Michael Simon on the Tales of a Red Clay Rambler Podcast

This week on the Tales of a Red Clay Rambler Podcast, I have an interview with Michael Simon. After studying at the University of Minnesota in the late 1960's, Michael set up a studio in the Athens, GA area where he has been making pots for more than 30 years. From shallow round bowls to complex squared boxes Michael developed a unique approach to matching form with decoration. His images of fish, birds, trees, and other nature-based motifs are simple in their geometric orientation but bold in their iconographic impact. In the interview we talk about intuition, the influence of Michael's teacher Warren Mackenzie, and a lifetime devoted to finding truth in the pursuit of pottery.

In 1980 Michael started saving a few of the best pots from every kiln load. This grew into a large collection that has been the focus of two recent retrospective exhibitions, and a book Michael Simon: Evolution. In the dust jacket of Evolution, potter and author Mark Shapiro eloquently states how Michael has influenced American ceramics:

"Because of the uncanny power of his work, Michael Simon became one of the most influential potters of his generation. His compelling vision of functional pottery transformed students who took his workshops and pottery pilgrims who made the trek to his rural studio. With the revelation of his off round forms thrown on the wheel and his powerful iconographic motifs, Michael Simon opened the door to a more personal way of thinking about the functional pot."

During my visit with Michael I could see how much he yearned to make pots again. When he speaks about the last batch of pots he made in 2005 his eyes sparkle with the same passion and excitement that led him to a long career in clay. In one conversation we spoke about the ideas he felt are still left unfinished. This bowl - in particular its wide angular rim - is one of the ideas that inspire him to want to make pots again.

It was a great pleasure to see that after all his years of working he still gets excited over a rim. I can relate to that fascination with the details of a form. Sometimes the simplest change in a tried and true form can lead to years' worth of new exploration.

1 comment:

  1. This was perfect -- easily my favorite clay podcast yet. The only way it could have been better is if it was a dozen hours longer! Thanks so much for this, Ben. Great work.