Ceramics Now Magazine: Growing up near the ocean around natural diversity and continuous change, you have developed a very finite line of work. Do you visualize your work from the very beginning?
Debra Fleury: I spend a lot of time sketching and planning. My sketches can be very specific and architectural, or very loose and gestural. But ultimately, I am an intuitive thinker. I rely on feeling and instinct in my artwork. When I sit down with clay the careful preparation is put aside in favor of the moment. Once I have the clay in my hands, I am often swept away by the possibilities I encounter as the clay begins to express its properties.
Do you remember the first ceramic piece that you created? How did it look like and how do you feel about your evolution as a ceramic artist?
I remember the first piece I created that had an impact on me. It was a little pinch pot, a half sphere and nicely formed. It was so perfect, likely the best I had made to date. I wondered what would happen if I dropped it while it was still malleable. I decided to indulge this impulse and I let my little pinch pot fall. The perfectly round rim became this very interesting, offset elliptical shape in response to the force of the impact. After it was fired it retained the mark of that force. It looked plastic, but it was solid.
This experience helped me recognize the approach that I wanted to take with this medium — to enjoy the process and avoid feeling that the work is precious. The visual aspect of the work is compelling to me, but the process is the lure.
Tidal, 2011, Dark Stoneware, Porcelain and glass. Fired to cone 6, wall installation. Dimensions variable, average size per individual piece is approximately 10x10x8 cm - View her works
When constructing a new piece, you are using different materials such as clay, glass and glaze. What challenges you the most by combining these materials?
I love the unknown. I love being surprised by the materials and I love experimenting. Combining clay bodies with different shrink rates, adding glass, or using glaze in an unconventional way are a few of the methods I use when courting disaster or looking for insight. I push the materials toward something that I think will be interesting, but I never really know what will happen. Opening the kiln after a firing can be like meeting the work for the first time.
“While growing up near the ocean, I spent many hours peering at tiny creatures and looking for clues to their secret lives. This began a lifelong passion for the the minute details, the battered fragments, and the myriad patterns of organic life. The smallest bits of bone or shell would ignite intense curiosity and imaginative leaps; What was this creature? What did it look like? How did it die? Did it have a family, a home, or friends? Did it feel or think? What would it have thought of me? I create sculptural objects in an empathetic attempt to gain insight into the inner life of creatures and I seek to spark curiosity and imaginative leaps in the viewer.
Clay is critical to exploring these ideas. Touching clay and responding to its organic properties are key aspects of my largely exploratory and intuitive creative process. Risk taking and pushing materials to their limits is also important. I experiment with the forces used to shape clay, glaze, and glass as a process for imagining and exploring the effects of natural forces. I combine clays with glass or other materials to see what they reveal about their individual properties when they are fused together.” Debra Fleury
Debra Fleury: Tidal 2011. Dark Stoneware, Porcelain and glass. Fired to cone 6 (neutral atmosphere), (wall installation). Dimensions variable, average size per individual piece is approximately 10 cm x 10 cm x 8 cm
Debra Fleury: Tidal (detail), 2011. Dark Stoneware, Porcelain, and glass.
Debra Fleury: Flow, 2011. Red stoneware, porcelain and glaze. Fired to cone 10 (reduction atmosphere). Dimensions 28 cm x 28 cm x 7 cm
Debra Fleury: Husk, 2010. White Stoneware and underglaze. Fired to Cone 1 (neutral atmosphere). Dimensions 13 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm
Debra Fleury: Limpid, 2011. Dark Stoneware, Porcelain and glass. Fired to cone 6 (neutral atmosphere), (wall or surface installation). Dimensions variable, average size per individual piece is approximately 11 cm x 11 cm x 5 cm
Debra Fleury: Fallen, 2010. Dark Stoneware, underglaze and glaze. Multiple firings, cone 6 and cone 07 (neutral atmosphere). Dimensions 9 cm x 9 cm x 4 cm
Debra Fleury: Succor, 2010. Dark Stoneware hollow form fired to cone 6 (neutral atmosphere). Dimensions 15 cm x 15 cm x 19 cm
Debra Fleury: Barnacle, 2011. Dark Stoneware hollow forms fired to cone 6 (neutral atmosphere), (wall installation). Dimensions variable, average size per individual piece is approximately 12 cm x 11 cm x 8 cm
Debra Fleury: Ice, 2011. Dark Stoneware, Porcelain and glass. Fired to cone 6 (neutral atmosphere), (wall installation). Dimensions variable, average size per individual piece is approximately 5 cm x 5 cm x 7 cm
Debra Fleury: Glider, 2010. Porcelain. Fired to cone 10 (reduction atmosphere). Dimensions 50 cm x 15 cm x 17 cm
Debra Fleury: Exopool, 2010. Porcelain, glass and glazes. Multiple firings to cone 10 (reduction atmosphere) and cone 6 (neutral atmosphere). Dimensions 18 cm x 11 cm x 15 cm
Debra Fleury: Colony, 2011. Dark Stoneware, Porcelain and Glass. Fired to cone 6 (neutral atmosphere), (wall installation). Dimensions variable, average size per individual piece is approximately 7 cm x 7 cm x 5 cm