Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Naked, the Nude, and the Pottery - Part 3

For us, the nude imagery just came naturally. We love the body, and we love drawing it and sculpting it. The motif started with our naked peeps, which were Carrie’s idea. She made them years before meeting me, mobiles with little naked women of different races, hair colors, and body shapes – little tributes to the varieties of womanhood she sculpted and strung for friends’ Christmas and birthday gifts. But after making a couple to look like us for Valentine’s Day, she felt inspired. What if we sold custom-made clay couples online? She’d been trolling Etsy for months talking about how she’d like to start her own store for her ceramics. She needed something simple, easy, and fun for Etsy, which is all about simple and fun (though not necessarily easy). Polymer clay naked people seemed perfect.

Some things we didn’t expect. One of my friends, seeing the website, said, “I was shocked. I thought it was really you for a minute.” We were surprised by the detail, even the relish with which people would describe their naked bodies. And once we started doing nudes on pottery, we were surprised by the reactions of customers at craft fairs – amusement and embarrassment.

Nudes on pottery was a natural extension of our tastes. It’s not like we came up with it – the ancient Greeks decorated pottery with nudes, sometimes artistic, sometimes erotic, sometimes outright pornographic.

We make no claims to be fine art. We’re more interested in making things that are beautiful, personal, alive and honest, things that people can make part of their lives.

So far, we’ve used the naked motif in four different media:

Naked Peeps – custom-order couples, mobiles, and magnets

The Naked Peeps came first. At first we considered OCD a separate enterprise from Carrie’s pottery, and the Naked Peeps were OCD’s main project. They’re made out of ordinary polymer clay, a medium always in danger of becoming kitsch, and we took special care to keep them from becoming crass and exploitative. We still think the Naked Peeps can be beautiful expressions.

Pebble People

Pebble People may be the weirdest thing we make. Carrie’s been doing them for years, painting scenes on reclaimed wood and gluing pebbles for heads. They’re all kinds of scenes – sketches from life, borrowed images from children’s books, images inspired by lines of poetry. Once, a painting of a naked little old man in the garden was bought very enthusiastically by an elderly woman who exclaimed, “It looks just like my husband! He loves to garden naked!”

See what we mean by being surprised at the things people will tell us?


Extending our nude motif to pottery has actually been a very recent development. We’ve been using both colored underglazes and a combination of slips, scraffito, and underglazes. We’re still experimenting with techniques and effects, and so far it’s been an education in what is possible with different clay bodies, firing temperatures, and decorating elements. Our next experiment, as you’ve already seen, is decals – another learning experience. But you’ll have to wait to see the product.

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