Artist: Kay Austen
CYCLADIC STELE 2
Obvara (Baltic) Raku fired ceramic
H: 18.5 inches
Biography and Artist Statement
Clay is my material, my medium; it’s what matters
To me. The constant in my life.
Clay is my matter: I have molded it
for over 50 years,
and I’m still not done.
The image of the thing that only I can see….
Flits in front of me.
As I work, clay is heavy in my hands,
And yet pliable, responsive…ready.
Daily I come to it, ideas a whirl of insects
above a quiet pond.
Clay is what matters;
My mind is still.
Post Secondary Education
2 years Foundation Course. Medway College of Art and Design, U.K.
3 years Bachelor of Arts. University of Wolverhampton. U.K.
1 Year Post Graduate Teaching Certificate, Sussex University. U.K.
I am a contemporary B.C. potter, living and working in the stunningly scenic community of Squamish, halfway between
Vancouver and Whistler. I start with strong wheel thrown or hand built forms, based on classic historical or traditional shapes. Through
altering either in an unobtrusive and subtle way, or radically changing the whole shape through cutting and reforming, each piece takes on a direction and rhythm uniquely its own. The emotional impact of colour and the vagaries of different methods of firing and surface treatment all play a part toward the power of the finished piece.
Three forms based on Cycladic sculptures of the Ancient Greek peoples of the Cycladic Islands between 3000 B.C.E and 1000 B.C.E the art of the Cycladic
people was characterized by a remarkable degree of abstraction; highly stylized heads and figurines were so simplified as to be barely recogniseable.
My steles …. Monuments or markers…. Are featureless heads, mounted on hand carved plinths. They were hand built using slabs of clay. When the clay was dry, the pieces were coated with terra sigillata, a mixture of very fine clay held in suspension in water. The surface of the pieces were then burnished to give a satin polish.
The steles were fired using a process called “Balkan Raku” or Obvara. Obvara is an outdoor firing where pieces are loaded into a kiln and fired slowly to around 1000 degrees centigrade. They are then removed from the kiln while still white hot with tongs and plunged into a flour/sugar/yeast and water mix. This method produces a smooth, sombrely coloured variegated surface reminiscent of marble.