Foris’ first exposure to clay was at the University of Wisconsin
in the early 1970s, where he went on to major in ceramics. Most
of his independent study at university was in raku: ‘I loved
the immediacy of the firing process, and was captivated by the lustrous
surfaces of the glaze. Also I’m quite a low-tech type of person
and the whole raku process certainly can fit into that category.’
After graduating, he formed a co-operative pottery studio with five
other potters and worked in functional stoneware, salt-glaze, and
raku. Since 1979 he has concentrated entirely on raku, making works
that are basically non-functional sculptural vessels.
Rick does not use ceramics as the source of his inspiration.
In fact, he will deliberately go out of his way to avoid looking
at contemporary ceramics in magazines and galleries. He is most
influenced by architectural details such as ‘stairways, courtyards,
stelae’. Language also interests him: ‘I incorporate
slip-trailed and impressed characters into many of my pieces. Not
actual languages – just shapes I make up that suggest language
– pyroglyphs’. In his artist’s statement he writes:
My work reflects many influences, though none consciously. This
maintains an element of mystery in both the shapes of the vessels
and the impact of the surface. My designs suggest other cultures
and languages but are purely of my own fabrication. This leaves
my work open to interpretation by the viewers, who see what they
want to see rather than what I want them to see. The combination
of traditional raku firing with the brilliance of acrylic paint
melds a sense of timelessness with contemporary thought.
Rick’s studio is in a 24ft. x 36 ft. (7.2 m x 10.8 m) building
beside his home. The main room is 24 ft. x 24 ft. (7.2 m x 7.2 m),
and contains a wheel, slab roller, de-airing pugmill, spray booth,
work tables and shelves. The electric kiln is in a smaller room,
with the raku kiln located outside on a concrete slab.
Work is generally wheel-thrown to start with, and
usually incorporates handbuilt elements such as handles and spouts.
Rick also builds multi-component slab bases: these are fired separately
and joined together later with epoxy resin. This enables him to
ensure each section dries completely flat, and to vary the degree
of smoking of the different parts through black to grey and white.
Because of the number of slab bases Rick makes, he
biscuit fires slowly, starting the kiln early in the morning and
easing it up slowly during the day. The total time elapsed is usually
12 hours. He uses a 10 cu. ft (0.3 m ) electric kiln and fires to
cone 08 (950 C/1742 F).
This body, Rick’s own recipe used by him for
the last 20 years, is made for him by the Paoli Clay Co. Paoli,
Wisconsin. Rick tells me that many US potters also include Kyanite
in their clay body ‘for increased fired strength and thermal-shockability’.
(John Mathieson, Raku, A & C Black, London 2002)
Gold Art Clay 600 (37.25%)
A.P.Green Fireclay 400 (24.85%)
Ball clay (OM4) 250 (15.5%)
Grog 275 (17.1%)
Feldspar (Custer) 85 (5.3%)"