Clay is a time capsule, a material that holds marks and gestures of the hand and flame, remembering and documenting the interactions and intentions of its surroundings. This cooperation between material and maker are perpetuated and preserved through hardening by fire. By firing my work in atmospheric kilns, I use the marks of the flame as a metaphor for remembrance of struggle and strength, while placing my work within a long history of traditional firing methods.
By using local clay, I situate my work within space and time. Each shovelful of clay harvested is unique, separating itself from the homogeneity of the supply chain and processed, factory-made materials. The wild clay used to create this work remembers the glacial melts that made it, the plants, animals and civilizations that grew above it, and it remembers the process of hands building from it. It is a permanent reminder of this space and the histories that it has seen.
For many, this land is remembered as a life source, giving food and shelter, giving coal and clay, timber and salt. It has been a symbol of trauma, removal and dispossession, but also of prosperity and of steadfast strength. Through strife and turmoil, the land has remained. This body of work upholds those experiences of Appalachian life, poverty, work, familiarity and oral history, adding to the time capsule by exploring the material experience of working with and firing clay.
Liam McSteen is a ceramics artist and art historian from Athens, OH. He graduated from Ohio University with two degrees from the Honors Tutorial College in the Spring of 2023.
Studio Song: Veridis Quo by Daft Punk