By Angela Romeo
Pottery – the word conjures up many images. We think of ancient civilizations leaving behind pottery shards for us to image their lives. We think of our childhood – making that pinch clay pot for mother’s day. But Nichole Vikdal sees pottery in amazing new light.
“Nothing Gold Can Stay is a poem by Robert Frost. These lines have always captivated me, ‘Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour,’” said Nichole.
Many have debated the meaning of those lines but Nichole’s interpretation seems to be that nature beauty is unpredictable and often fleeting. Her work captures that fleeting beauty for eternity. “Nature is where I seek my inspiration. Its beauty is fascinating, it never remains the same for long,” continued Nichole.
Her ceramic work can be simple – such as plates, to complex, such as her vases. The work hinges on her unique use of Crystalline Glazing. Glazes are a form of glass that takes shape in the heat of the kiln. With a crystallize glaze, macro-crystals form around a nucleus of titanium oxide or zinc oxide crystal. In the perfect conditions, zinc and silica oxide molecules will attach to the nucleus crystal. These bonds must form in a very specific arrangement to create crystals. How easy is that? Not.
Her work is striking as the glazes create unique patterns that seem to be fireworks captured. Each design may have a similarity but the design is impossible to reproduce. But that alone is not enough to describe the beauty of Nichole’s work. The complexity of a simple design is a skill few artists can master. Nichole can take the mundane, a cup, a plate, and creates a work that elevates the simple sip of coffee into an epicurean delight. Her artistry is seeing more than the clay, she sees nature.
“About 10 years ago I began studying everything I could about this process. I begin by creating pottery on a wheel using porcelain clay. I mix my own glazes from raw materials. I am constantly testing and searching for new glaze ‘recipes,’” laughed Nichole. “Success in the pottery world is very different from most medium. The work, once in the kiln, can take on its on life. There is always an element of surprise when the kiln door opens.”
“In the pottery world, the ‘success rate’ is much lower for this glaze than others. The glaze can fire with poor color, no crystals, or breaking under the intense heat. Due to the lengthy time required to master the glaze, the great care that must be taken in its mixing and firing, and the small success rate, I am one of few potters today who use this glaze.”
Nichole calls Yucca Valley home. She is very active in the High Desert Art community. “I enjoy living here. It is quiet with open space. On beautiful days, I have the doors to my studio open. I hear are the sounds of nature. I see are the animals going about their day. I smell fresh air. These sensations become part of my work.”
“The high desert is a secret artist community. The secret is no longer secret more artists are drawn here every year. I am honored to live among them. They are my friends and neighbors. They inspire and motivate me to be better through their support, encouragement, and friendship.”
As for her work, Nichole understands that just like in nature, there is no way to control the natural forces. “There is no way to predict where and how the crystals grow or what each piece will look like. It is that mystery that is also my greatest joy. When I am able to harmonize porcelain clay with the crystalline glaze in such a way that one cannot tell where the clay ends and the glaze begins then each piece then holds a depth and a life all of its own.”
Said Frost: So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Nichole has proven that is not true.
For more information visit www.crystalsbynichole.com