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What clay body do you use?

"Since my work is predominantly sculpture and mostly fired in Raku, I like to use a clay body that contains a substantial amount of sand and grog.  I have used Soldate from Armadillo Clays for many years, a cone 5-10 stoneware, sometimes adding even more grog wedged in.   If I am looking for a pink to coral color under the clear crackle Raku glaze, I use the red Raku clay from the Ceramic Store. (See clay color variations in Images of the Window Series of raku fired clay tile works).   My studio practice is also to recycle much of my scrap clay, adding oxides and redart clay to the mix."

Primary forming method?

"For sculpture, the wheel has from the beginning been the primary forming method to produce an armature.  Then, either more wheel thrown forms are added on or slabs of clay which are then heavily altered by paddling.  Paul Soldners work has been a strong influence in this technique.   The Kabuki sculptures in the 1980s I think were the most complex.

 I had been studying Japanese, had long appreciated the Japanese aesthetic of clay, and emulated the brush work in my glazing.  The 'Kata' or form of the emotion expressed by the actors in the Kabuki performances challenged me to express that essence.

Another series using the altered wheel thrown form and fired in Raku, were the "Relics"  Relics A, B, and C were the first in the series and were done as a commission for Ken Lay to be presented to the CEO of the Hitachi Corporation as a garden meditation piece."

 But I would like to emphasize that many of my installation projects have relied on the human hand alone, to form the modules made in the hundreds.

The bone simulations started in the 1990s as my writing collaborator says, I was making the bones of the Astronauts who died in the Challenger explosion. One lump of clay impressed with the left hand, wet stroked and pulled like a handle with the right, reaching the length of a child's femur, then laid down in a curve to show stress and left to dry.  We were working on a collaboration project focused on that loss of life.  She thought I was making the bones which (at the time) were thought to have been totally burned up.  Bones had fascinated me forever; as a child performing archeological digs around my grandparents farm.  Cultural practices of ancestral bone worship intrigue me.  I believe like native Hawaiians, that bones are  the primary physical embodiment of a person, and following death bones are considered sacred, for within the bones reside the person's spiritual essence."

Primary firing temperature?

"The stoneware white clay body fires to cone 10, but I would take it to just cone 4-5 in order to maintain a bit of porosity.  The bones, when held in the hands for a minute will absorb the warmth of your body. The stoneware clay also worked well for all my Raku work because it was able to withstand the thermal shock."

Favorite surface treatment?

"Most sculpture series, whether fired at stoneware temperatures or in Raku, were sanded in the bone dry stage in order to create a sand blasted like surface.  The 'Kabuki' pieces, 'The Shifting Sands' series, 'Relics', even the large Raku landscape vessels had that pitted surface.  I was greatly influenced in the 1970s by Nick deVries' sculpture which rarely was glazed and always had a textured surface, emphasizing form."

"Umeomaru (Raku)V3"

"Relic A"


HCCC 2006

"No Names for the Remains"

Favorite Tools?

"The best tool for altering the wheel thrown constructions was an old weathered plank of wood I salvaged when the outhouse was torn down at my grandparents farm in Tennessee, impressing that wood texture into the form surface.  ('Relics' especially).

But the best tools for what now occupies me are my own hands to form the bones.  The action of forming hundreds of bone simulations is meditative, prayer like.  Each bone is a prayer for a victim of abuse."

Describe your studio environment.

"In the early 1990s, my son and I joined forces and purchased an 8,000 sq.ft. abandoned cable company building in southwest Houston.  The un-air-conditioned 2,000 sq.ft. non-insulated attached metal building has two overhead doors.  I added two commercial wall mounted exhaust fans on the opposite end.  It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It seemed big at the time, but now is filled with many materials and equipment. It's divided into work zones by medium and task: welding, sandblasting, clay forming, drying and firing, wood cutting, paper pulp making and casting...the list goes on!  A narrow pathway winds through the space from one work area to another.  The 6,000 sq. ft. space is air-conditioned and I carved out about a third of that space for drawing, painting, printmaking and photography.  (The remainder is where my son and his family live).

I was an art teacher for 35 years until retiring in 2010.  The curriculum and class assignments required me to teach a range of levels and mediums from basic to advanced drawing and painting but also sculpture, pottery, and printmaking.  My own work has reflected that ability to apply various mediums when needed to express my ideas."

"Kabuki Layers" (Raku)

"Texas Shore Window"

"Pentagon Games"


"Shundo Gemba" (Raku)

How/Where do you market and sell your artwork?

"Although I had been involved in forming the Houston Potters' Guild, in the late 1970s, I was focusing on sculpture and accepted an invitation to join the newly formed group of artists in Archway Gallery.  Our best space and where I had four successful one-person exhibitions was on University Blvd. in the Village.  In the 1980s I was represented by galleries in Long Island and Dallas as well.  Archway temporarily closed in 1986 and I was represented by Barr Gallery where another major collection of my work was being sold.  Currently, I am not with a Gallery, but prefer to enter juried competitions for my sculptural work.  The installations are non-profit motivated.  The bones are not for sale.  Actually, I give them away when I do exhibitions and performances as fund-raisers for organizations as the Coalition for Human Trafficking, and Rothko Chapel."


Rothko Chapel

"Against the Wall"

"Dry River Bones"

What sparks your creativity? What drives you to work with clay?

"I think anyone who works with clay will say it is the feel and ability to manipulate the medium into any desirable form with finesse and careful control.  Interpreting ideas is more difficult.  My sculpture is often created out of a desire to express reaction to injustices.  This is the appeal of the bone.  Each bone is the silent reminder of injustice.  During the Labyrinth at Rothko, participants were asked to dedicate a bone and place it in the center 'Mending circle'.  Afterwards, those dedicated bones were used in the construction of pieces called "Say My Name". Forms evolve from one installation to another.   Each mass killing had a dedicated sculpture using the number of bones equal to the number of victims, with their names written on the bones.  As long as there is injustice and I am alive to react to that, the drive to produce more work will continue. "


"Shifting Sands"                                                "Spirit of the Wind"


"Relic V"                                                "Relic V" v2

 Tell us about your journey to a ceramics career. (Short Bio)

    " I grew up just north of Detroit and attended Michigan State University studying education.   A break from college to start a family found me working for the Ann Arbor Police Dept.  It was there I re-discovered clay at the Ann Arbor Potter's Guild shows.  I started working during the night at a friends warehouse studio, until the fire department shut us down!  In 1970, after seven months traveling throughout Europe, studying the art and architecture, we settled in Houston where I completed my degree and started teaching art and developing a working studio.   Being a professional artist and involving my students was a teaching by example experience.  Some would come to my studio during the summers to work and always found that coming to my exhibitions enhanced their education and helped them relate the work to real life experience."

    "Tonami" (Raku)

    "Tonami" (Raku)

    "MFAH Tree, pre-Law Bldg"

    "Window XIV"

    What’s the best advice you’ve been given by a fellow maker, mentor, or teacher?

      At the University of Houston, I was fortunate to work with Huey Beckham and Nick deVries.   Nick was a teacher who emphasized the science of clay and firing, taking the mystery out of the process but not the thrill.   Also his aesthetic of strong form without adornment of glaze guided my own and seemed closer to the nature of clay and the pathway I wanted to follow and emulate."

      "Kakuju 1986" (Raku)

      "Chiyo" (Raku)

      "In the Beginning 2"

      "In the End"

      Website URL and other social media platforms:


        Jo Zider Studio 39 Visual Artist


          PO Box 667401
          Houston, TX 77266

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