By Barbara Falconer Newhall
I’m a writer, but whenever I visit my friend Nancy Selvin’s ceramics studio, I wonder whether I’ve missed my calling. Maybe I’d rather be working with something more tangible than words and sentences and ideas, something I can get my hands on — like clay.
At Nancy’s place in West Berkeley there’s clay everywhere. Some of it is still soft and wet, waiting to be squeezed and rolled and pressed into something shapely or mysterious. Some has been fired and sits, dry and porous, on shelves, ready to be glazed. And some has met its destiny as a bona fide art object.
There’s beauty everywhere in Nancy’s studio, and she doesn’t mind if I wander around, taking it all in, wondering how things might have been for me if I’d ignored my father’s wishes and done what I wanted to do my freshman year in college — transfer into art school.
Instead of sitting at this computer right now, I could be digging my fingers into a tub of clay — wet, slippery, earthy, willing clay. I could be making something concrete. Something touchable. Something where you know when you’ve got it right because you can see it.
But Nancy tells me that switching from words to clay would not deliver me from my creative angst. Clay, paint, words, musical notes — I’d still be facing the perennial challenge: What do you do with that blank page, that blinking computer screen, that tub of gray and shapeless muck?
Whatever the medium, you still have to come up with an idea, Nancy tells me.
No doubt she’s right. And so, for now, I’ll be satisfied with the total fun I’m having here, playing around with the photos I took of a show at the Berkeley Art Center.
The show, “Local Treasures: Bay Area Ceramics,” includes Nancy’s work, as well as the ceramics of Clayton Bailey, Viola Frey, Ted Fullwood, Jon Gariepy, Mary Law, Annabeth Rosen, Richard Shaw, Sandy Simon, John Toki, and Wanxin Zhang.
Check it out. It’s pretty wonderful. You can’t touch it, but you can walk around it. You can look at it from above and below. You can see it.
Coming soon: The ceramics of Wanxin Zhang, Ted Fullwood and Clayton Bailey.
“Local Treasures: Bay Area Ceramics,” Sept. 22 – Nov. 18, 2012, Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut Street, Berkeley, CA, 94709, (510) 644-6893.