Clay artist Tejas Moses’ work is grounded in the New England landscape, from the materials he digs out of river banks and coastal plains to the layers of clay he painstakingly pinches into large vessels.
“Tejas’ plans for life after graduating are taking shape slowly, coil by coil,” said Museum of Art officials at the University of New Hampshire in describing his meticulous, experimental work.
Moses, of Dublin, is one of the students from the UNH Department of Art and Art History being featured in the online Senior Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts exhibitions at cola.unh.edu/museum-art/exhibitions.
It’s an interesting peek into emerging artists’ visions and creative processes. The digital gallery features images of their works, along with YouTube videos and interviews.
It’s also a chance to find out what students, now in finals week, have been up to since quarantining measures closed down the campus artist studios earlier this spring. (Successful candidates officially will be announced Saturday.)
“After we found out the studios would be closed for the rest of the semester, I moved back to my parents’ home on the foothills of Monadnock. Here, in Dublin, I have not been able to make the big vessels that were just starting to find their shape at the UNH studio,” Moses wrote in his artist statement.
But in between remote-learning course work, Moses has discovered a new creative outlet at home.
“I used the wild clay that I made pots from to smear clay paintings on my garage wall,” Moses explained. “I made these wall paintings in an incremental and process-oriented way that relates closely to the large coil pots. The paintings and the pots share an appreciation for the physicality of clay and the changes it goes through when it dries.”
The process is captured in quick-speed video clips of Moses, working from atop raised planking, creating some of these paintings — the squiggles of a “Worm,” a looping “Snake,” an indistinct “Blob” and a curving teapot and two cups in “Tea.”
NHWeekend reached out to Moses for an email Q&A about his work.
Where did you grow up, and how did you first get interested in clay?
I was born in Queens, N.Y., and grew up in Temple and Dublin, N.H. I’ve always enjoyed playing outside, especially when it involves getting in rivers and building dams from rocks and leaf litter. As a kid playing by the river I became acquainted with clay in its wet and sticky form — good for smearing on faces and making slip-’n-slides.
I first got interested in pottery through my high school art teacher, Ben Putnam. He introduced me to the wonderful world of ceramics, and we are still good friends.
Are the materials you use as important as the shapes you make? Where have you gathered clay?
This is such an important question! For me the material and the form are of equal importance and they should inform one another. I make a very different type of work when I am using store-bought porcelain, smooth and creamy white out of a bag, than when I’m using gritty earthenware clay dug from a river bank.
I prefer to source my own materials because it enriches the whole process of making. It’s like cooking a fragrant soup from vegetables you’ve grown in your garden as opposed to popping open a can of soup and spicing it up with some extra seasoning.
Your bio lists some amazing experiences. Can you tell me a little about living for a summer at an artist’s residency in Jingdezhen, China? What were some highlights?
Living and making ceramics in Jingdezhen last summer was a dream for me, and I’m still really amazed and grateful that UNH enabled me to have that experience. I stayed at The Pottery Workshop and had a bedroom and a workspace in a shared studio building. The folks who run the residency are intimately connected to the ceramics culture of the city, and they were able to help me to connect with local artists and artisans to learn about the techniques and materials of the ceramics trade. There was a team of cooks and cleaning staff that kept the place spotless and prepared delicious meals every day.
One of the highlights of my time there was starting a morning yoga club in the dining room. I would meet up with the cleaning staff and chefs, and occasionally another artist in residency would join too, and we would lay out our mats and do yoga twice a week. I have enough knowledge about yoga practice to share some basics and keep the group moving for an hour or so. It was really a joyful way to share one of my passions and to contribute to the well being of the group.
What’s next for you? Do you plan to be in NH? Any projects in the works or on the horizon?
I do plan to be in New Hampshire for a while yet. My community is here, and I feel a connection to the land and the other living beings that populate it.
I’ve been fascinated with large clay vessels and their connection to food storage and fermentation for some time now, and I want to pursue this interest. If I can make pots from local material that have a place in storing, cooking, and serving locally grown food and drink that would be a beautiful thing.