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‘From the Earth’

Jared Tso featured for CLAY Festival


Jared Tso, a fourth generation Diné potter, is the visiting artist for this year’s CLAY Festival, July 22-28.  The festival includes several workshops, a juried show and the CLAY Market. 

After getting his degree in electrical engineering and working as an engineer for a number of years, Tso backed up and returned to his roots. After returning to school to earn a master’s in fine arts at the University of New Mexico, now he embraces his position as a fourth-generation potter, living in Nahata Dziil, just outside Sanders, Ariz.

 For the CLAY Festival he will be leading a five-day workshop on the Western New Mexico University campus involving some of the traditional building and firing techniques he uses in his work.  He also is serving as the juror for “From the Earth,” the festival’s July 4-28 exhibition held at Light Art Space Gallery in downtown Silver City (209 W. Broadway Street). 

The experience of being a lone juror was a new one for Tso.

“Every artist has a different approach,” he said. “There is never a universal equation as to how to figure out that flow.”

As a juror, one must realize everyone has their own biases, he said.

“I try to look at what the artist was trying to convey, what their technique is,” he said. “I also tried to gather a group of work that could tell a story together – how each piece of a different artist might complement each other. I tried to think of novelty where I could kind of see the artists through their work rather than just the piece.”

His experience with developing his own shows and growing his work has taught him a lot. Represented by King Galleries in Santa Fe and Scottsdale, Arizona, he said the galleries are supportive and supportive of the artist’s ideas.

The themes he works with might depend on details as a show develops.

“The details develop as I make the work,” Tso said. “You might get the aha moment on pot four or five. You have to plan ahead but also embrace the process and see where it takes you. Sometimes you just have to start working with clay to see, find that spark.”

As of late, he said, his work has been overlapping more with the contemporary ceramic world, which has been sort of isolated from the native clay world.

Spending last summer at Archie Bray in Montana, a well-known contemporary ceramic space, Tso found just being around those potters a very different experience. Over time being exposed to more differences of form and ideas about what makes a good pot have influences his work.

“I’m just fine tuning now,” he said. “Paying more attention to the rim or the foot.”

Using traditional processes, Tso doesn’t use a wheel for his brand, he said. But he does throw in the wheel for projects that are fun.

“I don’t sell that work,” he said. “I mostly do it to encourage an overall fluency with the material – fine tune what I do. It complements my work elsewhere.”

All his gallery and sale work is coil-built and fired in the ground. Test firing those is the tricky part, he said, “some became sacrificial in the learning process.” 

Much of Tso’s inspiration has come from working with his uncle in the studio, he said, “…how we talk about family designs, how it might overlap with the style, how it relates with my family.”

His interest in clay and pottery grew early from observing technology and engineering in some of the earliest art forms. He saw the computations needed in baskets and weaving. There was more clay overlap with practical forms than as fine art and he wondered why the forms drifted so far apart. It led to collaborations with weavers, including dyed wool in the vessels he was building.

“I’m excited for being invited, for the workshop,” Tso said. “It’s been a while since I have taught something like this. I enjoy teaching.”

For further information on the CLAY Festival and Market, visit www.clayfestival.com .

Jared Tso