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Sally Resnik Rockriver
American ceramist and glass artist.

Photos by Ellen Giamportone.

Sally Resnik Rockriver is an American ceramist and glass artist based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Rockriver received a BFA (Hons) in Ceramics and Painting from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1992 and an MFA in Ceramics and Combined Media from Hunter College, City University of New York (CUNY) in 1996. She has been a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor's Society since 1992. She taught at Moorhead State University in Minnesota from 1996-98.

Rockriver generates chemical reactions in blown glass and ceramics, creating 'geochemical formations' through high temperature crystal growth. She established the Resnik Thermal Lab, a glass blowing school and ceramics research facility that emphasizes the intersection of art and science, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1999.

Artist's Statement

My work mirrors a geothermal world by activating and harnessing thermal formations of ceramic materials. I have always been more interested in the glaze and how it forms than in the clay object itself. My clay work is directed toward enhancing glaze formation. Initially, I had to create forms that ceased controlling these glazes in order to understand their free nature and I now try to capture and direct this molten force.

The crystalline wall hangings emulate water, geology, and weather systems. The subject of the work is the crystal, how it grows, and how the running glaze is important to its formation. The crystalline slab pieces have an undulating surface that enhances and directs crystal growth. The works explore the ideal slope for crystal formation along with capturing a moving crystal as it forms.

The calcite formations are evocative of caves, geysers, and underwater formations.This is mainly due to the fact that what actually occurs during and after the firing is similar to the processes that create natural phenomena. While the pieces are hot, glaze bubbles and seeps down the framework of the sculptures, similar to the way calcium forms stalactites in a cavern. After the firing, humidity causes this glaze to continue to grow. As the surface oxidizes, it develops a mossy covering of spiny crystals. Upon weathering, the pieces turn yellow and lavender, eroding and recrystallizing with every season. These works do not imitate life, rather they are their own geological specimen.

My glasswork highlights the ceramic glaze by encapsulating cores of glaze in a glass column. I infuse blown glass forms with ceramic glazes that react and bubble at this high temperature. These glazes heat and crystallize as they cool, much like in my ceramic pieces but in the supportive envelope of clear glass. Differing coefficients of expansion and contraction form iridescent fissures that are magnified by the glass. Blown glass compliments my ceramic works because it allows me to magnify my glazes and separate them from the clay format.

In all of my works, I am designing a format that will accentuate a given glaze. The tendency of the glaze to drip, run, pool, grow, and crystallize is the primary focus of the work. The geological tone is a direct result of the nature of these materials. As part of my exploration, I share my findings with members of the scientific community and treat many of my projects as research specimens. Underlying all of my work is the thread of geochemistry and thermal formations.

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