Welcome to our second installment of "Meet a Member!"
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Meet Anita Feng!
Name: Anita Feng
Years working with clay: 42
Type of work made (sculpture, pottery, etc): sculpture, musical instruments
What region of the state do you live in? King County, Issaquah
Describe your process and materials: Nowadays I specialize in raku fired sculptures. I use either a combination of thrown and altered and hand-sculpted parts, or entirely hand-formed. I used the traditional technique for pulling handles to create clouds and waves. For skin surfaces I use either a terra sigilatta or a raku patina.
What is your favorite tool? Direct contact (i.e.- hands!)
Please share your favorite clay tips or trick: 1) I like to make a mix of 50% sawdust and 50% clay slip to make wonderfully textured hair and beards.
When and/or how did you get started working with clay? One day, in 1974, I went to a friend's apartment in Cambridge, MA for tea and as we were sitting there I noticed a handmade clay fish on her kitchen wall. It wasn't a matter of seeing a handmade object for the first time--I had grown up accompanying my mother to art shows where she exhibited her work. My life had been surrounded by creative works of all kinds. Yet that one clay fish triggered such a passion in me that I abandoned my studies in Russian Literature, signed up for a beginner's class in wheel-throwing. Within the space of a year I gathered my meager savings, moved to Maine, set up my own studio and began a career of making musical instruments out of clay (ocarinas, drums and horns mainly).
What jobs have you had other than being an artist? Did this influence your work at all?
I have two other jobs, writer and Zen teacher, both of which have earned me very little in terms of income, but have provided enormous richness in terms of quality and purpose. As a writer toying with shape and symmetry in language, I'm able to explore expressions without the physically exhausting work of clay. The creative discoveries I make in writing directly influence, whether intended or not, the sculptures that I make in my studio. And visa versa. Both are expression of momentary reality.
As a teacher, the encouragements and reminders that I offer my students are also, necessarily, applied to myself. As a teacher of meditation, all of the tools I offer to develop presence of mind help me in the studio as I confront those daily doubts and quandaries of working with and listening to clay. In fact, I feel that my work with clay has probably taught me more about Zen than the other way around sometimes.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given working with clay? This will probably sound completely Zen-like, but it would be patience, paying close attention to what the clay, the world and the heart is saying.