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Nita Claise

“There is something therapeutic and calming about throwing on the wheel while the raku firing process is very energizing. Handling 1800-degree pottery with a pair of tongs can be very exhilarating.”

What started out as a hobby for Nita Claise has grown into a four-kiln operation. Today, she creates custom and commissioned handmade stoneware and raku ceramic art from her southern Indiana studio.

Nita is particularly captivated by the process of raku, a firing technique said to have originated in 16th century Japan. Her raku contrasts matt black with gloss white, often with a splash of vibrant iridescent color. Textures also are a very important element of her raku work.

“Raku is part chemistry, part art and it is very unpredictable,” Nita says. “Because of all the variables, you can’t do two pieces exactly the same.”

Nita takes her inspiration from nature to create glazes as well as texture in her work. Earthy colors and forms, such as leaves and dragonflies, also are evident in her functional stoneware pieces.

Nita finds that it can be hard to be an artist in a mass-produced society, saying that she feels individual creativity has largely gone by the wayside. “It has always been very satisfying for me to drink or eat from a handmade vessel that someone has put a part of themselves into creating,” she says.

She thinks the Indiana Artisan program can help her market her work to an audience that may be used to mass-produced items. Nita already is hard at work educating Hoosiers about raku. She and her husband hold firing demonstrations at the studio for school groups and the general public. She also demonstrates traditional throwing techniques at churches, schools and festivals.