CLICK HERE to listen to "Talking Art" interview of artist Sally Gierke by Carolyn Martin of WVIK-FM Augustana Radio.

As a potter and muralist for the last three decades, I have always been in search of new ideas and sources of inspiration. Living in the Midwest, the undulating fields, rambling Mississippi River, and harsh winters have influenced my creative approach to ceramic surfaces. My emotional responses to weather events, subtle or dramatic shifts in light, color and season, are true subjects of my work.

My husband and I have raised three wonderful and creative children and have enjoyed introducing them to travel, visits to museums, hands-on workshops, participation in arts programs and everyday discussions. Even though they have various interests such as law, community service, music, architecture, soccer and wine-making, they have always been able to pursue their own artistic fields. They have grown up at art fairs and museums. I feel lucky that I was able to work with clay through all these years and have learned so much working at home.


Each spring I find myself renewed and refreshed, anxious to explore new directions and techniques. By the time buds are sprouting, so too is my discovery of interesting shapes and terrain with natural clay colors. Surfaces are embellished with patterns, carved designs, stamped impressions, colored slips, altered and slab attachments, and wax resist. Observing various types of landscapes has made me conscious of natural clay colors, interesting patterns, and images. The interaction between nature and my ceramic forms is at the heart of my craft.

By the time the warmth of summer has arrived and I am involved with various clays, such as earthenware, porcelain, and stoneware, and my work seems to have grown. Leaves of fall and golden fields of corn lead me to warm and soothing glazes and earthy reduction firings. I store up the fruits of my labor for future shows and settle in for cold days in my studio just as the tree leaves drop and days grow short. Soon, I start to feel energized for the next year of discovery of inspiring ceramic forms and new direction.


By exposing myself to a variety of external textures and ideas. I am able to bring my thoughts and visions to 3-dimensional fruition. Throughout history, artists capture the essence of their environment to search for interesting shapes or textures. I have spend several summers as an artist-in-residence in various national parks. These monthly immersions have helped me focus and concentrate on my art within such spectacular surroundings and have been extremely generative with a long-lasting effect on my creative process. I have also spent many summers at workshops alongside fellow potters and mentors.

The essential elements of nature, earth, air and water are all part of working with clay. I want to challenge and be challenged, inspire and be inspired, move when I feel moved, feel the passion to create as a response to what I see, hear, touch, and smell. Interaction between hands and mind, sight and touch, clay and fire, maker and viewer, are all parts of my attraction to clay. Many of my decorations and shapes have been inspired by a passing energetic cloud, a twisted tree limb, or a jagged rock face.

The use of natural textures and paddles on these forms create areas to inlay slips and oxides that contrast with the clay body, allowing additional layers of visual information to exist on the surface of the object. When building with stretched slabs, the deep fissures created by pulling the clay enhance the appearance of expanding volume.

I have created and installed five large-scale murals at local schools in collaboration with students, staff, and community members. Sculptural installations allow me even greater freedom from within the clay medium. They permit me to address conceptual ideas that individual vessel form cannot fully convey. Yet my vessel-oriented sensibilities are still evident in this work because I investigate installation space as a volume or vessel needing to be filled. For me, the commitment to three separate bodies of work seems very logical. I am able to engage creativity on may different levels of thought and production. By allowing my mind to change gears and work out separate problems, I am able to promote and refresh my artistic sensibilities.