Lynn Mahon was born and raised in Sonoma County, and now maintains an active studio on the ridge of the Mayacamas Mountains, near the border between Napa and Sonoma counties. He studied at Sierra Nevada College and at the Penryn Workshop, where he mastered the art of firing in wood kilns.
After several years experimenting with Raku in his San Francisco studio, Mahon returned to Napa, and began exploring large-scale sculpture fired in a gas kiln. He continues to make these massive thrown works, some of which weigh nearly six hundred pounds. Contingency and improvisation mark these pieces, as Mahon responds to the needs of the large clay masses. The form of these enormous sculptures is often unable to be predetermined, and comes into being in the process of their making, as Mahon coaxes them higher and higher off the wheel.
Mahon’s philosophy is a mixture of California craft and Japanese Zen. His work is informed by a lightness of touch, simplicity, and an adherence to natural materials and form. He works with a stoneware clay custom made for him by East Bay Clay, and sometimes mixes in rocks to make a courser, Shigaraki style clay. His glazes are earthy and natural, never artificial, and are inspired by his surroundings: soil, rock sediment, the bark of trees, and the San Francisco cityscape. Experiment and accident are welcome, even encouraged, as is human touch and error. Perfect forms thrown on the wheel are often altered by hand: a cup is squeezed to fit better in the palm, or marks are incised across a smooth surface.
In 2005 Mahon introduced functional designs into his practice. The dinnerware he creates for restaurants is the result of lengthy collaborations between chef and ceramicist. Mahon often devises a dish to match a specific concept: tart dishes mimic tart shells, or small wells are designed for gelées or broths.
The large-scale sculpture and the functional pieces seem different, but share a sense of pushing limits. The limits of the body, matter, and gravity in the case of his sculptural works, and the limits of skill, delicacy, and perfection in the functional pieces. For Mahon, both are highly physical forms of making: he compares the former activity to a dance, and the latter to a sport.
You can reach Lynn at his studio at (707) 944-8842 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org