Love Letter to Beatrice Wood

A spherical, squatty bottle with two ornate necks, is draped with braids and shimmers in a semi-rusted, semi-iridescent blue.
Blue Lustre Double Necked Bottle with Braided Decoration, ca. 1969, glazed earthenware, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Dorothy and George Saxe, 1995.

Beatrice Wood’s pottery has always seemed so alive to me. The forms are exhilarating and strong. And in her embrace of uncertainty, Wood’s glazed pots make the argument for a spontaneous life. 

Wood didn’t set out to be a potter. She wanted to be a painter, then an actress, then who knows. But she wasn’t fickle, she was simply open to all sorts of lives. She dove into the possibilities, studying at Paris’s acclaimed Académie Julian, running off to Giverny, training at the Comédie-Française—she rocketed herself into the world. 

Wood lived life brashly, wholly, triumphantly. In her mid-thirties, she moved to California, eventually settling in Ojai, a little city nestled in a valley 400 miles south of where we both were born; it was, she reflected, “a very alive place.” There she reinvented herself yet again: Wood became a potter.

If other artisans she knew liked earth tones, Beatrice chased luster and incandescence. She became known for her iridescent surfaces and theatrical forms: a bulbous gold teapot shimmers atop a tiny base, a chalice of faces and waving arms, brilliant crystalline blues. Much like Wood herself, her vessels are expressive and visceral, potent beings rife with soul.