Since early childhood I have been most content and peaceful when at work experimenting with art. My very earliest creations were of natural clay and grass clippings. These vessels were to be birds nests. Unfortunately the birds weren't interested in these human made nests and preferred their own creations. This experience taught me two things. First, that I could create joy and peace in my life with the work of my hands, and secondly, that not everyone will be excited by my efforts and that is all right. These were good lessons and I have been happily creating in various mediums ever since.


In 1995 I attended a one day workshop offered through our local weaving guild and presented by Clarence Lee on the weaving of pine needle baskets. This was to prove to be one of those unexpected turns in the road that can change the direction of a persons life. I became fascinated with the creation of miniature open coil pine needle baskets. I made dozens of them, often less than an inch in diameter. I was using all kinds of binder but always coiling with pine needles. Later I settled on only using raffia and sewing thread for my binder, and pine needle for the coil. In 1998 I discovered closed coiling and the wide range of possibilities for design this technique offers. This was an entirely new approach for me and I worked daily exploring the possibilities and honing my technique. Soon my work was going into private collections and in 1999 one of my closed coil baskets was accepted by the Sonoma Museum of Visual Arts for their California Small Works Exhibit.


I have been inspired by the basket traditions of many indigenous people all over the world and in particular the Native American people of California and the Southwest. My gourd vessels have been inspired by Southwestern and African pottery traditions as well as contemporary potters and gourd workers. In addition I find continual inspiration and renewal in the colors and textures of nature.


Both the coiling technique and the making of gourd vessels have been in use for thousands of years. I feel myself a small link in a very long chain of people who have made beautiful their everyday household containers. I am indebted to these ancient makers of vessels who have left the work of their hands to inspire and humble my own efforts.


All of my work is of original design and I rarely reproduce a piece. When working on a gourd I often spend a couple of weeks defining a design to myself. I want the design to match what I feel about the gourd. Each gourd's shape, hardness, and skin coloring present unique possibilities. I move a gourd around my environment for several weeks, leaving it in each spot for a couple of days until I have come to know it very well. Gourd work involves many separate and equally important elements and I find a deep satisfaction in slowly finding the expression that seems to fit a particular gourd. Working with gourds is a quite different experience than working on a basket. Gourd work is very carefully planned and executed. It takes a while to know what I want to do with a gourd, but when I begin working on it I am clear about what I expect the final piece to look like.


Basket making on the other hand is more of a flowing sort of experience for me. I rarely sketch a basket out until I have the first 8 or 9 coils done and then I only sketch out the next design element of the basket. Working this way I will see with my minds eye only a few coils ahead, so the design can take off in directions I had not anticipated. Though making a basket this way is a long process, often taking many weeks to complete a single basket, it is exciting to me just because of this serendipitous way of arriving at pattern. Often I will start out with little more than a hand full of pine needles, spools of colored thread and a general feeling for what I want to do. It is a meditation out of which comes the shape, design and colors of the basket.


Because I only make miniature baskets, never more than three and a half inches in diameter, my basket making supplies all fit into a small box so I can take it anywhere. I love this portability and am rarely away from home without my basketing box. Gourds on the other hand require many tools, stains, and paints so I only work on gourd vessels in my home studio.


My work is currently available in the gift shop at the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah, CA. and directly from my studio. I am happy to undertake commissioned work and I enjoy the process of working with my clients to create exactly the vessel that will reflect their vision.


Robin Potter

2340 Boonville Rd
Ukiah, Ca 95482

707-468 8416

 


e-mail to: snakslyr@saber.net

 

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