24-7-2003

Johnny Rolf

How it began

From the time I was a teenager I wanted to work with my hands.
This desire found a focus when, in 1956, I met Jan de Rooden, who worked with clay in the small but well-known pottery
of Lucie Q. Bakker in Amsterdam where tableware was made.
As a breadwinner for my family I worked in an office as a secretary but my heart was elsewhere.

Soon we started making pots in a tiny windowless basement-room in my mother's house.
With some assistance from Jan I discovered the secrets of clay, learnt to throw and how to handle clay.
I was awed by the endless possibilities I saw in the hand-built and wheel-thrown pots I had made.
An immense world to be discovered lay at my hands!
Whenever we could we sought out museums with ceramics collections of all times and places, in the Netherlands and abroad,
and learned a lot from the works displayed.
One of the things that intrigued us was the interplay between the forms and glazes of ceramics and the people who made them.
Aspects of their landscapes, flora and fauna were reflected in the pots they made.
We discovered that pots, too, were rooted in the soil, the region, the country where they originated.
Yet these pots could be appreciated in countries far away from their original source.

I found that, working in clay, choices had to be made. Not all ideas, and there were many, could be realized.
Life is too short for that!
Being aware of having to choose continuously conditioned my life and work.
This awareness emphasized intensity and purpose and responsibility, for, once clay is fired, it cannot return to its amorphous state.
Once clay is fired, it may survive for years to come.

Along with clay work, I have always drawn with pen and ink and painted with gouache or watercolours.
Drawing gave me a new freedom and helped me find new ways into clay.
I love the contrast between the heavy mass, the stability, the earthbound stoniness of clay and the ethereal,
fleeting, almost illusionist possibilities of a pen, some paint and a sheet of handmade paper.

Since 1958 I have had yearly exhibitions, together with Jan de Rooden, as well as many one-person shows.
Each exhibition has been an adventure, a journey with new vistas.

My work has become my way of life.
My home and studio are one.
I found beauty through my work, and truth, and dear friends and colleagues.
Last but not least, it opened the world to me.

 
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