The Process
Main The Process Gallery 1 Gallery 2 Care

"It's an intimate process, creating a beautiful vessel one coil at a time.
Although I may have an idea of the size or the shape of the vessel,
I never really know how they will turn out.
They simply become."

     The Handbuilding

Denise Phillips builds her vessels using the techniques of the ancient tribal potters.
The process begins with a round disk of clay, which will serve as the vessels foundation.
She adds coils of clay to the disk, one on top of the other. The coils are then blended and smoothed together
using only her fingers and primitive tools. She continues adding and blending coils until she is
satisfied with the form of the piece. Once built, the vessel is set aside and allowed to dry.

Coiling.JPG (32722 bytes)

The Burnishing

At this stage of the process the piece is burnished several times by hand.
Burnishing is a form of polishing which is performed on the surface of the unfired vessel.
Denise is a master of the art.
Using small polished stones, she tediously burnishes the piece, stroke by stroke,
using just the right amount of pressure. If the pressure is too little, the surface is marred.
If the pressure is too much, the vessel is reduced to rubble.
The burnishing process is then repeated numerous times, to ensure the rich sheen
and signature finish which "begs to be touched".
Once burnished, Denise signs and etches the piece number into the vessel.

Burnishing.JPG (32722 bytes)

The Finishing

Denise fires her vessels on the ancient lava flows of Maui.
The pieces are buried in a mixture of tropical and native wood chips
such as, Mango, Koa, Kiawe, Eucalyptus and Monkeypod,
then set afire and allowed to cool slowly.
No glazes are used.
All of the rich colors and dreamy patterns are a result of the firing process.
Once cool enough to handle, the vessels are removed from the ash and washed.
They are then polished by hand with a special paste that Denise makes
from beeswax and other natural oils. The entire process is a labor of love,
as each of these incredible pieces can take many days to complete.

Fire touches hand 2.JPG (22947 bytes)

The Mana

In the Hawaiian language, "mana" is a very strong and sometimes spiritual word.
All things in the islands are thought to have their own mana. The closest translation into
English would be "power" or "life force". Denise's works have a very strong mana around them.
They are born of the four elements. Earth, wind, fire and water.
As each vessel is set afire, the spirits of the islands are invited to make their presence known
to all who wish to see them. It is believed by many that as the piece is caressed by the fire,
these spirits leave their images in the vessel. If you look closely,
perhaps they will reveal themselves to you
in the rich colors and dreamy patterns
born of smoke and fire...

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