Paul Briggs is an assistant professor of Art Education at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston and an artist in residence at the Harvard Ceramics Program. Paul received his PhD from the Pennsylvania State University and his MFA from MassArt. His current pinched work has been influenced by the mysterious vessels of the Jomon period of ancient Japan. All of the works featured here are pinched from one ball of clay beginning with 1 to 8 pounds of clay of more. Nothing is added or subtracted but the pieces are grown using Paul’s unique pinching methods for creating high relief sculptural vessels developed over many years.
I am engaged in a process I call pure pinching, that is, making the goal of my practice to be present to the largely intuitive process of growing a form, most often, out of one piece of clay. Expanding one chunk of clay into a vessel using the pinching process to move beyond the usual 3 or 4 inch threshold is challenging. Pinching a form out of one piece of clay into the 8, 10 and 12 inch dimension is labor-intensive. I can only pinch one or two of this size per week to give my hands a chance to rest, especially if I’ve been typing a lot that week. It’s a long formative process for the larger works compared to throwing a piece of the same height. It becomes a meditative practice, for I must be present to each pinch to avoid tears, missing a pinch, losing the rhythm or the clay becoming less plastic. My process is neither additive nor subtractive but expansive. In one sitting I develop a form intuitively and sculpt it. The moment ends with a contemplative object due to the visual mystery of the process. It is an object that is vessel-like. Though the work recalls natural objects, and I do reference flowers, sea anemone, acorns and even Romanesque broccoli, but these were not the initial impetus for the work. Currently I’m taking inspiration from the distinctive ceramic vessels of the Jomon period of ancient Japan.