Barbara Harnack and Michael Lancaster celebrate 35 years together as a couple and more than 30 years as studio partners and collaborators in art. Married in 1981, they have one daughter, Amrit, who is a musician. While Barbara’s work is figurative and hand built, Michael works with a potter’s wheel. Their collaborative work brings together the best of both worlds, while maintaining a rich expression of both individuals. Known for their Raku sculpture, they also work in mixed media as well as painting two dimensional work. Raku, a 16th Century Japanese technique of Rapid firing allows them to express the interaction of the elements with clay and empowers their bright and rich palette of finishes and surfaces.
Their individual and collaborative work has been featured in numerous periodicals and books, including Ceramics Monthly, American Style, Su Casa, Lark Books “500 Ceramic Sculptures,” “500 Vases,” 500 Raku,” and The American Ceramic Society “Raku, Pit & Barrel Firing,” “Raku Firing, Advanced Techniques.”
“My work often starts with a slab of clay that I upright and sculpt. I am searching for the person within my medium. Each piece of clay seems to let me know who wants to come out. I draw on my clay, mark it, rip it, and construct it. Once this process is complete I fire it (first) in the electric kiln. It is then ready to be glazed. The glazing is my expression in painting. I glaze and paint the piece on and off for several days, until its myriad of colors and layers leads me to believe it will transform into something more alive after the final firing.
The main firing is American Style Raku. The pieces are placed in a kiln and fired rapidly until they glow red/orange. We open the kiln and place them (still red hot) in a steel container and pack them in straw. The process becomes an explosion of smoke and fire which gives it a patina of antiquity. Each artwork shows that moment of the fire and smoke. The result is a gesture of the foreverness of the human spirit. In the end it’s as if I have met a character for the first time. It is my aspiration that I can share that personal feeling with others through their experience of these characters. Influences include Marc Chagall, Pierre Pascal, Antique toys, Children’s art, folk art, and William Steig“
“I work on the potter’s wheel making forms that I can alter and reassemble. I am inspired by old industrial shapes, old equipment and farm implements. I fire most often using Raku as it enables me to give a patina of age and antiquity.
As I see it, industrial objects were once shiny and bright, with the aura of promise. Then after years of use they are worn and discarded, usually in a field or an industrial lot. It is there, in the arms of nature that they gain a second life and with a new patina, acted upon by the natural elements, they become beautiful works of sculpture. My aim is to give the feeling of those elements and parts, not to replicate them, but engage the viewer in a dialogue with such things to find that kind of beauty and enjoyment. Influences include Mark deSuervo, Hans Coper, Don Reitz, Willem de’Kooning and my uncle, John Warren, who could build anything out of anything.”