Color Speaks Volumes

by gwendolyn yoppolo

There are times when moving through wordlessness is the only way for me to catch the forms of my next articulation.  A space of silence feels like a mouthful of fresh air; it nourishes and refreshes my creative spirit.  I have always hoped that my work would offer such a space to others, allowing them to bring their own reveries to it by keeping narrative information to a minimum. 

But it’s not possible to make domestic ceramics without any directional narratives.  Our choices of process, form, and color all stand metaphorically as our vocabulary, and they do make statements.  In my case, visually active monochromatism has been one way to create a unified surface on a piece.  There’s a certain purity to that surface choice, a stillness but with depth to it, like looking into the stars on a quiet midnight.   Here are some of the stories told by the colors I have chosen.

gwendolyn yoppolo

While living in Montana, I was using a range of rare earth oxides to create glazes ethereal and shifting as the light of the sun in the sky.  Those glazes responded to the color temperature of various light sources, changing color from peach to yellow-green, or from lavendar to blue, or from chartreuse to gray-green.  In a captivating way, those pots literally change color in your hand as you walk from one place to another.  This cup and saucer shows the piece under fluorescent light on the left and halogen light on the right.

gwendolyn yoppolo
Montana Sky

Montana Sky

Once I moved to North Carolina, I wanted to create a color palette that was more earth-bound, and that reflected my new landscape.  This image shows some of the colors I produced there, along with their inspirations from the place.  By the end of my time at Penland, and through a transitional year in Ohio, I became enthralled with shades of white.  I was using my work in food events then, and wanted the colors to be in the food.  Still inspired by the landscape, I created food that included the purples, golds, greens, and browns of the autumn fields.

gwendolyn yoppolo
gwendolyn yoppolo

Currently I am slightly muted in transition again, sounding out the colors of this new place I find myself in.   Every shift in palette takes around a year to settle in, and I’m really just at the beginning of that, wondering about shades of black and blue and gray.  My making process and the resonance of the finished work in the world will guide me through this process.

gwendolyn yoppolo

And so despite my efforts towards quiet abstraction, color will yet tell a story – of light, of emotion, of place.  Perhaps the narrative is not so overt, but the formal expression of making utilitarian ceramics has its own kind of language, complete with metanarratives and subtexts.  Still, finding a voice for me has meant finding my silence.  The process is ongoing and dynamic, as is the shifting of life as an artist.