Exploring the Amphora and Other Forms in Clay

Exploring the Amphora

David Heustess

Artist Statement 

I have an obsession with Greek Mythology. And as a clay artist, I am inclined to look at ancient Grecian Pottery forms.  Prior to a visit to see the collection at the Getty Museum, the ewers, amphorae and other Grecian vessels were a group of small pictures in an art history text book. But when I stood in front of these classic examples I was in awe of their scale. They were colossal compared to my experience making coffee mugs and bowls. I puzzled over how potters could have made such large clay vessels centuries ago.

Instead of recreating ancient technologies, I use the skills and the technology available today to create a series of amphorae and vessels. Using a red clay, I throw a base for each form on the potter’s wheel. From there I begin a process of attaching clay coils and throwing them to build and expand these large scale vessels. The rules for an amphora are quite basic: 1) they have two handles and 2) they have a narrow cylindrical neck.  As I build them I look for forms that have a strong presence. For the surfaces, I use a black glaze or a colored slip and clear glaze to create patterns and designs and the clay vessels are fired in an electric kiln.