"Art Pottery" Mirror Magazine May-June 2006 by Lita C. Lee
Coming home from a scholarship at the Institute of Classical Architecture in New York, Kim Dacanay-Mendoza found herself flying airplanes before discovering her passion for pottery.
While searching for her place in the sun, Camille "Kim" Dacanay-Mendoza found her passion for pottery.
"I was listless coming home from a summer scholarship at the Institute of classical architecture in New York City," says Kim, who graduated from the University of the Philippines Colelage of Fine Arts major in sculpture.
"I wasn't quite sure of what to do, what work I could pursue. I enrolled at a flying school. Flying airplanes was easy; the difficult part was in landing the plane. My parents were scared and I was getting stressed."
On the prodding of her mom, Kim checked out a pottery school in Makati run by the well known potter from Los Banos, Laguna, Jon Pettyjohn. "At day one I was hooked, probably because I missed handling clay, which was what I did in college. I went to the Pettyjohn-Mendoza pottery school twice a week but wanted to attend more classes, so I asked Tessy Pettyjohn if they have other classes.
She said "Go to Adee Mendoza's class." What I did not know was that I was being set up with Adee, who had studied business in Mary Washington College in Virginia but decided to come home and be a full-time potter here.
"We became friends instantly. I apprenticed with him. I didn't want to stop doing pottery and told myself this is what i want to do."
Not long afterwards, Adee and Kim became partners, not only in pottery making. They got married in 2005.
They live in a comfortable house surrounded by nature with a workshop close by at the foothills of Mt. Makiling in Calamba, Laguna. Two rottweilers keep them company.
As a potter, you make functional pieces of artwork, says Kim. "It is an intimate kind of art, because you tend to use your pieces everyday. The difference between pottery and sculpture is that, with sculpture you work longer to finish a piece. I use modeling clay in sculpture and its feel is quite different from the clay used in pottery.
"Masarap gamitin ang clay. With potter's clay, though, you have to work continuously until the clay allotment is used up. Otherwise tumitigas ito. It's not like sculpture, where you can pause and then pick up again where you left off."
After doing pottery for tow and a half years, Kim is still at it as though she just picked it up yesterday. "This is the craft for me, I hope, for life. I will stay with pottery because i like it. This is what I want to do. I can always go back to sculpture if I want to."
Adee and Kim had a sold-out show last November in New York, at the Philippine Center. This month, Kim will have a show at Beyond Bamboo in Makati City, with an assortment of vases, plates and fan pots, among others. Another show is planned for December.
To be a good potter, says Kim, "you need to have discipline, as in everything else. And lots of patience, too."
She says she makes an average of about 20 pottery pieces a day. "I work every day, as much as possible. Most of the pieces are sold in shows. A few are orders for clients. We have clients like Armida Seiguion-Reyna and some foreigners. Last year we did just fine in spite of the sluggish economy."
For the moment, she says she is taking it easy because she is expecting their first baby in September. "This is more important than anything else," she says. "But I still try to put in some work in the morning, and from 2-5 in the afternoon."
"it is quite fulfilling to see all the work you've done. The studio feels sad if it's empty. Adee and I get the urge to fill it up."
Kim says she gets a lot of ideas from reading. "I ready a lot, an influence from my parents (journalists Barbara and Alex Dacanay).
"Sometimes, designs and ideas come in my dreams. And I try to draw or put them on paper. I have a doodle book for that. Then i discuss it with Adee to see if an idea works or not."
"He is my mentor. I ask him anything. We inspire each other but when we are working in the studio, we don't disturb each other. We each do our own thing."
Kim and Adee are among the few artists in the country who are dedicated to pottery. They are the junior colleagues of the Pettyjohn couple, Jon and Tessy. Adee is Jon's partner in the pottery school.
"Our works are similar in the sense that w create functional art pieces," says Kim. "But we are not the only ones in the craft. There are some upcoming ones, and we gather once a year for the pottery tiangge at Glorietta in Makati. We have organized a foundation called Putik."
"Doing pottery is a very rewarding endeavor, kahit physically masakit ito sa katawan," says Kim, "Especially after the pieces are fired, and you see the various ways that the designs have come out."
There is always excitement when we open the kiln. each piece is truly one of a kind. Each batch always has a surprise. There are times when I feel I don't wnat to part with certain pieces or batches. I get selfishly attached sometimes.
"But then, unlike with sculpture, in pottery you make a lot and it is easier to let go. I definitely don't want to let go of my sculptures. I have not let go with many of my sculptures kasi I do it with passion. With pottery you are a bit like a machine: You make and make. Pottery also requires passion, but since you produce several pieces by the lot, it's easier to let go."
"Selling art pottery is hard if you don't know anyone. Hard, because it is expensive. But then, engaging in this craft is a joyous endeavor, because you are doing what you want to do. Masaya magtrabaho, even if you work alone."
"Every single piece of pottery I do is creative. Pottery changed my life- completely. My parents are happier because I am doing what I like. I resisted doing art at first but eventually I found my art for me. Now I am no longer lost, I am found. In time, I will be good in this craft. I will keep trying to do better than the last time. And my name, hopefully, will be associated with pottery as well."