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Margaret Bohls

The pieces I create are visual and sculptural objects. I conceive of each body of work with a particular set of formal goals in mind. The contours and volumes, colors and surfaces of the objects I create compose a dimensional image. Volume is a key element in utilitarian forms as it defines the potential for containment. The visual evidence and the physical quality of this volume is important to the way my work communicates formally, whether the volume is expansive and taut or soft and weighted. I think of the outlines and edges of the work as drawn lines. I choose and manipulate the softness, weight and speed of these lines. Edges and lines both define and interact with the volume of the forms. Surfaces, whether they are visually complex, or minimal, are chosen in part based on how they respond to and enhance form and line. I observe and enhance the visual and physical relationships between two or more forms when they meet in a pair or grouping.

Utility is also a primary concern. The audience’s real or implied interaction with my work provides not only its context, but also much of its content. The immediate context of this work is of course, the home. The larger context of the work lies within the long history of the decorative arts and the field of craft. The kind of visual and physical interaction we have with domestic objects, and our attention to and understanding of these objects is quite different than what occurs in a museum or gallery. I craft my work paying studied attention to the weight and texture of each piece. I anticipate that the work will be held, carried, and poured from; lids will be lifted and replaced. Details are important. My more elaborate forms are designed to require care and attention when used, the simpler ware is designed for a less conscious interaction. 

When creating my work I am also engaging in a dialog with the existing vernacular of utilitarian forms. Each of us has an inherent understanding of functional forms that is embedded in our culture. This vernacular changes with time and place. I am both utilizing and questioning this rather slippery language of form and use in my pots. My choices of form, scale and color, as well as the style and placement of spouts, handles and feet are based in part on my understanding and examination of this cultural vernacular. In this way utility provides a particular form of communication between myself and my audience.

My understanding of this language of forms comes from my study of historical ceramics and the decorative arts. My work owes allegiance to no particular historical tradition, rather I find the influences and relationships between objects and makers from different cultures and time periods is what fascinates me. Each pottery form carries a particular cultural and historical text that is part of that dialogue. Many of these objects are sources for my work. Chinese and Korean celadons, Iranian and European tin glazed earthenware and Bauhaus and Art Deco ceramics from the Modern era are several of my influences. Working primarily with porcelain, I am interested in its particular history. European porcelain from the 18th and 19th century such as Sevres and Meissen provide rich visual source information. I also have an interest in the women’s tradition of decorating on porcelain in the 19th and early 20th century.

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