Margaret Norman

I discovered clay in high school and after graduating followed that passion to the Tuscarora Pottery School in northern Nevada.  Many years elapse during which I didn’t make pots: I worked in construction, studied architecture at UC Berkeley, and then worked in various associated fields.   In 2003, when my son started preschool, I set up a small studio in our back yard in Berkeley. In 2013, I moved from my tiny but bucolic space to my present studio in the vibrant Lorin district of south Berkeley. My new studio is light-filled, spacious and still in flux.

I work in two palettes.  In my Berkeley studio I fire in electric kilns, using a rich red clay, mixed locally, and fire to cone 5-6, oxidation.  

I also fire with a group of potters at a large noborigama* kiln in Napa Valley.  There we fire to cone 10 in reduction with soda and salt. This type of firing is characterized by the somewhat unpredictable effects from the wood ash and the vaporized sodium.  The surfaces and sometimes even the forms of the pots are shaped by the intense atmosphere in distinct ways.

When I use a handmade object, whether of clay or wood or fabric, I relish the signs of the makers touch.  I notice the texture and colors and the myriad small decisions made about form and function.   For me, handling, serving, eating from, and even washing hand-made dishes seems a good antidote to our virtual world.  I hope that my pots similarly provide this physical, tactile experience.

A Noborigama 登り窯 chambered climbing kiln is built on a slope, with each succeeding chamber situated higher than the one before it. The chambers in a noborigama are pierced at intervals with stoking ports. Such climbing kilns have been used in Japan since the 17th century.