New beginning leads to new endeavor for SaddleBrooke artist

Harriet Hason shows a trio of her clay figures at the work table in her home studio.

Harriet Hason shows a trio of her clay figures at the work table in her home studio.

LaVerne Kyriss

When Harriet Hason retired from a 35-year career, first teaching and then coordinating art in a New York school district, and moved to SaddleBrooke in 2002, she saw the move as a new beginning and opened herself to new possibilities. “I’d always done drawing and painting. I spent my career helping others learn about and explore their creative abilities, but I was kind of stuck on how to move forward,” she said.

So, she took a course in working with metal. “This was something totally new and different. It was dimensional and got me unstuck. I joined the SaddleBrooke Fine Arts Guild to be among a community of artists and continued drawing and painting.” She reflected, “It’s not good to be isolated as an artist.”

“SaddleBrooke is a great community for anyone wanting to explore arts and crafts,” Hason noted. “Pick a media or an interest and start there. Join one of the clubs. Go through the orientation, take some classes. But be willing to put in the effort and the time. Remember, it takes practice to get good at anything,” the former teacher added. “Make a commitment to gaining the skill and see where the discovery leads you. If you’re feeling blocked, try something new. Be patient when you’re learning the basics,” she added. “I didn’t start out creating these figures. It took me a lot of practice to get here.”

As for getting started in ceramics, a designer friend asked Hason to assist in determining how to hang several ceramic relief pieces. Hason, who began studying art in high school and got both an undergraduate and graduate degree from the Pratt Institute in New York, struck up a friendship with the client, sharing that she’d always loved clay. After being encouraged to at least visit the club’s digs at SaddleBrooke One’s arts and crafts center, Hason took the plunge.

“I then had to determine what next,” she explained. “I reflected on the metalworking class I’d taken and how much I enjoyed the dimensionality of creating that piece. I decided to see if I could translate joy into working with clay.” Hundreds of pieces later, Hason continues to explore and try new aspects in creating clay sculptures. She’s perhaps best known for her clay figures, almost always feminine in look, with finely detailed and intricate patterns and textures.

“Each figure is individual and unique. No two are the same, no two have the same expression or design. Sometimes the clay moves in a particular way, creating the posture for that figure. I follow along,” Hason said. She uses a variety of different clays and mixes glazed and unglazed finishes, often taking her pieces to the kiln for firing several times.

“We fire at different temperatures for different purposes,” Hason explained. “The first firing at a low temperature sets the clay. The first glaze firing is at a high temperature. Additional firings are set low enough so that any underlayers of glaze don’t remelt.”

“I use a combination of different hand-building techniques to create my pieces—slab work, coils, and pinching. Occasionally I’ll do something using a wheel. My work always features texture, design, and detail. It requires lots of slow methodical patience. It’s really quite soothing,” she added.

“I have a special connection with each piece I create,” she reflected “It’s thrilling when someone looks at my work and their eyes light up. I can see that they’ve also connected with it. That brings me great joy,” she smiled.