Rick St John and Leslie Diane St John of Clay Mesa Art. Every piece of art made at Clay Mesa is hand-formed from slabs and coils. Rick rolls out a slab he then places in a slump form and pats into shape. He cuts the slab to an oval, circle or rounded square and places a groove along the edge. The clay is then slapped leaving the handprint of either Rick or Leslie. This has become a trademark of their work – while personalizing each piece, it serves as a transfer of energy from the artist to the art.
Leslie then adds the rim by laying a coil of clay along the grooved edge, shaping it to a smooth finish with a natural sponge. They do the clay work together as a team. The work is allowed to dry and is ultimately fired 3 times. Each piece is fired a total of 28 hours. The first firing is a bisque firing that reaches 2068 degrees F. Next they use 2 different black glazes that are hand brushed, 3 layers thick, onto the plates.
The work is then put back into the kiln for a second firing of 1944 degrees F. The application of color is the last step. Decorating requires many tedious hours of work. Finally the piece is fired for the last time to 1680 degrees F. The hallmark of their work is the method in which they use color. It is completely original and can only be found on the work produced at Clay Mesa.
The glazes have been formulated and designed to melt but not flow or run, allowing the surface of their work to remain textured even after firing. Making the reds and oranges keep their color is the 2nd part of the formulation. Reds and oranges are the most sensitive colors, easily burning out and turn black. If the firing is not perfectly executed, the glazes will lose their color and crawl. When this happens, the work is a lost cause. All the hours spent decorating and firing are in vain. This process is now called “Estilo San Juan” or “St John Style”. Aesthetic decisions are made independently.
Rick’s work has evolved from a deep appreciation of the geometric patterns of Anasazi pottery, Navajo textures and turquoise/silver jewelry.
Leslie’s work comes from a textile background. Her work in needle arts, beading, paintings and gardening are brought to her designs. In addition, Woodlands beadwork, tapestry, Mexican embroidery, Pueblo pottery and rock art are her principal sources of inspiration.
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