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Michael Ray Thornton is a potter, sculptor and educator whose artwork expresses an affinity with Oriental aesthetics and ceramic traditions. His interest in Japanese ceramics began to take root while still in high school, after reading a book on the Mingei potter Shoji Hamada. At Boise State University, Michael studied with ceramics Professor John Takehara, becoming studio assistant and apprentice, while concurrently studying sculpture with Professor Alfred Kober. During his MFA studies at University of New Mexico, Michael developed an interest in ancient ceramics of the Americas – chiefly Mimbres and Moche pottery. At UNM, he also took the opportunity to study Arita Porcelain with Professor Jim Srubek.
From the painstaking craftsmanship demanded by the Arita porcelain technique, to the Wabi-Sabi aesthetic of stoneware tea ceremony vessels, to the seductive depth of classic celadon-glazed porcelain, Michael taps a well of knowledge and inspiration found in the ceramic traditions of Japan, China and Korea as he expresses his own creative vision in clay. Through artist residencies in Japan, he has honed his craft and deepened his appreciation for the culture and its ceramic legacy. Decades of practice, and a career in teaching art have brought Michael to his singular focus on his art.
“My ceramic work reflects an abiding interest in Eastern aesthetics. In particular, I’m often exploring the concept of Wabi-Sabi - the aesthetic philosophy, which finds an understated beauty in the imperfect; in the weathered; in the forlorn and the accidental. I seek to embrace these aesthetic elements in the process, and also to reflect them in my work. Making each piece individually by hand, spontaneous decisions made in the moment guide each piece’s birth, as I design pieces with which I would enjoy living myself.
Increasingly, I find myself employing wood burning kilns. The wood-firing process is at once atavistic and ever-new. It lends itself to the Wabi-Sabi aesthetic by its inherently unpredictable contribution to the final product. The vagaries of the flame’s path; the uneven intensity of the fire; the random deposition of ashes, and the interplay of the clay/glaze with the ash’s chemistry are all variables which the potter manipulates to some degree. But the potter relinquishes absolute control – accepting and even inviting the imprint of the primal forces at work in the kiln.
My ceramic work ranges from the primarily visual to functional pieces of intimate scale. As these tangible products resulting from my work go out into the world, they symbolically connect my spirit to the users’ – and serve to enhance and elevate the common experiences of eating, drinking and living.”
115 Griegos Rd. NW, Albuquerque, NM 87107
Represented by: Rottenstone Gallery, Arroyo Seco, NM
575-770-6183 - Rottenstonegallery.com
Thesaurus Studio/Gallery is Michael’s home workshop and gallery.
Visitors are welcome by appointment.
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