Abby Heingartner

photos by cole moore
story by rebecca forman

When I walk into Abby’s studio, I immediately feel the serenity of a potter’s presence. She stands amidst bright afternoon sunlight glazing a series of blue chalices. Her concentration is palpable.

Abby describes her work as “organic, clean, and evolving.”  As I peruse the studio and look over the mugs, bowls, plates and vases she has shaped, I get a sense of the labor required to create the elegant, seemingly effortless, pieces. Her work is grounded and her studio is orderly. There is a gentleness in the space that is soothing, in spite of the hectic environment surrounding a college student at this time of year.

I love the tactility of it. It’s wet and squishy, and you can poke it, and prod it, and pull it....Once I started being able to throw it, it was just magic.

Abby has always loved using her hands. She began arts and crafts at a young age, and eventually took up knitting, occasionally dabbling in woodworking.  During her sophomore year at an academically-intense high school, she enrolled in her first ceramics class, and fell in love.

Abby is passionate about all ceramics techniques, but she is particularly drawn to the art of throwing clay. It is hypnotizing the way pieces rise to form on the wheel—the way a mound of clay spins around and around and turns into something tangible and usable. It’s fascinating, and never loses its enchantment despite the number of times she experiences it.

“I love the tactility of it. It’s wet and squishy, and you can poke it, and prod it, and pull it. There’s just something really cool about that. Once I started being able to throw it, it was just magic.  It’s pure magic…When I’m in my groove, throwing on the wheel, it’s just really satisfying to be able to do that with my hands.”

When she speaks about the firing process, I’m in awe. Abby explains that there are different ways to fire pieces—there are wood kilns and gas kilns, there is high-firing and low-firing, to name a few variables. Abby typically works with high-fire glazes.  Things are melting together at very high temperatures, there is a lot of chemistry involved, and a certain amount of unpredictability.  “You glaze something, and you sort of know what something’s going to look like, but not really.  You put it in a kiln and twenty-four or thirty-six hours later, you open it up and it’s like Christmas morning.  It can be frustrating if things don’t turn out the way you want, but it can also be super-awesome and totally unexpected.”

Over and over again, I hear Abby’s fascination with the creative magic of ceramics. As a potter, she molds each piece to be both singular and expressive: it appears on the wheel, and it surprises her when she removes it from the kiln. The process ensures that each emerges with its own unique story and personality.