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  • Writer's pictureTracy

Sit Down with Tina Rosling, Potter: The Balance, Gravity and Meditation of Ceramics

"I love making a beautiful table and having it showcase the food. I brought this with me from life in Denmark," Tina Rosling.

It's been a minute since I have had the opportunity to talk with someone doing amazing things in the world and ask, "What is your why?" A couple of weeks ago, I was able to make that happen. Thanks for joining us as we dive into our story about Tina Rosling, Potter.

Tina Rosling holding a bowl, Pottery in Tennessee

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About five years ago, I met Tina Rosling through our incredible Appalachian Mountain Biking Club community. Within that time span, we have cycled together countless hours, traveled to Barcelona, and talked about leaving careers as nurses and teachers.

For over thirty-three years, Tina has been working as a potter. Most recently this year, she created a plethora of ceramics in her Scandanavian-inspired studio in the woods. She has invited me to come and work there, too, and it is a space to be adored adore nestled in the woods.

Tina describes her pottery as functional, as she herself is quite practical. The pottery she makes holds food and beverages and is meant to be a part of the entire dining experience. She also said that coffee just tastes better in her ceramics and I happen to agree.

In her work, she blends her life in three very unique cultures and experiences - East Tennessee, Northern California, and Denmark. These cultures blend together to create the landscape of vivid colors in her ceramics and tell the story of her life.

When Tina sat down with us, it was a crisp cool day, with no humidity, and abundant blue skies. The trees and the ground were beginning to show signs of change, as the leaves had a drier sound when they rustled around the studio.

Tina's studio in the woods has a slanting sloped roof, is painted black, and sits on a hill in the middle of the woods in Knoxville. A crunchy gravel drive leads to the studio welcoming all its visitors. The studio is adorned with artwork from others, succulents, and the tools of the trade.

The space is hidden away, and we won't reveal the location to you here, as it remains her space to create. Visitors do come, and I was fortunate enough to spend quality time with her as she worked.

Tina explained that she uses three types of clay: a porcelain and a red and black. The majority of clay is a natural material found abundantly in Earth. Clay itself is also recyclable, making it sustainable in its production and its use. Tina explained that the clay contains minerals such as silica, alumina or magnesia or both, and water, and that some of the clay she uses contains grog - a raw material usually made from crushed and ground potsherds, reintroduced back into crude clay to temper it before making ceramic ware. We giggled about the word grog, a bit, as it strikes up a vision of pirates on a ship singing songs into their cups of grog.

The process to make ceramics is a long process, and requires a lot of patience. For someone who is a painter, it is tricky to understand this process. The steps are broken down like this:

  1. Select your clay body - earthenware, stoneware, procelin

  2. Wedge the clay - this removes air bubbles and improves workability of clay

  3. Throw the clay on the wheel - the beautiful part of this process of creation is that if you mess up, you can smash the clay and start over. Additionally within the throwing, your entire body and mind are absorbed with the task, making it a meditation.

  4. Trim and decorate the clay

  5. Bisque fire once clay is bone dry

  6. Glaze

While these are simple breakdowns of the process, it is a process that takes days. While Tina works on throwing, pots are drying and being fired. The entire thing is a dance to behold and involves the entirety of a person, thus the nod to mediation.

In our meeting, Tina mentions using a kick wheel versus an electric wheel. The kick wheel involves human powered motion while the electric wheel is, well, electric. While Tina uses an electric wheel in her studio to shape her pottery, she has used a kick wheel in the past. One of the most notable experiences of her using the kick wheel was on a trip to Nepal.

Referencing Nepalaand the use of the kick wheel takes Tina and me down a history of ceramics tour. We get excited about the history of ceramics - how it predates civilization and she mentions with joy how she can imagine how a caveperson probably threw clay mud into a fire and violá, a hardened surface appeared, thus ceramics were born. The actual history as presented by the University of Washington states that the first human-made ceramics were found over 24,000 years ago during the Pleistocene Age in present-day Czech Republic. These first ceramics were in the form of animals, humans, and other shapes.

Pardon the geeky art history pause, but when you get two artists together the discussion gets a little nerdy.

With all the history, the functionality, and the beauty within the work that Tina does, you get her story. The meshing of cultures with visibly different lessons speak of the form and the function of her ceramics. As a nurse practitioner, Tina served the community in the ER for over thirty years, currently she also works to bring education to those facing abortion choices, and lives with her husband, Eric, and son, Landon in the vibrant community of North Knoxville in East Tennessee. You see and purchase her work via Instagram (@tinarosl) and Facebook, her website is coming soon!

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