Tamara Bryan is sitting at her pottery wheel, light streaming in the open French windows of her studio, carving a groove into the side of a flower pot. This specific pot will eventually make its way to the shelves of Solabee, a flower and botanical shop that carries Tamara’s work. But at this stage, it is just a dark gray form, a middle step in a long process that moves from idea to drawing, clay to wheel, glaze to kiln.
Tamara is a Portland-based potter whose pieces are both earthly and elegant. Designed for utility and integration, Tamara thinks not just of what each piece will look like, but in what hands and environments her pieces will live.
Tamara grew up making things. “We didn’t do a lot of TV,” she says. Instead, she spent her time outside or doing crafts. From a young age, she sewed, baked, and used her hands for making: from clothing for her dolls to handmade paper to Play-Doh.
It wasn’t until college that Tamara learned how to use a pottery wheel and threw her first pot. She began college as a literature major, but once she realized the university had a pottery studio she switched her major to art.
After college, Tamara married, moved to Portland and had two children. When her kids were little, Tamara set aside her pottery practice for another kind of making, the art of caring for two children. About four years ago, once both kids began school full-time, Tamara was able to get back in the pottery studio and began building a business. The result is Tamara Bryan Pottery, a line of ceramics that ranges from flower pots and dishes, to tumblers, coffee pots, clay necklaces, and ring trays and holders.
Tamara thinks of clay as organic matter that is alive.
“Clay is said to have memory,” she writes on her website. Tamara is interested in all the lives clay has lived before it makes it to her wheel. Clay, as organic matter, is part of the life cycle, the same life cycle of “plants, animals, mountains and rivers, even people…” The life cycle churns and organic matter is broken down, becomes clay, and then begins again.
For Tamara, clay is more than just a lump of dirt, it is something that holds memory.
“I imagine it whispering of it’s past lives,” she writes.
Back at the pottery wheel, Tamara has finished the groove in one flower pot and has moved on to the next. The grooves work as a guide when she dips the pots in glaze, blue or green or light yellow, but they also serve as a signature. The pots are similar, but like all organic matter, no two are exactly alike. When the pots are finished she’ll deliver them to Solabee, and from there they will find a plant to house and someone’s home to fill. But right now, they are spinning pieces of clay, and Tamara is bent over her wheel, hands moving over each pot, smoothing them, making something beautiful.
Tamara Bryan Pottery is sold locally at: Button Consignment, Solabee Flowers & Botanicals, Avidd Boutique, Mantle, Stustustudio, Somethings, and Mr. Green Beans. You can also find her pieces online at: www.tamarabryanpottery.com.