RADAR Section American Craft Magazine July 9, 2010
One might say that a passion for the handmade is in Molly Hatch’s blood: her family’s connection to functional art goes back generations. “My maternal ancestors were merchants importing goods, mostly from Europe,” says the ceramist. “They always brought back porcelain and French faience as ballast in their ships. I grew up using a lot of the objects inherited from my grandmother in my home.” Surrounded by these opulent pieces, Hatch, whose family's wealth had slowly dwindled decades before she was born, romanticized her prosperous Bostonian ancestors. “I was really fascinated by the wealth those objects represented, such as the baroque repoussé silver mirrors I had in my bedroom and the silver tea service we never used.” The family was as much makers of art as it was buyers and sellers-Hatch’s mother, the daughter and granddaughter of painters, attended the Rhode Island School of Design, which her family was instrumental in founding.
Hatch’s childhood couldn’t have been more different from that storied past. Raised on an organic dairy farm in the rural community of Grafton, VT, until she was 13 years old, Hatch spent her days playing among haystacks and exploring the farm. “I think this set me up for a deep appreciation for things made by hand,” she reflects. “I gained an understanding about what it takes to make something in a way that many people never get. It also gave me the tools to trust that I was capable of making things myself.”
The rural influence continued when her parents moved the family to Plymouth, VT, to run the farm program at the Farm and Wilderness summer camps. “The philosophy of the camps is based on Quaker practices,” Hatch explains. “By living in a communal setting I learned a lot about myself. The Kahil Gibran statement ‘work is love made visible’ became a theoretical framework for my approach to almost everything.”
The inspiration that Hatch, who now lives in Massachusetts, found in her childhood homes is reflected in the domestic feel of her work. “When I am designing a piece in my mind, I always picture where I want it to live,” she says. “And I always end up picturing the work in someone's home. It's almost impossible to deny a connection to the domestic when using clay of any kind.”
The feminine patterns decorating her dishes, which she creates using, among several traditional techniques, Japanese slip-inlay, called mishima, bring to mind the fragile, precious china a hostess might use for a dinner party. Yet, Hatch counters this preciousness by making her objects less delicate-perhaps a testament to her childhood farm experiences. While she looks for inspiration to the patterns for forms and surfaces from the French porcelain factories at Sèvres and Vincennes, she'll design a teacup with no need for a saucer, which can be used like a mug. “I want the works [such as the porcelain Tête à Tête and Umbrella Stand] to exist as contemporary versions of their historical counterparts,” Hatch says. “I like to think that I am taking an old object and redesigning it for the contemporary consumer or collector.”