Monika Gass speaks to Lucien Koonce
I have followed you on social media for nearly fifteen years, and I continue to see your amazing pieces; they are so beautiful! How did you come to create such awesome surfaces, colours and forms?
What I make now has been a continuous journey for about that same period of time, beginning back in 2009. I will elaborate on the specific event for this present body of work in a bit. It all started with employing the “kurinuki” technique when making my vessels, and, during that beginning period, starting to fire with Chris Gustin in his anagama, as well as becoming friends with Jeff Shapiro. Gustin’s vast knowledge of wood firing presented the ideal environment to fire my work. And I consider Jeff to be a mentor as I have looked to his knowledge and creativity for inspiration. Coupled to this is the interest I have had in the Japanese aesthetic regarding wood firing, as well as their traditions surrounding the various forms that I make, such as the chawan/tea bowl and the guinomi/sake cup. Jeff Shapiro’s knowledge in this area helped to solidify the direction I wanted to explore in my ceramics.
What kinds of expectations did you have when you started, what kind of ceramics did you start with, and were there ever changes in forms and/or material, as well as the firing process?
I had never worked with clay until I was a student attending East Carolina University in my hometown of Greenville, NC. I fell in love with the medium, ended up majoring in it and getting my BFA. I went on to get my MFA in ceramics at the University of Iowa and have continued to work with clay for all the years since, although sometimes rather sporadically. My beginning work was done on the wheel, and I focused on making covered containers.