This is the first installation in a series that will provide a more in depth look at the esteemed faculty at Greenwich House Pottery.
For many, the satisfaction that comes from eating or drinking out of something that you’ve crafted with your own hands is not a common experience.
For Michael Boyer, it is the standard. After more than 40 years on the potter’s wheel, Boyer has amassed quite a collection. “Pottery for me is very emotional. Making something with your hands satisfies a very basic instinct; people have been making pottery for thousands of years, and I feel a human connection to this history with each new pot I make.”
This connection to ceramics is not something he always felt, though. Boyer did not discover the joys of the potter’s wheel until he first took a class as part of his coursework at Queens College in the late 60s where he initially set out after a Geology degree. Were it not for over crowding in art classes for those that were art majors, he might have never found his way to a wheel.
Students at Greenwich House Pottery are grateful he did though, as his decision to take a pottery class instead of the color theory class he couldn’t get into would ultimately result in a passion and career that has spanned a lifetime.
Following graduation, and through the recommendation of one of his most influential instructors and mentor at Queens College, Jim Crumrine, Boyer was hired as the studio manager at Greenwich House Pottery, then under the leadership of gallery namesake Jane Hartsook. The two at once became friends, and he found a place to master the art of clay and has thus remained since.
From auspicious beginnings, within the inspiring home of Greenwich House Pottery evolved a potter with a keen talent for shapes and intense interest in colors. Although Boyer says it took him “about 12 years” to really get to the point where what he pictures is exactly the result, to this day he is still learning and perfecting his craft. “Sometimes, the surprise is part of it,” he says, and there are so many opportunities to start again.
“When I throw something away,” he remarked, “tomorrow I won’t even remember I made it. It’s not that I don’t care, but we move on.” One thing that has kept him from moving on from Greenwich House Pottery is the gas kilns, which are unique in New York City due to the city’s fire codes, as well as the environment that the school encapsulates.
“When I walk through the doors,” Boyer said, “it’s almost like the walls smile, it’s like a dream.” Seeing how the school has changed over the years is another boon to him. He notes how much larger and more professional the school is now than when he first began working there in 1971.
The signature gas kilns remain though, and for Boyer “every time you fire it’s like a wonderland.” He notes that the variety of results you can achieve in a gas kiln changes with every fire, versus results that tend to be much more static from an electric kiln. According to Boyer, you should be able to look into the glazes as an integral part of the piece and feel the depth that results. The results from an electric kiln are much too “industrial” for him.
Ultimately though, for Boyer, it always returns back to the form and function. That doesn’t mean it needs to be functional to be pleasing, but there’s something almost “aboriginal” about it. At Greenwich House, he feels fortunate to be a part of the community, where seeing other people’s work can inspire and where the opportunity to keep learning, and thinking through new problems is a constant. .