Luminescent. Ethereal. Otherworldly. Ceramist Jennifer McCurdy’s artworks beg for tactile engagement. Each of her highly architectural ceramic pieces are influenced by forms in nature, from a cracked conch shell on the beach to brilliant airborne milkweed seed wafting through the air. To McCurdy, the ordered symmetry and asymmetry of nature reveal the movement of life, providing inspiration expertly manifested on her potter’s wheel.
Yet each of McCurdy’s pieces is as notable for that which is absent. Like intricate latticework, the hollows are equally as transfixing. Though she has been working with porcelain for more than four decades, her current vision asks and answers questions such as how thin can the high fire porcelain be before it collapses in the fire? How much can it be cut away and still maintain structural integrity? How can the structural form be integrated with the visual, as in nature? How can the movement of the potter’s wheel and the fire of the kiln be reflected in the finished piece, which is rock-hard and permanent? She uses translucent porcelain that when hand-carved, and fired at just the right temperature, conveys light, shadow, energy, and movement. This elusive balance between the convex and the concave is sometimes enhanced by a 23-carat gold leaf that illuminates the vessel’s interior to reveal new patterns.
A longtime resident of Martha’s Vineyard, McCurdy lives on island time; she appreciates the quiet winters that most conform to nature’s cycles. Within her work, she strives to reflect the balance of life that surrounds her.
McCurdy’s pieces can be found in the permanent collections of museums and in galleries throughout the country.
How does your home of Martha’s Vineyard influence your work? How long have you lived on Martha’s Vineyard? Where are you from originally?
Well, it is beautiful and peaceful here, and I have many wonderful friends here. My family is here. My husband and I have been living here for over 25 years, but I did grow up here. We lived in Florida for 15 years, for the first 15 years of our marriage. We moved back to be with family.
Did you have creative influences growing up? How did you express your creativity and artistry when you were younger?
My sister and I always conceived our own amusements growing up. We were encouraged to work from scratch. I think it’s more the doing of it, rather than just admiring the work of others (which has already been done).
Can you describe the process of creating one of your pieces, from vision to finished product?
The vision is kind of a fluid dance with the process. I am looking for the curves and empty spaces to flow into each other and move around each other, but, technically, porcelain is a difficult medium to work with. I begin the process by throwing the initial form on the potter’s wheel. Then, I alter the piece off the wheel to create a movement of soft shadows. Then, I carve away the porcelain to add the definition of lines. When I am satisfied with the form, and the smoothness of the surface, I fire the piece to 2350 degrees Fahrenheit, where the porcelain vitrifies, changes molecularly, and becomes malleable in the white-hot heat. If the piece is thin enough, and I have cut away enough, it can “slump” into a new form. This aspect of the creation, I find most exciting, and I think a lot about calculating the movement of the structure in the kiln during firing to create graceful forms. But there is much room for chance and serendipity here!
Your works are on display at renowned galleries and museums throughout the United States. When were you first exhibited, and how did that come about?
I did many, many art shows, including street shows, in Florida, when I was young. Gradually, as my work matured and I became more noticed, I received offers for representation from galleries, one by one, over time.
Outside of galleries and museums, where do your artworks find a home?
I am lucky to have many wonderful patrons and collectors around the world who enjoy my pieces in their homes.
What is one of your favorite pieces, and why?
Ah, now you are asking me to choose between my children!
Where can interested parties find and purchase your work?
My work can be purchased at any of my galleries that are listed on my website, or they can contact me directly. My website is www.jennifermccurdy.com