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Up Close and Personal mini interview

Joe Bova

Up Close and Personal is a new concept to get to know ceramists and studio potters in a way that you may never have before. Mini interviews with a broad range of questions to accomplished potters, ceramists and educators may reveal some surprising results. Inaugural interviewee is Santa Fe ceramist Joe Bova. Comments to Joe ( ) or the editor () are welcome!


Joe Bova is an American ceramist and teacher. He is an elected Fellow of NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) and served as its president from 1993-94. In 2004 he established his studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and divides his time between there and Athens, Ohio, where he teaches one term a year at Ohio University.

Q. What is your favorite novel?

A. Tie: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry/ Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie.

Q. What else do you read?

A. I read poetry regularly, probably as much as novels. A few of my favorite poets in random order are:

  • Roland Flint
  • Jorie Graham
  • C.K. Williams
  • Jim Harrison – also a great American novelist
  • C.D. Wright
  • Anna Akhmatova
  • Marvin Bell
  • Billy Collins
  • Stephen Dunn
  • Sharon Olds
  • Paul Zimmer
  • Jack Gilbert
  • Czeslaw Milosz
  • Linda Pastan

Anyone who works with clay should know these two poems: Wheel by Roland Flint and Drawn by Stones, by Earth, by Things that Have Been in the Fire by Marvin Bell.

Q. What is your favorite non-fiction book?

A. I Don't read much non-fiction in book-form, but some that come to mind: anything by V.S. Naipaul (Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey and Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples) , John McPhee (Basin and Range et al), or Gore Vidal (Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta).

For my informational reading I read the NYTimes on-line every morning and then go to the BBC on-line. My magazines (subscriptions) are The Nation and Harpers, the Georgia Review. I used to read the New Yorker but since I couldn't keep up I dropped the subscription and just buy it at the bookstore once in a while.

Q. What are you reading at the moment?

A. A novel: The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth.
Poetry: Eavan Boland's The Lost Land and C K Williams' The Singing.

Q. What is your favorite movie?

A. Red Sky at Morning, the best coming of age film I have ever seen. Stars Richard Thomas as a displaced teenager whose father moves him from Mobile Alabama to a town in northern New Mexico during World War II, while he (the father) goes off to serve in the Navy. The mother is a “magnolia” who is a stereotype of southern gothic beset by alcoholism and a mooching live-in relative. The boy, of course is an outsider who makes friends with two kids of like status. He meets a sculptor who introduces him to the “world”. This artist is a life-long friend of his father's heretofore unknown to the boy. All about tragedy of war, power of art and “the enduring sprit of youth and the values that count in life.”

Apparently not available on VHS or DVD, but originally a novel by Richard Bradford, still in print, first published in 1968. Washington Post Bookworld says, “A sort of Catcher in the Rye out West...What makes the book a true delight is the deadpan, irreverent humor with which Josh tells the story...No brief review can do justice to Mr. Bradford's book."

Classics: Casablanca

Q. Your most favorite CD or piece of music?

A. Tough question. My ipod is maxed out. My itunes has almost 12 GB of music stored. I am very eclectic in my tastes, running the gamut from many forms of American popular music/rock/jazz to classic to world music. Not much of a hiphop fan, but once still give it a listen now and then.

Popular: Currently Steve Earl's CD The Revolution Starts Now especially the song Condi, Condi. ANY Neville Brothers but all time favorite cd is Yellow Moon
Jazz: Bill Evans and Diana Krall
Serious: Contemporary: Henryk Gorecki: Symphony 3
Historical: Hayden: The London Symphonies
Opera: All Italian opera but even more: Mozart's Don Giovanni
World: Angelique Kidjo's Black Ivory Soul

Q. Your favorite food?

A. Anything with sufficient cayenne or New Mexican green chiles; i.e. crawfish etouffe or NM Posole.

Q. What do you like to drink?

A. Any local red table wine in Italy or Hungary.

Q. If you could own any piece of ceramic, what would it be?

A. Historical: The Etruscan Veii Sarcophagus in the Villa Julia in Rome
Modern: Bob Arneson: Any work from the Nuclear body of work

Q. Your favorite ceramic artist or potter?

A. Living: Four way tie: Arthur Gonzales, Adrian Arleo, Jindra Vikova, and Carmen Dionyse sculptors; Potters: Ron Meyers and Magdalena Odundo
Deceased: Three way tie: Bob Arneson, Viola Frey and Gertraud Mohwald
Sculptors; Potters: any single one of the vast number of anonymous Moche potters of Pre-Columbian Peru.

Q. To you, what is the meaning or function of art?

A. A work must simultaneously be both transactional and transformational for, to and with the viewer's mind/spirit. That said, I believe art is fundamentally somatic and therefore must exist in this world and cannot be realized only in the mind.

Q. What have been the most influential events in your life?

A. In random order: the births of my two sons, a conversation with Walker Percy [ed. note: American author (1916-90)] in 1974, graduate school at the University of New Mexico, divorce, travel (especially first trip to Italy and Peru), military service in the 60's, every instance of teaching, the night I met my wife at a party on Goldbug Island ( of Edgar Alan Poe fame) , Charleston, SC in 1997.

Q. What do you love?

A. Working until dawn, then coffee after sunrise outside with a view: at home the Jemez mountain range looking west from my studio, away the May river from Jim Lawton’s dock in South Carolina with dolphins breaching. Sunrise after driving all night on a road trip anywhere. The miraculous early evening light in New Mexico especially when there is a clear view of over a hundred miles of the landscape. When I was in Ohio, I wrote in this poem:


We sit together on the little patio
overlooking the hay fields below the house. It is
eight years since I put these bricks in the ground
but now they look quite the same age as the house.
John Buck built its two story foursquare hulk
In 1894. He is still here about two hundred yards
up the hill behind the house under his stone.
Little by little since 1990 I shape his house
for my life and time but sometimes wonder
how much the shaping shapes me.
Ohio spring day, the air cool, the sun warm.
Hollyhocks in their teens/other flowers
blooming adulthood. The poppy, one great cadmium
orange splash in the garden framed by pinks.
I drink a little from my second cup of coffee
and the view. Bluebirds explore the possibility
of setting up house in the never occupied box
I screwed to the maple tree facing south.
Last year they opted for the box
on the north side of the house.
Starlings invaded just days before and
started Heckeling and Jeckeling the bluebirds
out of their own neighborhood, then swifts
started camping in the bluebird boxes so it was
promising to see their obstinacy. I looked across
the road just as an indigo bunting landed
on the power wire. I told you – look! - look at that!
(that blue flash like some late night blue flash of a neon
bar window sign) – indigo bunting. You disputed me
saying on your way to get the field glasses that it was
just another bluebird, only to praise my intact-at-sixty
distance vision as soon as you glassed the bird.
A little further out and to the right is the turn
in the creek where recent floods scoured the bank
of its larger trees. Listening hard you can just hear
the riffles there. Wild daisies colonize the flood
limit line in the field and sway with the tall grasses
choreographed by the rain-announcing
Sunday morning wind. Three feet away
a great clay pot holds petunias ringing
red geraniums you planted because
the geraniums please me and remind me
of Italy. Orange, pink, white, and crimson
surround us and the blues fly by while the red
earth of brick and terra cotta complement the
lush spring greens. As usual, discontent with
my unrealized ambitions, I think by now
I should have achieved more. But today,
looking around and looking at you,
I lean back in the cheap white
plastic patio chair from some discount store
and say - I feel rich -
and you say - you are.

Q. What inspires you the most?

A. Human events, animals, the miracle of the visual world and the human mind.

Q. What is your greatest regret?

A. Not having a daughter, on the other hand I have the world’s greatest granddaughter.

Q. Your greatest achievement?

A. A family of former students.


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