the POTTERY of GORDON MOTTA

 

HOW I MAKE IT

Most of my work is wheel thrown.  Although since I have been teaching high school students, I have come to enjoy making little pinched and altered sauce dishes.  I also enjoy the serendipity altering of certain forms to enhance the tactile quality of holding the piece.


I use a fine grained white stoneware clay body hand blended with about 30% porcelain. This combination provides a bright background for the glaze colors while maintaining the stoneware quality of random iron spotting.  I blend and recycle all clay in a vintage 80’s model Peter Pugger.  I had the good fortune to help invent the machine with my college roommate Randy Wood.


My color pallet comes from overglaze brush decoration using copper carbonate, rutile, cobalt carbonate, red iron oxide and a black stain containing iron, cobalt and manganese on combinations of a waxy white glaze, a saturated iron red and a glossy transparent celadon.  There are a few other proprietary formulations containing local materials that I use on a limited basis.  I have used these glaze elements since the early 70’s and still find new combinations to explore.  Wax resist also plays an important part of developing my imagery representing nostalgic Hawaiian Island themes and luscious tropical color schemes.


Big Island residents 
are invited to join the

ASSOCIATION
of
MOTTA POTTERY COLLECTORS

supporting the arts by owning, using and gifting
Gordon Motta’s unique and distinctive
stoneware porcelain tableware

e-mail me for membership and discount informationmailto:gordon@gordonmotta.com?subject=ampco%20info
The date indicates the month and year the piece was set in form.  Sometimes due to kiln space constraints or personal events, a piece may not be glazed for many months or even years and not be glaze fired for even longer.  Fortunately, high fired ceramics will not degrade in color or durability for many millennia.


Each piece is a unique, original work of art.  There may be similarities but no duplicates.  There are no “sets” yet all pieces compliment each other and belong to a body of work now spanning more than four decades.


THE STUDIO

The studio adjoins my home at 2300’ on the northern windward slopes of nearly 14,000’ tall
Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii in the rural community of Ahualoa.  It is the “long hill” between Honoka’a and Kamuela (headquarters of the famous Parker Ranch) and is sparsely populated with 5 acre to 100 and more acre homesteads of kama'aina ranching families, farmers, craftspeople and now many newcomers.  Being an architectural designer, I have many unfinished projects and construction and completion exercises continue since laying the foundation stones in July of 1974.  It is a blessing and a curse but very rewarding and always fun. 


I returned from my college days at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California and built on my brother’s 20 acre Crystal Dew Ranch, not quite far enough away from the 1000 head piggery buildings, out in the horse and cattle pasture.  Beautiful and peaceful but a bit smelly with the prevailing trade winds.  I had grown up around animals so I knew what to expect and was able to tolerate the farm atmosphere with regular trips to nearby Waipio Valley to bodysurf in the clear dark blue Pacific.  In 1984, my brother discontinued his swine operation and packed up for the oil rush in Alaska.  I bought the 5 acres under my studio and the pig houses were turned into a honey farm where the finest white Keawe honey in the world is produced by Richard Spiegel’s Volcano Island Honey Company.


The studio has gone through many changes from quite rustic and open to mosquitos to rather comfortable and cleanable.  It has always been well lit by skylights of fiberglas panels and sports an entire glass wall on the north side.  I throw on a Soldner wheel and have a 40 year old Brent model C, a bit younger model A and another kick wheel I designed and had fabricated by my friend Randy at Peter Pugger.  I bisque fire in an electric kiln I recycled from a school in Hilo and I glaze fire to cone 9 in a 20 cubic foot catenary arch I originally built while still in California in 1972.  It took some damage in the great 7.2 earthquake of October ’06 when I lost many dozens of pieces in my home and studio.  Many of my neighbors also lost significant numbers of their collections.  We have regular earthquakes here, some that wake you in the night including a memorable 7.5 rocker in 1975.  I had never lost anything from any of my shelves before the ’06 quake which was centered much closer to where I live.  All I can say, is that it was a doozie!  I’m now rebuilding the kiln with steel reinforcements to last the next 4 decades.


Both my house and studio have multiple levels going up or down two or three steps according to the slope of the land.  From the entry down the driveway one goes down three steps to the kiln slab and studio entry door.  One more step down to the glaze area and one more to he bisque kiln and work table.  Two steps further to the throwing room and display room which also exits to the north and 5 acres of lawn, trees, chickens and other adventures.  I keep a
rolling cart with removable shelves on the throwing room, the bisque kiln and the glaze kiln levels.  I simply move the 4’ ware boards from cart to cart and back from final firing.  From the kiln / entry level two steps up to the main floor of my living quarters and down again to the living room, one more step down to the bathroom that features three levels and a shower with living moss on the beach stone embedded floor.  This may seem strange but it has a pleasant flow and actually functions to minimize the transfer of dust and grit from level to level.  There is a wood burning stove in the studio and a clay block fireplace in the living room for those chilly winter evenings. 


LIFESTYLE

My early days in Ahualoa were an interesting switch from living within a small city with all conveniences nearby.  On the Big Island everything is down the road a bit.  The nearest town, Honoka’a, is 4 miles away from my studio.  Real shopping for building supplies or bulk items is 45 miles in one direction and 55 miles in the other.  I would stay at home for days only making trips as they were necessary. 


My typical day would either begin in the studio throwing or trimming or building something or remodeling somewhere followed by hikes in the surrounding pasture and forests exploring and gathering plant specimens to plant near the studio.  Some afternoon work and maybe some landscaping and gardening.  Later I would meet some artists that lived in Waipio Valley and would catch a ride down the treacherous muddy road with them in an old military jeep to surf the magnificent waves that no one even knew existed in the mid 70’s.  This began a 25 year habit of bodysurfing first thing in the morning, napping a bit (bodysurfing is exhausting) having breakfast then going to work in the studio.
  A group of neighbors formed a volleyball team to compete in the local recreation leagues with the teams from the sugar plantation towns.  It was a twice a week night event that went on for years.  The level of play was very high and the competition often fierce.  It was a lot of fun.  When the plantations closed we continued on a friendly recreational basis regularly at the local gyms and on the beach.  The beach games still continue but I have stopped playing due to a delicate knee injury.


In those early days, I stayed home most nights except for volleyball and going to hear my favorite jazz ensemble at the Red Water Cafe in Waimea.  Other nights were spent soaking in a furo studying the night sky’s millions of stars and draining the stress of the days work.  I would concentrate on producing pottery and work on home projects from August through December and continue working in the studio in a more relaxed atmosphere while working on outside design and construction projects to supplement my income and express my architectural aspirations during the rest of the year.


The turn of the millennium saw many changes.  With two young children, I was staring at a life crisis and a divorce.  We all survived the crisis for better or worse and I continued this crazy way of life again single but with different responsibilities.  I felt a need to “give back” to the community by getting involved in the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts “Artists in the Schools” program and began a series of projects working with elementary and middle school students.  I was hired to supplement the Visual Arts Department at Hawaii Preparatory Academy and remain there after ten years and many hundreds of high school ceramics students.  In 2001 I found myself taking up Ballroom Dancing with a passion and have been dancing regularly two or three times a week ever since.  By 2005, I had discovered Argentine Tango and became so hooked that I began teaching the craft in 2007 and developed a growing and enthusiastic community of Tango dancers on the Big Island.


At this writing I am on Summer break and again producing pottery to offer to my fans and collectors.  Please check out the catalog!

 
who da guywho_da_guy.htmlwho_da_guy.htmlshapeimage_9_link_0
catalogcatalog.htmlcatalog.htmlshapeimage_10_link_0

talk story

contactmailto:gordon@gordonmotta.com?subject=pottery%20infomailto:gordon@gordonmotta.com?subject=pottery%20infoshapeimage_11_link_0