.

"Six Birds," 29 inches (73 cm) in length, earthenware with slips and clear amber glaze, fired to Cone 07.

"The Humanist," handbuilt earthenware bird with fish wings, brushed with slips, clear amber glazed.

Oval Bowl, 24 inches (60 cm) in length, slip-decorated earthenware, bisqued at Cone 03 and glaze fired to Cone 07

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