Birdwell Blog

Welcome back to Hang 10 with Birdie, where we catch up with friends Birdwell has made along the way, in and out of the water. This time around the sun, we’re spending some quiet time with bodysurfer, cyclist and ceramicist extraordinaire Mark Churchill. An expert craftsman of more than 25 years with training in the traditional Japanese style, the Ojai-based artist has a lot in common with our favorite soul surfers: each piece he creates is a unique ride, guided by the materials used and his own intuitive hand. Working entirely with local clays and glazes, he crafts each individual bowl and vessel with a willingness to show the work in a style that’s distinctly Californian—and definitely right up our alley.



1) What's your super power?

I’m pretty hard to kill.


2) Would you rather be invisible or be able to fly?
Flying seems like it would ease the desire to be invisible.



3) Would you rather be able to have night vision or to paddle as fast as a jet ski?
I always wonder, does night vision make stars less visible? If so, over rated.


4) Which three people, living or historical, would you invite to dinner? Why?
Ben Dave and Chris Churchill  Getting us all home is difficult since state laws prohibit our assembly in Ojai valley more than once a year. Some E.P.A.  nonsense about how if we’re All 4 of us together, we mess up local weather patterns. 🤷🏻‍♂️

 

   

5) Where are you as you answer these questions?
I’m at my studio in Meiners oak’s having coffee. A pottery studio in the early hours of the morning is a beautiful thing. In the first 20 years of my path. I was gripped by an obsession to make things perfect. Only the purest porcelain and my glazes had to be applied a very controlled environment with a spray gun. I still love all that stuff and it’s always there when I need it, but when I came home 5 years ago, i changed my work entirely to make the process more enjoyable. I directed everything towards being outdoors as much as possible. Sometimes the birds shit on the pots. Or they get covered in spiders webs. Leaves fall in the buckets of glaze. During the Thomas Fire everything was covered in ash. Now I try to relax about that kinda stuff because after it’s fired to 2400 degrees, the little marks or “imperfections” are more often proof of life, rather than a “problem”. Also-Working with pottery outdoors as much as possible just feels right for me. Like skinny dipping.


6) If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
I’m good right here. My friends and family know where I am, and they all stop by to hang for coffee. I have a pretty special opportunity here where I am allowed to do the thing I am best at for as many hours a day as I can take. And when I get home tonite, with my Rebekah and my Inez, I’ll be even better.

 

 

7) If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your days, which one would it be?
I have always had a thing for listening to things repeatedly. It’s part of the rhythm of throwing. Back in the day,  because a Potter’s hands are almost always wet with clay you really needed ALBUMS. There was no shuffle or podcast so something that you could play for 30 minutes without washing your hands is a big deal. The best is when you can just hit repeat, and sit down to make 50 mugs without worrying about the music.  Some opt for talk radio but can’t handle the steady drip of npr or classic rock. So Neil Young Decade, Sonic Youth Daydream Nation, Heron Oblivion Heron Oblivion. Gillian Welch Time The Revelator,  Bob Marley Survival, Dylan Blonde On Blonde.... these are all strong options but Joanna Newsome’s album Ys. Is it for me. She is a singular talent whose work has so many shadows and layers. Refractions and reflections in it that have kept me locked in for the longest time already. Someday I want to make a dinner set where I scribble all the words to “only skin” across a stack of 30 plates. She plays the harp and a few other arcane instruments. Her voice is beyond unique and she is a lyrical genius. The album is produced by Steve fucking Albini and Van Dyke Parks. Complete orchestral accompaniment. That’s the one.

8) Is there a day in your life that you’d like to live over again?
Thought about this one for a long time. I’ve been in on some good capers, and there are certainly things I have done wrong that I would fix, but I can honestly say that I’m so curious about what my daughter is going to be like, and I have so much work I need to make, that I would rather not repeat anything right now. I’m very satisfied to be where I am and find out what’s coming next.


 

9) Best compliment you ever received?
My neighbors mom lives in Georgia. She’s a farmer of Irish descent whose family has been there for quite some time. He bought her some of my mugs and a mixing bowl, and she liked them so much she remodeled her cabinets to display them . Then this same woman, who takes her coffee mug on a walk around the farm with her every morning was attacked by a rabid fox. At first she threw the hot coffee at it, and that pissed it off. It charged her and she clocked it in the head with my mug totally knocking it out. Then she went back to the house, rinsed out her cup, and put it on its shelf and got her gun.

29) Best memory in Birdwells?
I just remember how in the beginning of the summer my mom would put me in whatever pair was too small for someone else, and she would safety pin the waist and then stitch the back so it would fit. And then by the end of summer she’s gotta take one of ‘em out cause you grew. Birdwells are crazy like that. 1 pair would make it all the way through the 4 of us. 🤘

 

 


Check out more of Mark's work HERE.

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