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Malaika Tolford is a ceramic artist who is currently teaching, creating and raising a family in St. Louis. She completed BAs in Anthropology and Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago during which she worked cultural history research assistant and attended bioarchaeology field school in Greece. She has been working in clay for 15 years and her current ceramic work reflects her academic exploration of the cultural landscape. She invites viewers to reflect upon the way we alter the environment and derive meaning from place by decorating her functional pottery with cartographic imagery.
On an archaeological dig in Greece towards the end of my college career I remember running my hands up the wall of an ancient ceramic trade vessel, tracing the grooves made by a potter’s hasty fingers almost 3,000 years ago. In that moment I realized how much I missed throwing clay on the wheel. A year later I found myself back in a clay studio creating work that I could connect to my fascination with history and Place.
I love covering pottery with unexpected design elements that come from the shapes we make when altering our environments. The organic and jagged form of an urban coast line, the strange a fan of airport terminals, or the series of twists and swirls that make up a modern interstate exchange. They are the shapes of Place. The morphology of our complex environments.
Before a tile on a wall or a cup in hand can be adorned with these motifs, they are formed by hands with the help of ancient technology. In a world where spaces are increasingly virtual, and objects digital, the physicality and permanence of ceramics becomes more and more enticing to me.