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Wazari Johnson moulds ideas out of clay

Published:Sunday | December 27, 2015 | 12:44 AMAmitabh Sharma, Staff Reporter

“I am like a child on Christmas morning when I open my kiln,” said Wazari Johnson, his shirt dotted with spots, and hands caked in clay, ready to shape the docile, earthy mass of mud into statement pieces.

It's love, he said, that makes the wheel spin around, fire in the kiln burning and ideas to create the poetry and prose in glazed ceramic.

“For me, everything about ceramics is just simply awesome,” Johnson said. “I love everything about the process, from getting the idea of what form I want to create, to preparing the clay, to taking it on the wheel. I love seeing the piece slowly dry and finally proving what it's made of in the fire, I love glazing and glaze firing.”

These ideas, like any artists’ creation, form on a blank slate. In this case, from specks of mud, which Johnson said is therapeutic to work with and is also adaptable to changes.

“I find that clay is a very versatile and "forgiving" material,” he said. “I say forgiving because, unlike carving in wood, mistakes can be easily remedied.

“My utmost favourite reason for working with clay,” he added, “is that it can be as pliable as our thoughts and imaginations. You have endless possibilities with it, it lends itself to so many shapes and forms.”

Moulding thoughts into forms, taking flight of imagination to newer hues and shaping a humble medium into creations that wow. It all starts with an idea, the proverbial tungsten carbide goblet, which illuminates the thought processes. This experience, Johnson said, is grand for him. “…Because I am a part of a continuum that has lasted for centuries - from the most ancient civilisations to present day - the art of ceramics has been a vehicle used to encapsulate and showcase the many changes man has undergone under the sun.”

For inspiration, Johnson has a wide spectrum to choose from - he looks up to DaVinci – who married art and design with scientific pursuits – to works of Gene Pearson and the work of the members of the Association of Jamaican Potters. Often, he said, he would also watch HDTV, to get ideas for techniques.

But, the major sources of inspiration comes from nature, and is reflected in his use of rich, bright colours, abstract patterns in pre-defined shapes and forms.

“I was always an artist,” Johnson said. “I developed the talent to draw early in life, my ability to replicate with my pencil the things I saw around me was evident as far back as five years old and I just got better with time.”

Though, this young ceramist said, the environment in Jamaica is not as ‘forgiving’ as the nature of the medium of his expression.

“Being a ceramist in Jamaica is quite challenging. From sourcing materials locally to lowering your production costs can prove to be quite arduous.”

Getting a fair price for the artwork, which seems to be an omnipresent challenge for young artists like Johnson, at times, puts brakes on the creative processes. Love and emotions create the artwork, but it's hard currency that would keep those fires – both in the kiln and in the kitchen burning.

“Some persons who make it a practise to haggle for lower prices when you have already made economic considerations and have already sought to offer customers pieces at reasonable prices,” he said.

“Outside of the challenges,” he added, “I love being a ceramist. My process involves a wonderful blend of both art and science.

“I have a blast,” Johnson said, and the constant gratification, is bringing joy and satisfaction to those who savour his artwork.

For him, the potter’s wheel is just going on into overdrive.

amitabh.sharma@hotmail.com