Ceramic artist Dani Montoya presents a collection of work embellished with delightful nature designs. View more by visiting her website.
As a child, I already knew that creativity was in my blood. I spent hours with paint-by-number kits. Gifts to family members for years were all handcrafted. My hands always had to be making something.
Drawing and painting, however, were never things I was comfortable with. In my high school art class, try as I might to draw, I was told that one thing I would never be was an artist.
Although it was heartbreaking to hear, it did not stop me. Being an artist was a dream I held in my heart for many years.
I fulfilled my need to create by working with other mediums, from wood to pine-needle weaving and gourds until I finally found clay.
This happened when I was offered a free kiln. I had no idea what I wanted to do with it since I only took one short, unsuccessful pottery class in college. Still, I knew I wanted and needed it. Now, years later, pottery is my life.
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As a wheel-throwing potter, I did not stop at just throwing a shape and glazing it. I had to take it a bit farther, and fell in love with a technique called sgraffito. Sgraffito means “to scratch” and it was within these scratches that I finally found my artistic voice.
My inspiration comes from the natural world around me—fluttering hummingbirds, dragonflies and flowers. I often joke that I can’t grow a garden, so I carve them instead. Flowers live forever on my pieces.
All my work is done with mid-fire stoneware clay and all glazes are made in studio. The sgraffito technique involves painting an underglaze (usually black) onto a still moist pot and then scratching, etching or carving off the underglaze to reveal the design. I love the bold black and white contrast, and often add just a bit of color to the piece for extra interest. Sgraffito also adds texture to the pieces, making you want to caress it.
Most of my sgraffito work is done on mugs, something people can use and enjoy every day. Many of my pieces become someone’s favorite mug by bringing back memories and evoking emotions from those memories.
I believe that it’s not just a mug. It’s a handheld piece of art.
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