Tejas Moses is interested in hands and clay and fire. He is inspired by the endlessly rich history of material human culture, which has been preserved the world over in fired clay objects. Since being introduced to clay in high school, he has nurtured a relationship with the material and the processes and community structures which transform mud and rock into intentional forms. This has led him to apprentice with a local wood firing potter, gather his own clay from the rivers and coastal plains of New England, spend a semester with the tightly knit wood firing community in southern Montana, live for a summer at an artist’s residency in Jingdezhen, China, and construct his own experimental wood kiln on an artist’s property in Deerfield, New Hampshire.
Until this year, Tejas has been principally interested in functional pottery. In his senior year as a BFA candidate, he has become inspired to follow the slow process of pinching coils. This process has pushed him to create objects which are not strictly functional.
Tejas’s plans for life after graduating are taking shape slowly, coil by coil.
We dug this earth from the steep gray banks of the Wells River, in Northern Vermont, where the clay particles deposited by the river year upon year are particularly fine. The greasy clay was dense, and we chopped it into bits with shovels before carrying it in buckets to the truck. Then we drove it back to Durham and piled it behind the studio. We brought it inside, the hot air from the radiator dried it up, and I ground it small with sore shoulders and poured it into water making a thick pea soup of clay and sand and paper pulp. The paper pulp creates a matrix of fibers in the clay which lightens and strengthens it. After time and turning and a gentle breeze through the window made it workable green earthenware clay, I began to turn this raw and amorphous material into form.
I made the vessels that you see in this show slowly, coil upon coil. Choosing to forgo the potter’s wheel, I walked backwards around the circumference of the vessels as I pinched each coil into place. I left all the marks of the process of pinching in each coil, because I appreciate the simplicity/complexity and honesty of a surface which reveals all the information of its making. These forms are only preconceived in a very general way. As I coaxed the clay upwards, I appraised each coil for symmetry of weight and continuity of curve, and the vessel grew up into space until it came to a good conclusion. When I chose the contours of these forms I was guided by memories of vessels I have seen that are grounded and elegantly full, as though planted firmly to the earth and inflated by a breadth of air. Ceremonial Chinese ritual bronzes and granaries from Northern Nigeria are forms that I look to for guidance. The pieces which expanded towards a human scale were most exciting for me to work on, for I found that my whole body was engaged in the sometimes powerful, sometimes gentle process of squeezing the clay up, up, up into space.
These vessels are not fired, they are not ceramic. They are just clay and sand and paper fibers. Firing clay into ceramics changes it in a fundamental way; it imparts a durability to the material that my vessels do not have. If these pieces were fired they would aspire to permanence; as they are, they would not withstand a week of spring rain. My decision not to fire these vessels was inspired by the process of digging and processing my clay. I am drawn to the color of unfired earthenware, and the obvious connection it has with mud and earth. The river bank where we dug the raw material for these vessels was covered all over with evidence of life: the tracks of coyote and deer, mouse and grasshopper. These tracks are washed away and made new with the passing days. This impermanence is beautiful to me.
Notes on Post Quarantine Work
After we found out the studios would be closed for the rest of the semester, I moved back to my parents’ home on the foothills of Monadnock. Here in Dublin I have not been able to make the big vessels that were just starting to find their shape at the UNH studio. Instead, I used the wild clay that I made pots from to smear clay paintings on my garage wall. I made these wall paintings in an incremental and process oriented way that relates closely to the large coil pots. The paintings and the pots share an appreciation for the physicality of clay and the changes it goes through when it dries.