Today's guest blogger is Lauren Fleck of Massachussetts. She graduated with a B.A. in English, and is currently employed at an antiques and fine art auction house. Fleck also runs her own blog on antiques and art called "The Antiquer's Apprentice."
Beatrice Wood, Matte White Footed Bowl with Dancing Men, glazed earthenware 8 x 8 in. (20.3 x 20.3 cm) Bequest of the Rick Dillingham Estate, 1994. MOA collection 1994.67.58
Beatrice Wood (1893-1998), alternately known as “Beato” or the “Mama of Dada,” was a woman of many talents. Actress, artist and potter, Wood is perhaps best known for her experimental work with ceramic glazes, examples of which have made their way into the New Mexico Museum of Art’s permanent collection.
Born in San Francisco, at age nineteen Wood moved to Paris to study acting and art before the outbreak of World War I forced her to return to the States. In 1916, Wood met artist Marcel Duchamp and writer Henri-Pierre Roché, thus establishing her connection with the Dada movement. Together the three worked to create The Blind Man, a magazine considered to be one of the earliest examples of the Dada movement.
Wood’s career as an artist was quick to blossom, from early drawings and sketches into an intensely experimental career in ceramics. Studying under noted ceramists Gertrude and Otto Natzler, Wood honed her craft and, through a process of continual experimentation, developed her signature style along with the reputation of being an “alchemist” of glazes.
Beatrice Wood, Copper Red Teapot, n.d. glazed earthenware
7 x 5 1/2 x 3 in. (17.8 x 14 x 7.6 cm) Bequest of the Rick Dillingham Estate,
1994. MOA collection 1994.67.45ab.
The actual glaze recipe utilized by Wood has remained largely a secret, though her artistic process is well-documented. After hand-forming clay vessels, the clay was allowed to dry to a leather hard consistency. Pieces would then be coated in a milky glaze, formed of compounds such as lead, bismuth and copper, depending on which color Wood desired for the finished product. Next, the vessels would be subjected to a single reduction firing, a technique in which ceramics are fired in a low temperature, oxygen-deprived environment. As carbon filled the kiln, oxygen-starved carbon molecules would accumulate on glazed surfaces and begin to rob both the clay and the glaze of oxygen. This process, known as oxygenation, causes a chemical reaction to occur as the metallic oxides in the glaze lose their oxygen molecules and reduce into their more metallic forms. This changes the appearance of glazes, most notably resulting in the lustrous effects for which Wood was known. Interestingly, Wood’s experimentation extended beyond merely the compounds added to glazes, as even the fuel utilized to stoke her kiln was viewed as an opportunity for creative exploration. Wood added anything from mothballs to salt to her kiln, with each addition producing unique results. Due to the unpredictability of the firing process and the varied ingredients used, Wood’s finished products were always a bit of a surprise even to her, a fact which only serves to add to their charm.
Beatrice Wood, Woman with Double Vessels, n.d.
glazed earthenware 13 x 11 x 4 1/2 in. (33 x 27.9 x 11.4 cm)
Bequest of the estate of Rick Dillingham, 1994 MOA collection 1994.67.46.
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