Our plan was to visit the Pottery studio of Tessy and Jon Pettyjohn in Calamba, Laguna and assist potter and ceramic artist, Maui Melencio in conducting the workshop back in the Academy. It was an ACD that had all the elements working together: earth, water, air and fire. It was an Avatar moment and we became earth benders!
Day 1 - Master Earth Benders
Tessy and Jon Pettyjohn have been bending earth for more than four decades. Their works have been displayed and exhibited in different parts of the country and the world. Tessy’s works are practical, showing symmetry and reason. Jon’s pottery go beyond functionality and utilitarianism. His works are fun to look at, suggestive of play and wonder with deviations from the expected norm. In their store, I saw a balck tea cup with a dent near the base. How beautifully made! Indeed, one’s impetfection can be a blessing to others!
Considered as the parents of Philippine Contemporary Ceramic Art, Tessy and Jon welcome visitors, especially those eager to learn about their art and their trade, to their home studio and workshop. Advance booking is needed so they schedule the visit in their calendar.
They do not disappoint. They are generous and warm, passionate artists who have been blessed by the earth’s bounties. That morning, we held clay in our hands. Cool and pliant. I noticed our students enjoying the feel of mud on their hands! I did too as the clay sticks to my palm like second skin. Yeilding, waiting to be formed. A story that must be to told.
Jon spoke about clay like it was alive. Listen to your clay, he said. Ask what it wants you to do, he added. In five minutes, I had a bowl made of clay.
When the clay is bone dry, it will be glazed and fired twice. The process takes a month so, potters create more in between days.
Day 2-3 - Becoming an Earth Bender
With Maui Melencio, we got to know clay and she brought out our inner earth bender hiding within. How it comes out naturally! How unique each earth bender is! No two artist are alike and this is seen in the pots and clay art we made.
As the workshop was hands on, Maui worked closely with each of us. I was the teacher proponent of the workshop but I was learning so much from my students and from the experience as well. I put too much water on my clay. My base can be uneven and weak. I spray too close for my clay’s comfort. I lose patience. I do not talk and listen to my clay. At some point I find myself feeling more like a fire bender!
At the end of the workshop, I was able to make seven clay projects. It is the turtle, my kadua, that I love so much. It is a good start as Maui said. But I can still do better.
The clay projects are now bone dry. I will bring them to Maui for glazing and firing which, I hope, we could do with her. Well, except the firing process as it takes tweleve hours to fire them.
For now, I will bend earth. And make paper art. And sew felt and cross stitch. Do a bit of gardening. Read books. Drink coffee. Look at the sky. Dream. Be good. Be kind. Love!