GEOFF EVANS | LITTLE MESA POTTERY | West Marin
Geoff Evans is compact and muscular, with gray-green eyes, elfish ears, and thin lips that attenuate into a placid arc of a smile. In his stiff beige overalls that are the same color as the ruddy clay he’s throwing, he is crouched over the potter’s wheel with a firm, unrelenting—but not strained—grip on two pounds of clay. He is finding his center—the clay’s center, really—though one does not seem so different from the other, and in any case, the meeting of these two centers, if in fruitful balance, produces a new and curvaceous form—a third center. Today Geoff is shaping a teardrop vase.
Centering is the first and arguably most critical step in throwing on a potter’s wheel: it is laying down a foundation, ensuring strength. And it’s a physical process that lends itself to the language of metaphysics, which is spoken by philosophers and poets and those trying to make sense of their existences in this world by mapping their literal movements onto metaphorical planes. Geoff undoubtedly belongs to this latter category. He speaks eloquently about his two primary art forms: ceramics and aikido. They’re complementary, he says, and surprisingly parallel. When he was 11 years old, he started taking aikido classes in Berkeley, and a few years later, began ceramics classes as well. Both require repetitions of the same movements that become etched into one’s muscle memory until they become meditations unto themselves. Both demand space.
Geoff speaks eloquently about his two primary art forms: ceramics and aikido. “Everything I do is about creating space or changing space,” Geoff says. “Blending instead of conflict.”
“Everything I do is about creating space or changing space,” Geoff says. Aikido, whose Japanese translation is “the way of harmonizing energy,” is about the interaction of space between two people. “Blending instead of conflict,” he says, also pointing out that this aphorism is relevant to surfing and navigating traffic. Blending is essential to ceramics too: a stream of bodily movements is subsumed into clay, producing a form whose beauty depends as much on the space it takes up as on the negative space around it. In Geoff’s Bolinas studio, classical Greek and Roman vases— amphoras, kraters, olpes, stamnos — fill the shelves, and he points out the spaces between the vases. The vases are aesthetically pleasing because of their proportions, geometries, and clean lines, Geoff says. Besides these foundational forms, Geoff also makes tableware, lanterns, and planters (he has dozens, filled with succulents, scattered throughout his backyard). Many of his ceramics are first thrown, and then carved.
Geoff oscillates between physical places like he oscillates between art forms. Perhaps balance finds itself somewhere within those back-and-forth movements. His entire life, in fact, has been split between Berkeley and Bolinas, which are two loci that many people in the Bay Area have in common. He was born in Bolinas and grew up in the barn-house that he still lives in. He spent most of his teenage and young adult years in Berkeley, before returning to Bolinas. Now he is preparing to spend some extended time in Berkeley again. “I like both,” he says. There’s the quiet, rural feeling of Bolinas—spacious, open, expansive—and the stimulation of Berkeley, a college town dense and compact. Both are essential; neither are final. But if we are speaking metaphysically—which Geoff will do—there is nothing unsettling about the impermanence that is inherent to migration, to seasonality, to firing a ceramic bowl in a blazing kiln. “I’m more excited about the process than the end product,” says Geoff.