Ceramic art has been a craft that I’ve been involved with since my teenage years; however, it wasn’t until after college that I discovered the need to pursue it full-time. Creating something with my hands has always been a passion of mine, one I now fulfill by creating ceramic wares.
The majority of my work is wheel-thrown functional wares. I gravitate towards this work because I love integrating my artwork into my daily life, while also sharing it with others. Producing functional wares has also fostered my interest in design, because a piece has to be constructed carefully and intentionally if it is to fit seamlessly into a lifestyle. For this reason, I am often reconsidering and adjusting my functional wares to make them both more beautiful and touchable.
Though artists often separate concept from technique, claiming that a piece is either conceptual and symbolic, or technical and objective, I believe that these elements are one and the same. Due to my focus on functionality, I think deeply about technique. I do not want a mug or a bowl merely to satisfy the criteria. Instead, I think intensively about each element of such functional wares. For example, I have altered my fluted mug handle four times. Each time, I have sought to make it more comfortable while considering its fit with the piece. (Fortunately, I think I’ve now found a handle that both looks and feels good!) Conversely, I may choose a beautiful design, but realize, upon handling the piece, that it feels terrible. In that case, I alter my design choice so that I will create a piece that both draws my eye and feels good in my hands.
My surface design is typically carved and depends heavily on the relationship between clay body and glaze. I usually work with a dark brown, iron-rich stoneware with a thin layer of white or light-colored glaze on top. Once the piece is fired, the glaze breaks over the clay to show off the beautiful, iron-rich carved clay beneath. Using light glazes allows me to play with this rich clay body without making my work too dark or heavy. Even though I usually fire to cone 6 in an electric kiln, I have also worked with atmospheric firings such as raku and wood firing. I enjoy these firings because they snap me out of the predictable routine of electric firing.
I make a point of “breaking away” from my artistic habits. Although I spend a lot of time making functional wares in small batches for sale, I try to break that up by attempting new techniques. Currently I am practicing throwing pots up to four feet in height. I am also learning glaze chemistry on a regular basis, spending much of my time either reading about glazes or mixing tests in the glaze lab.
My approach to pottery is fueled by my personal philosophy that no matter how good I may become as an artist, I will never stop being a student. This philosophy has greatly shaped my experience as an artist. The challenge of balancing functionality and beauty is what I find most exciting in this craft. I believe my line of work serves as a close study of design and technique that is constantly being explored.
Raised in the outskirts of Pittsburgh, PA, Alyssa was first introduced to ceramic art in high school. Throughout her childhood, she constantly explored various artistic media with the encouragement of her parents and teachers. After earning a Bachelor of Arts in History and Philosophy at Appalachian State University, she moved back to Pittsburgh to pursue the ceramic arts on a professional level. There, she became a member of the ceramic cooperative at Union Project, where she was able to form her artistic identity and build her skills as an artist and teacher. Over a year in that studio setting helped her build a foundation in her craft, so Alyssa went on to fulfill a year-long artist residency with Brockway Center for Art and Technology. At this non-profit, she taught after-school programming for high school students in the ceramic arts while building on her own body of work. Here she had the opportunity to bring her work to the next level while making leaps and bounds in her artistic and professional development. She showed her year’s work in her first solo exhibition, Aligning Profiles: and Exploration of Form.