By SHEILA FRAYNE RHOADES
Chesterfield artist Sandy Schulz gets all fired up over horse hair pottery. The Best of Missouri Hands juried artist is a specialist in the unusual Navajo art, which uses real horse hair to decorate pottery.
“It’s an ancient design technique used by Native American tribes to honor the birth of a great horse,” Schulz explained. “I use it to help people honor and remember their cherished horses.” The technique used to create horse hair pottery does not require glazing, and according to the artist, it results in pieces that have an “earthy, authentic feel and spirit.”
“When you hold a (regular) piece of glazed pottery, it feels hard and cold,” Schulz said. “In contrast, horse hair pottery is still warm and soft, like the earth.”
Schulz has had a passion for pottery for many years and first encountered horse hair pottery by chance when traveling with her husband in the Southwest.
“It had what I found missing in traditional pieces,” she said.
What began as a hobby soon became the artist’s vocation. The inspired Schulz brought an example to her home/studio to determine the process of creating horse hair pottery. Soon, she was creating pieces and displaying them at art fairs. That led to even more work.
“Horse owners said how much they loved it and asked me to make custom pieces using their horses’ hair,” Schulz said.
In 2002, Schulz began her appropriately named business, Earth and Wheel Pottery. At her home-based studio, Schulz begins by hand-throwing clay on a wheel. Then, she carefully applies tail or mane horse hair on the warm pottery form to create a lovely, veined effect.
“I heat the vase to 1,300 degrees, remove it from the kiln, and then lay one piece of horse hair at a time onto the vase, burning it in. It is this burning that creates the patterns,” Schulz explained.
The finished pottery turns out in striking black and white. Schulz includes the horse’s name on the bottom of the piece. Then, she weaves a horse hair braid for added decoration and to show the true color of the horse’s hair.
Made in memory of living and deceased horses, the pottery holds a special connection between owners and their beloved equines. Healing spirits for both horse owner and the artist seem embedded in Schulz’s work.
“I invite the horse owners to participate in the process,” Schulz said. “They can come to my studio and actually help to create the finished piece. It really is quite special to them.”
To learn more about Schulz and her pottery, visit earthandwheel.com.
October 2, 2013
Gift Certificates available!
Celebrate a new horse or honor a beloved horse passed.