Artist: Beverly Morris
Beverly Morris tried her hand at a wide range of artistic pursuits over the years, from photography to painting to textiles to film. When her hands tried clay, however, she felt an instant and intimate fit.
“A friend bought some ceramics classes for me from Kate Tonguis, so I found myself driving out to her place in Kenner,” says Morris. “It was less a studio, more like a garage, but that’s where I discovered this, and I fell in love
Today, that love reveals itself in a diverse portfolio of vessels, vases, boxes, panels and wall hangings, all united by her distinctive textural approach; a feminine motif of spiral and swirl shapes; mellow, earthen hues; and the interplay of found objects ranging from seashells to rusted nails.
Morris draws inspiration from traditional African and Japanese art, but her particular ceramics technique also has a big impact on the look and feel of her work. She uses the coil-building method, which means her work is composed from individual rolls of clay manipulated together rather than throwing on a potter’s wheel.
“Throwing looks like magic at the wheel, but coil building is rough and organic and not beautiful until it’s very close to being finished,” she says. “But I like to know that by the time it’s done, my hands have touched every part of a piece. I find the carving and the whole process very meditative.”
The process also creates minute imperfections and asymmetries in each piece, which Morris often accentuates with a wide range of nonceramic materials. A typical day at the studio might find her forming clay, banging divots into sheets of copper to use as the background for a wall hanging or poring through a collection of broken seashells to find the right nautilus shape to set off a ceramic swirl of metallic glaze dancing across her clay creation.
“Ceramics as a medium can be very frustrating because so many things can go wrong, but I look at it like a problem-solving process,” she says. “The technical challenges can lead to a lot of creative solutions.”
Morris is represented by d.o.c.s. Gallery, and in August her work will be part of the “40 Days and 40 Nights” exhibit at the Louisiana State Archives in Baton Rouge marking the third anniversary of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Examples of her work can be seen online at www.beverlymorrisart.com.