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My first memories of making something out of something else consisted of playing in the backyard. I filled a glass milk bottle imprinted with orange lettering with water and carried it to my special place. Between the roots of the oak tree, I slowly poured the water into the dirt. Mixing the slurry into a workable consistency, I made short, shallow bowls and decorated them with acorns and flowers. After drying in the hot sun, I placed the bowls in the gutter, turned on the garden hose, and was mesmerized as it dissolved. Bits of dried flowers melted off and floated in a brown stream away from the disintegrating bowl. Even at five years old, I was fascinated with the interaction between simple materials of nature: earth, water, flora, and sunlight.

Since those first mudpie days, my exploration of life has drawn me closer to the elemental spirit of nature — its unparalleled beauty, its connectedness, its raw power — and by extension, my relationship with clay. An unexpected discovery on a forest floor may lead to a new sculpture exploring the transient life of a seedpod, once protecting life, now offering itself to sustain future generations. In the Yosemite valley, where the sky is squeezed between unimaginable alps of granite, I translate the experience of feeling both insignificant and interconnected into my work. Looking into the California landscape and seeing the gnashing fissures of fault lines, I’m moved to decipher that feeling of impermanence into a visual reminder that change is constant and out of our control. The quiet beauty of spackled white snow on the disheveled red cliffs of Southwest or the simple pleasure of sitting in a creek, tracing the texture of ochre lichen embracing boulders, inspires a quest for a new glaze or surface treatment. I bring these experiences back to my studio.

I begin each piece with a thought or feeling; then I listen and the deep, brown, sandy clay never fails to speak. As I twist, form, and squish, I watch how the clay molds and breaks. A rough edge. An unexpected ripple. An incidental poke. Those are the words of my clay; a language expressed through motion. As the work comes together, I might texture the surface with jabs of jaggy crystal or the multiple impressions of a long forgotten acorn cap. Beach sand also makes its way to the finish on occasion. I love the thought that my clay once started life on a cliff, succumbed to eons of erosion, only to land in my hands on yet another journey of becoming something else.


Dana Goforth has a BA degree in ceramic sculpture and is an art teacher to youth and adults. She lives in a restored adobe brick house with two long haired cats and an awesome vacuum cleaner.

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