A POT SPOT: CLASSIC (HANDCRAFTED) STONEWARE VESSELS, with CLAIRE BANDFIELD
Most gardeners - of the indoor or outdoor variety - love (and covet) a good pot. For house plants, for cut flower arrangements, as container gardens and as focal points, for……well, just for the love of them.
We might even be known to over-collect, over-indulge, over-spend, and overly adore the best of our pots. And I'm a gardener taken with the handcrafted pots of Claire Bandfield, a self-taught artist living in Camas, Washington under the studio name: A Pot Spot. Originally from Portland, she started making hand cast stone pots for her garden. The planters, made from Portland cement, sand and organic materials, resemble the limestone rock tufa and their distinctive luminous grey-stone tones are lovely counterpoints to anything green.
Claire lives on an extinct volcanic vent overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. Surrounded by fruit trees and natural beauty, she makes her hand cast stone pots using simple but elegant everyday objects for their inspiration of form and function. With an appreciation for creating organic objects, Claire’s often elegantly curving forms are inspired by modern architecture and traditional Japanese gardens. The pots will turn green and establish an aged appearance when left outside as the planters attract moss and lichens.
This week, we hear more about Claire’s garden and container gardening journey...
"I once had to describe my work and I said it was really about connecting opposites, that I like to create pots that could be found in Fred Flinstone's front yard or George Jetson’s living room;
I want you to look at it twice and ask was that something that was
dug out of the ground or dropped out of a space ship? "
Claire Bandfield, A Pot Spot
Claire’s life in the outdoors, along rivers, in cabins and woods near and around Portland with her plant loving family perhaps grew her into the maker she is today. Her experimentations with different forms from which to craft her pots often starts in the most common everyday items from house and home – mixing bowls, Tupperware, left-over baskets and glassware. Her very first pot was formed using her grandmothers Kitchen Aid mixing bowl. She named that first pot for her grandmother. Her smallest pot is the size of a Tupperware snack cup, her largest several feet tall and wide. All of her pots look either very old or very modern.
Although she originally intended to learn how to craft containers using hypertufa in order to make large scale raised garden beds, her own impatience and sense of urgency got her making smaller scale pots first and she’s never looked back. Her garden was the catalyst for her adventure in making garden and plant pots of a shapely nature.
Claire finds her plants to be "good friends", friends for whom she’d like to provide nice homes in her pots. She likes to hope that people will see her pots and will be inspired to choose just the right one for the plants they love, not as competition to the beauty of the plant, but as a perfect supporting part.
Authentic, honest beauty – handcrafted and yet supremely practical – Claire Bandfield’s simple, stoneware gray hypertufa pots are reminiscent of eggs, of pears, of teapots – of empty bowls whose open space are offerings in themselves. Perhaps the curves are reminiscent of the curve of the earth herself – perhaps this is the primal draw of them? Claire’s willingness to experiment at making and crafting – in her garden and out – speaks to that maker part of any gardener at this time of year when we are thinking, planning, scheming for the season to come. Hoping to make nice homes for our plants too.
I enjoy Claire's particular aesthetic and sense of humor – and she had me cracking up over her description of the "beautiful vicious" cycle of her impatience and then obsession to make the garden beds and then needing to re-direct into the pots – which have held her attention ever since.
This reminds me of just about every gardener I know when we get a particular plant, or planting scheme or technique into our stubborn, determined heads and nothing – nothing will deter us.
We are – at our very cores – experimenters and makers – even though we may not have a line of such sweet pots as Claire has – cast from such unlikely shapes as your grandmother’s baking items and vintage light fixtures with some great names as Lulu, George and Frank. I love stories like this.
Something about Claire’s cultural sensibility rings so very true with her artistic vision – the somehow pleasing combination of a classic Buddha belly, or farmer’s handcrafted water jug alongside Fred Flintstone, George Jetson and Mr. Rogers visiting the crayon factory in his neighborhood. Tell me you don’t love that. And while I’ll never have quite the flair that Claire has, I know too that this freedom to experiment and play and express my own cultural sense and idiosyncracies is one of the great gifts of the garden. Do you find that? I hope so….it’s seems good and right to be fully ourselves through these very personal – although very shared - activities.
Claire lives with her family in a cottage on Prune Hill, an extinct volcanic vent in the Columbia River Gorge. For weekly updates follow A Pot Spot on Instagram. And make sure to WATCH THE VIDEO ABOUT CLAIRE'S POT SPOT PROCESS.
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