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Karen Foster

artwork by karen foster

Most of Karen Foster's work is thrown on the wheel and then burnished with a smooth stone. When a piece is completely dry, terra sigillata slips are brushed on in many thin coats and then the piece is wrapped in a variety of materials such as seaweed, leaves, wire, and newspaper. At this point, Foster chooses between two different methods to smoke-fire the pot. One way is to surround the wrapped or unwrapped pot with sawdust in a stacked brick kiln and set the sawdust on fire. With the second choice, a wrapped pot is placed inside a clay saggar, surrounded with broken pot shards, and quickly low-fired in a Raku kiln.

All of this work is unglazed and still porous. The soft sheen is a result of the burnishing and the terra sigillata slips. The random patterns and colors are the result of the various organic materials used and the smoke-firing process.

"It all started as an accident. I had been working on a series of sculptures I call the Bird Women. I made an egg for one of the Bird Women, but the egg was too big, so I just set it aside. But that egg made me start thinking about eggs. My friend told me about a chicken who laid one egg a day for 30 consecutive days! That inspired me to challenge myself. I was compelled to begin creating an egg a day. My daily egg-making ritual has continued as a joyful, meditative experience and an exercise in discipline since June 16, 1995, and has led me to further study of this ancient symbol of Rebirth and all that it represents in history and art."

Each of Foster's daily eggs is unique. They are made by the pinch pot method, a way of shaping clay that is thousands of years old. She begins with a lump of clay, turning it slowly in the palm of her hand while pushing her thumb into the center, pinching and hand-sculpting a hollow form that gradually takes the shape of an egg. Foster rolls small lumps of clay into tiny balls and puts them into the hollowed form before closing the egg. The egg's exterior is burnished using a wooden tool and tumbled agate, then signed and dated. Terra sigillata slips are brushed on and polished with a soft piece of silk cloth. The egg is then bisque-fired. To achieve the diversity of pattern and shading found in the natural world, Foster wraps each handmade clay egg in different organic materials, such as leaves, seaweed, and newspaper before Raku or sawdust firing.

Gallery of Images

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