Lisa Harnish  |  Ceramic  |  Chandler, AZ

Artist Statement

Lisa Harnish first began working with clay in January 2002. Her initial education in ceramics began at Chandler Gilbert Community College, and continues to this day. In addition to classes at CGCC, she also takes numerous local and regional workshops to learn new techniques and gather inspiration. 

Her work focuses primarily on wheel thrown porcelain vessels. Her forms feature smoothly transitioned curves that invite the hand to caress them. Surface decoration techniques varies but her specialty is sgraffito in colored terra sigillata. This technique uses a highly refined thin slip colored with metallic oxides brushed onto bone dry greenware. A design is then incised into the terra sigillata, and the negative space around the drawings is carved away, leaving a textured surface. The drawn designs take their inspiration from nature, such as seaweed waving in the water, or plant vines that wind their way around a bottle. Lisa’s goal is to have the plants appear to grow out of the stone surface of the vessel. 

Q&A with Lisa Harnish

What process/materials did you use to create your artwork?  I make pottery from porcelain clay. I primary throw pots on the wheel, supplemented with trimming, joining and other alterations to shape the form. Most of my work features a special carving process called "sgraffito", which is where a layer of slip is applied, and then scratched through, to reveal the clay underneath. Then glazes are applied, and the vessel is fired to "maturity". Functional vessels (cups, vases, bowls) are food safe and dishwasher safe.

What inspires you to create and what inspires your work?  My forms are inspired by a desire to a sense of fluid motion captured in stone. The surfaces usually feature nature themes of vines and plants winding their way around the pot.

If you had to describe your artwork in 5 words or less, what words would you use?  Graceful, elegant, peaceful.

What other artists inspire you? What's your favorite artwork?  Ceramic artist Jennifer McCurdy is a direct inspiration and influence on my work, especially newer pieces featuring cut and pierced vessels (luminaries). I also find blown glass from the Dale Chihuly school of work (by many artists) to be a major influence.

What is your favorite artist tool?  The Kiln. I love all my tools, but as with any tool, they are meant to help produce the final thing, and I can't produce a finished pot without a kiln.

What is your dream project?  Throwing much larger, and carving more of it away, to achieve a sense of fluid motion captured in stone.

What do you like about your work?  My forms, colors and the time spent.

How has your practice or process changed over time?  My art constantly evolves. I'm always on the lookout for new ways to incorporate more color into my work.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?  One of the oddest things anyone ever said about my work, was to ask me, "why was I erasing my throwing marks?" Many potters leave horizontal lines on the inside or outside of their pots, during the process of throwing. It's considered "evidence of the hand of the potter". I tend to not do this, as I usually have other plans for the surfaces. She asked me why I was "hiding my identity" or "erasing myself", as if the proof of my ability to make a vessel rested in the throw rings alone. I was flabbergasted by the question, at the time. 

Later on, I figured the answer: My identity is not in the throwing rings. My identity is in the fact that the pot exists at all. Every choice that goes into the vessel: type of clay, form, shaping method, surface treatment, colors, glazes, firing methods, are my choice alone, and come from my vision and ideas of what a "Lisa pot" should be. I pour all the things that I am into the pots that I make, and their existence (regardless of the presence of throw rings or not) is proof of my existence. 

Why art?  Why not art? It brings me purpose, balance, and joy.