Evolving Perceptions


Part of an ongoing series of interviews with notable Iranians

By Bruce Bahmani
February 19, 1998
The Iranian

I somehow met Bahereh Khodadoost through the Internet (where else?) and found myself connected to her. Maybe it was because she is a Libra and I am an Aquarius (high compatibility?), maybe it was because I remember my ART 101 class in college when I thought I would get my humanities requirements out of the way only to find a weird and scary connection with clay and pottery instead? However it happened it happened, and I feel compelled to share her. I found her engaging, pure and true and I hope she takes you far away!

-Bruce Bahmani

 
   
BB: How did you get into this as a means of artistic expression? What was your first connection?

BK: Needless to say, my first connection with this medium was positive. I have always thought myself as an artist (professionally since 1985). It was Oct. 1984, where I met my husband Walter Heath at a Raku Firing workshop in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At the time I had limited experience with clay, but knew I loved working with it. I became involved after we married in 1985.

To me clay is timeless and primitive. Working with it spiritualizes me, and the result carries a sacred and eternal message. When this takes place and translates itself, it gives a SOUL to the piece. I have experienced this more often in coil-pots. It's hard to describe, you have to experience it.

Perhaps we are insane!!!

BB: How does being Iranian influence your art? What is it about being Iranian that makes you different than other artists?

BK: I don't consider myself purely a Persian artist, but a multi-cultural artist influenced by my background. My work is inspired by life. You find an essence of Iran in my work, but my work does not present itself as Persian Art. It is a marriage.

I have a sense of harmony and balance (a true Libra?) and a never ending longing for beauty. I have searched to bring these together in my life. I appreciate the blend of grace and strength, simplicity and complexity, function and decor of an object. Quality of line is important. A combination of softness and strength used with integrity is most important.

BB: When did you have your first artistic experience? When did you realize you wanted to become an artist?

BK: It might have been as a child, watching my [dear] mother read us a poem, or show us how to shape pastry with simple, flowing, and uniform pinches. Maybe it was looking at the structures, and designs in my grandparent's yard. Or when I was first introduced to music, and nature. I don't really have a definite answer. All I know is I have been artistic since I can remember. I could just feel it.

Everyone is creative. We create our lives. Unfortunately, I don't see creativity encouraged in the education system the way it ought to be. Our children lose creativity. An individual's imagination needs to be nurtured. Every positive thing in life, occurred from an individual dream. I was certain that art was the dream I wanted. It is not easy but very rewarding. As an artist, I feel I can make a difference in the lives of people around me.

BB: Is your art for sale? Do you do commission work?

BK: I sell my art work through galleries and stores, and from my studio gallery. I do some commission work. I enjoy executing my own ideas but I am capable of working with someone else's ideas.

BB: On your website I saw your Peace piece (sorry!) what does that mean to you and what thoughts caused you to create something symmetrical yet evocative? I think I get it, Peace / Symmetry, how did you bring the two together?

BK: Interestingly enough, I have sold more Peace tiles to non-Persian people as opposed to Persians! I guess the work speaks for itself. Many people are attracted to it, even though they can't read it!

 

 
I integrated Persian calligraphy, because I believe in the energy and spirit of the words. The Persian Peace tile was made from my calligraphy, carved, made into a mold, and then as a finished clay tile. I have other works with English, Hebrew, Egyptian, and Hindu, using this technique.

I have always liked symbolism, whether in poetry, art, or nature. I have also always liked imagery, abstract, representational, or symbolic. These are the reasons for symbolism in my work. Carved images, used as stamps on my pieces; or, at times, used as models for slip cast pieces. These images when used in multiples, produce wonderful complex patterns, and become simple design motifs.

BB: I noticed a lot of metallic or reflective glazes on some of the pieces on your website. How do you get that metallic look and how much control do you have over the colors during firing?

BK: The metallic look is done to stone ware, usually gray clay, and fired in an outdoor gas kiln. This Japanese technique is called raku where pieces are bisqued (fired to low temperature). Metallic glazes contain metal oxides such as copper, nickel, or iron. Pots are removed from the kiln, and put in a metal container, covered with dry leaves, hay, or old newspaper. After a few minutes, the container is opened ( the moment of excitement!). Every pot has a different look filled with life and energy. The artist has some control, but not total control. Just like life!

Variables are the weather, the time of the day, your feeling at the time of the firing and many more! Many artists like raku because it is quick and gives you instant gratification. For me it is something more sacred and timeless.

BB: Do you do any other forms of art?

BK: Yes! My painting medium is acrylics which I like because it has some of the properties of oils, and water colors. I often use it as a wash. Also the glazes on my clay pieces are painted on. I also enjoy painting on outdoor surfaces, like my driveway. It is a very different and wonderful surface to work on. I also design for public art projects, such as "Children of the World", and "Lotus Multi-Cultural Clock".

BB: Where do you want to go with your art? What is your ultimate goal?

BK: I would like to use art to keep my SOUL ALIVE! And to reach children; help them connect and stay in contact with their inner being, and imagination!

BB: Where were you born? How did you grow up, city, environment, family?

BK: I was born in Iran a very long time ago! I grew up like a weed, but a very short one! I am 5 foot 3. I, like my mother, was born in Kerman in 1946. We moved to Tehran when I was 9 months. I grew up mostly in Tehran. My parents taught us life. I remember them both as, loving, caring, and fair-minded people. They taught us not only through their words, but through their deeds.

BB: Have you been back to Iran?

BK: No! I hope someday I can go home, and take my husband and daughter with me. I have many fond memories of Iran. These memories are cherished, forever, as long as I live.

Bahareh Khodadoost <[email protected]> is a Juried Member of the Pennsylvania guild of Craftsmen(Craftspersons). She is also a Member of the Monroe County Arts Council in Pennsylvania. A Juried Artist in the 1996 Directory of Pennsylvania Artists & Folklorists. Member of the State of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. A Juried Artist of Pennsylvania-Made crafts. These memberships give her the opportunity to bring awareness in society and the younger generation through teaching.

Related links

* Bahareh Khodadoost's web site
* Bruce Bahmani's Ankaboot site
* THE IRANIAN Arts section
* Bookstore
* Cover stories
* Who's who

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