Ken Turner 12643 12th Avenue S. Seattle, WA 98168
As far back as I can remember I have had a fascination with clay. As a child, I loved its earthy smell, and the feel of it’s cool wetness as I squeezed it through my fingers. I was amazed by its remarkable ability to take any shape I could give it as I spent countless hours carving faces and imaginative forms from the clay-laden cliffs of the ravines above Lake Sammamish. Later, in high school art class, I sat motionless watching the skilled potter Regnor Reinholdtsen throw pots on a wheel. I then followed their evolution through the firing process. Clay and fire: one cool and malleable, the other hot and dangerous with its ability to destroy or too transform and renew have ignited my lifelong passion for ceramics.
Decades of exploring ceramic materials and methods, from digging clay out of the ground to fine porcelain, primitive pit firing to computer controlled highfire; my artistic expression has evolved with each new discovery. While my artwork is predominantly influenced by my own life experience, it is also a tangible expression of a shared human connection. My art is highly evocative of my relationships and responsibilities. Recurring themes of significance in my work seem to resurface over the years like enlarged sperm imagery in repetitive pattern. This image and the large swollen womb-like vessel forms emerged when my wife and I were having trouble conceiving a child. Running Man is another recurring motif representing man, confined within a circle of his own making. For me, art is a reflection life.
I use symbols to communicate ideas and emotions. I also employ the use of precious metals in my decorative glazing to emphasize and heighten emotional response. I am drawn to shiny objects and enchanted by gold and its reflective qualities. Historically, gold has a well-documented role in society as a means of quantifying wealth. Clay of course, in its abundance, has little value until the artist; potter/craftsman creates something of value with it. Porcelain, arguably the premier form of clay, fragile when dry, will crumble in your hands. Add water and it becomes malleable. Add heat and it can withstand thousands of years of earth’s ravages, surviving to inform future generations of the mysteries of the past. Curiously adding gold to porcelain elevates my craft to a refined art form. My use of gold and other precious metals over the past decades has become an element of unique professional identity.
My wheel-thrown work firmly established in functional tradition has evolved to a purely artistic decorative pleasure for me. While my forms are functional in nature, the use of precious metals has changed their context. My hand-built sculptures create the freedom to work outside the traditional constraints of functional wheel-thrown forms that I have spent my life mastering. Alternative firing techniques, which I developed for many of my sculptures, allow the clay to respond directly to atmospheric forces, creating dramatic and unpredictable surfaces. The ‘impressed’ design work was inspired while researching Chinese ceramic design in preparation for a cultural exchange tour I led in 2006. While my sandblasted work beginning in 2008 developed because of my interest in water etching porcelain techniques that I first played with in 2007, and experience drawn from a Robert Turner workshop I attended in the 1970’s. Other interests have led me to explorations in Aluminum Foil Saggar Firing techniques. Always inspired by my dear friend the late Robert Sperry I am currently using reticulating glaze to create highly contrasting and exciting abstract surfaces on vessel forms and platters.
I've had some wonderful teachers and teaching has been a gift in my life. The opportunity to share my passion for ceramics with others interested in learning is greatly rewarding and challenging. My art is both my guide and journey through life.