Adero Willard

Artist Statement

A unifying thread in my work is the exploration of ordered chaos on my surfaces, constructing layer upon layer of colorful spinning circles, flipping flowers, meandering vines, industrial grids, and geometric planes.Using engobe and underglazes — which like jars of paint allow me immediate access to color — I paint shapes with wax on each layer. These areas become windows through which different layers of decoration interact. As a black woman of mixed race heritage, this intricate visual dialogue presents endless possibilities for exploring identity, metaphor, materiality, and design.

Growing up an only child of a single parent in NYC was stressful and complicated, and I would find comfort in making sense out of chaos. I loved how bundles of cloth could be turned into clothes; how a single, beautiful piece of cloth could be wrapped around a person as clothing. My trip to India as a kid I can never forget: the sight of streets filled with brightly colored draped and wrapped clothing still inspires me today. Finding clay as a teenager provided a material and outlet for my anxieties and saved my life.

A love of clay and a passion for color and pattern is what fuels Willard’s work as a ceramic artist and potter. Working with clay is as much a desire to create, as it is a commitment to nurture a love of the arts and the handmade in herself and others.

I use handmade pots every day and will probably always make functional pots. Primarily a wheel thrower, more and more I have been incorporating pinch, coil, or slab in my building methods — even building forms without the wheel at all. In some of the coil-built forms I developed (deeply inspired by Korean Ongi techniques) it has been illuminating to see how torso-sized pieces bring forth greater drama in my work.

Red clay is an important part of my palette: it is the skin of the pot and provides a rich base as the first layer of the surface. In recent work, inspired by African and Jomon pottery, I have been incorporating paths of exposed red clay, or adding coiled / pinched / pierced raw clay to show the beautiful material the pot is made of. Material and form are integral to decoration, and vice versa. I love how red clay is used by most cultures all over the world. A material that spans most if not every culture in the world for centuries and while red clay may be looked down by some ceramic traditions it is vital to the experience of so many rural cultures all around the world.

-- Adero Willard


Adero Willard is currently an assistant visiting professor at New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. She received a BFA at Alfred University in 1995 and MFA at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 2006. She completed a one-year residency at Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts in Maine. Adero has exhibited work nationally and internationally and has been featured in a number of publications and books on ceramics. She has worked as a professor of ceramics at Holyoke Community College since 2011. Since 2014 she is one of the cofounders of Pots on Wheels a nonprofit mobile clay education outreach project.