What do Kodiak, Alaska and Arivaca, Arizona have in common? Sea-faring ceramacist Diana MacDonnel. The Minnesota native arrived in Arivaca 10 years ago with partner Mike McGuire. The two met in Kodiak where both worked during the summer months. “I moved to Alaska in 1982, right after college, “ said Diana. “I knew I couldn’t make a living in ceramics so I moved to Alaska and became a commercial fisherman. Now that I’m semi-retired and living in Arivaca I can throw again.” An art major in ceramics in college, she had the opportunity to study many different forms of art. “It was required so I’ve done stained glass, jewelry, and other crafting.”
But it was the physicality of ceramics that hooked her. “I love working with my hands. Just being able to create something out of a lump of clay, which is nothing, and then by a lot of practice – a lot of practice – finally getting something that is functional and hopefully appreciated by other people is exciting for me.”
Diana joined the Arivaca Artists’ Co-op three years ago where her stoneware is for sale. Her serving pieces –bowls, platters - and dinnerware are popular with locals and visitors. Describing the process, she says “l hand throw the objects and then fire at Cone 5. That’s 2,265 degrees as opposed to the higher temperature, 2400 degrees, of Cone 6. With today’s glazes it’s possible to get a beautiful finish at the lower temperature.”
And it’s the colors that draw admirers to her work. The names of the glazes conjure a good picture of the finished product. Antique Jade results in layered blues ranging from peacock to hyacinth. The darker blues, tending toward cobalt, on some of her smaller bowls are the result of using raku glazes low fired in an electric kiln.
“The pink jewelry jars come not from a colored glaze, but from the clay body which is pink, and then overlayed with a white glaze, “ she explains.
Italian Straw overlapped with Chocolate Mesa and then dripped with a clear glaze creates the two-tone earth colors in her other palette.
“As much as I like being on the water, I love the desert, “ she said revealing what she likes most about Arivaca. “I love the heat, the vegetation, cacti, the solitude. As much as I love people I love the solitude. When I sit at the potter’s wheel it is a meditative process for me.”