The Clay Studio
The Clay Studio
PROJECT STATEMENT The Clay Studio: 100 Artists 1000 Cups is an exhibit designed to highlight the depth and breadth of American potters today. This interconnected list of one hundred artists spans seven decades and almost every American state. Each artist provided ten cups, for a grand total of one thousand, shipped for display in the Expo section of the National Conference for Education in the Ceramic Arts. One hundred cups will be displayed at all times, one from each artist. Once a cup is purchased, it will be replaced with another cup by the same artist.
Each artist answered a series of questions exploring pivotal relationships amongst makers as mentors and mentees. It is our hope that the exhibit and this publication encourage conversation on the intersecting nature of makers, issues of influence, and different models for learning, whilst providing access for students, artists, and collectors to the work of artists both new and established. Because The Clay Studio believes in promoting broad access to the ceramic arts, the information contained in this publication is available free of charge through our website theclaystudio.org.
EDITORIAL STATEMENT In 2002, at the suggestion of Linda Cordell, I became an intern at The Clay Studio. It is hard to believe that I have had the pleasure of working with this organization and the artists within it for almost ten years. From intern to weekend tech, Claymobile teacher to NCECA Coordinator, Gallery Coordinator to Assistant Director of Marketing and Retail, with each new position, new challenges and many new rewards. It has been a great pleasure and great privilege to work closely with hundreds of artists. With each new relationship I gain greater insight into the joy that is to be a maker of things.
Collecting and editing the writing in this book, I feel rejuvenated, as if I am again the curious young maker that first entered The Clay Studio as a volunteer helping Walter McConnell build a piece in the gallery. I am grateful to these artists for their honesty and willingness to share intimate details and frank opinions. As the current trend of â€œpay it forwardâ€? makes the rounds through sound bites and marketing campaigns, we share in the knowledge that Starbucks did not start this, rather potters and crafts people have been doing this forever. It is imperative that we take the time to share knowledge, to guide those just emerging, and to listen and absorb
what we can from those who have made the commitment of an entire lifetime. I hope that for each reader at least one response resonates, that something sticks with you and challenges your preconceived notions or confirms strongly held feelings. I hope you are spurred on by the dedication of these artists. Their commitment to their careers, this lesser traveled road of the self-made job, of long hours and often insecure endings, is keeping our world humble, connected, and grounded. Naomi Cleary Assistant Director of Marketing and Retail The Clay Studio
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This book is published on the occasion of
The Clay Studio: 100 Artists 1000 Cups Presented at National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) 50th Annual Conference Makers, Mentors and Milestones March 16-19, 2016 Kansas City Convention Center 301 West 13th Street Kansas City, Missouri 64105 Support for The Clay Studio provided in part by: Pennsylvania Council on the Arts The Philadelphia Cultural Fund The William Penn Foundation Independence Foundation National Endowment for the Arts Windgate Charitable Foundation The Clay Studio 137-139 N. 2nd Street Philadelphia, PA 19106 Photography by John Carlano Editor, Naomi Cleary, Assistant Director of Marketing and Retail, The Clay Studio Co-Editor, Alisha Ebling, Development Coordinator and Writer, The Clay Studio Designer, Jen Korff, Graphic Designer, The Clay Studio Printed by Kirkwood Printing, Wilmington, Massachusetts Cover and inside cover features artists: Posey Bacopolous, Ben Carter, Maria Dondero, Paul Donnelly, Ryan Greenheck, Lana Heckendorn, Peter Karner, Ahrong Kim, Jeff Kleckner, Eric Pardue, Joseph Pintz, Justin Rothshank, Yoko Sekino-Bove
CONTENTS Paul Donnelly 53
Acknowledgments Introduction from Pete Pinnell
Zach Duncan-Tessmer 55
Heather Mae Erickson
Paul Eshelman 61
Sasha Barrett 11
Future Retrieval 63
Ingrid Bathe 13
Stuart Gair 65
Peter Beasecker 15
Birdie Boone 19
Lucy Breslin 21
Ryan J. Greenheck
Cynthia Bringle 23
Joan Bruneau 25
Jeff Campana 27
Kyle Carpenter 29
Ben Carter 31
Rebecca Chappell 33
Victoria Christen 35
Sam Chung 37
A. Blair Clemo 39
Mark Cole 41
David Crane 43
Bruce Dehnert 45
Susan Dewsnap 47
Marc Digeros 49
Ahrong Kim 101
Maria Dondero 51
Jeff Kleckner 103
Michael Kline 105
Elizabeth Lurie 107
Allison McGowan Hermans
Michael Hunt and Naomi Daglish
Liz Zlot Summerfield
Daniel Ricardo Teran
Emily Schroeder Willis
Joseph Pintz 149
Emily Free Wilson
Adam Posnak 151
Joanna Powell 153
Introduction Pete Pinnell Pottery has always been intimately involved with the events and processes of life. It has played an important role in the celebration of births, coming of age ceremonies, weddings, and funerals and it has been placed in our tombs to accompany us to the next life. It has been central to commerce and has almost always been a symbol of status and cultivated living. Pottery is also apparent in the more mundane aspects of life, especially in the storing, preparing and serving of food. While it’s easy to consider these practical applications of the potter’s art as purely utilitarian, often hidden within these mundane acts are surprisingly powerful aesthetic opportunities. Pottery has long been concerned with finding art in the ordinary. Perhaps few aspects of life are more mundane than drinking: we drink continually, and usually without paying much attention to anything beyond slaking a thirst. Drinking is a source of sustenance, but it can also be part of a religious ritual, the basis for social interaction, an aesthetic activity or an
act of pure pleasure. Because of this, particular drinking vessels have long been among humanity’s most treasured objects. And yet, contemporary art theory has long led us to believe that utility (the act of meeting a basic need) provides only limitations and is an almost impenetrable obstacle to artistic creativity. Those of you who employ utility in your work know that it is the most immediate and effective way to get your creative efforts relegated to the back of the artistic bus. However, even a cursory look at history reveals an interesting truth: utility is, in fact, a very powerful vehicle for both expression and communication, and as a vehicle it is capable of carrying almost anything. The history of utilitarian objects is long, rich, varied, and wonderful. It is a history of the highest physical expressions of what it means to be human. The author Rabindranath Tagore once wrote, “Emancipation from the bondage of the soil is no freedom for the tree.”
Over the last 50 years, potters have been repeatedly told that we should abandon — even reject—both our roots and our soil. We have been told that we must abandon the aesthetic basis for our entire history. We are told that we should cut our ties to the events and processes of life, and that this will free us to deal with “ideas.” This is a rather interesting statement, because it implies that human actions and interactions (which is where we traditionally find pottery) are somehow free from “ideas.” Yes, it’s possible to create a handmade cup that is both boring and meaningless (and people do that far too often). However, drinking provides us with the opportunity to do so much more. It is up to us, as artists, to take this ordinary act and to make it quietly extraordinary. As potters, we should keep our roots in the soil that has always nourished us, but never stop reaching for the stars. It is in this way that we can find art in the ordinary.
Kurt Anderson Washingtonville, New York
BIOGRAPHY Kurt Anderson is originally from Santa Rosa, California but now resides in the Hudson Valley. He has been a resident at The Archie Bray Foundation, Penland School of Crafts, and Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts. He has attended various institutes of higher learning including The University of Wyoming, SUNY New Paltz, NSCAD, and LSU. In 20092010, he was the Fergus Post MFA fellow at The Ohio State University. Kurt makes utilitarian objects and covers the surfaces with images of slightly surreal versions of things he encounters in his life. He hopes to make you laugh and take a closer look. When not in his studio or watching Rick and Morty he is probably wandering the countryside with his dog Bootsie.
STATEMENT I am attracted to the raw and the unrefined, the messy and the lowbrow. In my work I seek to include imagery that touches on the familiar but is seen through my own distorted lens. I look at the visual language of my environment: advertising logos, cartoons, graphic novels, sports-team mascots, and iconic figures in public life. By including such imagery on the surface of my pottery I hope to connect with the viewer by providing a glimpse of something universal and familiar, yet slightly surreal.
I am also influenced by centuries of folk pottery and the archetypal iconography found upon them. It is my hope to show the great amount of admiration I have for this work but also to slightly lampoon them. Traditionally, folk potters used a variety of formula to compose the surfaces of their work. By shuffling and recombining these proven formula, it is my hope that the muse of familiarity appears cross-dressed as innovation.
ON MENTORS Although a number of people have guided me through the world of ceramics, I can’t say that I’ve ever had a true mentor/mentee relationship. I didn’t start making pottery until I was almost 30, so I was far from young and impressionable at that point. I have, however, had some pivotal moments with various people that have probably pushed me to make the work I am now making. Bobby Silverman once asked if I wanted to be “just” a decorator. I didn’t. Walter Ostrom saw my sketchbook and asked why I wasn’t making marks on my pots, which was a good question. Matt Metz has been a mentor to me, although he doesn’t know it. He left a pot behind at Archie Bray, a large yellow salt-fired jar with a sgraffito cityscape. The first time I saw it was a cathartic moment and caused a collision in my head between my love of pottery and my love of doodling strange amorphous critters in my sketchbook.
The closest thing I’ve had to a true mentor is probably Mikey Walsh, but not particularly through any criticism she offered. There was just a constant flow of great work coming out of her studio: painting, drawing, small sculptural work, and great pottery. She was/is a great inspiration and it was important to me that she had a positive opinion about what I was making. My work grew a tremendous amount during my three years in Baton Rouge and started to become what it is today.
ON CUPS My current favorite cup was made by Adam Posnak. I acquired it via trade at Art of the Pot, Austin, Texas in 2014. I got the better end of that deal. It perfectly straddles the line between loose and refined. It is made of earthenware painted with white slip and has two black crows painted on both sides. I strongly suspect this is voodoo imagery but I can detect no adverse effects through prolonged use. It is a fairly large mug with a stout handle that perfectly fits my clumsy hands. I allow myself one usage per week so as not to ignore the many other fine cups in my ever-growing mug rotation.
Nicole Aquillano Boston, Massachusetts
Nicole took an unconventional path to become a full time studio potter. After pursuing a career in civil engineering, she left to follow her passion and earned her MFA in ceramics from RISD in 2012. After graduation she set up her studio in the Fort Point area of Boston.
I am forever grateful for the meaningful mentor/mentee relationships that have naturally developed throughout my short ceramics career. These relationships have carried me through graduate school and beyond, into the real work of making a living from my art. They assure me that I am not alone, even when I am in the studio by myself. I shared my very first studio space in graduate school with Matt Wedel, who was a visiting professor. He was probably the perfect person to have such close contact with right off the bat, since he is such an incredibly talented artist and extremely hard worker. I remember him encouraging me to take advantage of all that graduate school has to offer, specifically 24 hour studio access and all the visiting artists. He told me that if I wanted to get the most graduate school had to offer, I needed to work my ass off and to make sure I sought out artists whose work I loved and connect with them one way or another.
Nicole draws each image by hand directly into the porcelain clay with a knife and inlays a black underglaze. The high temperature of the kiln combined with a clear glaze creates an unpredictable downward flow and blurs the drawing, much like a faded memory. She often references imagery from her past as a way to establish a personal connection.
STATEMENT Fascinated by the potential of place to define and connect us, I draw subtle narratives on functional work to elicit memories of times past. I am personally influenced by my longing to return to the comfort and stability of home, which I channel by creating work that documents my childhood home. Through the labor-intensive act of making, I establish a close personal relationship with each piece. Architectural imagery drawn from my photographic collection, inlaid with intense attention to detail directly into the porcelain clay body and blurred by the movement of glaze, prompt display of my work when not in use as a meaningful addition to any collection. I am particularly interested in exploring the human need to maintain collections as a way to preserve the past and satisfy the longing with which we inhabit the world—driven by a desire to hold onto that which will inevitably be lost. My memories and experiences are carved onto objects intended to be both used and collected, as a way to facilitate new relationships to fill the void left by that which we will never have again.
He also told me to spend some time getting to know one of his friends, Holly Walker, while she was a visiting professor. So I did just that. Holly further influenced me in an entirely different way. She taught me to take the time to contemplate what my pots really meant. She was the calm in the storm of neverending critiques. She is such a thoughtful individual and makes such thoughtful pots, and she was always willing (and still is) to make time to talk with me about my work. Kathy King was another mentor I sought out. Whether she knows it or not, she has been one of the most influential people to my career. I took her class at Harvard Ceramics before I started my MFA program, when I was still working full-time as an engineer. I have always admired her narrative pots, and her no-nonsense advice. She gets right to the point and always has the proof to back it up. She is a truly amazing and inspiring individual and I was overjoyed to have her both as an
advisor while she was a visiting professor at RISD, and then on my thesis committee. We met at least weekly and would deconstruct critiques, joking about “flipping a table” in order to cut through the bullshit and bring attention to what I was really trying to express with my pots. To this day she gives me solid career advice, and I will never be able to thank her enough for all she has done and continues to do. Numerous others have influenced me and brought me to this point. Ben Ryterband saw me through the continuing education program at Massachusetts College of Art and Design and helped me groom my graduate school portfolio for years. Steve Murphy taught me to appreciate the slight nuances of pots at Boston Center for Adult Education. All of these people have contributed so much to getting me to this point, and I am forever grateful to every single one of them. I try in my practice to pay it forward when anyone asks any advice from me, which to my surprise, happens quite frequently these days. There is a whole big network of mentors and mentees out there to help you make it! Everyone in the ceramic world is so incredibly generous with their knowledge and experiences. So are the rest of the artisans you will meet on your journey. If you are struggling with something, chances are so has someone else previously. So find someone who’s doing it, and ask! I like to think of my network of mentors and mentees as my co-workers. I miss that most about corporate life, but that’s exactly what they are: people working towards a common goal, making a living doing what we love. We just have to help each other out along the way. Generosity and support I think are the two huge things our community has going for us. I think it’s a rarity among people who are essentially competitors, but somehow it works for us.
Posey Bacopolous New York, New York
BIOGRAPHY I am a studio potter working in New York City, where I have lived all of my adult life. I studied at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and received a degree in European History. I returned to school for a degree in Elementary Education. While teaching elementary students in public schools, I took an evening course in pottery. I was hooked immediately. I continued to teach, taking pottery classes and making pots in my free time. Finally, I decided to stop teaching and become a full-time potter. My ceramic education was varied and nontraditional. I took classes at Greenwich House Pottery in New York City, studied at several craft schools, including Penland School of Craft, Anderson Ranch and studied in Cortona, Italy with the University of Georgia Studies Abroad Program. I have taught numerous workshops at places such as Penland School of Craft, Anderson Ranch, and Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. My work has been published in books, including several of the “500 Series” by Lark Crafts. I’ve exhibited in national and international shows and my work is included in both public and private collections.
STATEMENT Function is vital to what I make. I want to make beautiful things that people can use in their daily lives. My goal is to integrate form, function, and surface in a manner that brings a sense of excitement to my work. 9
I am continually exploring the relationship between surface decoration and form. In the surface treatment of my work I use line, pattern, and color to create varied surfaces. The floral motifs on my pots are patterns rather than actual representations that serve to divide the space in interesting ways. I use gold decals as a contrast to my painterly surfaces. The pots combine thrown, altered and hand-built sections. These sections are made separately and then assembled. I enjoy altering the thrown forms and working in this manner because it allows me to make pots of differing forms and shapes, including pots that are oval and square, as well as those that are round. My work is a contemporary approach to the traditional majolica of the Italian Renaissance. Majolica is a glaze tradition that began in the Middle East in the 9th century with a tin-opacified glaze and then spread to Europe. The majolica glaze is very smooth and white, which makes a good surface for decorating. The various colors are applied usually with a brush to the majolica surface to create the active patterns and decorations. The pots are then fired to cone 04 in an electric kiln. After the firing, the glazed surface maintains both the line quality of the patterns and the colors of the decoration. Finally, I love to make pots and I love to decorate and I combine these two loves in my work. My hope is that the pots invite use and that my pleasure in making them is shared by those who use them.
ON MENTORS When I decided to leave my job as an elementary school teacher in NYC and become a full-time potter, I signed up for the Studies Abroad Program in Cortona, Italy through the University of Georgia. Michael Simon was the ceramics teacher for the program. It was an experience that has shaped my entire pottery life. Michael has been a mentor over the years and now a friend. He has always encouraged me to push myself to make better work and supported me in my ceramic endeavors. Although he is no longer working in clay, we talk often about pots, and these conversations inspire and motivate me. His thoughts and ideas about pots have become important to my way of thinking about ceramics. I am lucky to own many of his pots. Using them and living with them in my daily life is a great joy.
ON CUPS My first workshop more than 25 years ago was at a craft school in upstate New York. I was a hobby potter but as luck would have it my teacher was Cynthia Bringle. It was in this workshop with her that I first learned to make cups and pull handles. She had us first pull handles on tin cans and then three on each cup. Since than I have made more cups than I can count, but that was the start and it has always stayed with me. I still pull all of my handles off the cups.
Sasha Barrett Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
I spent the first half of my life in Sumy, North East Ukraine before moving to Boise, Idaho. I spent a year studying at University of Montana in Missoula, where I was able to work under some of my favorite artists and educators. I was an intern and then a Summer Resident at the Clay Studio of Missoula, which allowed me to focus specifically on ceramics. Soon after, I returned to Boise State to finish the last semester of my BFA degree. Immediately after graduation I moved to Philadelphia, PA, where I reside today, as a member of the Work Exchange program at The Clay Studio.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a great number of mentors, and I believe that I have a trait that someone might call “a sponge.” I am easily intrigued; I obsessively pick up notes, advice, teachings, and influences. During my time at Boise State University, I was able to learn how to maintain a good studio practice. During my time in Montana, I had great feedback from studio mates, mentors, and professors, who all motivated me to make stronger work.
STATEMENT Using earthenware clay, I make wheel-thrown work, both functional and decorative. The surfaces of my forms are painted using heavy, colorful brushstrokes that create a feeling of movement and mood. My imagery portrays land, culture, and people, specifically those from Pre-Soviet Ukrainian history. The people I paint on my forms are engaged largely in agriculture, as historically these people comprised an overwhelming majority of the Ukrainian population. The red color of the clay refers to the fertile soil. The land I illustrate is the classical rendering of Ukrainian geography, with endless yellow fields of wheat and blue sky above it. I am fascinated with the rich lifestyle of the Ukrainian people in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. My work can be seen as Folk, incorporating a sense of tradition yet still holding a contemporary perspective through form. I choose to make my work functional in order to share the fascinating culture and history of my homeland through daily and intimate use of my pots.
My mentors and idols, including artists such as Ron Meyers, Adam Posnak, Theo Uliano, Lisa Naples, Daniel Ricardo Teran, and Ayumi Horie, drive me to make the work I’m making.
ON INFLUENCE Being a believer in detail and precision, I have recently found motivation to “loosen up” while at the same time making tight, precise pots, holding on to the idea of good craft as well as creating movement in my work through decoration. I follow the way that Ron Meyers and Theo Uliano trim the foot of their pots and decorate so freely, loosely, and sloppily, yet so perfectly and harmoniously. To me, this is a conversation between painting and skill in craftsmanship. A few years back, artist and close friend Casey Zablocki picked up one of my mugs, one I believed to be a good and worthy pot, and told me to finish it. What he meant was, pay attention to the smallest of details, always have the exterior match the interior, pay close attention to the relationship between the foot and the rim, and consider every detail to make it intentional and well thought out. I believe that copying other artists’ techniques is good practice, but never have it be so influential that you make the same work as they do. By taking bits and pieces from all over and with your own voice and vision you can create your own unique form and design.
Ingrid Bathe Newcastle, Maine
A studio potter and educator from Mid-coast Maine, Bathe studied ceramics and art at the Museum School of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts and Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. She teaches classes in her studio and sells work nationwide.
I worked for Gabrielle Schaffner as a studio assistant while I was an undergraduate. She was the first person I knew who made a career out of being a potter. It was the first time a saw or experienced a working studio practice. She was dedicated to her work as well as her family life. Brad Schweiger, my professor in graduate school, modeled a rigorous and committed work schedule. I still have dreams that I didn’t finish school and I have to work harder.
STATEMENT I became a studio potter in 2007. I have been working in clay for twenty years. For the past ten years, I have been working almost exclusively in porcelain. Porcelain is challenging to work with when wet and it is one of the strongest materials when fired. It is translucent when very thin and it remembers every mark made. Thoughtfulness is evident in the way I handle clay and necessary when viewing or handling my work. I skillfully employ basic, traditional methods of hand building to emphasize the scope of possibility within the medium. The methods I employ while constructing are integral to the final presentation of the work. I want the process of creation to be visible to the viewer: when two pieces of clay are joined together I leave a seam line, each pinched mark is left intact so when looked at closely my fingerprints can be seen. By making objects out of a fragile and precious material, I expect the delicate nature of the work to provoke a heightened awareness and sensitivity on the part of the viewer.
So many of my students have influenced my work, from the five-year-old kids I worked with to the elderly folks I would meet with once a week. Every person, every experience and every place affects my work. My work is my life and so it reflects an amalgamation of my interpersonal connections.
ON CUPS Jeremy Kane taught me about cups, not how to make mine, but he laid out clearly what he defined as a good cup versus a bad cup. My favorite cup is mine – that’s why I make them! There are others I enjoy using, right now for my daily tea I mostly use either my Martina Lantin mug or my Bruce Dehnert mug. For special hot chocolate drinks, I have an old Kristen Kieffer cup I love and a Bernadette Curran bird cup. For whiskey drinks, I use either a Kari Radasch or a Matt Long cup. For me, making cups requires a balancing act between the aesthetic of the cup and all the different aspects in which it will function.
Peter Beasecker Cazenovia, New York
BIOGRAPHY Peter Beasecker was born in Toledo, Ohio. He received a BS degree from Miami University and an MFA from Alfred University. He joined the faculty of Syracuse Universityâ€™s College of Visual and Performing Arts six years ago after a seventeen-year tenure at the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU. He has received numerous awards and distinctions 15
in his career, most recently receiving a New York State Arts Council Fellowship award in 2015. Beasecker has exhibited extensively in national and international venues, and his work is included in the collections of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, The Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Mint Museum in North Carolina. He has
been a visiting artist and workshop leader at over sixty institutions, including Anderson Ranch, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, and the Penland School of Crafts. Beasecker has been the co-coordinator of the Utilitarian Clay Symposium at Arrowmont since 1996. He currently maintains a studio in Cazenovia, New York.
STATEMENT As society puts an increased premium on speed, efficiency and the virtual, I feel compelled to offer a slow and sometimes awkward experience. Working primarily with pots, I explore and develop ideas through multiples, finding and solving problems sequentially. This is particularly true with cups. My investigation of form is strongly influenced by the plasticity of the material and the symmetry I find in simple things. I enjoy making objects that occupy the periphery of the domestic gaze.
ON CUPS Cups are perhaps the most democratic of pottery forms – easy to access conceptually and versatile in their use. Generally speaking, they are also affordable and plentiful. Thirty-six years ago I collected my first pots, two porcelain handle-less teacups by Jack Troy. Those three days in Huntingdon, PA were a bit of a blur: firing my first anagama kiln, sleeping above the kiln in the carbon-soaked rafters and exhaustedly going down the road from the college to Jack’s annual studio sale, another first. Pots were precariously scattered about the woods, these two porcelain cups stood out. I had never seen porcelain before. The pots were mostly temoku, with the top inch a brilliant amber glaze cascading down the surface, calling out the radiance of this special clay. They were two bucks apiece, and my collecting started at that moment. It was ironic that surrounded by a wood-fired ethos, I gravitated to glazed porcelain (admittedly, the attraction was helped by the good deal). Those cups remained a fixture in my domestic landscape for two decades as I traversed the country. Both finally fell prey to the dish rack, but their shards rest undisturbed in the basement.
The rim is sensuous and a trademark of Michael’s: the plump interior lip comes to a precipice and falls away to the uninterrupted contour. The equally identifiable handle (that illusive thick-thin-thick Mingei-sota thing) is one you don’t want to put down, comfortable and friendly. As luck would have it, the chip is conveniently located across from the handle, not prejudicing a lefty or righty. The cup that has probably taught me the most is a Chris Staley glacial blue porcelain yunomi. Thick as an anvil with an illusive luminosity, it has a slight hemorrhage leftover from a folded-over rim. The tutorial started when it was first placed in my hand. Never had I held such a recognizable object with such unexpected mass. It was both a dissociative and provocative experience. The comfort of its weight provided the fulcrum for me to re-think some long-standing habits and assumptions. I reach for it often and it continues to teach me. I feel as though I am sipping from a precious stone that has been hollowed out just enough to use. I am sure there are other cups stashed in the corners that I have yet to fully discover. That is one of the most treasured aspects of pottery: often times the most potent experience with an object enters through the side door, so to speak. The ebb and flow of domestic life shifts just enough to cast a new light on once discarded pieces, bringing them front and center to new found attention and wonderment.
Though I don’t know if I ever again scored such a good deal on cups, I continue to acquire them, usually a couple a year. In the cupboards and the basement archive, two stand out. The Michael Simon cup is the quintessential teacup, though without a saucer, it is small and quiet. The mysteriously generous volume with its full-sail swell is perched perfectly on a narrow, confident foot. 16
Margaret Bohls Lincoln, Nebraska
BIOGRAPHY Margaret Bohls makes hand-built porcelain pottery that she shows and sells both locally and nationally. She received her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design in 1989, and her MFA from Louisiana State University in 1995. She has been teaching ceramics at the college level for twenty years. She is currently Associate Professor of Art at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. She has also taught at the University of Minnesota, Ohio University, Penn State University and NSCAD University in Halifax. She has given lectures and workshops at universities and art centers across the US. Margaret’s work is included in several public and private art collections. Articles about her work have been featured in periodicals including Ceramics Monthly and The Studio Potter magazine.
STATEMENT The pieces I create are visual and sculptural objects. I conceive of each body of work with a particular set of formal goals in mind. The contours and volumes, colors and surfaces of the objects I create compose a dimensional image. Volume is a key element in utilitarian forms as it defines the potential for containment. The visual evidence and the physical quality of this volume is important to the way my work communicates formally, whether the volume is expansive and taut or soft and weighted. I think of the outlines and edges of the work as drawn lines. 17
I choose and manipulate the softness, weight and speed of these lines. Edges and lines either define or interact with the volume of the forms. Surfaces, whether they are visually complex, or minimal, are chosen in part based on how they respond to and enhance form and line. I observe and enhance the visual and physical relationships between two or more forms when they meet in a pair or grouping. Utility is often a primary concern. The audience’s real or implied interaction with my work provides not only its context, but also much of its content. The immediate context of this work is of course, the home. The larger context of the work lies within the long history of the decorative arts and the field of craft. The kind of visual and physical interaction we have with domestic objects, and our attention to and understanding of these objects, is quite different than what occurs in a museum or gallery. I anticipate that the work will be held, carried, and poured from; lids will be lifted and replaced. Details are important. My more elaborate forms are designed to require care and attention when used, the simpler ware is designed for a less conscious interaction. My work owes allegiance to no particular historical tradition, rather I find the influences and relationships between objects and makers from different cultures and time periods are what fascinate me. Each pottery form carries a particular cultural and historical text that is part of that dialogue. Many of these objects are sources for my work. Chinese
and Korean celadons, Iranian and European tin glazed earthenware and Bauhaus and Art Deco ceramics from the Modern era are several of my influences. Working primarily with porcelain, I am interested in its particular history. European porcelain from the 18th and 19th centuries such as Sévres and Meissen, provide rich visual source information. I also have an interest in the women’s tradition of decorating on porcelain in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
ON MENTORS I have had many teachers throughout my education who have influenced the way that I think about pottery, although I never had the kind of close relationship with an individual artist that might be called a mentorship. As an alternative, when I was in graduate school I developed a process of copying other people’s work that was a way of apprenticing myself to that person for a short period of time. This was a strategy not only for learning how to make things, but also for gaining a deeper understanding of that individual’s personal aesthetic decision making. I would bring a piece of someone else’s work into my studio and very deliberately copy that piece as exactly as possible. I chose pieces that I did not necessarily have a particular affinity for; work that I did not fully understand. This series of exercises helped me to expand my personal aesthetic as well as my abilities. You might say I was filling my toolbox. I still do this on occasion, usually as a
demonstration for my students who are learning to make pots. I also have my students make copies as part of their learning process. Usually I have them reproduce an historical object, but sometimes a contemporary pot. On the face of it, this exercise seems as if it would have limited power to help students develop an individual voice. In fact, it makes students hyper-conscious of their influences, which also can make them more aware of their own decisions when making their work. It is also great for stretching their skills. I see this as a form of research.
ON CUPS Like most potters, I have many, many cups. It is extremely difficult to choose a single favorite. However, what comes immediately to mind is a cup that was made by Linda Arbuckle, a beautiful, voluminous cup from which I drank my morning latte every day for many years. I received it in trade from Linda for a salt and pepper set when I went to the University of Florida as a visiting artist back in 2003. It was the perfect size and shape for a latte, it was well balanced, it had the perfect weight, and had a comfortable handle and it was interesting to look at. I learned a lot about decoration from that cup.
Sadly, I broke that cup several years ago by dropping it into the sink. I now try to drink out of a different cup every day and am currently rotating between three cups: a slab-built yellow cup that I bought at the Saint Croix Pottery Tour, made by Mark Pharis, who was my colleague at the University of Minnesota, a blue cup with fabulous bronze brushwork that I bought at the American Pottery Festival at the Northern Clay Center made by Josh DeWeese, who was my fellow artist in residence at the Archie Bray, and my newest cup, a lovely slab-built number that I bought at the LUX Center for the Arts, made by Allison McGowan whom I have never met.
Birdie Boone Meadowview, Virginia
BIOGRAPHY Birdie Boone is a maker of tableware and researcher of the domestic realm, especially social tendencies and their effects on personal identity with regard to food and modern lifestyle. Birdie received her BA in Fine Arts from The College of William and Mary in Virginia in 1994 and an MFA in Artisanry/ Ceramics from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth in 2005. 19
Notably, Birdie was a long-term resident artist at The Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena, Montana, from 2007 to 2009. She currently lives and maintains her studio practice in rural southwestern Virginia.
ON CUPS A cup must be used (and the more often, the better) in order to acknowledge all of its facets, to absorb all the sensory information
it has to offer. A mere image of a cup will never suffice. My all-time favorite cups were made by Takeshi Yasuda, Ted Saupe, and Matt Repsher. If I could have any cup on earth, I’d most want to have —and use relentlessly —a pearlescent Beatrice Wood double-handled chalice. She led an incredible life and I would cherish discovering whatever insights she happened to imbue in that object.
STATEMENT My ceramic dishes are minimal objects; they are understated and are, at times, even overlooked. My intent is to address the significance of the domestic experience through the honesty of simply composed forms and thoughtfully developed glazes. There are no unnecessary details; every element is carefully considered. This sense-full ideology requires only that the user be open to its possibilities. Thus, my pots are not only useful objects, they are also subjects that have the ability to affect their users’ sensibilities and to act upon the domestic spaces they occupy. My work owes allegiance to no particular historical tradition, rather, I find the influences and relationships between objects and makers from different cultures and time periods are what fascinate me. Each pottery form carries a particular cultural and historical text that is part of that dialogue. Many of these objects are sources for my work. Chinese and Korean celadons, Iranian and European tin glazed earthenware, and Bauhaus and Art Deco ceramics from the Modern era are several of my influences. Working primarily with porcelain, I am interested in its particular history. European porcelain from the 18th and 19th centuries such as Sévres and Meissen provide rich visual source information. I also have an interest in the women’s tradition of decorating on porcelain in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
ON INFLUENCE Emulation is inherent in the learning process. Students of ceramics will emulate others in an attempt to place their own work into the context of the ceramic arts field. Budding ceramists will ideally develop their own creative syntax through ceramic materials and processes. This personalized vocabulary, whether developed through an apprenticeship or in pursuit of a degree, will continue to evolve and over time become ever-stronger evidence of that enthusiasm.
My formal influences are wide ranging over expanses of time, geography, and methodology. I needn’t reinvent the wheel, so to speak, but any object I endeavor to make reveals the ideas that are most compelling to me. I add personal experience to the mix to further define the work as my own. I rely heavily upon intuition to make each decision toward the end product; my personal experiences, whether or not directly related to my study of ceramics, tremendously influence my work. One of the wonderful things about creativity in connection with the somewhat limited nature of utilitarian ceramics is that it manifests in an infinite number of ways. For example, my conceptual intentions are quite closely aligned to those of Gwendolyn Yoppolo and Joseph Pintz, but our shared concerns are conceived independently through different materials and processes. And while our color palettes tend to be very similar, rather than worrying that I am appropriating from either of them, I am best served by understanding that there must be something significant about those colors. Indeed, I have been influenced by so many of the other makers participating in this project that I’ve no doubt we all share some degree of intersection.
ON MENTORSHIP The first organically occurring (outside of academia) mentorship I had was with Bruce Dehnert, Head of Ceramics at Peter’s Valley Craft Center in NJ. This relationship was tightly intertwined with a workshop I took at Peters Valley with Takeshi Yasuda that more or less turned my world upside down. I entered graduate school as an idea-based maker; vessels were present, but they weren’t specifically utilitarian. That summer, I learned from Yasuda how to think about pots as ‘lifestyle ware’, how they could do more than convey food and liquid, and how to use ceramic tools, like the potter’s wheel, in nontraditional ways.
After the workshop, I stayed on for several weeks as a studio assistant; I had a small workspace and since I had very little free time but wanted to begin an earnest investigation of utilitarian objects, I made simple cups. I was surprised and excited that they received such favorable responses: people really wanted to use them. Informal discussions with Bruce led me to begin to see that ceramic materials and processes could serve as metaphors for my conceptual ideas and that those intentions could be introduced to others through the rather intimate act of putting a cup to one’s lips. My mentorship with Bruce was also a lesson in self-assurance; I trusted him to push me because I trusted that he would catch me when I fell, and most of all, I trusted that whatever I needed from him would be given freely toward my strength of character as his mentee. The following summer, I gained another mentor: I worked on the summer staff at Watershed Center for Ceramics in ME before my final year of graduate studies. Some of you will understand: at that point, my confidence had been all but squashed and I had a few short months to gather myself up off the floor and make a case for my work. A very unassuming and kind Frank Martin noticed that I was a bit of a mess and offered to field my doubts. Over the course of the summer, Frank took an interest in my work, taught me how to be attentive to every detail, taught me even more about material and process, and illuminated the fact that my cares and concerns were indeed worthy of pursuit. Both Bruce and Frank freely shared with me their experiences, knowledge, and most notably, their time, and never asked for anything in return; these random acts of kindness toward the pursuit of knowledge and skill in my field are what have made all the difference for me.
Lucy Breslin was born in Philadelphia, PA. She graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a BA in Technical Writing and later received an MFA from Kent State University, where she met her husband, Mark Johnson. Between undergraduate and graduate degrees, she studied at Juniata College with Jack Troy.
Many years ago, I wrote to Jack Troy and asked if I might come and work with him as a special student. I had already finished undergraduate school with a degree in Technical Writing and was working as the technical assistant in the physics department at the Philadelphia Community College. At the time, I was taking evening classes in ceramics and wanted to become a better potter. I was thrilled when he invited me out to Juniata College and agreed to mentor me while I worked several odd jobs to support myself. I will never forget my first “official” meeting with Jack.
After graduating from Kent State, she was awarded a long-term residency at The Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, MT. The following year, she lived and traveled in Spain, having been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship. While there she visited over 40 traditional potteries, some dating back several centuries. For the past 25 years, she has taught at The Maine College of Art in Portland, Maine. During this time, she has seen many of her students go on to become successful artists. Also during these years, Lucy served on the advisory board of Studio Potter and the advisory board and full board of Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts. She has exhibited her work in over 150 juried and invitational exhibitions and 26 museums throughout the country. Her work has appeared in Ceramics Monthly, Studio Potter, Clay Times, American Ceramics, and American Craft, as well as other publications and many books, including The Best of Pottery, Smashing Glazes, Wheel-Thrown Ceramics, A Ceramic Continuum, 500 Bowls, 500 Plates and Chargers, 500 Vases, and 500 Ceramics. In addition, Lucy has enjoyed being a visiting artist at schools and art centers across the country and has participated in numerous NCECA panels and demonstrations.
He asked me what I would like to work on. I said, “Cups!” as I used them everyday and wanted to know how to make a good one. “Okay,” he said, “make a hundred cups and then we’ll talk.” A hundred! I don’t think I had even made 100 pots in total up until that point. But by the end of two weeks, I had managed to get together 100 cups and Jack sat down with me and we looked at all of them. We settled on five that seemed to be okay and then he said, “Okay, now go and make 100 good cups.” He left me speechless. But by the end of it all, I learned to make a decent cup. My practice has since gone in many different directions and it has been a long time since making cups has been a regular activity. But every so often, I have the urge to make 100 cups. And because the span between these occasions is often several years, each time I approach the making of cups I am a different person, working with different materials, intrigued by different influences.
For me, making cups are my way of making swift but skillful drawings. Even though I work in a series of 100, each shape is different and each surface is different. Each cup is a response to the previous cup. Cups are a way to better understand variations of form more quickly. They are also a way to impulsively experiment with surface using color, mark-making, new processes, etc. But best of all, they remind me that play is a very important part of being an artist and that to reengage with the joys and frustrations of seeing and making on an intimate scale can bring a special satisfaction. That is why I continue to make cups.
STATEMENT My work is rooted in the rich vocabulary of historical ceramics. While the timelessness of Eastern ceramics and the elegance of Islamic ceramics inspire and awe me, it is the celebratory nature of European wares that fires my imagination. While my art does not attempt to align itself with any particular imagery, process, or form, it hopefully reflects an underlying meaning manifested in European decorative art, and perhaps decorative art belonging to all cultures. Webster defines “decorate” as “to add honor to.” All art allows for a capacity to explore the mystery of existence. Decorative art reaffirms a belief that this mystery, this existence, deserves to be celebrated. For me, clay is one material that lends itself so easily and so powerfully to expressing emotions, ideas, questions, and spirit.
Lucy Breslin Portland, Maine
Cynthia Bringle Penland, North Carolina
Having painted in my early days, I went to the Memphis Academy of Art to continue. After taking several pottery classes I changed my major. After a couple of summers at Haystack School of Crafts in Maine and graduate school at NY State College of Ceramics in Alfred, NY, I set up my studio. From 1965-1970, I was in Eads, TN, and in 1970 I moved to Penland, NC. I hold a Life Membership at Southern Highland Craft Guild. Other accomplishments include American Craft Council Fellow, North Carolina Award for Fine Art, Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from the Memphis College of Art, and North Carolina Living Treasure from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. My work is included in private collections and museums, but mostly found in many kitchen cabinets. Being a full time artist is my passion and pleasure. I hope yours is in use.
What is a pot a pot is not just any gray little bowl of clay a pot is a pot for daffodils or a porridge pot or a pot for pills cruets and goblets jars and jugs platters and plates and trays and mugs shallow pots or dark and deep pots to give and pots to keep touch them, hold them pick them up batter bowl or sakĂŠ cup and feel the curve of earth and sky kitchen warm or springtime shy a pot is mood of many hues but most of all a pot is to use.
ON CUPS Almost everyone at one time or another has made them. Some stop making cups, as they are a small object and consider them not important. Cups make a connection from the potter to the user. Some customers have in use ones that they have had for 25 plus years. I do tell them it might be time for a new one.
Joan Bruneau Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
Joan Bruneau is a professional Studio Potter based in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia and has been regular part-time ceramics faculty at NSCAD University, Nova Scotia since 1995.
Upon graduating with my BFA from NSCAD, I apprenticed for a year with raku potter Tom Smith in St. Andrews By The Sea, New Brunswick. I honed my throwing skills and learned that a studio could be built on a dime. After graduating with an MFA from the University of Minnesota I pursued my dream to return to Nova Scotia and set up a full-time studio. A few NSCAD trained potters were thriving in the coastal towns south of Halifax: Jim Smith in Chester, and Birdsall-Wirthington Pottery and Cathy Thompson in Mahone Bay. Jim Smith has been a good friend and mentor for years and has set the bar for pricing functional decorated pots in Nova Scotia and in Canada. I learned from Jim that higher price points allow the development of one’s work, not to mention one’s livelihood and lifestyle. Often customers perceive the value of an artist’s work based on how it is priced and presented.
Joan was born in 1963 in Halifax. A love of travel and food sparked her desire to become a potter after discovering authentic cuisines and pottery traditions on a trip to Europe in 1983. Joan went on to earn her BFA from NSCAD University and MFA from the University of Minnesota. Joan has taught at Emily Carr University, Vancouver, the Australia National University, and the Glasgow School of Art. Her work is exhibited throughout North America and is in public collections including the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute, China. Joan was the 2009 recipient of the Established Artist Recognition Award from the Nova Scotia Arts and Culture Partnership and the 2005 recipient of the Winifred Shantz Award that funded a residency at La Meridiana Ceramics in Italy.
STATEMENT My intent as a studio potter is to inspire interaction with my pots through their sensuous forms and colorful surfaces. The pots function as decorative objects that come to life through use. Interaction with the user completes their aesthetic potential as they contain, deliver, or present food, drink, or flowers. Preparing and presenting an inspired meal or arranging flowers in a specific container affirms our connection to identity, while elevating domestic rituals from the banal to beautiful. 25
Both Jim and myself hire summer studio assistants, usually NSCAD students, who learn about production and work ethic, how to discuss work with the public, and pricing. It takes a specific personality to persevere and make a career of pottery. The old adage, “It takes 10% talent and 90% work” rings true and to that I would add the fuel of vision, passion, and pursuit of the “good life,” or quality of life as lived.
ON INFLUENCE My most influential teachers were Sarah Coote and Walter Ostrom, both of whose values are instilled in my studio and teaching practice. Sarah emphasized the importance of volume, gesture, sensibility, and function as a vehicle for communicating feelings and ideas. Her work, though innovative, was rooted in formal historical, Persian, and Chinese influences. Walter Ostrom, NSCAD ceramics department head, had been a long-standing advocate for functional pots despite the resistance within a conceptual art school environment. Walter continues to maintain his friendships and mentoring role with his former students throughout their careers and has been very supportive and influential in my career development.
The most pivotal experience for me as a student was Thanksgiving dinner at the Ostrom family home in Indian Harbour. This was my first experience eating an entire meal presented on beautiful, innovative decorated pots in a gorgeous environment. Elaine Ostrom’s stunning floral arrangements filled Walter’s flower baskets, and Walter’s beloved tortoise, Retlaw, made his rounds over the worn oriental carpets. Elaine and Walter taught by example that decorated pots inspire a collaborative dialogue between the maker and user.
ON CUPS Few objects in our daily lives offer a ritual as pleasurable and sensually engaging as a fine handcrafted cup containing a delicious warm drink.
Among the favorite cups in my collection is Andy Shaw’s mug with its unassuming shape and subtle relief pattern. Shaw’s cup is all about touch: with a pattern cloaked in a satin celadon glaze, its icy translucency is smooth as baby skin. As a maker incapable of minimalism, I admire the poetry of Shaw’s “less is more” aesthetic. My mornings often begin with a latte in George Bowes’s cup. Its generous volume perfectly accommodates a large, frothy latte while the complex surfaces elevate the quotidian ritual of breakfast. Bowes is a master of conjoining complex patterns and surfaces with strong, crisp forms. Similar to Shaw, Bowes uses texture to engage one’s hands while the eyes never tire of the rich under-glaze and polychrome glazed patterns fusing and oozing over its full belly. 26
Jeff Campana Woodstock, Georgia
BIOGRAPHY Jeff Campana is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Ceramics at Kennesaw State University near Atlanta, Georgia. Prior to this appointment in Georgia, Campana was an Artist in Residence for two years at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana. Additionally, he has served as a full-time Technician at Bennington College in Vermont, and an instructor at the University of Louisville and Indiana University Southeast. Known for his unique process of dissection and reassembly of leather hard forms, Jeff exhibits functional work nationally. His work has been featured in numerous magazines and online articles, and many exhibitions each year. He earned his BFA in Ceramics in 2003 at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and his MFA in 2008 at Indiana University in Bloomington.
STATEMENT I draw lines by dissecting and immediately reassembling each pot. The result is a surface decoration with structural implications. Lines seen on the exterior coincide with lines found inside, as each line is in fact a seam, a scar where it was once severed. Though fragile seams decorate the surface, pooling glazes seal and strengthen the ware. The fault lines that decorate the surface threaten to, but do not actually undermine the vesselâ€™s ability to contain, display or deliver. This method of making fulfills my desire to develop a virtuosic touch in clay.
When pieces are dissected for decoration, I am able to get an intimate view of my forms. The precise knowledge of pottery cross sections is rarely known by most potters, but mine are constantly viewed, critiqued, and refined. I truly know my work inside and out. It is my preference for conspicuous labor and skill that drives me to these intensive and challenging processes. Currently, my formal choices are influenced by botanical references. Starting with just the vague notion of various plants, I create idealized and stylized renditions of leaves
and flowers, controlled and chosen primarily by the intended utility of the vessel. Certain patterns lend themselves to certain forms. I try to listen to the material when determining this. Structural failures in the drying and firing tell me to find new solutions. Working in an almost scientific way, new pots are made in a search for truth and accuracy in expressing my aesthetic ideals. I know a work is successful when it makes me smile just to look at it. This is the tuning fork for my aesthetic calibrations.
Kyle Carpenter Asheville, North Carolina
Kyle Carpenter has been a full time studio potter in Asheville, NC since 2002. He holds a BFA in Ceramics from UNC Asheville and exhibits his work in galleries, pottery tours, and museums across the United States. He is a juried member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild and has his works in many private collections, including The Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, NC. His studio and gallery are located in Asheville’s River Arts District and are open to the general public year round.
I’ve made a lot of cups in my career as a studio potter. It has to be one of the most satisfying forms to make. My first cup was made in Ceramics class while in college. It was a horrible cup. Bottom heavy, lumpy, and ugly probably describe it most accurately. Since then, I’ve made thousands of cups. They’ve changed over the years, always improving form, surface, and visual balance.
I think it’s important to have mentors. Someone to look toward for advice and support is invaluable. Michael Kline, of Penland, NC, has been a great mentor and friend to me. I feel that our relationship has become a symbiotic one over the years. We help one another professionally and personally. Michael’s experience and longevity in the field offers a unique perspective on the realities of making a living as a studio potter. I find that my experiences parallel many of his.
STATEMENT As a studio potter, I work diligently to make well-crafted wares for everyday people. It’s seemingly less about the “ritual of the table” and more about respecting a long tradition of craftsmen before me and discovering my own voice. As a contemporary potter, I often look to past traditions for inspiration. I’m interested in folk pottery of many origins. My native state of North Carolina, of course, offers a deep well of talented potters, both folk and contemporary, to look towards for inspiration. Simplicity in form offers a broad surface for me to embellish with lines, patterns, and drawings. Before I was introduced to the ceramics arts, I did a fair amount of illustration, both before and during art school. The combination of three-dimensional forms and two-dimensional drawings was a natural fusion of both my love of drawing and pottery, combining art and craft. It is my intention to bring together clear and abstract markings to engage the viewer to look closely at how design relates to the form of the pot.
I’ve also collected a lot of cups over those years. Almost every cup I own I bought from its maker, making the connection to the cup much more personal. Each time I use a handmade cup, thoughts of the maker, either personally or anecdotally, occur. Whether intentionally or not, my personal cup collection has influenced the way I make my cups. Whether a beveled rim, a rolled foot, or a back filled handle, I often find details I can use to make my own pots better. I’ve found that my Simon Levin “Diner Mug” may be the perfect size cup for coffee. I’ve reduced the size of my own coffee mugs because of my satisfaction while using his cup. Influence can be obvious, subtle, or just implied. I understand pots better if I can handle them, so it’s no surprise that I can be influenced by the pots I own.
I earned a BFA in 2000 from UNC-Asheville. Instead of going to grad school, I went to my own studio. I’m sure I would have benefited from graduate school, but I needed a change. Being exposed to the many studio potters in the Asheville/Penland region, I quickly fell in love with their lifestyles. They were making a living by making pottery. They were their own bosses. They were happy. I wanted that. In 2002, I built a kiln and started my business. Fourteen years later, I feel that it was the right decision.
My favorite cup was made by Mark Shapiro of Worthington, Massachusetts. It’s a small mug with a pulled handle. It has wonderful balance and a nice visual weight. The rim tapers perfectly to match my lips. Its form is casual, not hiding the throwing rings on the interior or exterior. The satin glaze used to line the inside relates well to the natural salt glazed on the outside wall and handle. It’s a cup I can use for anything, such as coffee, wine, water, or tea. It’s just perfect.
Ben Carter Santa Cruz, California
Ben Carter is a studio potter, workshop leader, and social media enthusiast based in Santa Cruz, CA. He received his BFA in Ceramics/ Painting from Appalachian State University, and his MFA in Ceramics from the University of Florida. His professional experience includes being an artist-in-residence at the Odyssey Center for Ceramic Art in Asheville, NC, as well as Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass, CO, the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, MT, and the Ceramic Research Center Guldagergaard in Skelskor, Denmark. From 2010-2012 he served as the Education Director of the Pottery Workshop in Shanghai, China. He has lectured and presented workshops at universities and craft centers in the United States, Canada, China, Australia, and New Zealand. He has exhibited internationally in numerous invitational and juried shows, and was recently named 2016 Ceramic Artist of the Year by Ceramics Monthly and Pottery Making Illustrated. In addition to his studio work he is the creator/ host of the Tales of a Red Clay Rambler blog and podcast, where he interviews artists about their craft, creativity, and lifestyle.
Traveling internationally has sparked my interest in identifying the structures and practices that make up material culture and societal organization. My personal research focuses on the interplay between culinary traditions and material culture in the southern Unites States. Functional objects, whether ceramic or otherwise, embody the values and beliefs of both the maker and the user. I am interested in the reciprocal relationship that forms between object and user in which both are altered by the day-to-day interaction of use.
In my studio practice I reference symbols of my native Virginian identity, such as the dogwood flower, white picket fence, and whitewashed brick. These nostalgic decorative motifs are familiar and accessible, conveying the graciousness of Southern hospitality. Through the act of use, my forms serve a commemorative role, highlighting the cultural importance of communal dining on the family structure. My current body of work expands the cultural context of the work with the addition of other design motifs, including folk art motifs, quilting and textiles, and horticultural drawings. Along with research into surface design, I am exploring forms that accompany American culinary practices, including butter dishes, iced tea sets, and deviled egg trays.
In addition to my studio work I have been actively documenting ceramic history through the recording of audio interviews with artists and ceramic supporters. I use my podcast, Tales of a Red Clay Rambler, as a platform to inform people about the development of ceramic aesthetics, processes, and traditions. Since 2012 I have recorded over 130 interviews with leaders in the field from Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, and the United States. These interviews are released to the public to support community building, while also allowing me to form a body of knowledge for a future book on the state of the field in ceramics. In the coming two years I will continue to conduct interviews with the goal of publishing my findings within the next three years. Both my studio work and documentation of the field represent my interest in personal and social history. As a visual artist these histories are given physical form through my functional ceramics.
ON MENTORS During my time at the University of Florida I had the pleasure of experiencing dozens of critiques with fellow grad students and faculty. While these “think tank” gatherings were helpful, I came to appreciate the casual one-on-one interactions I had with professor Linda Arbuckle the most. A seasoned educator, she had a knack for catching me off guard with a well-timed comment. She was a pottery ninja, sneaking into my studio to lay me out with a roundhouse kick to my aesthetic.
Her most potent move was to peak her head into my studio and drop a one-liner that would keep me thinking for days. One comment that I still think about is her maxim, “The form and decoration on that pot are vehicles, but what is the destination you are trying to reach with them?” That simple question still challenges me to communicate more clearly through my aesthetic choices.
Rebecca Chappell Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
BIOGRAPHY Rebecca Chappell received her MFA from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 2008 and her BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 2003. Chappell has participated in solo and group exhibitions across the U.S. She currently teaches at the Maryland Institute of Art as well as Tyler School of Art. Rebecca lives and maintains a studio in North Philadelphia, PA.
STATEMENT Pots can be covert instruments for carrying messages. They are objects that over time, through intimate actions with the human body, slowly reveal surprises and meanings that are contained within. With my current body of studio work I strive to play and push myself beyond my comfort level. I find much inspiration at the market. The excitement I find in the colors and patterns in fruit, food, and flowers drive me to make in the studio. For example, the color of a mound of oranges at Reading Terminal Market sparks interest and makes me want to produce an object to contain that vibrant color. So often the real informs the created. This is what I love so much about making pots: the relationship that exists between the real, the created, and the user; the life a pot has outside of my studio. Color and pattern have been an exciting new adventure for me for the past five or so years.
I am continually amazed at how pattern and color can distract, enhance, camouflage, engage, or destroy form, how movement can be created by adding a fast line, or stability inferred by using a grid. This is another area of my work that I try to push beyond my comfort zone and just play. I seek to create imagined objects and spaces that serve as moments to catch a wandering eye and allow the viewer the opportunity to pause; arranged moments of curiosity and wonder.
ON MENTORS Judith Salomon and Bill Brouillard were my undergrad teachers at the Cleveland Institute of Art. These two really started to shape me into the maker I am today. I went into undergrad thinking I would like to be a drawing major. I had taken an elective course in ceramics, and when it came time to apply to the different departments for majors, Judith pulled me aside and encouraged me to go for ceramics. Both Bill and Judith saw a talent in me that I did not see in myself. Bill was the first person that taught me how to make a cup. I found it really exciting to think about all the considerations that went into making a pot for use: how it was important to think about the intended use, the liquid it would hold, how it would feel for the user, all of these little details and all the thought that would go into these seemingly simple everyday objects.
I found it to be such a quiet language, very subtle, which I really enjoyed at the time. I started to learn that “it’s just a pot” actually was a much more complex statement than I had thought. Now as a teacher, I often find myself guiding my students in a similar way to Bill and Judith. I learned the importance of play and following your interests, whatever they may be, from Bill. I learned not to box myself into a corner as a maker by saying, “I’m a potter, I’m a sculptor, I am a painter, etc…” but instead learning that it’s possible to be all of these things, and that to be honest about your interests and what excites you as a maker is one of the most important things. Judith nurtured my talent and guided me through what it means to be a studio maker. She would speak to me of time management with a busy life. I clearly remember her telling me that it was possible to do quite a bit of work in just two hours if that is all you had. At the time I thought that was quite impossible, but now I truly understand what she means. Bill Brouillard and Judith Salomon were so much more than teachers to me. They continue to shape me all these years later through my memories of their words and actions. I am extremely grateful to have had such a meaningful teacher/mentor/mentee relationship with these two wonderful artists.
Victoria Christen Portland, Oregon
BIOGRAPHY Victoria Christen lives in Portland, Oregon, where she is a full-time studio potter. She received her MFA from the University of Minnesota. She has been a Resident Artist at Guldagergaard, the International Ceramics Research Center in Denmark, and the Archie Bray Foundation in Montana. She has given many workshops across the United States. Victoria has been the recipient of an NEA Regional Visual Arts Fellowship Award, two Minnesota Arts Board Grants, and a travel grant to Japan.
STATEMENT A pot is like a handshake from the maker to the user. I intend my pots to function at several levels, both for myself and the user. First, I strive to make everyday objects for the home, pieces that individuals use in the supposedly mundane activities of their lives. My cups, bowls, cake platters, and containers, I hope, emphasize the beauty and significance of these daily rituals. On another level, I intend my pots to embody my own experiences, attitudes, and values. My work is both thrown and constructed, intuitive and patterned, self conscious and flamboyant—references to my seamstress mother’s use of patterns and tucks to make highly functional creations infused with her own passion; to my father’s
work as both a machinist and a maker of folk art; to my own paradoxical desire for both order and freedom; and to my pots as both containers/dispensers of everyday materials and as metaphors for the body as both receiver and giver. While I do not intend others to share in all of these meanings, I hope that the personal level of the work will free users to perceive their own self in these objects.
ON INFLUENCE Identifying the people that have influenced me is like looking at a spider web, with circles and lines connecting and arrows leading outward and then back inward. First, I taught students in a class setting, and then later they taught me through their studio practice. There is the influence of friends, and of strangers, those whose work I know, but whom I have never met. Thinking of these connections, I feel like I am on a teeter-totter or playing tag as a kid, with dramatic shifts in balance and power. My first teacher was Gail Kendall, then Warren Mackenzie. One thing that has stayed with me is how Warren would say it was a good practice to use and eat off other potters’ work, that if you used your own pots, it would be like talking to yourself. I have taken that to heart and rarely use my own pots, and it always gives me immense joy to hear from people who enjoy using my cups for their coffee. I
think the cup is the most intimate object that I make, giving me a connection into the everyday of others’ lives. Spending 15 years in Minnesota and receiving my MFA from the University there, I have felt the influence of many Minnesota potters: Linda Christenson, Shirley Johnson, and others. I don’t want to forget JeanNicolas Gérard, a French potter who I met in Portland and immediately felt the pull of his work. Recently, when I unloaded some of my newest Gerard pots from my dishwasher, I realized how much Jean-Nicolas has affected me—my work, of course, but also how I live my life—taking time to garden, building things not always in clay, and most of all celebrating the intimacies of a studio potter life. The quick line of Jean-Nicolas’s needle tool cracking and breaking the surface of a plate puts a smile on my face because of its decorative genius. More importantly, maybe, its spontaneity affects the beat of my heart and changes the rhythm of my life.
Sam Chung Tempe, Arizona
ON LEARNING There should be more opportunities for apprenticeship, but based on a contemporary model involving marketing through social media and attracting people outside of the “potter’s pots” crowd. The design field offers an audience that not only appreciates ceramics, but is willing to spend more than most “neighborhood” audiences. Pots should be part of MFA programs but we see less and less potters applying. 37
ON LIVING However, what is the value of the MFA if one does not want to teach? MFA programs should offer more real-world pedagogy and experiences to prepare students for careers outside of teaching at the university level. Graduate programs should help potters become better potters as well as push them to define where they would position themselves within the spectrum of other makers. They also need to understand how and where they see their work in the marketplace.
Making in the “real world” is a privilege, especially if you are lucky enough to make a living at it. We have all been inspired to create objects as a point of fulfillment, and if it were not for our mentors, we may have never had that door opened up to us. I feel like it’s my job to now open those doors for those who are touching clay for the first time.
Sam Chung received his MFA from Arizona State University and his BA from St. Olaf College. He taught at Northern Michigan University from 1998-2007 and has been teaching at Arizona State University since 2007 where he is an Associate Professor of Ceramics. He has exhibited at Harvey Meadows, Ann Linnemann Gallery, AKAR, Greenwich House Pottery, Sherry Leedy and Lacoste Gallery. Sam’s work is included in the collections of The Crocker Art Museum (CA), Icheon World Ceramic Center (Korea), Guldagergaard (Denmark) and San Angelo Museum (TX).
I have been the mentee of several great potters and artists. Kurt Weiser, who is now my colleague, was one of my professors in grad school and he was always good at opening your eyes to so many possibilities in working with inventive processes and looking at the history of art and ceramics.
STATEMENT I work within the context of pottery to exploit its universal identity and impart my own vision of merging historical/contemporary and cultural influences. I am curious about finding relationships between various forms of creative expression ranging from art, traditional craft, design and architecture. When I combine these sometimes-disparate relationships, they bring forth a new object that is intended to provoke one’s perception of what is familiar versus what is new. My most recent work draws influence from Korean art and design. Clouds are a ubiquitous symbol depicted in traditional Korean art. I am interested in the way in which clouds represent a phenomenon that is constantly in flux. Their nature to morph and adapt is similar to the way in which I relate to my own floating sense of identity. These cultural references are intended to serve as an anchor to point towards my own ethnic lineage, and also to question my perception of belonging within or outside of it.
Ron Gallas, my first ceramics professor, taught me how to throw without using too much water. I still try to throw without too much water to this day. Influence is an important part of developing your own identity. It draws you towards the things you find intriguing and shapes your taste, but you also need to shake some influences (namely those of our mentors) to find your own way. The irony is that we create our uniqueness by shedding some of the influences that originally inspired us.
ON CUPS This seems to change from day to day, but one of my favorites was an Ayumi Horie cup I bought online years ago from AKAR from her first show there. It has a one-finger handle and is the perfect size and fit with a nice drawing of some rats… always a pleasant image with my first cup of coffee. However, I dropped this cup and (mostly) saved it from impact with my foot, but it now has a small crack in the rim so I have used it less for fear of breaking it again. Cups are like jeans. They get worn and comfortable over time and then you have to retire them one day or you use them to death.
A.Blair Clemo Henrico, Virginia
BIOGRAPHY A. Blair Clemo is a potter and Assistant Professor of Craft and Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. He received his MFA in Ceramics from the New York State College of Ceramics, Alfred University in 2010. Originally from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Clemo spent many years studying ceramics and working at small production potteries in Idaho and Montana. He has been an Artist in Residence at The Northern Clay Center (Minneapolis, MN), the Da Wang Culture Highland (Shenzhen, China), the Zentrum für Keramik (Berlin, Germany), and The International Ceramics Studio (Kecskemét, Hungary) funded by the 2013 NCECA International Partnership Grant. Clemo’s utilitarian and installation work has been included in numerous solo and group exhibitions both nationally and abroad.
STATEMENT My current work is made from both wheel-thrown and press molded pieces combined into utilitarian forms. The visual language of wheel throwing provides me a link to contemporary studio pottery practice and references making through skilled craft. Also evident in the finished work is the repetition of using molds. The mark of the mold remains obvious in the work and reveals a serialized method of making. Combined, these ways of making question how we assess the value of one-off hand making versus more industrialized serial production. The ornament that makes up this work begins as a press molded strip of fancy clay. As it becomes form, it is squished and distorted by the act of scoring, pinching, and assembling. What remains is a tangible display of the struggle between form and ornament. The more complex and visually assertive the form becomes, the more the ornament recoils, yielding to the demands of form and utility. The illusion of meticulous ornamentation is threatened by the act of making pots. 39
Much of my work is glazed in a manganese saturate glaze, resulting in a metallic façade on the surface. At first glance, the viewer may expect that the object is cast from precious metal, the form and surface heavily referencing ornate silver service ware. Upon closer viewing, this façade becomes evident and calls into question how we assess an object’s value based on the material it is made from. The red clay body also comments on material value. It is smooth and vitreous, qualities it shares with porcelain. The visual references in my work point to a time when objects made with porcelain were inherently more valuable than objects made from other clays. From a contemporary ceramics perspective however, value is identified more in making than in material. Red clay is my assertion that skilled craft and meaningful content are more significant than material value. There are moments in my work of utilitarian consideration where the vocabulary of contemporary studio pottery is unmistakable. There are also moments of opulence where utilitarian concerns are second to elements of visual pleasure. These pots balance on a fine line between sincerity and irony. They are sincere in their careful craft and potential for use; yet their assertion of material value and wealth is as transitory and uncertain as our own status in an unsteady world.
ON CUPS I have a designated studio cup. Sure, other cups make their way in-and-out of the studio if work beacons before the morning coffee is finished, but there is one cup that is at home in my basement studio. I acquired this cup about 15 years ago, at an art-in-the-park style craft fair. It cost me 10 dollars. This humble cup, a simple combination of Shino and Copper Red, has become a constant reminder of my journey through clay and my ever-changing perspectives about making pots. My studio mug was made by Bill West, the potter-turned-professor who first taught me how to make pots. At the time, as a student just starting in clay at a small community college in Idaho, I idolized and emulated Bill with every pot I made. Bill was more than a teacher to me; he was a mentor.
His lessons spilled out of the classroom and addressed the big-picture questions I had about life, questions I felt helpless to ponder before I found clay. I bought this cup with aspirations of someday making one as good. As my skill improved, my tastes changed and my practice evolved away from Shino glazes. This studio cup of mine fell out of favor, a throwback to an aesthetic I thought I had left behind. In recent years though, this has become my favorite cup. It is representative of my growth with clay, my changing ideas and perspectives and the tangible evidence of how a professor can become a mentor, still teaching me with every gulp of coffee. Now that I have students of my own, I still see Bill as a mentor. I catch myself repeating encouraging words in the classroom that Bill shared with me over a decade ago.
This cup holds so much power for me because I have spent so much time with it. Cups are a unique art form in that way; they reveal their subtle content at their own pace. Cups are disarming, allowing coffee and conversation to take center stage. But over the course of that drink, content begins to reveal itself. As the cupâ€™s lip encounters my own and my fingers trace the foot ring, questions arise. Decisions that the potter has made become part of a physical experience, observed with the body rather than the eyes. Potters have a unique opportunity to disseminate content with cups. With cups, viewing is a process, rather than a single act. Communication between a potter and user is physical, not just visual.
Mark Cole Lincoln, Nebraska
Mark Cole received his BFA in Ceramics in 2000 from Northern Michigan University, and his MFA in Ceramics at Ohio University in 2010.
I make pottery because I want to make purposeful objects for people to appreciate. Throughout history, people have embellished and ritualized the events that they deem important. I am interested in functional ceramics’ ability to represent a continuance of cultural object making that describes both our actions and our activities of value. Functional objects have the ability to reveal the many ways in which we spend our time, from the extravagant to the daily ritual. They symbolize the actions necessary for the object to be used.
Cups provide an important entry point to handmade functional objects because of the universal understanding that is associated with these forms. They are accessible objects through the participatory knowledge of the act of drinking, as well as the multitude of styles and designs available to choose from. A cup may be an accessory object, chosen much like the clothing we wear, which can reveal a sense about the things we are attracted to by our willingness to wear them, hold them or drink from them.
The functional objects I make are embellished from my hand and my personality, as someone might use their personality to embellish a story or an interaction. When I work in the studio I am developing the expression of my own aesthetic, which includes highly refined simplistic stoneware forms adorned with a complex, patterned surface. I seek to create a visual harmony through my anticipation and orchestration of the unique situations created by the material interactions that come to fruition during the firing process. Developing patterns within the glazes allows for interactions to take place. Even on the simplest forms, when repetition occurs within a pattern of adjacent glazes, the interactions are slightly different and unique.
Makers of cups work within a given set of parameters to portray a universally understood object. Although this set of parameters serves a specific function, the varieties of style, decoration, material choice, form, and feel allows makers to create endless individualistic interpretations to serve our distinctive senses.
Cole apprenticed at John Glick’s Plum Tree Pottery in Farmington Hills, MI, and completed a residency in the village of Dan Kwian, Nakhon Ratchisima, Thailand at Umdang Ceramics. He worked to bring ceramics to the lives of others as an AmeriCorps youth mentor at the McCarthy Alternative Education Center in Crescent City, CA. He was a post-baccalaureate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in ceramics and in 2008 he participated in the International Workshop for the Ceramic Arts at Tokoname, in Tokoname, Japan. Cole is a member of the Visual Arts Faculty in Ceramics at Interlochen. He was a one-year Lecturer of Art in Ceramics at Longwood University in Farmville, VA, and currently teaches Ceramics and Foundations courses as an Assistant Professor of Practice for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln while exhibiting his ceramic works nationally.
As an individual maker, this process enables my engagement with materials that require my constant attention, maintenance, and finesse. As I craft the form or embellish the surface, I know that the potential of the pot will be realized only when completed through the firing process and observed in hindsight. My ultimate goal is acceptance and appreciation of the quirky or impure qualities of these materials and despite this, trying to bring out the best in them. It is an extension of the way I try to relate positively to the people, things, and situations that I experience every day.
As individual makers are able to freely interpret cup forms, the emerging variety is stunning. The resulting variations establish each maker’s aesthetic sensibility and unique interpretation, which exemplifies within the field of ceramics a foundation of continuance and endless reinvention. The first cups I ever made consisted of thin slabs that I wrapped around an AMACO glaze jar on to which I stuck a coil handle. I was a high school student unknowingly beginning a fascination that has lasted twenty years and counting. My mentors Sam Chung and John Glick expanded my knowledge not only to explore tradition and materiality in clay but also to envision and plan for their eventual meaning through use and experience. Also among my favorite makers are Jeff Oestreich, Lorna Meaden, Steve Godfrey, Pete Pinnell, Gail Kendall, Mike Jabbur, and David Crane.
David Crane Blacksburg, Virginia
David Crane received a BFA from Northern Arizona University and an MFA from Illinois State University. Since 1980 he has been a Professor of Art/Ceramics in the School of Visual Art at Virginia Tech University.
The ceramic work that I make is guided by a curiosity about how the shape of a piece might tie to its surface treatment. Function and the vessel format guide the boundaries. The limited color palette of clay slips and glazes is selected through the desire to simplify.
He is the recipient of Virginia Museum Artist Fellowships and a SECCA- Seven National Artist Fellowship Award. He is a Distinguished Alumni of Northern Arizona University. His artworks have appeared in over 275 national and international exhibitions. Reproductions of his ceramic works have been published in 10 books, along with numerous catalogs and periodical articles. His work appears in private, university, and museum collections. He has conducted over 36 invited lectures and demonstrations. For over 40 years, he has focused and experimented with a wide range of salt and soda firing techniques. Crane’s recent ceramic work investigates the integration of geometric ceramic forms and surface glazes associated with functional objects and vessels. Crane is married to painter Janet Niewald. Together, in 1982, they began to build their home, studios, and small farm on 15 acres outside of Blacksburg Virginia.
At its most basic, I make work that “feels right” at a given moment by trusting my inclinations. It is a quest that is continuously motivating, sustaining, and an ongoing challenge. I use a variety of methods (including wheel throwing, altering, and press molding) to create the forms. My decoration currently uses contrasting surfaces of glaze, slip, and clay to create hard edge designs. The forms are then fired in a high temperature salt kiln. This firing method, coupled with atmospheric sensitive glazes, produces works with a rich range of color and surface variation.
ON MENTORS The people who have influenced my work and life are many. Of course, faculty mentors in BFA, MFA, and Post Grad Ford Grant at the University of Georgia are among the many. Early role models of post WWII, 20th century ceramics are pivotal for my generation’s view of what ceramics might be and become.
Over the years, friends, peers, and colleagues in the arts have been critical in my evolving understanding of how to view, conceive, and execute works with an individual personal voice. By far the most important, fundamental, and consistent influence on me has been painter Janet Niewald, my partner and wife of 35 years. Her broad knowledge of art, exceptional eye, questioning curious nature, consistent exemplary work ethic and focus, and support have been paramount in my life.
ON CUPS While I learned the general throwing part of cups from Don Bendel, I really learned what cups were “about” from Michael Simon. This came to be after spending two years living just around the corner from him in rural Georgia, and talking most every day about pots over breakfast. Today, cups are a bit like drawing for me. Each weekly cycle is begun with a group of cups. Cups help get my head into making pots. Cups are also my path into glazing. They start the endeavor, setting the tone for a kiln load of pots. Making cups is most fundamental to what potters do. They connect us to people, to basic human need and ritual. The cup becomes the most intimate and personal communication between user and maker.
ON LEARNING Apprenticeship is a growing and viable path to skills and careers in the ceramic arts. The best apprenticeships seem to provide people with broad aesthetic and design knowledge, skills, and survival strategies. The best “masters” provide open-minded support for apprentice growth, without passing along personal dogma. Often the most successful apprentices seem to be individuals with
significant education, broad interests in the arts and experiences before they begin apprenticeships. There are a number of fine programs offering MFA’s that support making pottery and related ceramic vessels. These programs seem to be diminishing with the retirement of “baby boomers.” MFA programs and residencies provide
time to work, gain deeper knowledge of one’s personal goals and inclinations, and technical proficiency. In the current climate, MFA degrees become difficult to justify IF additional loan debt is required. Realistically, one needs to be supported through grants and graduate assistantships in MFA programs.
Bruce Dehnert Layton, New Jersey
BIOGRAPHY Bruce has an MFA in Ceramics from Alfred University. He has taught at Hunter College, Parsons School of Art and Design, The School of Art (New Zealand), the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Malaysia), and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. A three time Fletcher Challenge International Ceramics Award winner, Dehnert has received 45
numerous awards, including a New Jersey Artist Fellowship, the Settlor Prize in Sculpture, and a Carnegie Premier Award for Works on Paper. A finalist in the Robert Wood Johnson International Figurative Competition, his work is held in a number of museums and collections, including The Crocker Museum, California and the Yixing Museum of Ceramic Art, China.
Dehnert is published in numerous journals including The Studio Potter and Ceramics: Art and Perception. He recently authored Simon Leachâ€™s Pottery Handbook, an Amazon best selling book, for Abrams Publishing of New York. Bruce was recently elected to the International Academy of Ceramics and is currently head of the Peters Valley ceramics program.
STATEMENT There are two primary ideas that I have become increasingly interested in communicating. Initially, I am interested in the way that meanings can be manifested through material and form. Additionally, the concept of “functional”, and how it can be achieved, provides a framework within which these two lines of investigation co-exist. My cups are wheel-thrown porcelain. I call my cups “GT2400’s” because they’re intended for gin and tonic, and are fired to approximately 2400 degrees Fahrenheit in either soda or wood kilns. I derive their shapes from wanting to combine the soft, natural curves of acorns that grow near my studio with the hard geometric lines of my father’s architecture. The images cut into their feet are abstract representations of the kilns or motifs from my father’s buildings. I invent glaze formulas that hopefully explain something of the firing processes’ effect on materials, such as melt, crystallize, fuse, drip, or maintain stability. I am curious about which elements become obscured and which do not. This surely has something to do with the powers of nature to create and destroy, and my approximation of these behaviors. It is my hope that a person who uses my cup be teased into thinking about these processes.
ON MENTORS I remember sitting on the concrete floor of my studio. Tony Hepburn, my teacher at the time, was sitting somewhere near the back of the space fiddling around with bits of material on my table with a grey pallet knife. He had an unsettling ability to be relaxed in the most intense of times. I was in my second year at Alfred, and failing. I’d failed every semester since my first and was beginning to finally realize that I just didn’t get “it”.
By the way, realizing is different than accepting. We were three days out from our mid-year critique and my situation wasn’t good. Tony asked me, “What do you really FEEL like doing at this moment?” He emphasized the word, “feel.” For artists, “feel” has all kinds of meanings, interpretations, and consequences. I sure as hell didn’t know what I was feeling other than pent-up frustration, and perhaps even a bit of embarrassment at my state of affairs.
“I feel like busting the whole thing up,” I answered, and then added, for reasons I’ve never quite understood, “and making drawings of the mess.”
The beauty of apprenticeships is that there is a more proximate exchange between the mentor and the apprentice. It’s during the course of an ordinary day in a studio that ideas and approaches and life lessons are shared. There is time to develop points of view and knowledge to push forward. Also, both parties have something to offer in terms of problem solving and influence. It really is a mutually beneficial dance.
“Okay. That’s an idea,” as he continued to push shattered dried clay into lines and bunches. “What are you afraid of?” “If I were to do that I’ll probably fail on Thursday.” A subtle smile came across Hepburn’s face, the kind you get when you’re holding the winning card, and he answered, “Well, you can choose to fail the critique AND your intuition, or you can just choose to fail the critique.” Whether we make pots, sculpture, or whatever, how we respond to that world of our “self” is important. With one life to live, we have to make the most of it. I like this Western world’s take on “voice” because there is pressure to carve out a space for ourselves and push limits of who we are as individuals inhabiting this chaos. My mentor, Tony Hepburn, demonstrated to me that the next step was to realize how failure is a natural progression to discovering who I am and why I make.
One of the most exciting developments in American ceramics has been the growth of opportunities for apprenticeships. In the early days of my own career I went looking for an apprenticeship, but they were few and far between. I chose to work at a production pottery in Georgia because at the time I thought I needed more specific skills than an apprenticeship would have offered.
ON LEARNING I can’t imagine my life as an artist without my MFA. But that’s my own experience that shouts out. I don’t believe that’s true for every person. Going through the process of acquiring an MFA should be full of risk, challenge, and adventure. If these elements are present, I can’t see how the process couldn’t be crucial for an artist. The experience of pursuing my Master’s degree taught me, above all, how to ask questions about my work and my ideas. It provided me the time and opportunity to develop a “thick skin”, which is important for continual development of work. Additionally, the experience introduced me to phenomenal teachers and classmates who believe so deeply in what they do. They became models for where I would go next. Interestingly, still to this day lessons are revealed that I didn’t know were there, just under the surface.
Susan Dewsnap Lewiston, Maine
BIOGRAPHY Susan grew up in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Her ceramic study began at a community clay studio in Boulder, Colorado and matured through intensive summer workshops at Haystack Mountain School in Maine and The Penland School in North Carolina. She received a BFA in painting from the University of New Hampshire and an MFA in ceramics from the University of NebraskaLincoln, where she also taught from 2008 through 2012. Susan currently teaches ceramics at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Her work is represented in galleries across the United States. Susan exhibits her ceramic work nationally and internationally with awards from the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts Biennial, the World Ceramic Biennale Korea International Competition, and Best of Show in the Strictly Functional Pottery National Exhibition.
STATEMENT My work draws from my passion for art history as an eternal source and presence, and is equally tied and indebted to the history of the decorative arts. I consider each pot as presenting a particular issue or problem of invention to be solved and brought to fruition, where interior meets exterior. My recent passions include how to evoke the gesture of a pot by merging the structure of the three-dimensional form with a surface of composed drawing. 47
The pot is the setting for the active and contemplative to work together to create beautiful objects.
ON CUPS I use a Chris Staley cup every day for coffee because this particular cup is just the right one, day after day after day: the roundness, the heft, how the handle rests on my finger, the feel of the glaze, the glowing interior space belied by its external size and subtle bellied contour. My learning to make cups and pots owes a debt to the many teachers with whom I studied during five years of summer workshops from 1995 to 2000. The first time I saw a cup made on the wheel was by Chris Staley at Haystack. It was my first ceramic workshop. He imparted not only the mechanics of making a cup but that there was a philosophy behind a cup. This was the beginning of my ceramic education. During that workshop I bought a faceted tea bowl by Jeff Oestreich and a yunomi by Michael Simon. What has stayed with me about those two cups is the significance of the interiors. Ellen Shankin dedicated time to teach the particular and practical aspects of how to pull a handle off a cup, something I had never been taught. Clary Illian improved my handles and taught me how different handles fit different cups and could contribute to the dynamics embedded within each form. At the University of Nebraska, my friend and mentor
Gail Kendall’s plainspoken critiques and love of pots were instrumental in pushing my work forward. In part, these critiques came in the form of learning to appreciate cups through use, over morning or late afternoon perfect cappuccinos and conversation. I have a clear memory of my first ceramic cup in the form of a child’s cup in my family’s kitchen cabinet. We were four children and one cup and, being the oldest, I can recall putting dibs on that cup at dinnertime. I see myself reaching for that cup and pulling it out of the cabinet: shiny baked-bean brown on the outside with a cloudy turquoise color inside, a simple cylinder with a squared handle. Cups became more significant in another way later during college, when I came to use them as compositional devices in still life paintings. I was always on the lookout for teacups and saucers, gravy boats, perfectly shaped pears, sliced watermelon, and surfaces of cloth or patterns upon which to arrange these objects. It was the search for such potentially precise intimate objects that presented my first encounter with handmade pots. I found them at a yard sale in Colorado. As luck would have it for my future pottery life, these initial sources happened to be very considered, well-made pots. Having these pots around made me happier to be in my kitchen. A new world opened up to me where I was as concerned with which bowls, plates, and cups to serve in as about the food itself. I suppose the use of these pots inspired me to enroll in my first ceramics class soon after their entry into my life.
I am challenged by the marriage of form and surface in my artwork and I enjoy blurring the line between functional and purely decorative objects. I am influenced greatly by architecture in my daily life. Much like architecture, my work examines the elements of interior and exterior, function, surface design and adornment, and it is designed with a consideration of the relationship to its surroundings.
Marc Digeros, originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, now resides in Los Angeles, California where he works for the architect Frank Gehry as model shop manager. He received his MFA from the University of Washington and his BFA from the University of Minnesota. He spent two years in Helena, MT as a Resident Artist at the Archie Bray Foundation and received the first ever Taunt Fellowship during his residency. He has taught at schools in the Los Angeles area including CSU (California State University) Northridge, CSU Long Beach, as well as the University of Southern California.
During my undergraduate schooling at the University of Minnesota (1993-1995) I had the opportunity to be studio assistant to Curtis Hoard, head of ceramics at that time. Curtâ€™s work ranged from functional thrown pottery to hand-built slab sculptures with painted figural imagery. He also worked in many clay types: earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain, and used many firing methods. I enjoyed how Curt did not limit himself or his creativity to one idea, freely choosing to work in the functional realm one minute and sculptural the next. Of course, his studio was vast and easily allowed for this.
My pieces are hand-built using thin slabs to construct walls that wrap around slump-molded bases. As I build, I try to leave clues as to how my pieces have been constructed, such as seams and other marks that result from my hands and tools touching the clay. Similarly, I design and glaze my pieces with the understanding that the kiln will often transform my perfecting tendencies into happy accidents that canâ€™t always be reproduced. Many times it is this unforeseeable outcome that fuels my desire to create.
Marc Digeros North Hills, California
ON CUPS I really can’t say anyone ever taught me how to make a cup. I really can’t even say that I focused on making cups until relatively recently. I do remember, again at the University of Minnesota, being a teaching assistant for Mark Pharis, and watching a cup demo for his beginning wheel throwing class. He threw what most people would call a travel mug, the kind of cup with a super wide base that tapers up and in, then about two-thirds from the top straightens to a cylinder. A very typically mundane cup, something I had seen time and time again at craft fairs, though somehow, his proportions were tweaked just enough that it was really nice. It’s an interesting thing that I still think about it. It was so well considered, but for him, effortless. I grew up in Minneapolis, MN. My family was pretty conservative, at least in our daily routine. We were not what I would call extravagant in any way. We ate food off of Corelle dinnerware and used simple glasses most of the time. We even used the glass jars left over from corned beef as juice glasses. Even today, my wife and I drink and eat mostly from non-precious items. The exception for me is my coffee cup. I have one cup that I use every day. It happens to be a thrown stoneware cup that I made a few years ago. It holds just the right amount of coffee. I like how the handle feels and the color is earthy but also has some mystery to it. I think it’s a little strange that I don’t ever reach for a cup that someone else made, even though we have several that I love. However, I’m not going to try to diagnose this psychological dilemma!
If I had to choose a favorite cup, it would be one of Steven Godfrey’s cups. I love the way that Steve works with porcelain; to see him work with it is a treat. Steve’s pieces are contradictions of looseness and control with the clay. Steve and I overlapped for a couple months at the Archie Bray Foundation in 1998. I had only been there for a short time when he was asked to come teach in Alaska. I am so glad that I got to know him then.
ON INFLUENCE I find that my daily life influences me far more than art. I am influenced greatly by architecture, pattern, and design. I often find inspiration in art, but the real challenge is resisting the urge to copy and borrow from that art. The drive for originality is constant for me, sometimes so much so that it’s hard to create or live with something if the idea is borrowed. I went to the University of Washington for my MFA. People in MN who found out that I was going there would exclaim, “But you’re a potter, what will you do?” Well, I ended up making sculptural work for a couple years. I won’t comment if it was great work, but what it taught me was that I have a creative voice that can be expressed in multiple ways. Just as I saw with Curtis Hoard when I was his studio assistant, I realized it was important not to limit myself to one form of creative process. Would I be a better potter if I had focused only on pots during my graduate experience? I can’t answer that for sure, but I am happy that I experienced a time where I made some things totally unrelated to pots.
Maria Dondero Athens, Georgia
BIOGRAPHY Maria Dondero has lived in Athens, GA for 15 years and considers it her home. Born the youngest of five children in Yaoundé, Cameroon, her large family and travel has influenced her work greatly. A love of eating delicious food and an appreciation for how the presentation of that food adds to the experience led her to pottery. She took her first class while living in Guanajuato, Mexico in 2000, fell in love and has been making pots and teaching ever since. Following in her family’s footsteps, Dondero continued to study and work abroad, being particularly influenced by terracotta in Italy and slipware in Japan. In May 2008, she completed her MFA at the University of Georgia. After teaching adjunct Ceramics for a year, in September 2009, she opened up a studio/gallery in Athens and started making work under the name Marmalade Pottery. In January 2016, she renovated an old heating and air manufacturer into a larger studio and gallery. The studio provides space for a vibrant community of artists and a gallery to present their work. Dondero’s pots are represented in galleries all over the country, and she participates in many invitational and juried shows and online sales. She has taught at universities and workshops throughout the Southeast.
In January 2012, she gave birth to twin boys and now splits her time between pottery, teaching and them. The characters she draws on her pots now tend to show up in twos. Her work focuses on functional pottery with an aesthetic that draws on the age-old and worldwide history of ceramics. While subtly referencing pottery traditions from around the world, Maria intuitively sketches images from her surroundings, grounding her work in the Georgia soil.
ON CUPS I love cups so much. My favorite mug is one that my professor Ted Saupe gave me at my BFA show. It is beautiful and simple, and made SO well that I learned the most important lesson of my whole schooling when I picked it up and took a drink. My work felt nothing like that and I had so far to go! The experience of drinking out of the cup was transformative and in that moment I realized what I was working toward: for my pots to someday feel like that. Both loose and strong, the perfect blend of heft and lightness, a handle so comfortable you never wanted to let go, and a simple grace that cannot be intentionally put in the work, except by the grace of the maker. No technical skills can teach it, no talking about pots can put your finger on what it is, but when you feel it, you know.
ON MENTORS Recently I addressed a birthday card to â€œthe best pottery hero a gal could ever have.â€? It was such an honor; Ron Meyers invited my family to his 80th birthday party. What else could I write to the man whom I believe to be a national living treasure, and someone who has become a mentor, guide and friend? Hailing from the pottery legends town of Athens, GA, I have always felt the power of making pots where Ron Meyers and Michael Simon worked. Their history, the stories they tell, and finding their pots in use and on display at many, many homes around me
has imbued this town with sacred culture of pottery. When Ron invited me to be in a show with him soon after I got my MFA, I could barely believe my luck. Here was my hero inviting me to put my work in a show with his! It was such a boost of confidence, one that I greatly needed. It gave me the courage to build more of a relationship with him and with Michael Simon. As they took on more of a role of mentor to me, I learned what a beautiful give and take it is to have that mentor/mentee
relationship. I think it is so important to honor and learn from those who came before us, and equally important to talk with and learn from new potters. Teaching at UGA has given me the opportunity to work with many students in clay. The freshness and excitement they bring to clay reminds me to look up from my work and try something new. I remember why I love working with clay and pots in the first place, and it revitalizes what sometimes seems like work back into play. Hopefully that lightness translates through the work and to the person who uses it. 52
Paul Donnelly Kansas City, Missouri
BIOGRAPHY Paul Donnelly is a studio potter residing in Kansas City, MO. He is currently an Associate Professor of Ceramics at the Kansas City Art Institute working with students in the vessel concentration. He received his BFA from Edinboro University in 1997 and his MFA from the NYSCC at Alfred University in 2008. 53
He has participated in residency programs at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, The Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen, China, and Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts in Newcastle, ME. He has exhibited both nationally and internationally and has been published in numerous books and periodicals.
I am interested in functional pottery because of its long history and close proximity to humankind. Through use and display, pots will impart meaning that will change during the user’s relationship with the work. The objects we interact with on a daily basis can conjure experiences in our lives, often becoming an article of sentiment. The pieces that I produce are inspired by both architectural and natural settings. I intend to exploit the beauty of ceramic materials as a means to draw comparisons to these ideas without replicating them directly or realistically.
The Clay Studio mentored me through many transitions. The organization gave me the opportunity to learn how to teach and be an artist. I made the decision to make functional pottery while sitting in the shared studio space at The Clay Studio. The idea of using pottery as vehicle of expression was more alluring to me because it is useful, interactive, more affordable, and therefore more accessible. This decision was prompted by being in a new environment, surrounded by a community of talented makers. I saw that being a studio potter could be a viable career. Almost every day after work I would spend some time looking around in The Clay Studio gallery, examining work, and imagining how a particular artist designed a work or incorporated a mark. More importantly, I learned how concepts were portrayed through material, methodology, and labor. These experiences allowed me to reflect on my own work and the types of objects that I was making.
Lee Rexrode gave me my first handmade cup while I was in undergraduate school. As one of the first real utilitarian objects I owned, it taught me so much, especially about design, function, and capturing the makers’ essence in an impactful way. I remember being floored by the handle and how considered it was in regard to the way the piece functioned. The cup works effortlessly and is great to engage with because of the manner in which it rests between the fingers. Over time, this one important object taught me about the attention to detail and the thoughtfulness that is required to be a maker.
Investigation into design and function is a really important aspect of my practice. The works that I create are intended for a specific function or made for a particular purpose. I am interested in using a variety of forming techniques such as wheel throwing, hand-building, and slip-casting in conjunction with 3D modeling to create work. Often, I utilize these techniques within the same piece as a means to blur the concepts and associations to individuality and mass production. I like finding a balance within my work where the evidence of the “hand” is at times present, and other times fleeting, yet all of the pieces speak of one of the potter’s greatest strengths: individuality.
As a Resident Artist at The Clay Studio, my work became more refined and evolved into a more specific style. My partner Rain Harris always challenged me to do more with surface and to develop a more personal style. Hide Sadohara caused me to realize that sometimes your approach to making needs to be complex in order to produce work that feels effortless. I would have to say that out of all the Resident Artists, it was Brad Johnson who left a lasting impression on me professionally and personally. This mentorship came mostly through friendship, but a lot was learned about making and evaluating work. Brad always challenged me to improve what I was doing and how I was considering the forms I was making. I always thought his sense of touch and the manner in which he engaged the materials resulted in some of the most beautiful pieces. Some of my most favorite works since I have been working in clay are works he produced.
Cups have become one of the quintessential staples of the studio potter in the last 20 years. They have also become one of the more collectable objects because of their price point, accessibility, and function. I think in the last 15 years studio potters have been making more complex individualized objects because they are addressing both surface and form with greater sophistication. I see more artists and collectors building cupboards to display their collections out in the open in their homes. Galleries are putting on more and more cup shows because there is a greater variety of makers out there and cups are more accessible. The rise of social media is making our community more tightknit and we are becoming more aware of what people are making and the processes they are engaged in. It is also allowing for more work to be available in regions that might not have access to certain artists. All of this is making the cup an object of popularity in the early 21st century. I like collecting cups because using them reminds me of the people who made them and the stories we share. They also allow me to reflect in ways I might not because I am so distracted in everyday life; they truly are engaging objects.
Zach DuncanTessmer Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Zach Duncan-Tessmer grew up in rural Ohio, where he developed an interest in how to make things and then destroy them. He later attended Ohio University and Cranbrook Academy of Art. He was the ceramics technician at Cranbrook, University of the Arts, Abington Art Center, and did technical work for The Ceramic Shop. He was a Resident Artist at The Clay Studio, Philadelphia. When he’s not making pottery, he’s either driving one of his kids somewhere or riding his mountain bike. To this day, he destroys about one quarter of the things he makes.
When I think of the mentors in my life I suddenly feel very lucky. Most of them I have been introduced to through circumstance, not choice. When I decided to become a ceramics major at Ohio University, Brad Schwieger was not yet faculty. In fact, we sort of started at the same time. One of my first memories of that program is Brad’s introductory lecture in a small room on the fourth floor. Because he was new to the area, Brad didn’t have a studio space at home. Instead, he took over one of the graduate student spaces in the department. For the next three years he worked just across the way from me. I often helped and I constantly observed. In particular, I remember helping him with a large mold he was making. We had just poured about three gallons of plaster into it when a famously clumsy student came in excited to tell Brad something. In his fervor he hip checked the table pretty hard, and suddenly three gallons of liquid plaster were pouring over the table edge directly onto the new leather hiking boots that Brad had just been showing off. Brad looked at me, looked at the other student, looked at his new shoes and said in his gruff and taciturn way, “Well… shit.” I found that very informative. What I learned is that ceramics is hard. Stuff goes wrong, it’s not surprising, but you have to just clean off your shoes and get back to work. I still pull handles exactly the way I learned from Brad back then (mixed with a few of my own superstitions).
STATEMENT If I made enough pots, do you think you could come to know me by looking at and handling them? If every pot I made was a direct response to a conversation I had with the eventual user, how would they be different than if I didn’t? When I make pots, who am I making them for? Myself? An imagined other? Isn’t that just me in another guise? All these questions and more will be answered if you just stare hard enough at my work. Or you could pick it up, take it home and use it for a year. See what that does for you. I think the gallery will make you pay for it first, though.
ON CUPS It wasn’t until graduate school that I really explored what a cup is. In my first critique, Tony Hepburn encouraged me to actually serve coffee and tea in the vessels I was making. It was a disaster. The cups were too shallow, hot liquid spilled everywhere, people had to move around the crit space too carefully and there was no place to put anything down. It was then that I realized the contextual nature of the word “function.” I began to really focus on the idea that the potter imagines how pots will be used and
then tries to build an appropriate pot for that situation. However, it is another act of imagination that causes a consumer to choose a particular pot. The only link between these two imagined worlds is the pot itself. I began interviewing people in the spaces they most often would sit and drink coffee or tea or water, and then made cups specific to that context. This branched out in many directions and I must have made at least one thousand different cups. As I write this, I am using a cup I just took out of the kiln yesterday.
It is made with New Zealand porcelain, round as a globe and translucent as wax paper. Tomorrow it might be the Paul Donnelly with a “three” scratched into the bottom from a series of tests he did, or the mystery mug, expertly thrown, with an inscrutable stamp next to the handle that was purchased for $0.25 from the Thrifty Irishman. If I could have any cup, it would probably be one of the quasi-functional geometric ones made by Ken Price in the 1970’s. Their physical playfulness belies the deeper philosophical components of Price’s work while still being able to hold liquid (I think). 56
Sanam Emami Fort Collins, Colorado
ON MENTORS As a liberal arts student in a university art/ ceramic class, I learned about the importance of learning to seeâ€”looking at history, at the world around me, at the work of other potters. I learned about work through making and doing. I learned about risk, failure, and striving for something that was in my head but beyond the skills of my hands. I learned how to begin to talk and write about the work. I learned how hard it was to make a good cup. 57
These are lessons that I learned from my mentors and teachers and lessons that I strive to share with my students.
ON INFLUENCE I tell my students to observe the world around them: look at books in the library, objects in museums, and contemporary makers. Take as much inspiration and influences as you want, but do it honestly. Your â€œcopyâ€? will never be the same as the original.
This is an important and valid way to work and learn. We observe and we imitate and hopefully then we can create something that is vital and worth pursuing. How we pick and choose our sources is also relevant. Mining for ideas from history is different than taking from a contemporary source. The historical is an original source, while the contemporary piece has already been filtered.
Sanam Emami is a ceramic artist and an Associate Professor of Pottery at Colorado State University, Fort Collins. She received a BA in History from James Madison University in Virginia, and an MFA in Ceramics from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. She was a Visiting Assistant Professor in Ceramics at Alfred University, Resident Artist at the Archie Bray Foundation in Montana, and has lectured at the Office for the Arts at Harvard University, the Kansas City Art Institute, Arizona State University Art Museum-Ceramic Research Center, and NCECA in Louisville, Kentucky. She received a New York Foundation for the Arts Grant for Craft and her work has been in exhibitions at numerous galleries across the country, including The Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston; Greenwich House Pottery, New York City; The Art-Stream Nomadic Gallery; Northern Clay Center, Minnesota.
“The generic cup, in its stupidity, treats every coffee drinking situation as if it were indistinguishable from the last. To approach the domain of coffee drinking this way is to dehumanize yourself as well. If we are to be human beings at all, we must distinguish ourselves from others; there must be moments when we rise up out of the generic and banal and into the particular and skillfully engaged.”
“If the potter is making utensils for use – simple bowls, pitchers, mugs and plates – he is doing two things at the same time: he is making ware that may give pleasure in use, which provides one form of satisfaction to the maker, and he is traveling in the never-ending search for perfection of form, which gives a different gratification.”
My pots and tiles are made with a specific intent and function. Plates, cups, and tiles are ubiquitous, recognizable. The vases and their multiple spouts are curious when empty; when filled with flowers their function is revealed. The tile is a background or canvas. The cup provides a counterpoint; the curves and movement of the form interact with the surface pattern and imagery. The parameters of the functional pot simultaneously create boundaries and endless possibilities. Ideas come from different places: a book, a conversation, or a glimpse of something familiar, like a favorite historical pot that can seem new, as if seen for the first time. The studio space is where the concepts and inspiration take shape and become tangible and dimensional. The concept of unity with variety is important. For example, combining soft marks and volumes with crisp edges and lines. I am interested in creating contrasting gestures that can coexist within a pot or a tile through mark making, symmetry, and repeated patterns.
– All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age, Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly “Hamada once said that a good tea bowl was much bigger on the inside than the outside. He meant that when you hold it on the outside it feels small, comfortable in the hands, and yet it is generous on the inside.” – The Potter’s Challenge, Bernard Leach
– The Potter’s Challenge, Bernard Leach The cup is a container for food or drink, and a container of ideas. It is familiar and intimate, yet also abstract and universal. It can be challenging to articulate what makes it distinctive and specific. This object, used daily, filled with our favorite drinks, held in our hands, brought to our lips, is also an elusive object to create and talk about. The cups I would most like to own and hold and use would be a Japanese tea bowl, a Persian tankard, and a Lucie Rie cup and saucer. These are cups I often look at in books and museums and which represent vastly different interpretations of what a cup can be. I have imagined my fingers exploring their textures and surfaces, their weight in my hands, the bountiful interiors, the delicate and full lips, the movement, the proportion, and of course, the joy of drinking out of them.
Heather Mae Erickson Sylva, North Carolina
Erickson earned her BFA at The University of the Arts and her MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art.
James Makins, the late Lizbeth Stewart and Alec Karros were my major mentors at The University of the Arts in undergraduate ceramic studies. Each continue to have key roles in informing my work, research, processes and thoughts around the idea of the cup. I remember one of my first assignments in hand building with Liz, similar to a project I love to give my students: rethinking the cup. Her challenge was to think beyond the cups we know and use. To learn to see, investigate and explore the material to discover new forms and ways of bringing liquid to the mouth for sustenance. Not knowing the full extent of what was possible with the material at that stage was both a challenge and a gift. I remember one particular cup that I built that she set aside. I knew there was an explanation to why she thought it was strongest. At that point, I did not know if I understood the choice or even remember what she said, but years later I have come to reflect on key moments like this as reminders to slow down, look, analyze and self-critique. I try to understand how conversations, dialogue and critique with mentors/mentees create meaningful interactions at both points in the development stages in the meaning and in the making. Parallel to the hand building experience was wheel throwing with Jim. He taught me similar values as Liz but from a different perspective. I remember he told stories about his experiences making work that was influenced by the East as well as the West.
She was awarded a Fulbright to study at Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland from 2004-2005, and an Independence Fellowship for a summer 2009 residency at The International Ceramic Research Center in Denmark. Erickson has been a summer resident at the Archie Bray Foundation for Ceramic Arts, Resident Artist at the The Clay Studio, Philadelphia and was the 2009-2012 Robert Chapman Turner Teaching Fellow in Ceramic Art at Alfred University. Erickson has taught at The University of the Arts, Rowan University, Arcadia University, Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, Red Rocks Community College, Colorado Mountain College-Aspen Campus, Arapahoe Community College, and CU Boulder. Erickson is the newly appointed Assistant Professor and Ceramics Coordinator at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee and now resides in Sylva, North Carolina. She has earned numerous awards, including first place for the Horizon Award presented by the Museum of Art and Design in New York and honorable mentions at the Korea Biennale International 2007 & 2009 Exhibitions.
He instilled in me a drive to understand the material and the history of the objects I desired to create. He instilled the need for repetition, which is key when mastering the potter’s wheel. He pushed me to keep exploring and dig deeper into the “how” and “why” of what I make. Through conversations that conveyed his passion for the material, objects, history and critique, my love for functional objects was cemented. Alec Karros informed my practice by continuing my need for repetition and practice in making. His mentorship came at a time where investigation took me to the surfaces of the cup forms. The surface did not and still to this day does not come easily to me, but I know that not having the perfect fit at the time helped me to have confidence to challenge myself in graduate school, to develop, test and push my raw material research. I now think beyond making a cup. I have developed techniques that push my expectations of what the cup might accomplish or speak to beyond mere use. Working with the late Tony Hepburn and designer Scott Klinker at Cranbrook Academy of Art helped nurture the ideas, and the concepts began to flourish and grow though an even deeper investigation into how objects convey ideas, how they can teach something new and allow one to stop, look and question. I now deal with the cup as one object as a part of a whole or a small part of a larger narrative.
STATEMENT The Perfect Imperfection Collection (2016) challenges expectations of a material, a process, and objects in a field that is deeply rooted in cultural and historical precedents. The work plays with notions of and breaks free from quintessential expectations and allows for new standards to be set. These objects were created though an allowance and acceptance of what most deem as imperfections. What does it mean for something to embody the perfectness of a concept, function, or object? The objects reveal a discovery of beauty in playing with the residue of process. 60
Paul Eshelman Elizabeth, Illinois
BIOGRAPHY The trajectory that my life and work has taken is often a surprise to me. I come from very practical people. My early enchantment with the visual was grafted onto the family taproot of science and technology. Although architecture would have seemed a natural fit, I fell in love with clay and the crafting of usable objects. There were false starts and dead ends, but since 1988, producing slip cast pottery has been my work and my livelihood. My studio workshop employs myself, my wife, Laurel, and one or two others depending on the work schedule. My introduction to slip casting and plaster took place three years after my formal studio clay education (MFA Rhode Island of Design, 1981). I participated in a week-long plaster workshop taught by Tim Carder, a designer from the Lenox China Company. I was searching for a process that would allow for efficient production of ideas I was exploring in slab work. The slip casting process introduced in the workshop is what I use now— working from sketches to plaster models to molds from which the clay pieces are cast. I have found that working with plaster models allows me to refine the forms far more than when working directly with clay. My interest in slip casting led to an investigation of industrial design. In 1987 I began an MFA program in product design at The Ohio State University. 61
I was introduced to the rigors of the design process. Each detail of a project was considered with attention given to scale, function, ergonomics, and material ease or difficulty of manufacture. Although I did not pursue product design and did not finish the program, I do use the design process in a more informal way when working on a new piece. It informs the design of pieces that function well and are of a scale and proportion appropriate to contemporary use. I am heartened when I talk to someone who has used one of my pieces for years and it continues to work well and satisfy aesthetically.
STATEMENT Paul Eshelman’s clay vessels order and dignify human life. The simple fueling of one’s body can be given poignancy and weight when the vessels used are not heartless disposables but well-crafted pots that serve with elegance. Clarity is given to his simple forms by contrasting glazed and unglazed surfaces. Pure clean glazes render elegant presentation of food and drink. The pieces are made using a casting process in molds Paul designs and makes. The clay body is a red stoneware; the glazes are all lead free. The wares may be safely used in the microwave and dishwasher as well as the conventional oven if the oven is not preheated.
The principal design criteria for his work are functional needs. The needed volume of a cup or bowl, the profile of a rim, or the size and shape of a handle are primarily determined by use and user. As in the creation of all things, the processes used largely determine the sense and aesthetics of the final object. His pieces are designed using the visual language of symmetry and asymmetry, form and transitions between forms, and proportion. Culture has been defined as what we make of the world. Eshelman’s pots enter an age noted for frenzied activity and visual distraction. This world fragments our lives in profound ways. Functional pottery is his cultural attempt, through the material of clay, to bring order and human dignity to the merely physical act of consuming food and drink. As his pots are used daily, Paul’s hope is that they carry measures of quiet and nourishment for body and spirit. He imagines people at a dinner table, workspace, or office cubicle where food and drink are served and humanized by a hospitable, well-ordered pot.
ON MENTORS I cannot say I ever had a close mentor. However, one who was a model for me starting out in Iowa was Bob Andersen of Sunflower Pottery. He was the only selfsupporting potter I knew. He helped me believe it was possible to support oneself in clay.
ON CUPS A cup I have had for a long time and love was made by Steve Lee. We did a trade at an art show. It is unadorned white porcelain with a pearshaped body. The handle is slender but more robust at top and bottom, providing a sense of security. The tall form with slightly narrow top keeps the coffee hot long enough. It is a great cup and I will feel sad if someday I break it. Cups are some of my favorite pots to make and certainly my favorite to buy and use. They are the most intimate of pots, being held in the hand and touched by the lips. The experience is highly personal. I meet the potter there and am addressed by his or her sensibilities. Cups are humble objects. They usually don’t shout to gain attention. They don’t demand much shelf space. They submit willingly to daily use and are the most affordable pots a potter will make. They are lovely objects to have and use. I own and enjoy using cups made by many potters. As I hold and drink from them, they teach me. There are a number of slip casters doing fantastic work. Among them are Hiroe Hanazono, Heather Mae Erickson and Mimi McPartlan. Their cups are well conceived and carefully crafted. They are a delight. Surviving financially on one’s clay work has always been tricky. The perfect balance between time for production and new work is a hard balance to achieve. It swings too far one way or the other. For the student or resident, perhaps the stress lies too heavily on innovation. For me as a production potter, the emphasis is weighted too much on production. But the demands of keeping the bills paid and everyone fed are a real concern. I do relish the role of maker and love to see my work being launched into the sea of culture in which we swim.
Future Retrieval Guy Michael Davis & Katie Parker Cincinnati, Ohio
Guy Michael Davis was born in 1978 and raised in Bartlesville, OK. Katie Parker was born in 1980 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and grew up in Plano, Texas. They both attended the Kansas City Art Institute from 1999-2003 and received BFA degrees in ceramics.
The objects presented merge the strengths of our studio practice â€“ a dark vein backed by a historical current. Ornament and detail collide with a fascination of taxidermy and natural order. Each object contains a history, reaching back and highlighting ideals of time and labor.
Katie went straight to graduate school at The Ohio State University from 2003-2005, Guy followed suit three years later from 2006-2008. Both Katie and Guy received MFA degrees in ceramics.
Since 2008 we have been working in collaboration to develop a unique aesthetic, a look that falls in between the worlds of art and design. Our process is in the conceptualization, discovery, and acquisition of form, lately objects of art historical significance. We use digital imaging that includes 3D scanning, CNC milling, and rapid prototyping to scale up or down with exacting precision, transforming our collected objects into the ceramic medium. Mold making, including working with plaster, rubbers, and high-density foam bring these digital processes to life in our studio, allowing for exacting replication. Lastly, once we have these forms, we can re-contextualize, compose, alter, and ornament, bringing the work into a 21st century dialogue with history. Our intention is to make content-loaded sculptures that reference design and are held together by craft. We incorporate an interdisciplinary approach to our work whenever possible, striving to make the historic objects that influence us relevant to today. The interest in new technologies and industrial methods is that each piece is handmade, but maintains the record of a computer driven interpretation.
In terms of something we love to use, we have to be more broad than specific. We usually go for the cup that is sturdy and stable, designed well, holds substantial volume, is ergonomic, and has simple aesthetics. Strangely, this more often than not turns out to be the Fiesta ware mugs from the factory seconds store in Ohio. They are always at the front of the cabinet.
Currently, Katie is an Associate Professor at the University of Cincinnati, running the ceramics department. Guy works for multiple designers across the country, and is an adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Cincinnati. They have exhibited both nationally and internationally, with recent shows in New York City, Jingdezhen, China, Cardiff, Wales, Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Tempe, Arizona. Last summer they were both artists in residence at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha, NE and were recently awarded Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowships.
We would murder to have a SĂŠvres teacup from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We love collecting and love objects of art historical significance; sadly our budget restricts us to buying broken pieces on eBay.
ON INFLUENCE You may never really know what you are absorbing, but it is important to always be looking at everything. Influence can be intrinsic, but you have also to feed it. Is everyone making a cup essentially copying? Andy Warhol did it just fine. We prefer the term appropriation; it isnâ€™t copying if you change it. If you identify something of quality and can work to achieve those characteristics then you know you have gotten somewhere and made a fine thing. After that, further liberties can be taken to reinvent and own it for yourself. Working with someone who knows what they are doing is about as meaningful of an experience as you can have these days. I have witnessed students that serve as an apprentice or assistant develop at an accelerated rate. Once you start making, you have to keep doing it. It is so easy to stop, and so hard to maintain an active studio practice. If you do one thing every day related to your work and studio, you can make it happen. Identify a mentor and follow them: their career, their work, their Instagram and web presence, and then aim a little higher. 64
Stuart Gair Lincoln, Nebraska
BIOGRAPHY Stuart Gair received a history degree from Ohio University and is currently working toward an MFA from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. Recently, Stuart completed a residency program at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts as the Salad Days Artist, which required him to make over 500 plates for an annual fundraiser held in Newcastle, Maine. Stuart draws inspiration for his wheel-thrown stoneware vessels from mid-twentieth century Scandinavian forms, Korean wares from the Buncheong era, and architectural patterns that surround him in Lincoln. This past summer, Stuart received the Warren MacKenzie Advancement Award, which allowed him to visit museums and private collections in major cities on the east coast in order to view ceramic objects from the past that influence him the most.
STATEMENT I make pottery that is intricately decorated and utilitarian in nature. It is important that each piece feels unique and authentic in order to draw the viewer in for further contemplation and closer examination. As a student of history, Iâ€™m drawn to the essence of strength found in architecture, masonry, and work that has endured through time. Surface treatment provides me the opportunity to explore these interests through the subtleties of architectural pattern, detail, geometry, and design. I use form and surface treatment to fulfill my desire to investigate trends from both the past and present and relate it to my work. Linear lines, planes, and dot patterns evoke a sense of strength and rigidity that can be traced to the designs and patterns of architectural elements that surround me. Sleek, simple forms are a result of my study of mid-twentieth century Scandinavian wares, as well as objects made by the Korean culture during the Buncheong period, both of which are traditionally characterized as having a minimal and clean presentation. The division
of the planes between clean and textured surface is a way to accentuate the details and form of each piece and provide points of rest. The application of detailed patterns on traditionally clean surfaces creates a historical contrast that is present in my work. My background in the study of history provides me with insight about my own work in reference to larger historical context. I find it deeply satisfying to create objects that can be used and enjoyed. The ideas of continuity and progress throughout history fascinate me and inspire my evolving aesthetic.
ON MENTORS My first mentor was Brad Schwiegger. I was a history major at Ohio University and took classes in ceramics to fill university requirements and because I enjoyed the class I took in high school. I thoroughly enjoyed both ceramics and history but had a difficult time choosing one over the other. It was Brad, my first wheel-throwing instructor, who informed me about the rich history of ceramics and how I could integrate my studies into the objects I made. I have continued this approach to my making/thought process and enjoy studying civilizations by the pots they made and relate it to my own work as a potter in the 21st century. My relationship with Brad has remained strong over the years. Not only has he continued to give me great feedback about my work, he has also served as a friend full of wisdom and advice.
ON CUPS Brad Schwiegger taught me how to make my first cup. The things that have stayed with me the most are the particular attention he gives to comfort. Specifically, the feel of the handle and how it functions during use. Additionally, Brad taught me to pay very close attention to the lip of the pot and how important a subtle angle change may be to its use. I have been told numerous times that the lip of my cups
feel similar to those of Bradâ€™s, which I take as a huge compliment. My favorite cup is made by James Tingey. It is a one-fingered cup that holds a substantial amount of liquid AND is comfortable, a combination that I think is difficult to achieve. I enjoy using it not only because of the alluring soda-fired surface and its comfort, but because James was one of my greatest mentors while I was an undergraduate student. He was a grad student at the time and taught me many processes and techniques that I continue to use when making my own work. I have always wanted a cup made by Jeff Oestreich because of the complexity and control of the surface he is able to achieve, as well as the weight of the object itself.
ON INFLUENCE All of my close mentors have had a substantial amount of influence on me. Whether or not I know it or intend to do so, certain characteristics of my mentorâ€™s pots have come out in my own work. My mentors have done a great job of not instructing me that one technique is better than another, but rather showed me the path they chose and why they did so. I think copying can be a valuable exercise and there is a lot to be learned from doing so. I also think it is interesting when a form or surface is copied and then interpreted in a different way. I experience this quite often with my own students. After giving a demonstration on one way to carve through slip, often times the majority of the class will carve the same pattern but with a different tool, or through a different slip. It is always interesting to see this kind of variation.
BIOGRAPHY Julia Galloway is a utilitarian potter and professor at the School of Art, University of Montana, Missoula. Julia was born and raised in Boston. She did her graduate studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, her BFA at New York State College of Art & Design at Alfred University and studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design. Julia has served on the board of the
STATEMENT Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts. In addition, she has developed service-based websites: “Montana Clay” and “The Field Guide for Ceramics Artisans.”
I am interested in pottery that is joyous; objects that weave into our daily lives through use. Pottery decorates our living spaces with character and elegance. Teapots celebrate our drinking tea; a pitcher decorates a mantel when not in use; a mug with slight texture inside the handle allows our fingers to discover uniqueness. Pottery is a reflection of us. I am curious about its inherent dialogue and celebratory use.
Julia Galloway Missoula, Montana
ON MENTORS When I was a ridiculously overconfident undergraduate student, I told one of my professors that I wanted to “make everyone’s favorite mug” – and exactly, how could I do that? He did look a little taken aback by my energetic bombastic request and after a slow smile he said, “Well, Julia, I don’t know about a favorite mug, but I do remember at my grandmother’s house she had a well in the backyard. There was this small metal cup that hung there, by the well, and each day I would drink from that cup, such cold water, the coldest water, so soothing on a hot day.” Well, that stopped me for a minute. Mulling it over I realized that it’s more than the mug, that a favorite mug would have to come from experience and meaning in addition to form and surface. I do not know this tin cup or well where such cool water flows, but I can be there for a minute, and taste that slightly metallic spring water and see this now passed professor as a young man in a back yard in western New York state, pausing for a long slow drink.
ON CUPS My favorite cup changes all the time, how can someone have one favorite? The reason for a favorite cup is based on context and desire.
I fall in love with cups over and over again. What I do know for certain is that nothing touches my lips as often as a cup. I know that I have a special fondness for cups that have begun to show their age – with a chip on the lip of that dreaded hairline crack that reveals itself down its side.
ON INFLUENCE Influence, appropriating and downright stealing has been a big issue in the larger field of ceramics. We send a bit of a mixed message to younger potters – we encourage them to develop their own voice, pretty much since day one. But this is just about impossible, when they are just learning how to see and how to touch the clay. We also encourage them to copy the great master potters to learn how to make pots and see form and decoration through copying. What is a young potter to do? The Silk Route and development of porcelains from China to Europe was crazy influential on historical and contemporary ceramics. The Silk Route was a bit of an appropriation feast! From the desire to copy rose such great innovation and brilliant cultural reflection. Today? I think it’s difficult on young potters, so much pressure to develop their “own work” and also
to post images of their newest creations, while the work is still in the kiln! There are so many and such consistent images online of new and undeveloped work, of pottery buckling under the overabundance of ’cool’ images and unrelated content on its surface, with modest understanding of form. About ten years ago I was speaking with a potter who had many of his “early” pots included in publications and posters. These early pots had a sense of a chameleon, a constantly changing look, work that was heavily influenced by which workshop he had just attended. In reflection he said, “It was a good way to learn, copying other people’s pottery to understand surface and form – but looking back now, I just wish I hadn’t done it so publicly.” I think this is not as true for young artists today. There is constant access online about how artists make everything, clever handles and feet, every color under-glaze at every temperature. I suspect that the pressure for uniqueness is slowly fading – and to be known as “someone who makes work like so-and-so” is not such a stigma anymore, since we just learned how to make anything on YouTube. We will see where this leads.
Steven Godfrey Anchorage, Alaska
BIOGRAPHY Steve Godfrey was born and raised in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts. Steve was fortunate to be encouraged and supported to pursue a career as an artist by family and friends. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Hartford Art School in 1993 and his Master of Fine Arts degree from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 1996. In 1998, Steve Godfrey spent the year as a Resident Artist at The Archie Bray Foundation for Ceramic Arts after spending time teaching ceramics at the Hartford Art School. In 1999, he accepted the position of Term Instructor and Ceramics Area Technician at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. In 2004, Godfrey was hired as the Coordinator of the Ceramics Area at UAA. As the co-curator of the Kimura Gallery and the Arc Gallery on the UAA campus, he has curated numerous exhibitions. As the Coordinator of the Ceramics Area Visiting Artist Program, Steve has been responsible for organizing over 35 workshops with internationally known artists. Beyond teaching, he has been consistent in making and showing his ceramic work, participating in numerous exhibitions throughout Alaska and the lower forty-eight states. Recently, he was invited to participate in the North American Pottery Festival at the Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the Florida Heat 69
Ceramics Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. In 2015, Professor Godfrey presented a solo exhibition at the Schaller Gallery in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Steve also has interests in woodworking, cooking, hiking, house remodeling, visiting museums, and traveling to see his nieces and nephews in Massachusetts.
STATEMENT There are many things that I am inspired by: old New England barns, the color of honey, glacial ice, Ellsworth Kelly plant drawings, Sung Dynasty pottery, Native Alaskan ivory bird carvings, illustrations of animals in Thornton Burgess’ books for children, Danish furniture, magpies. As I am working in the studio, I hope for my interests to blend together and emerge as simple and clear statements; distillations that describe me, an individual who really enjoys living and cares about making things that help people feel better about today.
ON INFLUENCE I enrolled in my first ceramics class at the Hartford Art School in 1991. Lisa Stinson was my professor, fresh out of graduate school and very inspiring, energetic and enthusiastic. Her throwing demonstrations were paired with slide presentations of contemporary ceramics and a show of pots from her personal collection. When it came time for our cup
project, Lisa brought in a teabowl that David Shaner had given her as a gift for assisting him during a workshop at Haystack. This cup packed an immense amount of spiritual energy that brought me to a long pause. David’s sensibilities were not “mouthy” or brash. He captured the essence of historic ceramics, and the river rocks he admired, and fashioned this information into a simple drinking cup. A few years later, I had the opportunity to be a studio assistant for Ken Ferguson. His studio shelves housed a small collection of Shaners’ wood fired tea bowls made out of porcelain infused with bits of granular feldspar. It was a daily ritual for me to study these pots intensely as Ken took a break from throwing to watch Jeopardy and eat some treats. In a time where bold personal expressionism appealed to young artists such as myself, David’s cups were wordless. They provided an experience similar to the awe inspired by landscape, whether it be as still mill pond in the Northeast where I grew up, or a dramatic mountain in Alaska where I live now. The memory of these cups has been a buoy for me at times when I feel my work is uninspired or uninteresting. They keep me on my course.
Silvie Granatelli Floyd, Virginia
BIOGRAPHY Silvie Granatelli has been a full time studio potter working in Floyd County, Virginia since 1982. Silvie received a BFA. from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1971 and an MFA from Montana State in Bozeman, Montana. She has taught ceramics at Virginia Tech and Berea College in Berea, Kentucky. Her work is in the collection of the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC, The Museum of Ceramic Art in Alfred, New York, and the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Virginia. Silvie’s work has been featured in many publications, including Ceramics Monthly, Clay Times, and The Studio Potter. Her work can also be found in numerous books. These include Pots in the Kitchen, by Josie Walter, The Ceramic Glaze Handbook, by Mark Burleson, Handbuilt Tableware, by Kathy Triplett, and Porcelain Masters: Major Works by Leading Ceramists, curated by Richard Burkett. She was the recipient of the Virginia Museum Fellowship Grant in 1995. Throughout her career, Silvie has given workshops across the United States. In 2000, she presented a slide lecture in New Delhi, India. In 2003, she participated in a ceramic symposium and show in Izmir, Turkey. Silvie traveled to Tuscany, Italy in 2005. There she teamed up with an Italian chef to teach a workshop on the cuisine and pottery of Tuscany.
STATEMENT A pot has the capacity to give and receive simultaneously. It is the perfect vehicle of hospitality. How and what we eat is one of the means by which society creates itself, and acts out its aims and functions. By thinking about food as identity, as sex, as power, as friendship, as a means of magic and witchcraft, and as our time controller, I see food as the root of culture: that which gives meaning to our lives. Making pottery for me is about giving and receiving simultaneously. It is about hospitality.
The surfaces of my pots reflect the natural world I live in. I want my pots to embody the natural world around me, such as the animals that populate my environment, and the plant life that textures my world. Pots become zoomorphic or anthropomorphic objects. Textures and glazes become the skin of the pot, like the pattern of a garment or the feathers of a bird. I hope my pots will shape and dramatize the rituals surrounding food and allow me, the potter, to partake actively in the lives of those who enjoy my work.
ON MENTORS There have been three people who have served as mentors in my development. Only one was a potter, Ken Ferguson. Mr. Ferguson was my professor at the Kansas City Art Institute in the mid to late 1960’s. Through his passion for ceramics and ceramic history, I fell in love with the medium, the lifestyle of a studio potter, and the emotional qualities of the handmade object. I worked during my four years at the Kansas City Art Institute at a hand-made candle factory. It was through my involvement with Creative Candles, and its proprietor, Duane Benton (my second mentor) that I understood what it was to have a seamless life, where one’s domestic life and work life flow as one. The third mentor in my life was a woman, named Mary Roberts. She showed me that women could do anything. I have mentored young aspiring potters in my studio for the past twenty years. Thirteen potters have worked with me. Sharing my studio and helping potters learn how to market and present themselves professionally has given me a great insight into what it means to be successful. There are so many ways.
ON INFLUENCE My pots are primarily influenced by my love of cooking, nature, and ceramic history. I love industrial pots as well as the pots from various (perhaps all) cultures. The pots at the Nelson Atkinson Museum in Kansas City were the first pots I studied carefully, handled, and dreamed about. They were a very strong influence. Several years ago, while visiting the Nelson Atkinson Museum, I came upon a beautiful Japanese bowl with a chrysanthemum design in it. That pot brought me to tears. Pots are powerful in triggering emotions. Pots show you who you are if you pay attention.
ON CUPS I use tea bowls by Josh Copus and Michael Simon frequently. My Sunday tea bowl is by a past studio assistant, Elisa DiFeo. It is porcelain, with a low center of gravity, a waxy glaze and a few tiny square red dots minimally placed. Mark Shapiro made a mug that I have had to repair because I can’t bear to live without it. I have never seen Mark make another quite like this one. For me, use is the arbiter of favorite… not so much how the pot looks.
ON LEARNING It appears to me that because of social media many potters are constantly looking at other people’s pots, following others posts on pots and copying one another, at surface, handle, or form. I fear we are not looking within ourselves for ideas and insights. The many forms of learning, be it an apprenticeship, MFA, or residency, have a unique place in the development of a potter. In the end, what matters is not where you studied, but what you make. Authenticity and uniqueness are attainable goals.
Ryan J. Greenheck Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
I received my MFA from SUNY College of Ceramics at Alfred University, along with a BFA from The University of Wisconsin-Stout. In the summer of 2004, I spent three months in the People’s Republic of China as the visiting Artist at Shanghai University. I have been in numerous national juried exhibitions since 2000. My work is represented in many galleries throughout the country. Recently I was awarded first place in “Visions in Clay 2005,” a national juried exhibition.
I see my mugs as my representatives as they head out into the world. I can’t seem to make enough of them. They are the most accessible, intimate and personal pots that I make. When in use, their changing perspective enables every aspect of the mug to be greatly appreciated. One of my favorite interactions to observe is when someone has the handle in one hand while exploring the underside of the foot-ring with the other. I appreciate the fact that someone may designate my mug as part of one’s daily ritual. I feel that is the strongest connection one can have as a maker with the user.
STATEMENT A structured composition is vital within the framework of my vessels. The rim and feet of my pots are strongly defined areas, while the space in between lends itself to be broken down in parts. I incorporate a repeated pattern over the surface to assist in accentuating the volume within the forms. The surface of my vessels is constantly explored. Sensitivity in the glazing process must be attained in order to preserve the essence of the piece.
Tyler Gulden received a BFA from Alfred University and an MFA from University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. He has been a studio potter for 20 years.
Attention to function plays a critical role in creating wares to be used in conjunction with the preparation, serving, and consumption of food and drink. That creative process relies on generating intuitive connections between the clay and the maker. Questioning function and the process of making is important to the development of those connections. The answers to the questions lie somewhere between my hands and the clay, and fall elusively in the space between control and abandon.
Tyler’s first work experience with a professional artist came in 1989 through an internship with Leon Nigrosh, where Tyler discovered firsthand the concept that the “job” of being a potter was a lifestyle choice rather than that of a profession. Tyler says of his experience, “Leon seamlessly wore the hats of potter, professor, author, mentor, father. There was obvious and immense satisfaction in Leon's face as he worked – effortlessly contagious in my own life and development as a potter.” A second opportunity to apprentice with an artist came in 1995 with Chris Gustin. During this time, Tyler worked in tile production, the construction of Gustin’s wood kiln, and assisted with studio work, forging a relationship that grew through graduate school and has continued in Tyler’s professional career. Tyler says, “Honest, frank discussions—both personal and professional—peppered with good stories and hearty laughs,” are at the heart of their relationship. Former Director of Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts, Tyler returned full time to his studio practice in 2012. In addition to his studio practice, Tyler is an adjunct instructor at Southern Maine Community College and is a board member and President of the Maine Craft Association. He has conducted workshops, lectures, and demonstrations at art centers and schools around New England, and his functional porcelain and stoneware pieces are exhibited nationally and internationally.
The use of my work is essential for it to be “complete.” Because each decision in the making of a pot is made to draw the user in to the engagement of the piece, that final step – using the pot – fulfills the creative process. My work follows the tradition of salt firing, in combination with the contemporary process of soda firing, capitalizing on the unique color and surface variations that are a natural product of the process.
ON CUPS My introduction to making a cup came during my Ceramics 1 undergrad class taught by Jeff Oestreich. In fact, first things first, Jeff taught me how to “look at a cup,” how to understand it through its use; later came the making. Josh Deweese (then a graduate assistant) was highly influential in learning how to make handles. Jeff’s clean aesthetic was balanced well by Josh’s loose, gestural handling of the clay. Both of these influences still appear in my work. I have found there is no one single influence that informs my work. There is notable evidence of some potent influences, however, I find I am often ever so touched by others’ works – the very fine details, considerations, and questions that subtly inform decisions
made within my own process. It’s not a matter of direct copying the way another artist turns a foot or pulls a handle; rather, it’s the knowledge gained from learning how a fellow potter looks at a form, considers a problem (aesthetic, functional, conceptual, or otherwise), and presents a solution. The mentors in my life have had influences on my work and creative practice, but also on how I conduct myself as an artist/spouse/ friend/colleague/father. Yes, their aesthetic and creative output has imprinted on mine in some way, typically in the subtlest of ways, but the substance of the relationships has been deeper than the making of work. The conversations (or quiet moments) that happen while making work, the trials and tribulations encountered working together— these speak far greater towards who I am as maker than my work can just by itself. Some 20 years ago, a friend and fellow potter (who will remain nameless) came into my studio and picked up a cup, considered it for a moment, then said in a deadpan tone, “Hmm, you make pots that don’t suck,” put the cup down and walked out. As funny, frank and flip as the comment is/was, it always leaves me thinking…what the heck does that mean?! Was this a back-handed compliment, or some pejorative observation? Regardless, it has stuck with me, leaving me questioning: Are my pots just above being labeled “sucky”?
Tyler Gulden Walpole, Maine
Hiroe Hanazono Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
BIOGRAPHY Hiroe Hanazono, a native of Japan, received her BA in Spatial Art and Ceramics from California State University, Hayward, California in 2003, and her MFA in Ceramics from the School of Art, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio in 2008. She has been invited to participate in numerous prestigious artist-in-residency programs, a few of which include the Archie Bray Foundation, The International Ceramic Research Center in Denmark and The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, where she was awarded the 2008-2009 Evelyn Shapiro Foundation Fellowship. She produces highly designed functional tableware in her Philadelphia home studio. In addition to her thriving practice, Hanazono teaches a variety of ceramics classes in New York City and in the Philadelphia region.
STATEMENT My favorite cup is designed by a Danish designer, Ole Jensen, and manufactured by Royal Copenhagen. I’ve always been fascinated by Scandinavian minimalist designs. In 2012, I did a three month long residency in Denmark and had the chance to visit Jensen’s studio. Prior to my visit, I was familiar with many of his designs and his home studio was filled with a collection of his own personal works, mostly prototypes of his designs before they went to factories for production. I still remember the excitement that I felt by looking at so many beautiful objects that he designed and created.
I really enjoyed hearing him talk about the compromises that he makes when his products go to production. He showed me some of his handmade originals, along with their modified versions as well as the final models used for mass production. Right after I left his studio, I went straight to the Royal Copenhagen store and saw the factory version of his work. I acquired the mug I use daily at that time. It has a uniquely shaped big handle, so it requires more storing space, but I love the design, color and the size. It is white and I always like using cups with white inside so that I can see the color of the liquid that it contains.
ON INFLUENCE Up until I finished graduate school, I had studied and assisted in workshops and classes with many amazing ceramic artists. I’ve always learned best through demonstration and I’m good at copying. I have tried to adopt many other artists’ techniques and processes to help me find my own style. My work constantly evolves and I’m continuously trying to refine my aesthetic and to come up with unique and minimal designs.
Ursula Hargens Minneapolis, Minnesota
Ursula Hargens is a ceramic artist and educator based in Minneapolis. She received her MFA from Alfred University and studied at Nova Scotia College of Art & Design. She is a three-time McKnight Artist Fellow and has received awards from the Jerome Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board. In addition to working as a studio artist, Ursula is co-founder and Program Head of the Minnesota New Institute for Ceramic Education (MN NICE), an advanced certificate program in ceramics developed in collaboration with Northern Clay Center.
I have a cup made by Andy Shaw that Iâ€™ve used every day for the past 14 years to drink my evening tea. A few years ago, I realized that I am quietly protective of this cup. I never take it out to the studio, and I slide it carefully under the bed instead of placing it on the nightstand where it could be accidentally knocked off during the night. It is perfect for tea since its thick walls retain the heat and the stable base slides easily on the wood floor. The cup is made from dark, almost black clay, covered with a buff colored glaze that breaks deep brown over indentations in the form.
STATEMENT My tableware is made of earthenware, a material steeped in folk traditions. I contrast the rich, red clay with bands of slip and glaze decoration. Simple flower motifs float across the surfaces, creating layers of color, pattern, and image. The forms serve as both container and canvas. My goal is to make pots that are visually striking but move seamlessly into daily use.
I bought this cup from Andy when we overlapped for a year at Alfredâ€”he was teaching, and I was a student. I was working on handles at the time, and Andy graciously invited me to his studio across Main Street. We chatted as I watched him deftly pull handles, lining up the chocolate strips on the worktable. Over the years, as Andy and I have crossed paths, I have truly enjoyed our conversations and his thoughtfulness as a teacher, maker, and person. I believe that drinking from a cup made by a friend is one of the secret pleasures of being a potter.
Lana Heckendorn Carlisle, Pennsylvania
BIOGRAPHY Lana Heckendorn received a BFA in Printmaking from Moore College of Art in Philadelphia. She later developed her functional porcelain work at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia. After spending 29 years in Philadelphia, she moved back to Central Pennsylvania, and has set up a studio in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
STATEMENT My porcelain pots are wheel-thrown or hand-built, sometimes in combination, with hand-drawn patterns. I use multiple glazes of different surface quality (satin, gloss, speckled) on each piece to create dynamic but quiet color compositions. My making processes explore the relationship of form, color and surface pattern in functional pottery. I enjoy exploring geometric relationships and searching for proportions that tell something about the function of a piece. Surface patterns, which often cover the pots like fabric, are drawn directly on the pieces, marrying the decoration to the surface. Color is often confined in compartments or zones for emphasis and to enhance my drawing.
This relationship of form and surface embodies my resolution that functional objects should be enduring, not only in their craft, but in their beauty as well.
ON INFLUENCE The Clay Studio’s Associate program is a great incubator, and I was fortunate to rent space there early in my career. I learned to fire gas kilns from experts and to identify what I did not know (and that which may remain unknowable). Hide Sadohara generously answered my many questions and helped me to see beyond the obvious, especially in the murky atmosphere of reduction gas firing. Paul Donnelly encouraged my use of certain techniques and glaze types that were to become the foundation for my current work. Both Hide and Paul have a distinct ability to see what works, and a critique with the two of them always led me to make better work. I was first exposed to the idea of ‘potter as career’ by talking with these men. In addition to modeling a lifestyle, they answered questions on how and where to sell one’s work, how to value the work, and if having a career as a potter was even possible!
Showing students new techniques meant trying lots of new things on my own and deciding which of these were useful to my work. This sort of fast track, self-assigned course in techniques led me to appreciate that I had the time and ability to refine my choices of both style and material. Unlike my students, who had to settle for trying something a handful of times, I could exhaust an idea or technique by doing it over and over. This has been critical to my creative method and is essential to my own aesthetic response in that process.
ON CUPS Everyone wants to make a cup, but it turns out to be one of the hardest forms to make really well. Handles are much more difficult to master than the cylinders to which we attach them, and getting the weight and balance right on a cup takes considerable attentiveness. Even after making hundreds of the same style of cup, I still find myself making small improvements. Interacting with clients about what attributes of my cups they enjoy (and why) is a satisfying conclusion.
Teaching others has also impacted my work. I taught ceramics at several community centers, to students who were having their first experiences in clay, most without art backgrounds. 82
Jason Hess Flagstaff, Arizona
Jason Hess is a Professor of Art and head of the Ceramics Program at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ. He has a BFA from Beloit College (1992) and an MFA from Utah State University (1996). Hess has exhibited in over 175 exhibitions at galleries, art centers, and universities across the US and internationally. His artwork is featured in the collection of The United Postal Service, The Renwick Gallery of The Smithsonian Institute, The Martin Museum of Art at Baylor University, as well as a number of private collections. Jason has participated in artist residencies at The Archie Bray Foundation, Red Lodge Clay Center, and The Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen, China.
The greatest influences on my work have been those of my teachers in school and experiences that I have had using my own and other artists work in my daily life. I am interested in line, mass, balance, proportion, surface, and the infinite number of combinations and solutions that are possible. Through interacting with or examining work that I own or see in the world, I often notice details and solutions that influence and inspire my own aesthetic decisions. It was learning the importance of details from my mentors that has resonated with me the most, using details as points of interest. I hope the work that I make contains substance and often sustenance, while also conveying a sense of the materialâ€™s character and process of making.
STATEMENT A desire to have objects that fulfill specific purposes inspires me to make functional pots. The infinite and elusive variety of texture and color attainable through the various making and firing processes that I use has generated an interest in presentation. I enjoy presenting my work so that a viewer might notice and appreciate subtle differences in form and surface. By grouping similar forms of differing size and color, I hope to compose a visually dynamic display, which invites the viewer to enjoy the tactile nature of each individual piece and how they relate to one another.
Bryan Hopkins Buffalo, New York
BIOGRAPHY Bryan Hopkins was born in Philadelphia, PA. He began West Chester University of PA as a mathematics major, and found the ceramics studio in his junior year. Bryan went on to earn an MFA in Ceramics from the State University of New York at New Paltz. He has been a studio potter working in porcelain since 1990 and has lived in Buffalo, NY, since 1995. Bryan’s personal research in the field of ceramics centers on the vessel, both utilitarian and sculptural. Bryan teaches at Niagara County Community College. He has curated ceramics exhibitions both nationally and locally. Bryan’s work has been exhibited in group and solo shows nationally, including the NCECA Clay National Biennial. He has been published in books and magazines. Bryan is a founding member of the online ceramics group Objective Clay. He is also a New York Foundation on the Arts Fellow in Craft.
STATEMENT Following in the lineage of “fine china”, I produce objects for domestic service, adding my own sense of affect and defect. The work’s primary use is that of a utilitarian object, and all the pieces perform as they should – cups hold fluids, vases present flowers without leaking, etc. I have been using porcelain for about 20 years now, and am drawn to its physical qualities (strength,
fragility, color, translucence) as well as the implicit class association, cultural significance, and assumption of purity and worth. My urban environment, artists Gordon Matta Clark, DeChirico, and Serra, Bugs Bunny, Modernist architecture (earlier I.M Pei ), backyard forts, model cars and airplanes, 19th Century European porcelain, Song Dynasty porcelain, and Modernism inform and affect the work.
ON MENTORS As a teacher in a community college I interact with students in their first two years of artistic exploration and am often part of the “light bulb goes on” moment of connection to clay. When the student acknowledges that connection, and starts asking questions, this is when the mentor/mentee experience begins. Sometimes this relationship lasts, sometimes not. But the ones that last are rewarding to both the student and myself. These relationships have had little influence on my studio practice but have had an enormous influence on my decision to make education of the arts part of my career.
ON CUPS Cups are the most intimate objects a potter makes—no other object is caressed and touched to the mouth in the same way. In designing a cup the potter must take in to consideration weight, texture, color, and volume. In using a cup, one is affected by each of those decisions, and there is a significant bond created between maker and user, a communication that lasts as long as the cup lasts.
ON LEARNING A potter does not need an MFA. The reasons for a potter to seek an MFA would be two to three years to make without the need to sell (placing the importance of exploration and growth over market pressures of selling), or if the potter wants to teach at a college level.
I learned how to make cups at West Chester University, from John Baker. What has stayed with me from the experience is something I instill in my students: practice builds the skills that lead to personal expression.
Ayumi Horie Portland, Maine
BIOGRAPHY Ayumi Horie is a full-time studio potter in Portland, Maine who makes functional pottery with drawings of animals and typography, inspired by American and Japanese folk traditions and comics. She often works collaboratively on projects and regards working online as a second studio practice. In 2015, she was named a USA Distinguished Fellow by United States Artists. She runs Pots In Action, a curatorial project on Instagram that features international ceramics and guest hosts from all over the world. She is currently working on a collaborative public art project, Portland Brick, which repairs city sidewalks with bricks made from local clay stamped with past, contemporary, and future memories of Portland. In 2009, she collaborated on a tile-mapping project of Greenwich Village, which included the ecology of Manhattan in 1609. In 2011, she was the first recipient of Ceramics Monthly’s Ceramic Artist of the Year award. Ayumi travels nationally and internationally to give lectures and workshops on social media and ceramics and has organized multiple online fundraisers including Obamaware in 2008 and Handmade For Japan in 2011, which has raised over $100,000 for disaster relief. She has served on multiple boards including that of the Archie Bray Foundation and currently the American Craft Council and accessCeramics.org.
STATEMENT My work attempts to deepen connections between people and their communities, serving both a physical purpose and as a vehicle to open the softer side of a person. I want to explore individual vulnerability by drawing images that evoke an emotional response and also explore how public art invites a community to deepen their link to one another and to their sense of home. My work has multiple directions: functional ceramics, tote bags, photography, social media, and social practice. My primary work for the last twenty years has been that of a studio potter. I use imperfections in form as evidence of human vulnerability to link the user to the maker. I am interested in the anti-masterpiece and the anti-monumental because I think one kind of meaningful connection to an object, and by extension another person, takes place through daily interaction in intimate domestic spaces. My pottery, photography, and my public art project, Portland Brick, reflect my interest in relational aesthetics. Much of my work is given as gifts, and the social exchange aspect of my practice overlaps with my explorations in community projects that have participatory elements, storytelling components, and even fundraising goals supporting social change.
ON CUPS The ubiquity of the cup makes it the perfect object of barter, which is the way through which I’ve come into possession of cups from the three artists whom I consider my mentors. The cups are markers in time of my experience studying with them. They’re memories that have both an origin story and an accumulation of fresh layers of experiences. These cups from John Gill, Josh DeWeese, and Akio Takamori are important enough to me that I might cry if they were ever broken!
I don’t think that anyone can learn the bulk of things from any one person, which makes a mentoring relationship extra special. I was a complete greenhorn when I worked with John Gill at Alfred. Pick up a John Gill cup and you can feel from its awkward handle that his real interest lies in the possibilities of color and planes. From John I learned that the most crucial question to ask is “What if?” Those two words asked often enough can lead one through the most improbable aesthetic corridors and push aside whatever fallen boulder that you as an artist dropped on your own tail. “Why?” and “How?” are great questions in their own right, but “What if?” is life affirming and positive. Josh DeWeese’s skinny, wide-ribbed tumblers trigger memories of him, making tumblers very late at night at the Archie Bray when he was the Resident Director. Those pots didn’t need handles because the rib marks gave the fingers a grip and their immediacy was their strength. Josh made pots so late at night because during the day he was busy interacting with people and being his usual generous self. What a role model he was as a human being! The freedom in his brushwork and the fluidity in his lines that came out in the studio were also present in the office. His pots are just like him: grounded, straightforward, and full of heart. If John Gill’s lesson was future possibilities and Josh DeWeese’s was being present and generous, then Akio Takamori’s was honoring the past. In grad school at the University of Washington, it was Akio who took me under his wing. The only cup I have of his is pushed out in the same way his sculptures are, defining features and creating a landscape for brushwork. The lips on the face on the cup are juicily enameled like the tiny accents one might see on import ware. Akio and I looked at a lot of old, obscure Japanese pots together, admiring tea cups and talking about how they were made in an old Japan that was transitioning from handwork to industry.
This genre of work is always in the back of my mind as I make porcelain cups in particular, because they are seductive in their variety and charm. One early, important experience that I had as a student at Alfred was watching a grad student, Marty Kendall, put handles on his
cups. His work was rough and chunky, very organic with finger marks and dents everywhere. I’d never seen anyone touch clay like this before. He licked his handle ends to stick them on the cups, and it nearly blew my mind! Using spit, instead of slip, using his tongue instead of a brush, using a part of
himself to make a connection between two parts — that changed the whole way I started thinking about material. It was visceral and didn’t hold back a thing. I wish now that I had taken a picture of his tongue with all the clay on it for Pots In Action! 88
Meredith Host Kansas City, Missouri
BIOGRAPHY Meredith Host was born and raised in Detroit Rock City. She received her BFA in Ceramics from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2001 and her MFA in Ceramics from The Ohio State University in 2008. Meredith has spent time at numerous ceramic residencies including The School for American Crafts at RIT in Rochester, NY, Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts in Newcastle, ME, Dresdner Porzellan Manufactory in Dresden, Germany, and West Virginia University through The Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen, China. She was named one of the 2011 Emerging Artists for NCECA and Ceramics Monthly. Currently, Meredith lives in Kansas City, MO and is a core member of the Kansas City Urban Potters.
STATEMENT I am a collector of overlooked patterns, patterns you see on a daily basis. Every time I enter a restroom, my eyes immediately look to the toilet paper roll. If I have not seen this subtle embossed design before, I will take a few squares and place them in my pocket. I obsess about these found ubiquitous domestic patterns subtly quilted on the paper products we see, use, and throw away every day.
We barely notice them and take them for granted. In this body of work, I reinterpret these motifs and transform them from something ephemeral into something permanent. Ultimately, I give these patterns greater visibility and celebrate their presence in the context of other domestic objects meant for daily use.
ON CUPS My current favorite go-to cup is a Jennifer Allen mug. I love its form, surface decoration, and its amazing handle. I acquired it during the 2013 NCECA Houston conference. Jen was unable to attend the conference, so her husband Shoii Satake brought a mug of hers and took pictures of people with the mug. Each image was an entry into a contest to win this particular mug. Back at home, Jen created a bracket system and was flipping a coin to narrow the 153 entries down to one winner. I made it to the finals and then ended up being the big winner. When I first brought this mug home, I wasn’t able to use it for the first few months, as my housemates would grab it to use before I had a chance. To this day, it’s one of the first mugs used when the dishwasher is unloaded.
ON MENTORS Rebecca Harvey was the head of my graduate committee at The Ohio State University. I owe a lot to Rebecca for giving me the confidence to make the step into being a full time studio artist. Without her guidance I’m not sure I would have taken the leap of faith into a full time practice. I learned most business aspects from working with other potters. At different times after undergrad, I assisted John Glick and Julia Galloway in their studios. Working with them taught me more of the practical things that come along with a full time studio practice, such as dealing with galleries, deadlines, shipping work, routines, documenting work, etc., things not necessarily learned in school. Working with these great potters was an invaluable experience. I learned a ton about the business side of the job and saw the reality of what it would take to be a studio potter. Hard work but worth it!
The prevalence of these dimpled decorations in our daily life renders them invisible, their utility questionable.
Matt Hyleck Baltimore, Maryland
BIOGRAPHY Matthew Hyleck received a BFA from Xavier University in 1997. He is currently a Resident Artist and instructor at Baltimore Clayworks. He received a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship award in Craft in 2005, 2007 and 2011 and has received multiple awards including the 2009 NCECA Biennial Outstanding Functional Pot Merit Award and first prize in the 2009 Jersey Shore Clay National. His studio work was featured on the December 2011 Ceramics Monthly cover and recognized in the May 2008 Ceramics Monthly as an Emerging Artist. Additionally he has completed visiting artist residencies at Tainan National University for the Arts, Taiwan R.O.C. in 2005, Ohio Universities Woodfire Symposium in 2010 and Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts I 2012. He serves as the Director of Education for Baltimore Clayworks Mt. Washington campus, a position he has held since October 2000.
cycles of a farmerâ€™s field, rolling hillsides and the fertile landscape that surrounds us. My goal is to create utilitarian pots for every day use: simple forms that speak primarily about functionality and the intimacy gained through daily use. The life and measure of a good pot becomes complete only when it is used, and so I strive to make work not for the shelf but for the table.
ON MENTORS I had the good fortune of growing up in a potter's house, which put me in daily contact with hand made artwork from a very young age. The opportunity to use work crafted by dozens of makers has undeniably helped to shape my aesthetic preference regarding rims, feet and handles. While I have learned from many potters through the years I must give credit to my father, Walter Hyleck, as he established a critical foundation for my understanding of craft from a very early age.
My ceramic works are informed directly by my love for natural objects coupled with a passion for utilitarian form. Naturally occurring shapes, textures, patterns and symbols offer a foundation from which I create my work. My current works have evolved from my search for place and the placement of particular objects within a defined landscape within the domestic environment. The dialogue between an object, the user and environment is central to my work. I am exploring the ways in which nature evolves through the seasons, abstracting natural and man-made
I find the question of a favored cup to be difficult to answer. Our kitchen collection of cups is diverse with regard to size, shape, color and handle. I take great joy in the act of choosing the appropriate cup for my morning routine and I find that each piece sets a unique tone. Some cups remain straightforward and purely functional while others pose unique challenges due to shape of a rim or dimension of a handle; there are days and times in the week when I need "simple" and there are days I appreciate "complicated" cups.
Brad Johnson Haverford, Pennsylvania
Brad Johnson received his MFA from Pennsylvania State University and his BFA from Kansas City Art Institute. He was a Resident Artist at The Clay Studio from 1998-2003. Since leaving The Clay Studio, Brad has built a studio and a salt kiln and is producing custom dinnerware and oneof-a-kind functional pottery. He has taught numerous workshops nationally and locally, participated in residency programs, and has taught at many local schools and Universities.
I am lucky to have had a number of influential relationships throughout my education, which can be viewed as both a blessing and a curse. Studio life for me is a very personal and solitary time. I may be alone, but voices echo, reminding me of conversations and critiques I have had with peers and mentors alike. These echoes have a broad range of emotional and informative values that cause me to pause, change direction, or gain confidence. Sometimes I have to dismiss these voices altogether and forge ahead in my intended direction. It’s comforting to know that I’m not alone. I’ve shared my experiences with other artists from a broad range of mediums and found this is not unique to me. When I sit down to make a set of mugs, there is one voice louder than any other: the voice of Brad Schwieger. Early in my development, I had the good fortune of spending a summer at Ohio University where I had a chance to work with Brad. He’s a strong, talented, motivating, and generous artist/teacher. Although I hadn’t been throwing very long, it was apparent that he had such a wonderful way of moving clay. I hung on to his every word like it was scripture. Early one morning when I had just started to get my clay out, Brad suggested that I start off by making some mugs. My response was that I really didn’t make very good handles. There was a moment of silence. Then, he looked me in the eye and said, “If you’re going to call yourself a potter, you’ve got to be able to make a great mug.” Although it may not appear heavy or deep, it was a really grounding statement for me. It motivated me to face my insecurities about making handles. In my mind, that statement gave me license to call myself a “potter,” a title that I didn’t feel worthy of at the time. Since that day, each time I find myself pulling handles or finishing a set of mugs, I can hear Brad Schwieger’s words echoing in my mind, causing me to spend a little more time on that piece to make sure that I deserve to call myself a “potter.”
STATEMENT I live and work just outside of Philadelphia where I have been a stay-at-home potter since my first son was born in 2005. The decision to raise my children in exchange for my studio time has not been an easy one to make, and anyone that has children or is close to someone that is a parent knows the sacrifices and rewards that this decision demands. In my own personal experience, the rewards have exceeded my expectations. I built a studio and kiln on my property to make small pockets of work time more effective. The property itself was designed and maintained as an English garden by the previous owners. As a result, my commute to the studio is quick and inspiring. My fascination with functional pottery has kept my attention for over twenty years, and in that time I have pushed myself into new areas of the ceramic process. My current body of work is composed of salt-fired porcelain and stoneware using slips, glazes, and a lot of salt. The carvings are my interpretations of my life and surroundings. Some pots tell a story while others are more abstract like a dream or a memory.
I had the pleasure of studying with Chris Staley for two years at Penn State University. My time with Chris could best be described as an intense experience. I have such respect for his craftsmanship and attention to detail. Most of all, Chris has the amazing ability to use simple concepts or processes to transform ordinary shapes into extraordinary pieces. If I had to distill what I learned from my time with Chris, relating it to making cups and mugs, it would be this: making a handled cup is an opportunity to share a discreetly sensual experience with your viewer. It caused me to think about and appreciate the tactile, human experience of holding a mug and bringing it to the mouth. There is no other object I make that crosses such boundaries. I received my BFA at the Kansas City Art Institute. My instructors were Ken Ferguson, Victor Babu and George Timock. It’s difficult to focus on one anecdote or lesson given the caliber of instruction received. Ken instilled in me the importance of preserving the integrity of the material you're working with and maintaining a level of honesty and respect in all that you make. Victor pushed me to clarify my form and challenged my understanding of embellishment and decoration. George was never satisfied and always turned me back to work more, push boundaries, and take whatever I was working on to the next level. I recall being visibly frustrated over what George had said to me about a particular plaster project, and he smiled and said, “I’m just doing my job, Brad. I’m the bug in your ear.”
Peter Karner Denver, Colorado
BIOGRAPHY Peter Karner received a BA in Environmental studies from Albion College, Michigan. He apprenticed with Solvieg Cox and after college studied with Ken Shestone. Peter is a studio potter who exhibits nationally at craft shows, including American Craft Council, One of a Kind, and American Craft Exhibition. He has been included in group shows throughout North America and his work has been featured multiple times in Ceramics Monthly magazine.
STATEMENT My mother is a quilter, and I find my attraction to geometric pattern stems from my childhood exposure to her work. African and Japanese textiles, Islamic ironwork, modern architecture, and the natural world have also influenced both my forms and decoration. It is my intention to create modern, yet timeless work that embodies the soulful expression of my love of flowers, food, and still life.
ON INFLUENCE I was inspired in high school by the parents of a friend. Robert Diebboll was a potter and his wife was a weaver. Upon my first visit to their home and workshop, I was fascinated by their lifestyle. The pottery stirred a deep memory of my love of clay from childhood art classes. 95
Not long after I realized that I, too, wanted to make my way in the world as a studio potter. With that in mind, I chose to attend Albion College. The ceramics department was well equipped and the academic reputation was strong. It was my good fortune to have the support of my Ceramics Professor, Lynne Chytilo. Lynne gave me a solid foundation in the making of pottery, glazes, and kiln firing. She also set me up with an apprenticeship with Solvieg Cox my sophomore and senior years. Solvieg’s pottery was in Alexandria, Virginia. While working for her, I received a solid foundation in form and surface design, as well as a real world education in how to run a successful pottery studio. Living in that area exposed me to the Smithsonian Institute and Mid-Century Modern architecture, both of which deeply impacted my aesthetic. Another positive outcome of my time at Albion was befriending alum Ken Shenstone. Ken lived a few miles from the college and, when I met him, was in the process of building a large Anagama-style wood kiln. Ken allowed me to make pots in his studio and be involved in firing his kiln. This exposure was also invaluable to my progress as a studio potter. Wood firing is rooted in the Japanese tradition of Wabi Sabi and inspired a sense of spontaneity, which also deeply impacted my aesthetic.
After leaving Albion in 1989, I moved to Durango, Colorado. This was a place where I could bike, ski, and be surrounded by wilderness. Besides pots, these are the things that feed my soul. In 1995 I bought rural property on a creek backing wilderness 25 miles outside of town and began my vision of the dream inspired by the Deibboll’s. My time in this remote setting was spent free of direct influence (other than nature) and allowed me to create my own personal style. It was also a time of being head-down, working consistently to develop my craft. In late 2013, I moved my pottery studio to the RiNo Art District in Denver, Colorado. This is where I currently work. I see this next period of my life offering me the opportunity to develop my aesthetic under the influence of a large urban setting. Since moving, I spend much time in museums, exploring the city via my bike, and interacting with other artists. I’ve started creating large architectural work and have expanded my studio to employ other potters. Everywhere I look in the city, there is potential for inspiration. This invigorates my creative process and allows for a deeper realization of my artistic voice. I have worked diligently since establishing my pottery. My progress has been self-motivated, with trial and error my main teacher. My interest lies in creating functional pots with a contemporary edge. It is my intention to find a unique and powerful energy in every pot I make.
ON CUPS While working with Solvieg Cox, my primary task on the wheel was to make mugs out of porcelain. At first I was consumed. But, after a while, I became quite bored making the same thing day in and day out. Solvieg sat me down one day and explained to me that as a studio potter concerned with making functional pots,
mugs would be the foundation of my business. To make a good mug was a high calling and that many handmade mugs were less than comfortable to use. She showed me why the mugs I was making at the time were lacking in the comfort department and helped me to see the importance of the mug.
30 years later, I find that I sell more mugs than any other form. I love the meditative process of throwing and handling a mug, and Iâ€™m most grateful to Solvieg for instilling the respect and dedication to make a truly comfortable drinking vessel. 96
Alec Karros Lebanon, New Jersey
BIOGRAPHY Alec Karros is a studio potter and adjunct professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He received his MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and his BFA from the Philadelphia College of Art, now UArts. He has also taught at SUNY Oswego, the University of Colorado and the University of Washington. He has lectured widely, including presentations for the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design, the National Council for Education in the Ceramic Arts, Pratt Institute, The Ohio State University, State University of New York at New Paltz and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. He has exhibited nationally and internationally.
STATEMENT I am a functional potter. My interest in making pots is rooted in three areas, first in their role in our contemporary domestic landscape, second, in what they tell us about our social and cultural histories and third in the material and alchemical processes involved in making them. Pots have always played a role in my home life. They provide physical and aesthetic nourishment. The table is their context and their function is their meaning. They enrich our lives, revealing unexpected beauty in unexpected moments. I’m often struck by an elegantly proportioned foot while washing the dishes, the feel of an awkward handle on a cup as I drink my morning coffee, the magical
luminosity and translucence of the clay and glaze as light comes through the window at certain times of the day. Pots also connect me to our human past. I can imagine the grace, fluidity and eccentric symmetry of Minoan court life by studying the swelling forms and aquatic patterns of their ewers. The restraint and elegance of the Song dynasty is revealed in their subtle celadons Oribe baskets are proof of an imperfect and joyful world. The optimism of the new and the possible is readily apparent in American industrial tableware of the mid-twentieth century. Making pots has been simultaneously sublime and ridiculous. The techniques and processes are arduous, unforgiving and mystifying. The results are often disappointing. I fail more than I succeed, and yet the entire enterprise is addicting. The possibility of transforming an inert, contrary mass into forms of grace and beauty is irresistible.
ON CUPS Being asked to write about cups, makers and mentors has been bittersweet. I realized I have been making cups for over 40 years and have been teaching people how to do it for more than 30 years. It’s been an extraordinary experience. I’ve had the privilege of simultaneously being a maker, mentor and mentee.
I first encountered a handmade cup 44 years ago. I was a senior in high school in University City, MO and knew nothing about pottery. My classmate, neighbor and friend Geoff Wheeler was taking a pottery class, and the first cup I ever owned and used was one that he made. Had I never used that cup (and had Geoff not been such a good potter even then) I wouldn’t be writing this today or waiting to put handles on the cups drying in my studio. I first made a cup while studying with Bob Allen at Merrimac Community College in St. Louis MO. He was a fabulous potter and teacher. He continues to this day as my friend and mentor. I was first exposed to the rich historical and conceptual possibilities of the cup while studying, and later teaching, with Bill Daley at Philadelphia College of Art. It was during our weekly “Wake Up with Bill” sessions that I grew to love a wide variety of cups. The classical beauty of the Kylix of Dionysus, the Deco modernism of Clarice Cliff and the Bizarres and the conceptual musings of Irv Tepper continue to inform and inspire my studio practice. My deepest relationship with cups comes from watching each new batch of students discover the pleasures, possibilities and profound human experience the making and using of cups provides.
BIOGRAPHY Gail Kendall was raised in a small lumber town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Following her formal education at the University of Michigan (BSD) and Eastern Michigan University (MFA) she spent ten years working as an independent studio artist in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1987 she accepted a position in the Department of Art & Art History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she taught for twenty-four years. Kendall has been a resident artist at Spode Fine China Works in Stoke-On-Trent, England, Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts, The Archie Bray Foundation, Red Lodge Clay Center, and Anderson Ranch Art Center. Her work has been shown in exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad and has appeared in articles in periodicals and books including Ceramics: Art and Perception (Australia), Neue Keramik (Germany), Emmanuel Cooper's “Contemporary Ceramics” (UK), and Masters of Earthenware (US).
STATEMENT My ceramic works are influenced by European earthenware pottery and porcelain traditions from the 13th through the 18th centuries. Both “peasant” and “palace” pots inspire me. In the former it is the casual, perhaps careless result that excites me: the drip of glaze, the impurities in the clay, the globs of kiln-shelf refuse fused to the bottom. These imperfections often enliven the pot in ways that take my breath away. In the latter, the elaborate rendering of form and surface common to porcelain factories such as Sévres and Spode, fuels my imagination. Early English slipware, Delftware, and Italian majolica are sources I refer to often.
I am attached to terracotta and low-fired technologies as symbols of my heritage. I like to imagine a potter ancestor in Luxembourg or Wiltshire pouring slip on his earthenware platter, decorating it with the details of some local or family event, sprinkling on lead oxide, then firing it in the most simple manner. He was an essential member of his community, whereas I am at home in the art world. But my ancestor and I are alike in our interest in enlivening the daily aspects of life: mundane routines and community celebrations. Like him, I hope the plates, platters, bowls and other service pieces I make enhance those routines and rituals and that they add a touch of grace to the domestic arena.
ON LEARNING I learned the language of pots from the time I lived in Minnesota (1977-1987). Some the most genuine and enlightening conversations I've had within the functional pottery realm happened there during the years in which I became familiar with the Hamada-Leach tradition and the work of Warren MacKenzie, and friends with some of his former students who remained in the area. Objectively, in our field there are important avenues in which a young voice in clay may be mentored. One is certainly higher education, where many art students find their way to the ceramic studio and never leave, perhaps going on to an advanced degree, and even into professorships. That was my route. I continue to value the mentorship I received from my two major professors while studying in Michigan: John and Susanne Stephenson. As artists and teachers they continue to inspire me. Other valuable avenues for the passionate student of clay who wishes to make a life in the medium are to be found in apprenticeships, assistantships, and residencies.
Fortunately, there are a good number of intense and exceptional versions of this path to professionalism. Here, emerging ceramists can find the knowledge that is often left out of the academic environment: how to be an efficient worker who wastes neither time nor materials in the studio: how to pack and ship work, how to interact with an allimportant public, how to price work in a way that rewards both the buyer and the seller. Equally important, and intertwined with the apprenticeships, assistantships and residencies, are the situations in which some directors of ceramic programs at art centers such as Anderson Ranch may work with summer or year-long assistants in ways that lead to a mentorship bond. There is an added, deeper realm of ‘mentorship’ that consists of those individuals who mentored the mentors, and others who mentored those mentors. When possible, those artists, thinkers, and makers should be referred to in our instruction and conversations with our students, apprentices, and assistants. It is in going back in time, investigating from where we have sprung, that we understand our individual and collective paths. We perceive how the wheel relentlessly turns and various philosophies, aesthetics, and technologies are revised and revisited. The result is the lineage we inherit and build upon. That lineage needs to be acknowledged and revered so that we may all be stronger: individually, in communion amongst ourselves, and with the larger art world.
Gail Kendall Lincoln, Nebraska
Ahrong Kim Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
BIOGRAPHY Ahrong Kim received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Ceramics from Kon Kuk University in Korea in 2008 and her Master of Fine Arts degree from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence, RI in 2013. She received the Mima Weissmann Award at the Ceramics Program, Office for the Arts at Harvard in 2013, and is currently a Resident Artist at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, PA. Recent exhibitions include “Beyond the Brickyard” at the Archie Bray Foundation, Helena, MT, “China-Korea, Invitational Exhibition: Heritage and Diversity,” Hanyang University Museum, Seoul, Korea, and “The 8th Gyeonggi International Ceramic Biennale (GICB 2015) – Color; Ceramic Spectrum” in 2015 in Yeoju, Korea.
STATEMENT Humans are emotional creatures. Individuals feel a diverse range of emotions even during a short time or on a small occasion. Emotions are formed naturally through many experiences of individuals and there are an innumerable number of ways to express emotions. Of these, the artist’s task is to conduct analysis of these experiences from the perspective of emotion and to sensitively materialize them. My work is based on psychological observations that are representative of voices we all hear inside. I make ceramic figurative sculptures that describe emotions from my life as a diary. By exploring expressive possibilities of my visual language, the figurative form and its multi-colored surfaces reveal the abstracted version of my interiority. The creation of ceramics requires endurance. Looking at its chemical changes through the process of firing, it is a creature granted with invisible power, which means its outcome belongs to nature. Ceramics are regenerated by fire, the most fundamental aspect of nature. Borrowing human hands, it cannot create emotions unless the will or passion of the artist is naturally melted down upon it.
Through my works, I aim to express the topic of emotions outwardly by attempting to describe a various range of psychological states existing in our environment with visual formation of colors and figurative form.
ON INFLUENCE My greatest source of inspiration stems from my beloved grandmother who was the personal seamstress for the Vice President of Korea before the outbreak of the Korean War. Growing up beside her, I watched as she would gracefully transform fabrics of every texture and color into elegant garments, equipped only with her hands and a sewing machine. I can still recall the times during my childhood scribbling on paper, coloring the walls with waxy crayons, and making abstract sculptures with rubber clay, to the sound of my grandmother’s sewing machine humming in the background. We would take long walks together through picturesque landscapes. At the top of a hill, we would sit gazing upon the village below, strewn with hues of yellows, reds and blues that would change with the sunrise and sunset. Inspired by those memories, the use of textures and colors grew to be an essential part of my work. I often express my influence in the form of layered slabs that are detailed with stitching. This technique I use both in my sculptures as well as my pottery. It is reminiscent of traditional Korean patchwork, which my grandmother made, woven together from various fabrics.
As human beings, we may share similar experiences, think in a similar way, or get influenced by the same things; therefore, I absolutely understand that there could be some parallels in creating. Also, the rise of social media has made it much easier for artists to share their work, but at the same time it has made it easier for others to copy as well. Becoming inspired by looking at an artist one admires is natural and develops creativity, but duplicating someone’s work is unjustifiable. For instance, it is not only me who has fond memories of their grandmother, but the difference lies in how she inspired my work. For artists, the things that they create are their own fortune, and to have them copied is theft. If someone copied my techniques that were inspired from my grandmother, they would be stealing my personal memories of her as well.
ON LEARNING I believe that a Master’s degree is not essential to become a successful potter. Anyone has the ability to become a professional potter even by taking a single pottery class. However, for me, the MFA program was a time where I could experiment and deeply reflect on my work. For a person who was very passionate about pottery or sculpture, an MFA program would be very beneficial for learning more about the public’s perspective through experiments, critical discussions, and critiques from world-renowned artists and professionals.
My deepest and most intimate memories are conveyed not only through the sculpting of clay, but also in the patterning, layering, and coloring of the surfaces. These vibrant and intricate surfaces are the manifestation of my inner desires and cherished relationship I shared with my grandmother who passed away several years ago.
Jeff Kleckner Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
BIOGRAPHY I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio and a Master of Fine Arts from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Illinois. I have taught ceramics at Appalachian Center for the Crafts (TN), The Baum School of Art (PA), Kutztown University (PA), and currently teach at Northampton Community College (PA). My work has been exhibited throughout the United States in exhibitions and the highest quality craft shows and art festivals. Originally from Allentown, Pennsylvania, I have maintained a studio in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania since 1988.
ON CUPS My first teacher, Bill Clark, made many cups. He talked about how one could make a living if they could sell their cups. This was a long time ago when pottery was briefly popular. I truly like making cups, even though they are hard to make. Handles are always a challenge. It is more difficult to make and attach the handle than to form the cup itself. Try keeping track of how long it takes to trim, decorate, and make handles for six cups. It is probably better not to know.
I feel that if you can make a great cup, you can make anything. The scale of the cup interests me greatly. As a handheld object, it has the most intimate scale. Cups are interactive, not static. One holds a cup, brings it to the mouth, and washes it. Much can be communicated through these conditions. My favorite cups are by Kris Nelson. I have two, one of which I use most mornings. I love tea bowls and yunomi. Cups without handles befuddle Americans. They do not know what to do. They always ask, “Do you have that with a handle?” I think about our audience. Is there one? The people who acquire my pots seem to have had a way in, like having taken a clay class or knowing a ceramic artist. Richard DeVore said, “We have thousands of people who make the stuff, but we don’t have thousands who collect the stuff.” Joe Zeller, my professor in undergraduate school said we were making “pots for other potters,” as if only potters get it. I love seeing “good” cups. I get so excited. How do you join the good potters club, a secret society? I suspect these are my mentors.
STATEMENT It is the rich history and complex process of ceramics that keeps me engaged in the making of pots. The materials, kilns, firings, and rhythm of the studio have become a comfortable part of my life, almost akin to a refuge.
I tend to make complex pots, not understated in form or surface. An interplay or dialogue between shape and decoration can create a visual tension, which I find to be a rewarding artistic goal. By thinking of pottery as an avenue to explore color, line, surface, and form, I have discovered a wellspring of inexhaustible creative opportunities.
ON CUPS I don’t remember who taught me to make a cup as the early days of learning how to make pots was a quiet desperation just learning to center. I do remember an early experience watching a potter make a cup. It was the first time I had seen anyone throw on the wheel. I found out much later that the potter was Stave Frazier. Steve was a grad student at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville at the time. He was teaching a class that a good friend of mine was taking and I was visiting. Steve’s wheel was in the corner of a big room with a stone fireplace. The class was being taught in an old house on campus; everyone was 105
crowded around to watch. I was struck by the apparent magic the potter was using to make the clay move. I guess many have had similar experiences when enchanting their “first potter.” I had never seen anything like it and I was mystified. The cups were being made from a big hump of clay on the wheel. One after another, all the same and all different at the same time. My favorite cup is a mug made by my good friend Mark Hewitt. I drink from it almost daily. But I confess that I kind of stole this mug. Not from Mark, but from my daughter Lillian. Let me explain. My family and I were driving
home from the beach and we stopped to see Mark because I knew he was firing his kiln that day. Mark had just pulled a draw ring from the hot kiln with a long iron rod. Unfortunately my little daughter Lillian, who was about three at the time, reached down and picked up the still hot rod and burned her hand. Mark kindly quieted Lillian by filling this mug with ice water so that she could put her hand in the ice. That’s how tiny she was at the time, she could put her whole hand in this ice-filled mug. Lillian was fine, just scared from the surprise of the hot metal.
Michael Kline Bakersville, North Carolina
BIOGRAPHY Michael Kline is a full time studio potter from Bakersville, North Carolina. He received his BFA from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and was artist in residence at the Penland School of Crafts from 1998-2001. He was recently featured in the instructional DVD, The Brush & The Wheel, produced by Ceramic Arts Daily. Known to many as a social media maven, Michael is currently leading the charge on the live-streaming platform, Periscope.
the natural properties of clay and wood fire continues to lead me through this potter's life, at times exasperating and at others, exhilarating.
ON INFLUENCE I am influenced and influential, I copy and my work gets copied. My work is like a tributary seeking the main stream, the ocean. It only develops when it seeks and picks up bits from here and bits from there. In the end, when my earthly body is long gone, my pots will probably remain as a very small part in the vast sea of ceramic history.
Despite the many tangents that lead me this way and that in the course of making pottery, the ideas, desires and excitement of clay remain very close to those at the very beginning of my career. To be sure, the outcome of experience and effort, trial and error, has evolved through the years. But the process still begins with the simple, ecstatic response to a ball of soft clay. Hopefully, the successful pot elicits a similar response in the context of the home. The mountains of North Carolina provide plenty of inspiration with their wildly exuberant flora, geological variety and the pottery history that sprang from these geological circumstances. Strong pottery form and patterns evoke the complexity of this natural environment. By some combination of optimism and risk, my collaboration with 106
Elizabeth Lurie Farmington Hills, Michigan
BIOGRAPHY Elizabeth Lurie was born in 1940 in Mt. Clemens, Michigan. She received her B.A. from Trinity College, Washington, D.C. in 1962 and her M.A. from The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1965. She married Neil Lurie in 1966 and had two children, Shira and David. Lurie refined her craft studying at Detroit’s Pewabic Pottery from 1972 to 1974 and has been a studio potter for over 44 years. Her work is included in the collection of Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI, Henry Ford Community College, Dearborn, MI, The Crocker Museum, Sacramento, CA, Racine Museum of Art, WI, and numerous private collections.
ON CUPS In the clay object, the memory of the potter’s touch is recorded. The particular use of the many elements that go into the design of the cup transmit the intelligence and sensibility of the maker. From the hands of the maker to the hands of the user, a communication takes place that is difficult to define but there is no doubt in my mind that it is there. I think it is this communication that accounts for the satisfaction we get when using a chosen cup and our disappointment when a favorite is broken. For the potter, cups offer a wonderful vehicle for play with the many design elements that go into making these common pieces. Small changes in the lines or proportions of a design can produce a cup that appears sturdy and comfortable, one that is at home on a busy desk crowded with papers and books, or one that is poised and elegant asking the user for more careful and formal handling. 107
Between those two extremes there are endless variations. I can’t even guess how many cups I have made over the past 40 years. They would range from tiny espresso cups with saucers to hefty coffee, tea, or soup mugs. Years ago when our house had reached its capacity of wonderful art and craft objects, I began to collect cups from other potters as a way to have at least a small piece of their work. I use them every morning and I also can’t tell how many of those have been loved, used, and eventually broken. One that comes to mind was a piece by Mathew Metz. I bought the cup when we were both in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Craft Show. I had admired his work the first time I saw it but soon learned that if I wanted one of his cups, I’d better be at his booth first when the show opens. This cup was the perfect size for me, the perfect handle for my hand and a wonderful example of the artist’s complex sgraffito drawings. This cup also carried the memories of my excitement of participating in that great show. I used it at least four times a week for over fifteen years. One day, as I rummaged in the crowded cupboard, the Metz cup slipped out and shattered on the floor. Usually when this happens, I accept the fact that this is often the fate of the clay objects that we make, but this time I decided to glue it together. This cup was, in my opinion, the most perfect cup in terms of function and design that I had ever owned. I just couldn’t dump the pieces in the trash bin. It now occupies a spot in a display case with many other cups I’ve made or collected. Among these are some delicate bone china teacups hand painted by my mother.
STATEMENT As a functional potter, I make about 5,000 individual pieces of pottery every year. To think of them as works of art is foolish, but I do hope that they communicate something of what I feel regarding personal expression in pottery. My main interest is in the form, surface, and gesture of making. I am working with the same elements that a painter or sculptor use, but the results are completely different. 109
A potter first attracts the eye through form, color, textures, gesture, and possibly decorative devices. Eventually, due to the nature of the work, such things as weight, balance, tactile reactions, and suitability to function begin to engage us. Out of a kiln load of hundreds of pots, only a few reach out strongly to the user. Out of this small number, even fewer will continue to engage the senses after daily use.
These seem to tap a source beyond the personal and deal with universal experience. They are not necessarily amenable to intellectual analysis, and in fact that analysis can destroy a personâ€™s real appreciation and understanding of a piece. Some pots just feel right, and a person who is open will know them. If given time to absorb the inner nature of the work and its maker, this person can share in the creative act that produced the piece.
Warren MacKenzie Stillwater, Minnesota
BIOGRAPHY MacKenzie’s defining moment leading to his life’s work began while he was a student at The Art Institute of Chicago when he came across a simple and practical book on pottery written by renowned English potter Bernard Leach. MacKenzie became Leach's apprentice in 1950 and lived with Leach for two and a half years. Leach, who had learned pottery-making in Japan, filled his studio in England with Asian ceramics that included a number of works by Shoji Hamada, known as the father of Mashiko pottery. In this setting, MacKenzie was gradually influenced by the simplicity and subtlety of this functional mingei art, everyday ordinary art and crafts, many of which were made by unknown craftsmen. Following his return to the United States, MacKenzie built his first kiln in Minnesota. “I was born and grew up in the Midwest. I felt that this was the area that understood the kind of pots I wanted to make,” says MacKenzie. In the same year, he met Shoji Hamada and Muneyoshi Yanagi. Yanagi, founder of the Mingei Movement in Japan, was the first to recognize the beauty in the humble ceramics used by the general population throughout the Edo and Meiji periods. This type of mingei ceramic was rapidly disappearing in Japan’s rapid move towards more modern urbanization. Hamada and Yanagi’s philosophy of the mingei aesthetic of traditional crafts where beauty arises from an object's utility was
among the many things MacKenzie learned through his interchanges with them and led him to coin the term “Mingei-sota” to describe his own pottery style. He adds, “I’m afraid that today too many people are buying my work because of my reputation, and not because they use the pots.” MacKenzie hopes that once his ceramics leave the gallery, they will be put to use and become a part of one's daily life. In addition to his work as a potter, MacKenzie also taught at the University of Minnesota. Through half a century of teaching, he has instructed more than 3,000 students, including the participating artists in this exhibition, passing his aesthetic and philosophy on to them. Warren MacKenzie has been represented by countless galleries, art institutions and museums with over 100 solo exhibitions and over 170 group shows throughout the United States, Canada, Venezuela, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, United Kingdom, Finland, Sweden, other parts of Europe, Africa and South America. Permanent collections are held in museums such as the Mingei-kan (National Folk Art Museum) Tokyo, the Metropolitan, Smithsonian, Victoria and Albert, and many more.
Frank Martin earned his MFA in 1989 from Cranbrook Academy of Art and his BFA in 1987 from the Kansas City Art Institute. He has taught at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Rhode Island School of Design, The State University of New York at New Paltz, Chautauqua School of Art, Worcester Center for Crafts, and the 92nd Street YM-YWHA in Manhattan, NYC. Martin is currently Associate Professor of Art at The University of Tennessee’s School of Art where he has been teaching since 2001. He’s a recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship, Tennessee Arts Commission Competition Award. Numerous notable exhibitions include The State of the Art 2008, The Art of Tennessee exhibition at Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, and Young Americans at the Museum of American Craft. His awards include a craftsman-in-residence at Pewabic Pottery in Detroit Michigan, resident at the Appalachian Center for Crafts in Smithville, TN and Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts, Newcastle, ME. Since 1987, Frank has conducted 46 Visiting Artist workshops and lectures throughout the United States. His creative work has been included in well over 100 group exhibitions since 1989. His creative research can be found in the collections of The Dinnerware Museum, Museum’s Collection, Ann Arbor, MI, The University of North Dakota, Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA, and the ScheinJoseph International Museum of Ceramic Art, New York. His work has been included and reproduced in both articles and books.
“I remember when I was a boy going upon the beach and being charmed with the colors and forms of the shells. I picked up many and put them in my pocket. When I got home I could find nothing that I gathered--nothing but some dry ugly mussel and snail shells. Thence I learned that Composition was more important than the beauty of individual forms… On the shore they lay wet and social by the sea and under the sky.”
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journal May 16, 1834) The focus of my work explores the limit of utility and its possibilities. Through the use of color and form, an investigation of division and the reassembling of elements are considered either for special celebration or for everyday use. Serendipity, the results of process, the interactions of color and form, and the effect of nature also inspire. In my work, intent of function and its use is vital and inescapable. My goal is to gratify the viewer's pleasure through the appearance of the object, while assuring that and the user and the vessel performs pleasingly in its use.
ON CUPS My first experience making cups was in a beginning pottery class taught by Richard St. John. The assignment was to design a set of mugs sketching out the details of the cups design on 3 x 5 cards with notations of height and width and the weight of clay to be used. I always imagined this was Rick’s way of passing on one of his first experiences of becoming a potter.
My favorite cup would be: A cup that asks questions; A cup that suggests a solution, yet, not a cup that was created as an exercise in copying a successful version of itself. A cup that shares the decisions made during the creative process. A cup from a series that delightfully stands apart from its brood. A cup that can spark conversation at a party or provide excellent company while in serving the morning beverage on the daily commute. A cup that doesn’t pretend to be a multi-tool; a cup that is smart, but not gimmicky. A cup that bridges history yet has found its usefulness in the present. A cup found within the restrictions of the pragmatic descriptions of a cup, while illuminating relevant ideas you never before considered.
ON LEARNING It’s important find a Master’s program that is supportive of you and your creative research. Remember, they will pick the candidate who best fits the program. Master students clearly should demonstrate knowledge of theoretical issues in relation to their studio practice. Two or three years should be enough time to grow a healthy work ethic, gain influences, find pertinent ways to generate ideas, develop work and test the foundations of their critical and theoretical approaches to methodology. If you’ve been working in clay for a couple of years prior to this, don’t expect to develop a deep passion for this career in that amount of time. We do grow in that amount of time, but you need to come prepared to earn your passion for what you specialize in.
Frank Martin Maryville, Tennessee
Jennifer Martin Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
BIOGRAPHY Throughout my artistic career, I’ve worked in arts organizations, participated in numerous residencies, and held instructor and university faculty positions. In each of these working environments, I’ve built positive relationships and sought to create a sense of community, which I then use to inform my ceramic work. I consider myself a builder. I build ceramic forms, relationships, and community. I seek to explore human nature through my ceramic artwork, reveling time and understanding through the creation and manipulation of clay forms. I build with wheel-thrown and altered pieces, using traditional glazes and firings to highlight the sensual nature of the clay and its response to touch. I have devoted my career to ceramic arts education and communities. I received a BFA in Ceramics from Georgia Southern University in 1997 and a MFA in Ceramics at Georgia State University in 2000. I am currently the Vice President of The Clay Studio in Philadelphia.
STATEMENT We know that scars and imperfections on the physical body mark moments in our lives, working as visual reminders of our own history. I am interested in celebrating human experience through my work, while embracing both the positive and negative memories it may reveal. I seek to honor ceramic tradition without being inhibited by its vast history. I explore the sensual nature of clay as reflected through physical touch. Using the tools and processes of a traditional potter, I look not towards the ideal symmetrical vessel but instead towards asymmetry. My work often acts as a metaphor for the physical body, and I consider function secondary to fluidity and gesture in form. While the marks on the surfaces of the pots record the history of
my hand in its creation, these same marks symbolize an individual’s experience. Like the rings seen in the cross-section of a tree, these marks provide a history of growth. In a similar manner, I use the repetitive lines and patterns in my work to create a vocabulary able to describe gender, memory, a personal journey, or simply one’s personality make-up. Both the scale of the work and the way it is grouped is of utmost importance to me. I seek to elevate the ceramic vessel from simply a utilitarian object to that of something that explores memory, relationships, and personal history. I do this by creating various scenarios in which to view each piece. The way two forms reflect each other’s profiles, such as a grid-work of cups both similar in form but distinct when viewed together, or large-scale forms created from actual body measurements, provides a variety of experiences to explore the same body of work and find one’s own individual narrative. In a final homage to the human body, I use traditional glazes in order to maintain a flesh-like aspect to the clay.
ON CUPS You have to “try on” a cup the same way you try on clothes. You have to pick the one that fits the best in your hand. This is one of the many reasons handmade cups are so special. They each have a different fit, different weight, and different feel in your hand. You definitely have to try on my cups. I can remember conversation during critiques about handles and feet. Is it a 2-finger handle? 3? What about a 1-finger handle? What does it feel like with liquid in it? All things have to be considered. What does it feel like on your lips? Is the bottom finished? Is it going to scratch the table? I can’t think of a more intimate object than a cup. You don’t handle other pots or spend as much time with other ceramic objects the same way you do with a cup.
My cup collection is like my friendships with people. I don’t have a best friend or a favorite because they all bring something different to the table. I enjoy choosing what cup I will use depending on what I am drinking, the time of day, or if I am in a hurry. Picking a handmade cup from the shelf is a thoughtful act. It causes you to pause and make a decision. Who do you want to enjoy a drink with? It always makes me think of the person who made the cup that I am drinking from. Cups are a part of my routine. I always take a tumbler form for my water, a tea bowl form for whiskey drinks, and of course a nice mug for my morning coffee. I don’t use all of my cups. Some are purely for my viewing pleasure. These forms tend to be a little more delicate, more decorative, and sometimes more expensive. I may decide to use them one day, but for now they are just on display. I know it has taken me a long time to learn how to make a good cup. I currently make three different forms: mugs, cups, and tumblers. In my mind, each form has a different use, but that is ultimately up to the user to decide. I just want the cup to be used and enjoyed and to fit perfectly in your hand and on your lips.
ON MENTORS I hope to be a mentor to other makers. If I am able to make this career path a little easier for someone else by sharing something that I have learned, a life experience, or by giving advice, then I will be successful and hopefully they will be more successful than me.
Roberta Massuch Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
BIOGRAPHY Roberta Massuch lives and works in Philadelphia, PA, where she is a Resident Artist at The Clay Studio, Studio Technician at The Community College of Philadelphia, and adjunct faculty at Tyler School of Art. She received her BFA from Northern Illinois University in 2005 and her MFA from Louisiana State University in May 2013. Past residencies include Worcester Center for Craft, Northern Clay Center, and Tyler School of Art. She was recently awarded a 2015 Independence Foundation Visual Arts Fellowship, funding her participation in an 8-week Arquetopia Special Ceramics Artist Residency at the Arquetopia Foundation for Development in Puebla, Mexico.
STATEMENT My practice involves three separate, yet completely intertwined ways of working: ceramic sculpture, functional pottery, and drawing. In the sculptural work, I construct compositions with minimalist, architectural ceramic forms, which are coated with a film of directed or reflected light from adjacent, brightly colored surfaces. Based in color theory, these three-dimensional still lifes address the perception of objects and the spaces between. The pinched functional objects I create also emerge from these observations. Simple vessels with white exterior surfaces are inextricably involved 115
with nearby objects; the surface of one will always affect the perception of another due to shifts in the intensity and direction of light covering the forms. Drawings become a record of the light and shadows that force the eye to shift over forms constantly, causing static objects to appear to wiggle. It is this constant movement, this lack of clarity, and this distortion, that drive my studio explorations and reveals how I perceive and create relationships between the objects in the lived space. Each work I create shares with the viewer a particular type of looking: one in which the act of noticing an object transforming from one moment to the next becomes a silent, almost meditative experience.
ON CUPS I was once told that the cup is the most intimate of vessels because you place your lips directly upon it, creating an instant connection between the maker and the user. This is such a romantic thought, and though I honestly cannot remember who shared it, it has stuck with me throughout my career. I love this idea: that the careful consideration of the maker can be communicated through use. I believe that this is why most of the vessels I make are cups and why I take such care in making them.
I do not want the cups I make to live alone. I want them on the shelf next to other makers’ cups. I want the blue body of the Mikey Walsh penguin mug to reflect its color onto the side of my own white pinched cylinder. I want the soft surface of Mimi McPartlan’s mug to nestle next to Andy Shaw’s iceberg juice cup. Birdie Boone’s belly-bottom mug should sit atop a Becky Chappell mug that was acquired in a trade years ago. All of the cups on the shelf or in the cupboard have a place, composing a still life of inextricably involved objects. It is a collection of mugs, tumblers, and cups that tells a story about the makers I have encountered over the years working in clay. I have cups in my collection from many of the makers who are participating in this project. Former professors, workshops instructors, classmates, and friends have all been mentors to me in some way. I believe that each person has influenced the way I make a cup – how I pinch, press, seal, or slice the material into the desired form. Now, I share what I’ve learned and practiced with other makers. This way of understanding a material (watching others, trying new techniques, and then making adjustments to your own liking) connects us to one another in the most intimate form: the cup.
Alex Matisse Marshall, North Carolina
BIOGRAPHY Alex has worked with clay since the 7th grade. After dropping out of college in North Carolina, he pursued three years of traditional apprenticeships with studio potters Matt Jones and Mark Hewitt before starting East Fork Pottery in the fall of 2009. East Fork Pottery now functions as an atelier, with John Vigeland joining in the fall of 2013. Together, John and Alex work to address the challenge of taking a traditional practice and adapting it to meet the concerns of a wider and diverse marketplace, taking cues from the world of design and architecture and larger production models, while still staying true to their belief in a sustainable studio practices and the use of unrefined local materials. Matisse has exhibited nationally in galleries and museums. His work has been featured in magazines, books, and television. He recently finished a collaboration with Calvin Klein Home and is currently working a new collection for them, as well as his first line of dinnerware, which will be produced and distributed by his company, East Fork Pottery.
MENTORS As a student of the traditional apprenticeship model, the teachers with the most influence were Matt Jones and Mark Hewitt. They taught me to think about making work in a specific way: to make a large quantity, to make it proficiently, and make it with an eye to detail, form, and subtlety as it relates to multiples when compared to the hundred or so objects one would throw in an afternoon. In the realm of the less tangible, they taught me what it takes mentally to make enough work to support oneself and oneâ€™s family in the world. To do so takes removing the preciousness from each individual object and instead putting that devotion to the act of making as a whole. Matt Jones was not the first person to teach me how to make a cup, but it was my first vivid memory of the experience. I remember throwing a large number of sake cups.
They were small, perhaps a quarter pound, and all weighed up separately, not off the hump. I remember the daunting feeling of looking down an empty five foot ware board and thinking about how many of these damned things it would take to fill it up, and then the satisfying feeling when it was complete. I am a huge proponent of the apprenticeship system. I was an apprentice for three years and we have two apprentices working at East Fork Pottery now. Our apprenticeship is structured like an apprenticeship for a trade. One comes to learn the work of the studio, not explore their own artistic nature. That comes only after the student has left and is on their own. When you are asked to copy your mentorâ€™s work, you understand the work in a completely different way than if you are copying what you see in a book. In the best of circumstances one learns to understand the essence of the work in a way that is complete. To copy a piece, as a young student often does, without bearing witness to the actual work of the objectâ€™s maker, usually yields a pale ghost of a pot, thin and unsure. At East Fork Pottery we are exploring a new model, which we hope will grow to give our employees a full time position after they have finished their apprenticeship. To do this, we are moving in a direction that from the outside might be viewed as commercial, but will offer steady work to someone who wants to make pottery full time. East Fork is a family and we endeavor, by providing meaningful work, to create an environment that fosters growth, independence, and security. After an employee has been with us for some time there could be an opportunity to become a member of the East Fork Guild, which is equivalent to making partner at a law firm or getting tenure as a teacher. We hope that this system can answer the question of how to make pots, make a living, and be part of a community.
Michael McCarthy Williamsburg, Massachusetts
Michael McCarthy is a studio potter focusing on wood fired, salt glazed functional pottery that one will use every day. Since November 2008, McCarthy has been the ceramics instructor at the Austen Riggs Center, a residential psychiatric hospital located in Stockbridge, MA.
Deceptively simple, the cup still remains a complex pot for me to make.
STATEMENT A friend and neighbor of mine is a great appreciator of studio pottery. His modest kitchen contains a small walk-in pantry that is absent of any food. Instead, the shelves are stacked high with plates and bowls and lined with deep rows of pitchers, vases and mugs. Without fail, whenever we visit, we discuss pottery, ending marveling and handling these pots. It must be an odd sight to see the two of us in his pantry enthusiastically carrying on. Yet, we never tire of this ritual. The exchange serves as educator and motivator. I am excited to be a member of the clay community but am aware of the responsibility of craftsmanship and innovation in a timeless art. Upon leaving his house, filled with ideas, I am eager to head back to the studio. Having just looked at pots I admire, I am left with the satisfying challenge – how will I contribute?
I remember my first workshop at Penland, a concentration that is now 15 years ago, pulling handle after handle. I often attached four handles to a single cylinder. The cups and mugs of the potters in Penland were my constant companions in the studio and at the dining hall. Artist Michael Kline, the Penland resident at the time, a young Michael Hunt with his newly set up studio in the side of a hill, my class TA Brenda Quinn; the cups of these potters were some of my first teachers. After Penland I became an apprentice for Mark Shapiro. Cups were a primary focus. It wasn’t uncommon for Mark to take apart my freshly finished cup to show me how I could do it better. My lessons in the studio extended to afternoon tea, when I would rifle through Mark’s cupboards and experience an entirely new vocabulary of handles, lips, decoration and form. Years later, I still love going to Mark’s to see what’s new in his studio and what pots I might find in his kitchen. Cups continue to be a fixture of my studio practice. Although it’s no longer necessary to pull four handles on each cylinder I make, I strive to improve my cups in other ways. Through all these years, what I’ve learned to be most important is to let my own voice come through.
Allison McGowan Hermans Concord, North Carolina
Allison lives in Concord, NC with her husband and two children. She grew up in Atlanta, GA. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a BFA in clay and glass, and earned an MFA from Alfred University in Alfred, New York. She was a Sage Scholarship recipient and summer Resident Artist at the Archie Bray Foundation, and was a Resident Artist at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia. She has taught workshops and been a visiting artist at universities, colleges, and art centers around the country. In 2012 Allison went back to school to pursue a degree in occupational therapy and works as a pediatric and elderly OTA in homes and in the hospital setting. She continues to create in her studio at her home and has joined the collective group Thrown Together Potters in Charlotte, NC.
I fondly remember my favorite cup growing up. It was one in a set of four tall, sturdy brown stoneware cups my sisters and I used to drink tomato soup from every time we had grilled cheese sandwiches. There was one cup out of the set that the artist had sculpted a small frog to the interior floor of the cup. My sisters and I loved to see if we were the chosen one who got the cup with the frog in our soup.
STATEMENT Nature, the process of sewing, and Art Nouveau architecture are all interwoven in the creation of my clay work. Nature inspires me to find new forms and structures using repetitive patterns, colors, and textures on the surface to emulate the world around me. The process of sewing has given me a pieced and layered aesthetic, which is achieved through cutting, darting, altering, and mending as visible in the finished product. The Art Nouveau style of uniting nature and structure gives me ideas for basic form and elaborates on the ideas of function in my work. Combining various patterns, volumes, and structures, my process guides my hand and eye in my current work. Balancing these while still being useful and functional is an achievement nature teaches me.
I respond to cups tactilely and viscerally every day in the making process and during use. I inspect handles, volumes, textures, and subtleties of glaze, and how to make them and make them better. I feel the connection and a story bound to each cup in my cupboard, and pick according to my mood each day. Cups are like photographs reminding me where I was, who I was with, and what I was feeling when I purchased, traded, made, or was given the cup. Sharing this connection with my kids is like passing down the photo album. I love teaching them about beauty and energy these everyday objects can house, and sharing who made them, frogs and all.
I started making pots while I was an art student at Abilene Christian University in West Texas. After receiving my BFA, I moved to Austin in 1995 and began an apprenticeship with Billy Ray Mangham. As my apprenticeship continued I developed my own style, taught children and adults, and began building my own kilns. Today I divide my time between my ceramic studio tech duties at the Dougherty Arts Center, organizing the Art of the Pot Studio Tour, making pots, and exhibiting around the country.
My first ceramics instructor, David Brigman, taught me to make cups. He had an elegant throwing style and he was a master at decorating pots with geometric images, greatly influenced by Mimbres pottery. I can still remember watching him make a cylinder in my first ceramics class. The proportions were perfect for the hand; he did it effortlessly and the finished cup was just the right weight. He spoke at great length about balance, weight, feet, and glaze.
Influence is a beautiful thing and I am very susceptible to it. A casual comment from a friend or customer will change my work in sometimes dramatic ways. People comment on the size or shape or color of things and it stays on my mind. I like to think of it as a free idea. I didn’t have to work to come up with the idea. It was given to me as a gift.
STATEMENT Process is the main influence on my work. I use a technique called water carving that mimics erosion. I paint paraffin on my dry, unfired pots and then wash the surface with a very wet sponge. The possibilities of this technique help to create the patterns and lines decorating my pots. I didn’t envision a style to seek out but was led to my current body of work by following this technique. Certain lines and shapes are possible in water carving, and these are the lines and shapes in my work. I look to mass-produced glass, metal, and plastic for inspiration just as much as I look to contemporary and historic pottery. The recent drawings on my work come from diagrams, images of cells and viruses, Mayan glyphs, and symbols used in mathematics.
I have two favorite cups right now. My favorite to use regularly is a small coffee cup by Kenyon Hansen. It has a one-finger handle and it is a light gray green celadon. Eight very thin coils form vertical ridges on the outside of the cup. My favorite cup that sits on a shelf is by Peter Pincus. It is a square cup without a handle. Two sides have black and gray horizontal stripes. The other two sides have bright blue, red, yellow and white stripes. I traded for both of these cups during the Art of the Pot Studio Tour in Austin, Texas. I wish I could have another slip cast cup by Sam Chung. It’s a vertical wavy tumbler that makes drinking a cup of coffee that much better of an experience. It’s the most ergonomic cup I’ve ever held. The undulating form is perfect for the human hand. I used one until it cracked – I keep it on a shelf in my living room with my collection of cups where I can admire it regularly.
Copying is the sincerest form of flattery. For years I tried to find the right handle for my work. I’ve also admired Christa Assad’s coffee mug handles – they're comfortable, ergonomic, and very friendly to use. I’ve adopted her design and everyone has loved the handles on my mugs. Christa says I need some more practice. Being an apprentice was the most formative experience of my career. I learned to make a variety of shapes that I would never have attempted to make on my own – my creative design was stretched. But more importantly, I learned how to become a professional potter. My mentor, Billy Ray Mangham, is a leader of people. I watched him and his wife Beverly bring people together for exhibitions, studio sales, building projects, and parties. They were a huge influence on me, showing me how I wanted to live. Their community organizing skills are very impressive. My studio assistant, Chris Long, is a big part of my studio practice now. He mixes glazes, cleans the studio weekly, manages the kiln repair and maintenance, and entertains me. He only makes his own work in my studio. I value the model of the apprentice focused on his or her own pots. For the most part, Chris Long’s only contact with my work is sanding and washing my bisqueware. I am not opposed to assistants making the boss’s pots. It just isn’t right for me. Chris is very motivated and he makes a lot of pots that he sells locally. I trade him studio space and kiln firing for his work that he does in the studio. This trade is beneficial for us both.
Ryan McKerley Austin, Texas
Mimi McPartlan Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Mimi McPartlan received her BFA from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 2012. Since graduation, she has assisted KleinReid in New York City, been a Resident Artist at Künstlerhaus Stadttöpferei Neumünster in Germany, and appeared in Ceramic Monthly’s Undergraduate Showcase. Mimi is presently a Resident Artist at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, PA.
The complex and intimate details of a cup became apparent to me from watching Pete Pinnell’s video, “Thoughts on Cups.” Kala Stein showed our introduction to wheel throwing class Pete’s half hour discourse on ceramic drinking vessels as a rather necessary supplement to the beginning of our technical training. This discussion on cups astounded me. He explains a user’s relationship to this simple and most necessary part of vessels as an almost flirtatious scheme, a mutual wooing. He speaks of body language, experience, and tactility. I’d like to think that each cup in this sense might just have its own match; its own hand it melds with and responds to or situation in which it is suited.
STATEMENT The forms I create are daydreams of familiar feelings, of tactile nostalgia. Memories of soft, worn, warm rocks or of a perfect interlocking. Recollections of hazy horizons and fleeting light. A soft fullness belies a tension in the flat planes that intersect the curves. Through the juxtaposition of supple and sharp lines, the shapes gain posture while maintaining fleshiness. Imaginary rituals of socializing or idleness, conversations and occasions are the impetus of my making. The beauty of our possessions is a sum of their modesty of use and function or in their frivolity and wonder. I muse on how we curate the objects we hold closest to us to reflect our origins, dreams and values.
Is it always the maker’s hand making its utilitarian mate and reflection? Is the maker creating for its desired user? The one who traces the foot ring with their finger, the one who never leaves it dirty in the sink, the one who doesn’t restrict the cup to only one type of beverage. When we think about the use of cups in daily life, we begin to imagine the most personal and the most public of situations: the cup to rinse toothpaste, the cup that helps wake us up, the cup to toast with. Drinking in all its facets.
All of our cups may serve the same general purpose of containing liquid: the necessity of a device to hold liquid as our hands were evolved to splay at the ends to let us grasp. But all these cups come from a different place of function, of design, or of expression. I think if you want to know a tableware maker, you need to live with their cup, hold their hand, if you will. I am so delighted to spend time with all of these distinct ceramic personalities. We’ve all made many cups in practice of which our aesthetic has been defined; they serve as sort of trading cards for ceramicists. These handheld basic components reflect and influence all resulting forms – the rim, the foot, the form, the handle. This little personified volume with an arm arching in the air – we strive to bring this object to the front of the cupboard, cupped in hands, held at mouth. This is what Pete instilled in me upon this first viewing: a conversation about makers negotiating material and feeling that is unique to functional ceramics.
Cups that break, cups that sip, cups to cup, cups to hold daintily, cups to show color, cups to keep temperature, cups to flip, cups to grip, cups that hold, cups that offer. 126
Ron Meyers Athens, Georgia
BIOGRAPHY Ron Meyers holds a 1967 MFA degree in Ceramics from the School for American Craftsmen, Rochester Institute of Technology. He taught at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC from 1967 to 1972 and spent the next 20 years teaching at the University of Georgia, Athens, GA where he retired as Professor Emeritus in 1992. He has an extensive history of professional activities within the ceramics community and has presented more than 100 workshops and demonstrations in the United States and abroad. Recent exhibitions of his work include a one-person show at Huntington Museum of Art, Huntington, WV; Regis Masters Exhibit, Northern Clay Center, Minneapolis, MN; and a 45 retrospective, “A Potter’s Menagerie,” Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, AR. His works are in the collections of the Wiseman Museum of Art, Minneapolis, MN; the High Museum, Atlanta, GA; the Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, GA; and the Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC.
STATEMENT My interest in clay has always been in making useful objects. I have been influenced by and attracted to cultures or individuals that produced useful work in a relaxed or casual manner: work in which the end product reflects the process with which it was made, 127
as well as the individual’s touch and human qualities that were left behind by the maker. The pieces that I make and am most pleased with are those that are spontaneous, come closest to integrating form and surface, and reflect the object’s use.
ON MENTORS Like any beginner on the wheel, my first assignment was cups. Once I sort of got the hang of centering clay, my teacher Frans Wildenhain would once a day on the three days of the week he was in the studio, critique my efforts. Frans was not a fun guy, tough as nails, and not sympathetic to my beginner’s plight. Once I was able to make a three-inch cylinder to put a handle on and look like a cup or a mug, Frans’ crits of my efforts were not encouraging – they were too thick, too thin, wobbled, not all the same size. “Ron, your work looks like wet socks! They should have tension and be ready to explode!” After 50 years of working in clay, my work still looks like wet socks. However, now we just call them relaxed and casual. I was with Frans for two years at school and stayed connected to him for the rest of his life. He was the most inspiring artist that I have had the good fortune to meet. In the 1980s, I traveled to Japan and reveled in their yunomis and tea bowls that were made in a seemingly casual and relaxed manner. Goro Suziki’s work continues to blow me away.
Michael Hunt & Naomi Daglish Bakersville, North Carolina
BIOGRAPHY Michael and Naomi live and work in the mountains of western North Carolina. Using many local materials, they collaborate in making wood-fired utilitarian pottery. Although they make and glaze the pottery together, individually, Naomi makes the figurative sculptures, and Michael makes the large jars. Michael got hooked on clay in high school, and became a student at Penland School of Craft shortly after graduating. It was there that he met Will Ruggles and Douglas Rankin, who became teachers and mentors to him. Several years later he was invited to go to Korea to learn the traditional method of making large Ongii storage jars with master Ongii potter Oh Hyang Jong. Upon returning from Korea, Michael began setting up a studio and building a large Thai-shaped wood kiln in the Penland area. Naomi began making pottery with her grandmother as a child. She studied clay at Earlham College with Mike Theideman, a former apprentice of Warren MacKenzie. She spent a semester in Mexico, where she studied with Mexican potters and discovered pre-Colombian clay figures. In addition to making pottery, she began making sculptures inspired by pre-Colombian and Japanese Haniwa figures. After college, Naomi came to Penland to take a kiln building class and met Michael, who was building a kiln at his studio.
Michael and Naomi discovered they shared a similar passion and approach to making pottery. Now they work together as full time potters, firing their kiln four times a year, and occasionally teaching workshops. Their pottery is named “Bandana Pottery” after the small community in which they live. They exhibit their work nationally and internationally.
The cup is probably one of the most intimate of these objects, something that is daily held in your hand, art that literally touches your lips, and accompanies you through hundreds of thoughtless, contemplative, quiet, or festive moments. You can’t help but notice the balance of weight, texture of material, and the way it contains or offers liquid.
We make our pots using primarily coarse, impure local materials. Our pots are thrown on a slow turning Korean-style kick wheel, and the large jars are made using a traditional Korean paddle and anvil technique. We then fire the pots in a large, Thai-shaped wood kiln. Through this collaboration with powerful materials and processes, we hope to create an environment in which pots can be born with a beauty beyond what is possible with our own hands. Beginning with the geologic processes that form the coarse red clay, passing through our hands and kiln, the life of these pots is continued through years of daily use.
As makers, part of what propels the evolution of our work are the conversations we have with other makers, whether they be in person or through using their pots. We are part of a web of inspiration and influence, and those things don’t only flow in one direction. We have been mentors to potters such as Josh Copus and Melissa Weiss, and teachers to our two apprentices, Colin Waters and Jason Hartsoe. Yet, even from the beginning of these relationships, we have learned and continue to learn from all these people. Together we are puzzling through the questions that excite us, and reacting to each other’s explorations. Our own teachers and mentors, such as Will Ruggles and Douglas Rankin, helped set us on our searching path, not giving us rigid solutions, but a sense of wonder at the endless inquiries and discoveries that lie ahead.
ON CUPS We love that making functional pottery creates an opportunity to have a conversation between the maker and the user. Once it leaves the potter’s hands, the creative life of a pot is continued by the way someone chooses to interact with it, put food or objects in it, or to create a living space with it.
Nick Moen Asheville, North Carolina
BIOGRAPHY Nick Moen earned a BFA from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, Alfred, NY, focusing on Ceramic Art, Design, and Materials Science. He founded Nick Moen Studios in 2013, initially collaborating with chefs to make custom tableware. In 2015, he released a line of pastel crystal-glazed porcelain to supplement his black and white tableware. Currently in production is his Mountain Modern line, which features smooth, sleek forms covered in a rustic, yet vibrant glaze palette. The proprietary crystal glazes create unique surfaces, ensuring each glazed piece is one-of-a-kind.
ON CUPS The first cup I remember making was in my first ceramics class with Lisa Himmelstrup. This was the first time I learned the heartbreak of losing something you spent time and energy with and how to utilize these reflections in the next attempt. I once asked Wayne Higby how heavy a mug should be. He said something like, “The mug is just an extension of the hand.” Now, when I teach, I ask students how they would catch hot coffee if it were pouring in a stream from above.
I absolutely don’t have a favorite cup. I have a number of cup shelves and more stacks of cups in more shelves. I wake up and drink coffee with a different friend every day. I make most of my new annual cup acquisitions at Winter Wares Pottery Dessert Formal. Ten Minnesota potters make ten cups and ten plates. From those potters, I always make a new friend.
I have been focusing on making as a primary means of income. This has led me to sell work anywhere from Main Street, Roswell, NM, to indie craft fair tours, Minneapolis Institute of Art, and Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago. I am investigating where studio pottery and ceramic design meet. I believe the intersection of these fields has great potential for vitality.
Most of my mentors have focused on teaching, which is why they were my mentors. Many of them reiterated how hard it was getting to make a living just from selling pots. I took this challenge and have been searching for a sustainable model. We are working with a new collector base that needs interactive events to be engaged with new objects, or they shop online. It is all about marketing.
I believe one learns from their mentor by attempting to make their pots. They start to form their own identity once they realize what they don’t like about those pots and change those things. The apprenticeship model that I have implemented in my studio is based around designing for production. Many apprentices merely throw the proven forms of their mentors. I include my apprentices in the design process in order for them to understand the importance of designing for a specific process and spending the most significant amount of time on knowing what your are making and why. I don’t have my MFA. I am working on creating a strong ceramic practice focusing on financial and creative sustainability. I aim to learn how to make a living, making good pots with smooth bottoms before I form more questions to address in academia.
STATEMENT I make objects to narrate my relationship with the culture of the table. Personal and communal interactions with food and drink inform the forms. I want my work to inspire creativity in everyday rituals, mindful of the way that handmade vessels carry the history of their creation and the memories of conversation.
My making process begins with exploring forms intuitively by pinching earthenware. These forms become refined designs, which I translate into models of various materials such as clay, wood, and glass. I develop systems such as using plaster molds to reproduce the models. I make multiples to satisfy a desire to reach a broader audience. My work facilitates a performance about humans engaging with utilitarian design.
Lisa Naples Doylestown, Pennsylvania
BIOGRAPHY Lisa Naples practices pottery and narrative figure sculpture from her barn/studio in Doylestown, PA. She received her MFA from The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1988. In 2014, Ceramic Arts Daily released two feature length videos on her work/process. They are: “Flat to Functional: Hand Building and Slip Decorating” and “Narrative Animal Sculpture: Telling Stories with Clay and Found Objects.” In 2012, she was awarded the Jane and Leonard Korman Prize for Excellence in Contemporary Clay at the 36th Annual Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show. In 2010, she was awarded the prestigious “Best of Philly” award in the category of “Gallery Artist.” Also in 2010, her work was featured in the publication, “Masters of Earthenware: Major Works from Leading Artists,” which is a survey of 37 ceramic artists from North America and Europe. She has lectured and given workshops around the country and in Australia. In 2005, she was awarded a National Council for the Education of Ceramic Artists residency at The Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, which fundamentally changed her studio life.
STATEMENT After 37 years, attempting to express something personal with clay challenges and therefore engages me. In 2005, the surfaces of my pots took on illustrated characters and began to tell stories through those illustrations. In 2008, those stories became 3-D as I began exploring narratives through sculpted animal figures. Both of these developments came as a surprise to me. But then, that’s just it – openness to compelling impulses has been and continues to be my guide. With that in mind, I consciously make an effort to stay
present in my studio. I don’t make art by entering my studio “knowing,” rather with a disciplined commitment to “not knowing.” This leaves a lot of room for experimentation, failure, and profound gratitude.
ON CUPS My favorite cup to use is the one in my hand at any given point in time. Words are such a limited conveyor of meaning when it comes to describing the metric of choosing that morning cup. The cabinet is filled with over-flowing with cups made by friends, admired colleagues, and me. Whichever one my hand reaches out to is my “favorite” in that moment. I notice it’s not a thought process so much as a feeling. (In this way, music might describe this better than words, alas…) I’m not ambivalent about which cup I drink from each day. Sometimes I have to find the one my heart desires in the dishwasher and clean it.
much mystery to have one stay, examine, and continuously discover things about it that are satisfying. Bearing witness to Laurie waking up to the creative force within her has given me countless hours of joy. Seeing her un-reserved willingness to take risks, her seemingly bottomless efforts outside the classroom to gather inspiration and fill sketchbooks, her endless enthusiasm and energy has lifted my spirit and that of all those around her who toil in the classroom. Observing Laurie, I gain greater awareness of just how the spark of inspiration happens. We, as makers, are not the “doers.” That is, we’re not so much “doing it” as “responding to it” as it arises within our consciousness. Speaking strictly for myself, I’m a willing servant to this awesome force and deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve. Now in my mid-50’s, I’ve discovered another channel of manifesting creativity, which is by mentoring.
Recently I began teaching pottery classes from our barn with my local community. For decades I’ve traveled near and far to teach ceramic workshops at art centers and schools. Those focus on whatever I’m making in my studio at the time. These new barn classes are distinctly different in subject and feeling. They’re more of a general pottery class and many of the participants are absolute beginners. There’s one such beginner: a 45 year old woman named Laurie who has taken to clay like no other I’ve witnessed in my 37 years of making. My favorite cup is one she gave me as we unloaded the very first class glaze firing 2 months ago. She thought she’d “done it wrong,” saying it was “a mistake” because she’d made it upside down (from my demo) unwittingly. Her cups lack skill at this point, which is a given for beginners. But what they possess is a profound transmission of spirit. It’s coming through loud and clear, yet with as
Jeff Oestreich Taylors Falls, Minnesota
BIOGRAPHY Jeff discovered clay as a senior in high school in 1964. Ceramics 101 at Bemidji State College in northern Minnesota answered the question of his life’s work. From there, he enrolled at the University of Minnesota to work under Warren MacKenzie. A few days after graduation, he was on a plane to St. Ives, England to apprentice under Bernard Leach, the founder of the studio pottery movement. He set up his first pottery studio in Wisconsin, later relocating to Minnesota in 1974. His passion for sharing ideas and techniques have brought him to England, Scotland, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. He regularly exhibits here and abroad and recently returned to the Leach Pottery to work and exhibit.
STATEMENT The subject matter of my work is function. Of concern to me is how my pottery operates in a domestic setting, both physically and aesthetically. Initially all work is thrown on a potter’s wheel, later to be altered using a variety of techniques. These techniques are often traditional ones modified to suit my ideas. My current firing method is soda firing, a contemporary version of a 16th century German process where a sodium compound is introduced into the kiln as it reaches 2300 degrees.
The sodium interacts with the glaze and produces a varied surface, which is often unpredictable. It is this element of risk that drives my work. For several decades my central source of inspiration came from historical pottery of the Far East, England, and Europe. A trip to New Zealand ten years ago reintroduced me to Art Deco architecture with its abundance of geometric and playful detail. This has become a dominant theme in my work. I have been to Napier, a predominately Art Deco village with over 100 commercial buildings of this style, on several occasions.
ON CUPS I made my first cup at Bemidji State University 50 years ago. Mothers never throw out anything their children give them, so I found it in their home when I cleaned it out five years ago. I transferred from Bemidji State University to the University of Minnesota to work with Warren MacKenzie. One day he walked into the classroom and said, “You can teach a monkey to make better handles. Make 100!” They got better. But it wasn’t until my apprenticeship at the Leach Pottery in the late 1960s that they reached a decent standard because I was required to make 100 a day. To this day, my coffee cups relate in some fashion to the Leach Standardware cups. With their 50-year history of making hundreds of thousands of cups, they were able to condense the components of a cup to its essentials.
It is difficult to say which cup is my favorite. At the moment it is one made by Kirk Jackson, a resident at the Red Lodge Clay Center. But I do know that the cups in my cupboard that lack depth of content migrate to the back and are at some point given away. It is the magic in the cup that is hard to define, having little to do with the technical skill of the maker. There is another component. In the morning I often drink out of a cup made by Marlene Jack. It is the next best thing to having her sitting across the table. I wish she didn't live so far away.
Lisa Orr Austin, Texas
BIOGRAPHY For 35 years Lisa Orr has been a professional potter and student of ceramics. She completed an MFA at the NYSCC at Alfred University in 1992 and later received Fulbright and MAAA/ NEA grants. Her work is in numerous public and private collections including the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, and the permanent collection of WOCEF in Korea. Currently she teaches, lectures, and shows nationally and internationally.
STATEMENT Lisa Orr’s artworks for the table often refer to traditional porcelain or restaurant ware, but with softer forms inspired by the playful and abundant qualities of Mexican earthenware. She invented her own production process after studying clay mold fragments in antiquated factories and museums. After forming pieces in molds, on the wheel, or both, she finishes with stamps, slips, sprigs and multi-hued glazes. Though Lisa Orr’s colors can evoke a healthy garden in bloom, it is the strength of her form that sets her work apart: it feels muscular and strong while showing fluidity. In this way she plays both ends of the spectrum, from the dynamic and substantive to the detailed and dreamy—full of surprise. Her artwork is best presented with a freshly prepared meal.
ON CUPS My love affair with cup making began in 1980 at UT Austin. My goal was to become a better potter, and as hard as I studied and made, I needed teachers to help illuminate my blind spots. After graduation, I had heard about apprenticeships but could not find one. Numerous workshops filled this void, along with gracious critiques from the leaders. Michael Simon (student of Warren McKenzie) once remarked to me during his workshop as we were all throwing boards of cups that I
“sounded like a semi trailer” partly due to the grinding of the cone-drive wheel I was using, but he went on to compare my matching mugs with precisely even throwing rings to machined works made on a lathe. So, not only did my working sound like a machine, it looked like one too! He loved working on a non-electric wheel, particularly a treadle. I had never known how this type of wheel spun more slowly, quietly and with an uneven rhythm, imparting a completely different feel and allowing a natural, gentle asymmetry. Instead of dominating the clay to make mugs match precisely, Michael’s ware board had all manner of interesting mug and cup forms.
ON COPYING Michael was clear with us that he did not want his students to imitate his pieces, probably because he correctly believes imitation is not an honest way to make good work. He came to his style through decades of experimentation and hard critical examination of his pieces as part his own constantly developing expression. That said, Michael was a favorite potter for so many aspiring ceramists for a very long time and I did have the urge to imitate some of his forms. When I did do this in the privacy of my studio, I realized it was an exercise that actually helped me to better clarify my honest style as a potter as distinct from the great potter that Michael Simon naturally is. As a result, in workshops I teach I encourage attendees to copy me as precisely as they can (if they wish) and soon everyone finds out they do not want to maintain this for very long if at all! It has the effect of releasing the tension of trying-not-to-imitate-while-makingin-the-style-of another artist. Students bathe in my style for a little while, later incorporating it, developing from it, and it becomes a small part of pushing their ideas to their next level. As in a good graduate program, mature honest work progresses from outer and inner influences over the next few years.
Another thing I learned from Michael Simon is how he paid particular attention to finding the best way for the cup to interact with the human body where the two would touch. The top of the cup’s interior wall tapered up and out, creating a slightly sharp angle to fit into corners of the mouth. This is one of many cup/lip solutions, but for me it sharpened my focus on the mechanics of mug interaction with the body as opposed to mainly a silhouette or profile problem to be solved. Matthew Metz and Steve Lee both make a similar type of lip that is so utterly functional and awakens me to its pleasing tactile quality with each sip. In my own work, I strive for this quality of feel, even on some part of the raggedly undulating top.
ON CUPS I fall in love with different cups on a regular basis. Colleague Ryan McKerley had a fantastic firing in October and I am carrying around this beautiful mint/white/gold/gray soda-fired miracle that I am still not tired of. It has a large capacity that is ideal for people like me who do hot yoga, and it fits in my car cup holder. Particularly nice is the thick and thin lip due to the water carving design, which looks good and feels great. This cup and a new Steve Lee tumbler remain in heavy rotation. There is a new clay body in my life—a very red and very gritty terracotta that begs for animal slip trail decoration and limited sprigging. Some have glazed “window” eyes or other openings that let light through. It almost feels like a guilty pleasure to get to experiment anew on each different cup form. Often I am happy to discover that one of these new ones is my favorite cup for a while as I experience it and learn from it.
Eric Pardue Milton, Virginia
BIOGRAPHY After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Alfred University, Eric Pardue went on to complete a Winter Residency at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts in Maine and a studio assistantship at Peter’s Valley in New Jersey. Along with these, Eric spent a year as an apprentice for Jeff Shapiro in New York. After completing this apprenticeship, Eric moved back to his home state of West Virginia to set up the studio that he maintains in Milton, WV.
STATEMENT In my current ceramic work, I combine layers of under-glaze, slips, glazes and decals of images that I come into contact with during my daily activities into a narrative. These narratives may refer to a specific current situation, past experience, a specific song lyric, or passages from books. Although the references I make are personal and come from my experiences, I do intend for the viewer to build on my intentions with their own ideas and to develop their own story as they interact with the piece.
ON CUPS My first gallery purchase was a cup made by Ron Meyers. I was immediately drawn to this cup, which had a rat scratched and painted on the side, placed in a small group of Ron’s work at a gallery in Portland, Maine. 139
Loose, direct and casual could all be used to describe it. It was an elegant balance of form and decoration. It fit perfectly in my hand and, as close as could be, looked as if it had just been made… the fired clay had the movement of a wet pot. This cup still has the same effect on me each time I hold it, and, over the years, I’ve made a lot of cups with the notion of that piece always hovering over the wheel.
ON APPRENTICESHIP Upon completion of a residency at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts, I had the chance to serve the next year in an apprenticeship with New York based ceramic artist, Jeff Shapiro. As an apprentice, I was tasked with taking care of the preparatory work for that day’s production, cleaning, stacking wood, etc., but, as these chores were completed, I was able to spend quite a bit time in conversation and watching Jeff make work. It was those interactions which had a tremendous effect on how I’ve tried to approach working in the studio, whether in clay or in works on paper. As I watched a series of forms take shape, I saw that with each piece decisions might become more bold, lines become more subtle, or an entirely new form happen based on the previous work. It had the feel of sketching with each piece of clay. As I incorporated this into my own studio processes, I’ve tried to work through forms and to develop themes for longer periods of time in an attempt to allow my work to find its own conclusion or give clues on where to move next.
Neil Patterson Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
BIOGRAPHY Neil Patterson has been making pots for over thirty years. He has a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art and an MFA from Louisiana State University. He was a core student at Penland for two years and spent a year studying Ceramics at Cardiff University in Wales. Neil has been a Resident Artist at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia and has taught at Tyler School of Art, Swarthmore College, and several other colleges. He teaches workshops nationally and maintains a studio with his wife Sandi Pierantozzi in Philadelphia. Neil’s work strives to show the vitality of clay, especially through the use of texture. Most of his forms are begun on the potter’s wheel and then altered. The white stoneware clay is completely vitreous and the colorful glazes are food safe. In his functional work Neil wants to make pots that are beautiful to look at and comfortable to use.
STATEMENT What is important in life? What in this earthly world is sacred anymore? What should we celebrate through music, dance, painting and Form? Growth. Human Connections. The impulse toward creation. Our five senses as a beginning. Honoring the hand made object and the simple daily rituals of using them in our lives. A celebration of primal materials (clay). I hope that all of these touchstones are evident in my work. I am lucky enough to have discovered early in my life that I am a potter. I feel certain that for as long as I am alive I will take the Earth’s body into my hands and form it into containers for sustenance. To have an intimate connection to the hand formed object is vital to a full life. To experience the potter’s attention to volume, texture, weight, color, and space while savoring a cup of coffee or a bowl of soup is one of life's sublime pleasures.
We live in a violent world, one that suffers from a lack of imagination. Recently I have been making more sculptural forms in addition to pots. In every case they are sanctuaries to creation. I consider it my mission to help create a world where hand made objects matter deeply, where they enrich our lives. To create a world where destruction, consumption and violence are overcome by creation, respect and non-violence. To create a world worthy of our perfect natural one. One piece of clay at a time.
ON MENTORS As practitioners of this ancient art form, we stand on the shoulders of every human, of every culture that has left us ceramic objects to contemplate. Within our unique place in that history, we also stand on the shoulders of those who have broken ground in the field this century and those who have taught us the craft. I often express my gratitude to my high school Ceramics teacher Joe Turkaly, my Cleveland Institute of Art teachers Bill Brouillard and Judith Salomon, and the biggest influence from my time at Penland, Ron Meyers. I am so glad to be included in this collection with Judith and Ron. Ron kept showing up in my studio over some formative years at grad school and even as a visiting artist at The Clay Studio during my residency. I have always benefited from his honest appraisal of my work. So many peers in this collection have also influenced me, even if only as shining examples of how to approach studio practice.
After this hook, I chose to go on studying clay in college. Early on at the Cleveland Institute of Art, I discovered two things: that I loved texture in clay, and that I especially loved putting together thrown parts. As soon as I started putting thrown parts together for teapots, I knew that I had a connection to something that I could really delve into. Soon I was assembling jars, bottles, oval forms, bowls, and cups. My favorite cup is a salt-fired amber glazed cup by Peg Malloy made at Anderson Ranch in 1989. I have used it thousands of times and it is still the cup I most often go to for coffee. The handle is a masterpiece!
ON INFLUENCE Copying is a great way to learn. I often require my beginner students to copy historical forms, and advanced students often copy the personal forms that I demonstrate. In our culture, individual expression and uniqueness tend to be what is celebrated; perhaps this is why the broader culture barely recognizes the cultural contributions of ceramics, as so many of us work within a tradition, creating variations on forms that have been around for centuries. Many ceramic artists also pick up on our cultural celebration of the individual and strive to make work that is personal and unique. But within the longer tradition of our craft, copying and influence have always been important. Please feel free to copy, and then trust that you will find your own voice through working.
ON CUPS Joe Turkaly was a gentle, patient, and passionate maker from Croatia who also happened to be an “artist in residence” at my high school. The studio atmosphere, filled with his stone carvings, bronze, and clay sculpture captivated me and opened my eyes to a creative life as a maker. Once he taught me how to throw on the wheel, I felt that I had found my entry into that world. 142
Doug Peltzman Dover Plains, New York
Doug Peltzman is a full-time studio potter currently residing in Dover Plains, New York, a rural town on the eastern edge of the Hudson Valley. After several formative years studying painting, Doug came to earn his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ceramics at SUNY New Paltz in 2005. In 2010, he received his Master of Fine Arts degree in Ceramics from Penn State. He has had the honor of being both a juror and curator of national exhibitions. He has taught workshops at many art centers and universities across the U.S., including Arrowmont, Peters Valley, Goggleworks, Augusta Heritage Center, The Clay Art Center, UNT, SUNY New Paltz, Edinboro University, The Clay Studio, and The Art School at Old Church. Doug is also a founding member of Objective Clay. His pottery has been featured in many publications and can be found in homes and kitchens across the country.
As a potter, I strive to craft a balance between dynamic surface and inviting form. When I began working in clay, the transition from my early studies in painting felt natural as I came to realize the potential in ceramics. I work in cycles, shifting between porcelain and earthenware clay bodies. This practice keeps me engaged and responsive to various material and conceptual developments. The detailed handwork in my pieces serves as a conduit to heighten one’s perception and sensitivity about what a pot can be. Lines, dots, dashes, texture, and color are counterpoised to create structure, movement, and depth. Marks are both blurred and enhanced by the gravitational movement of glaze. Creating utilitarian objects with layered and active surfaces is an outlet for playful yet structured investigation. Essentially, I aim to produce well-crafted functional objects that provide lasting experiences and moments of pause in day-to-day life.
Cups are about intimacy and slowing down. “The degree of slowness is directly proportional to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting,” writes Milan Kundera in his book, Slowness.
My favorite types of cups have been fully considered, from lip to foot and everywhere in between. Making cups regularly allows ideas to unfold, similar to the practice of drawing. Engaging a well thought-out cup or handle provides a unique tactile experience, specific to each and every user. Linda Christianson makes my favorite cups. They capture the essence of clay. They are as comfortable as an old pair of jeans and full of history. Her handles remind me of a well-worn leather belt and are always exciting to engage. Cups are unique objects, in that they subversively get in your face and hands and engage your senses unlike any other art object.
Ron Philbeck Shelby, North Carolina
BIOGRAPHY I started making pots in 1992 after returning home from college. I had studied mathematics but my heart had always been in the arts. I had done some painting and was very interested in sculpture but could never quite find my subject matter. A friend talked me into taking some clay classes at the local community college, and before long I was hooked. It was about a year later when I read an article by Minnesota potter Warren MacKenzie and fell in love with the idea of producing functional pottery for everyday use. Finally, I had found a medium where I could express my creativity and at the same time serve a purpose, that of preparing and serving food. Over the subsequent years I sought out potters whose work I liked and who came from a functional background. Through workshops and classes, and much time spent at the wheel, I began my training as a potter. In 1996 I set up my kiln and workshop and established myself in Cleveland County. When I stop to think about it, it’s pretty amazing that I am doing what I love to do. I never thought I would have a “job” that is so satisfying. Being a functional potter is challenging, I have to work within certain limitations. After all, the pots must work well and stand up to everyday use. Also, I’d like them to be pleasing visually and invite the
user to hold and touch them. I feel the pottery is a communication between the potter and the person using the pot. The ideas are never ending; all I have to do is be open when I sit down to kick my wheel and the clay will teach me. My desire is to make pots that have character and integrity; that are as delightful to use as they are for me to make.
STATEMENT I make pots for daily use as well as pots that may serve a more decorative or ritualistic role in the home. I throw soft clay on a treadle wheel while trying to impart some nice energy into the work. I have many influences but most are from the Leach/ Hamada lineage of potters. After almost 20 years of making pots I never tire of sitting down to kick the wheel and move the clay. It takes persistence, love, and hard work to make good pots. But at the same time a really wonderful pot can emerge from the wheel when my mind wonders and I am gazing out the studio window. I’m happy to do this work and to share it with others.
ON CUPS Presently I have two cups that I use almost every day. The first is a mug by Danish potter Anne Mette Hjortshøj. This is a smallish mug that holds about 8 ounces.
It was fired in Anne Mette’s wood kiln and salt glazed. It has a blue/black slip that is heavily salted and glossy on one side and more matte and dark on the other side. I love the shape and size of this cup. It has a small handle, smaller than the ones I make, that fits one or two of my fingers perfectly. I have my coffee out of this mug as I sit in the mornings and write in my journal. I’ve never met Anne Mette, but I have seen some videos of her online as well as her work. I really love her approach as well as the pots she makes. I wrote to her a couple years ago and we did a trade. I was so excited to send her a mug of mine and to receive one of hers. The other mug is made by Bob Briscoe of Harris, Minnesota. This mug is a larger than the previous mug and it’s less precious to me. I bought this mug from Bob when I was up for the Minnesota Pottery Tour one year. It has a masculine feel to it. I take it out to the studio with me when I’m working and I’ll take it along in the truck as well. I have no problem putting it down in the floor when I’m finished with it. At some point the rim has gotten a chip but it’s a sturdy pot and I know it will be with me for times to come. If something happens to it I can pretty easily get another mug from Bob. .
BIOGRAPHY Joanna Pike was born and raised in South Portland, ME. She discovered her love of clay at the early age of 12 and has been working steadily in the medium ever since. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ceramics in 2011 from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, NS. From there she went on to complete residencies at Medalta International Artist in Residence Program in Medicine Hat, AB, Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago, ILz, and Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena, MT. She is currently a Resident Artist at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, PA, where she is also the recipient of the Zeldin Fellowship. Joanna focuses on using reclaimed waste materials from studios around Philadelphia to create her work, coming to this idea as a means to gather affordable materials, she stuck with it because of the aesthetic, the constant challenge upon her skills and techniques, and the overall conceptual value of working with this type of material. She hopes to eventually create larger works such as sinks and toilets using industrial waste and commercial processing.
STATEMENT I create utilitarian objects that deliver concept through functionality. The materiality of these pieces is of the utmost importance. A large portion of each work is made from ceramic waste material, which allows the opportunity for dialogue surrounding the role of waste in a consumer culture. Molds are collected from the trash or the street, and from these base forms I build cups that place this trash in the context of common use, which are not just restricted to drink (e.g. a pencil cup or simply a decorative item). 147
These items speak to the long history of our impulsive and collective consumption and use the power of an object to convey critical issues in an optimistic light as a way to institute awareness.
ON MENTORS I started working with clay at a fairly tender age. At twelve years old I took my first throwing class, a Saturday kids class at Maine College of Art, and fell in love with clay. Fourteen years later and I still feel the same way, although a lot has changed in regards to my understanding of both the material and the breadth of culture surrounding it. The instruction I received during my undergrad was entirely influential to my thought and studio process. I worked mostly with Rory MacDonald, taking multiple independent study courses in addition to the group studio class. Rory was never one to reference his own work to students as a model, but those of us who sought out his artist talks and exhibitions were always rewarded with carefully crafted objects and concepts. His use of the graffiti kiln and chalk surfaces opened my eyes to the possibilities of the ceramic medium. I began to question my traditional view of the medium and wondered how my work would develop. While my thesis exhibition was still wheel-centric, the surfaces were certainly developing in a non-functional direction. After a year at Medalta International Artist in Residence Program, where I was inspired by the ever-resourceful Aaron Nelson and the new work of Les Manning, I found myself so far from where I had started that I wouldn't have recognized myself. I had learned many different ways of working with waste materials and divested myself from the potter's wheel in lieu of sculptural objects, but was rapidly
discovering that utility was very important to my identity as a maker.
ON CUPS People collect pots for any number of reasons, from those gleaned through trades with friends and colleagues to those purchased and still others that remain coveted. There are a couple of Albion Stafford black, white, and gray tumblers I've had my eye on. Currently my favorite cup is one by Rebecca Chappell, a sweet yellow, blue, and gold luster teacup I bought on first sight. It's comfortable formality piqued my attention and cheerful color lifted my spirits. While I love a great pot, they can contain not just food and drink but also a healthy level of pretension. By using a pot daily, one becomes more aware of its intricacies, its good angles, and its flaws. My pots exploit the beauty in the flaws that come from using trash as a material. I started with trash because of necessity; I had little to no money for materials, and it was readily available for free. Each time I arrive at a new residency I must look for new supply lines, and for the reason I'm glad I don't operate alone in a studio. Having other residents around making test glazes and floor sweepings, having a student base where a lot of sink sludge is generated, and the connections to other artists in the area who are looking to get rid of their trash are all welcome aspects to me. Not only am I getting the benefit of materials, there is the opportunity to work alongside a group of talented individuals with different points of view and ways of working. Being exposed to many different makers and determining what it is about their practice that inspires me, I am reminded that, while my own work is constantly changing, at least for now, familiarity falls second to experimentation.
Joanna Pike Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Joseph Pintz Columbia, Missouri
Joseph Pintz’s functional and sculptural ceramic work explores the role that domestic objects play in fulfilling our physical and emotional needs. Inspired by his Midwestern roots, Pintz creates mundane forms based on utilitarian vessels and other implements associated with the hand. In the process, the dense meaning of these objects is transferred into clay. Pintz earned his BA in anthropology and urban studies at Northwestern University and his MFA from the University of NebraskaLincoln. He has been a resident artist at the Archie Bray Foundation and the Roswell Artist-in-Residence program. He has received the NCECA Emerging Artist Award as well as the Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. He is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Missouri.
The food we share nourishes us both physically and emotionally. It also feeds the social relationships that define who we are within a group. Mealtimes, from the perspective of anthropologists, are cultural sites for socialization. Simple forms such as bowls and cups play an especially intimate role in our lives. Through use, they interact with us on a tactile level while serving our daily sustenance. Even in our fast-paced culture, pottery continues to take an active part in our life's daily rituals; from that favorite mug we choose every day for our cup of coffee to a bowl for our cereal each morning. It is an inherently political statement to make artwork as “impractical” as a handmade ceramic vessel for serving in a culture of convenience and disposability. In this age of ever-increasing speed, the dinner table is the perfect place to slow down and savor – to spend time, to share food presented in vessels that are made with integrity and purpose.
I had the privilege of working with Gail Kendall during graduate school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. As her teaching assistant, I got to see firsthand how she structured her class time and how she interacted with students. Her love of cooking, gardening and ceramic history all came out through her direct approach of working with and teaching clay. Gail was always generous with her time and never hesitated to give no-nonsense advice. She challenged me to push my work further and encouraged me to explore hand-building in earthenware. This served as a catalyst for my exploration of reductively carved forms made out of brick clay as well as the development of a weathered color palette. I learned a great deal from Gail’s example about how to juggle the demands of teaching at the university level while continuing to maintain a rigorous studio practice. She was an important force in my education and her passion for life, studio work, and teaching have shaped me into the artist and educator that I am today.
Adam Posnak West Fork, Arkansas
BIOGRAPHY Adam Posnak grew up in Macon, Georgia, where his mother was a studio potter. He received an MFA from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, and a BA from Macalester College, St. Paul, MN. In 2013 Adam was awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship by the Arkansas Arts Council, and in 2009 was a Resident Artist at Tainan National University of the Arts, Tainan, Taiwan. Adam is an occasional Adjunct Professor at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and his home and studio is in West Fork, AK.
STATEMENT Adam is inspired by West and Central-African religious traditions and the various AfricanDiaspora, creole religious-cultural practices of North, Central and South America, particularly those of Cuba and Haiti.
ON INFLUENCE My earliest pottery education took place before I had any inclination towards making pots. My mother is a potter. Family lore has it that she was loading the last kilns of her MFA thesis show while in the late stages of pregnancy with me. Growing up in Macon, GA, our house was filled with not only my mom’s pots, but also those of Ron Meyers, Michael Simon, Roger Jamison, Geoff Pickett, and others too numerous to list. Though I never took more than a passing interest in pottery as young person, I was being subliminally trained. It was not until my second year of college that I dipped a foot in the pottery pool myself. My mother became my primary resource for all things pottery. While other aspiring potters brought their awkward early attempts home to great praise and compliment, I received critiques. I think the absolute best thing about having a
potter-parent was that I had some idea, perhaps unconsciously, about what constituted a “good” pot, because I had literally been surrounded by some of the best examples from my mom and her regional peers. I went away to school at Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN, and on a mere whim enrolled in a beginning ceramics class taught by Victoria Christen. I had no further ambition than to have a reasonably enjoyable time fulfilling a basic Arts requirement. It must be stated that I was not exhibiting any promise as a future ceramicist; I was a solid low B student in all respects. However, this was a handbuilding class, and during some downtime in the studio, another student happened to show me the rudiments of wheel throwing, and the hook was set. It was after this that my tutelage under Victoria Christen began in earnest. What I recall most about Victoria’s teaching from that time was a cheerful and simultaneously uncompromising nature, a trait also reflected in her work. Victoria had come to pottery after being primarily a sculptor and performance artist in the MFA program at the University of Minnesota. Having emerged from hallowed mingei-sota territory, when she turned to pots they were brightly colored, highly expressive earthenware pots, which were, at that time and in Minnesota particularly, a relative rarity. Victoria would occasionally acknowledge that potters of a certain ilk retained a slightly derisive attitude towards terracotta, but this just seemed to fuel her conviction.
in making that switch Victoria was never far from my mind. The examples of her person and work have stayed with me, and indeed have become more profoundly influential over the course of time. I remember one particular lesson that I have in-turn passed on to students who are considering a life in art. Victoria told a group of students, which included me, and this is a paraphrase at best, “You probably shouldn’t do this, unless you have to.” At first I took this to be a somewhat cavalier statement about the material difficulties of pursuing an artistic career, and in one sense it is. But over time, and in consideration of the mindset of students, I realized that Victoria was conveying a challenge of self-examination. In a very real way, if a person could possibly be happy and fulfilled following any other professional course rather than art, that probably says a lot, both regarding the individual person’s future and the seriousness of making an artistic commitment. In any case, it’s a statement that I’ve returned to numerous times over the years in order to reexamine the profundity of this simple thought.
There is so much more I could say regarding what I have learned from Victoria and her work, and much that I was not ready to hear at the time only sunk in at later points. Suffice it to say that years after graduate school, having used stoneware and then exclusively porcelain, I also turned to red clay, a decision that I now relate to religious conversion, and 152
Joanna Powell Helena, Montana
Joanna Powell (b.1981, Dallas, TX) received a BFA in Ceramics from the University of North Texas (2008) and received an MFA in Ceramics from the University of Colorado at Boulder (2012). Powell has exhibited her work throughout the United States, including The Archie Bray Foundation, Helena, The Montana Territorial Prison, Deer Lodge, Showpen Gallery, Denver; and the Center for Contemporary Craft, Pittsburgh, PA. In 2011, she was a LEAP finalist at The Center for Contemporary Craft. Powell was a finalist in the 2014 Zanesville Prize for Contemporary Ceramics and received Honorable Mention. From 20132015 she was a long term-resident at The Archie Bray Foundation. Recently, she was named a 2015 NCECA Emerging Artist. Currently, she is the Artist-In-Residence at Kansas State University and teaches ceramics.
A cup is probably the most complex thing to make. It’s sort of like cooking an egg for a chef: it’s essential to learn, yet the hardest to make well. Over the years I’ve gone through many iterations of what I thought was a good cup and it was just last year that I had the realization that it was time to go back to the basics. I looked back to the slab cups that I made under the instruction of Fred Sweet at Richland Community College. In simplicity there is so much freedom. My mind could wander while I was making these slab cups. I began to think of what they would look like if I were a tourist in Egypt? What would a handle look like then? What would I be drinking? I think that in a good cup there is a culmination of all things we have seen in our lifetimes, or things we’ve wondered about.
STATEMENT I find beauty in my embarrassment. I welcome the silly. I enjoy the not knowing. A lot of times I will pretend not to know something so that I can think about it again in a new way. I like to forget about an object’s function and call attention to its possibilities as pure matter, with its own intentions. I question what is happening with the objects. The narrative being peculiar and unclear welcomes this conversation.
BIOGRAPHY Brenda was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Although her interest in ceramics started during her sophomore year of college, her fondness for functional and domestic objects goes back to her childhood. She attended Tyler School of Art, where she received a BFA in ceramics. Brenda went on to receive her MFA in ceramics from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She currently lives, works, and teaches in New York. She maintains a studio in her home where she lives with her husband, two daughters, five cats, and two guinea pigs. Brenda works with porcelain, combining hand building and wheel throwing to create objects that strike a balance between utility and aesthetics. Most of her pots are functional and intended to be used. Each pot is unique, and she constantly explores new forms and glazes.
STATEMENT My work is inspired by, and is a nod to, the broad history of decorative arts. Developing forms that have a utilitarian function and a dynamic design is like trying to solve an evolving equation with an elusive answer. For me, this equation becomes more complicated with the addition of an everexpanding range of functions, techniques, and glazes to my working vocabulary. The chase for a solution is so engaging that I’m often interjecting more variables into my process in order to keep the chase going.
ON CUPS Will Ruggles and Douglas Wrankin write on their website, “All good art carries the mysteries of the expression of life force... our common connection.” What makes a cup “good”? There are words I can use to describe it, but somehow those words don’t seem to truly capture what makes it good. I know it when I see and feel it. What I look for in a good cup has changed over the years, and while I know it when I see it, I can’t always create it, though I try. While making a cup, I look critically at the form and work mindfully to find the right balance between all of the many elements that exist. When I see a cup that someone else made that doesn’t fit into the “box” I’ve defined for what makes a cup good, suddenly my ideal is challenged and I’m inspired to look again at my own choices. I used the wheel for the first time, and only briefly, in the first semester of my sophomore year at Tyler School of Art while taking a beginning ceramics class with Nick Kripal. The next semester, I took an intermediate class with a focus on the pottery wheel and wood firing taught by Neil Patterson. The class started with an assignment to make 20 cups. This number felt enormous. As Neil demonstrated on the kick wheel how to make a cup, he talked casually about line, composition, function, and form. A simple cup was suddenly so much more than just a vessel to drink from. In the spring of 2000, I went to Penland School of Crafts to be an assistant to Neil Patterson and Sandi Pierantozzi. I spent every moment of the previous three years trying to make a “good” pot, but somehow the nine weeks I spent at Penland were a new level of immersion into that quest. During that time, I visited the many potters in the surrounding
areas. I bought a mug from Will Ruggles and Douglas Rankin while visiting their studio. I love the thick little cup with the fat oversized handle, but it definitely did not fit into the “box” I had – and have – defined for my own work. I cannot make a copy of this cup if I try, nor can I capture in my own work what this cup has that I am so drawn to, but there is something there that I am so intrigued and inspired by. I also bought a cup made by Linda McFarling, a lusciously fleshy faceted and stretched yunomi. I never thought that something as simple as a tall trimmed foot with a rounded edge could hold my focus for so long, for years really when I think about it. So many times while trimming a foot, in the back of my mind there is this remarkable foot that inspires me to run my finger over the edge of the foot I’m creating, softening it. There have been countless cups over the years that I have found interesting enough to purchase, but there is so much magic surrounding those first few pieces and the time when I first began working with clay. I am so fortunate to be reminded of that magic as I introduce clay to students for the first time and see the moments when the material and process click for them. I have begun a project with my students where we look through the enormous cup exhibition on the Charlie Cummings Gallery website. The students vote on their favorite pieces, and we slowly narrow down the list to two cups for each class. The school purchases six cups to be part of a permanent collection for the ceramics classroom. The day the cups arrive, I join in with the students in inspecting the cups, comparing the image we saw online to the real cup in front of us. I ask them to think about how the cup was made and how the maker’s hands have left their mark. The definition of a good cup continues to evolve for me, and I continue to strive to capture that in a cup. I find making to be an important way to “express my life force.”
Brenda Quinn Ossining, New York
Kari Radasch Portland, Maine
BIOGRAPHY Kari Radasch was born and raised in coastal Maine. She received her BFA from the Maine College of Art and her MFA from the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. She has been an NCECA Emerging Artist and demonstrator, a presenter at Arrowmont’s Utilitarian Clay conference, and the first potter awarded the Evelyn Shapiro Fellowship at The Clay Studio, Philadelphia. Kari has taught at Bates College and Southern Maine Community College, and she currently teaches at Maine College of Art. She has had a wide variety of artistic experiences leading to her current work: potting in Japan, a summer working in the Kohler factory, a Salad Days residency, a studio practice in the Bay area, and the most substantive yet: parenting two young children. She lives and pots in Westbrook, Maine where she resides with her husband Ian Anderson, daughter Ruby May, son Heilo Blue, and dog Max.
STATEMENT My earthenware pots are both sparse and embellished. Structurally the bodies of my pots are straightforward, yet the surfaces tend towards bold, graphic and at times peculiar ornamentation. I revel in this dualism by collecting, arranging and garnishing; then organizing, simplifying and editing both my forms and surface. I pluck joyous observations from my surroundings: the garden, children’s books, junk stores, compost piles and my kid’s sticker books. I reassemble and reimagine these investigations, like sketches in a sketch book, into functional dishes -- a format which has the unique ability to hold a warm, sentimental place in our lives. Lately I have become interested in assertive acts of decorating: graffiti, topiary, tattoos and piercings. They seem unequivocal and self-assured in their desire to adorn.
The physical nature of these acts alone shows conviction. I like that confidence. I like to think that every time I decorate I am instigating a deliberate and significant act of “Making Special.”
ON MENTORS I was not officially an apprentice of Silvie Granatelli, but was fortunate enough to spend two summers after Graduate school working in her studio alongside my husband and Brian Jones, her apprentice at the time. This was the time in my life that I was most unsure about what I was doing and why, and unclear about how I was going to move from the institution to street, from the critique to the craft fair. At that time, Silvie had been a self-employed potter for 30 years and her commitment to everyday work, economic pragmatism, and unflinching idealism showed me how to live this life.
ON CUPS I was given the following handout as an undergraduate student. I never forgot it. What Goes Into Making a Mug? 1. Drive to the pottery supply and pick up the clay. 2. Unload clay into basement or garage. 3. Weigh out amount needed. 4. Wedge (knead) clay. 5. Center clay on potter’s wheel and throw the mug shape. 6. Remove from wheel and let dry to leather hard, several hours to 24 hours, depending on humidity. 7. Put mug back on wheel and trim excess clay away, carve if desired. 8. Pull a handle. 9. Let handle stiffen. 10. Attach handle to trimmed mug. 11. Cover handle in wax to slow dry, or cover entire mug to dry slowly.
12. Uncover mug and let dry to bone dry… maybe a few days to a week depending on humidity. If mug cracks at this point, recycle clay and start over at step 3. 13. Bisque fire mug to 1830 degrees, about 12 hours. Allow kiln to cool before unloading (another 12-24 hours). 14. If mug has cracked during this first firing, smash with hammer and go back to step 3… if no cracks, continue on. 15. Mix glaze or glazes for decorating mug. Mixing a glaze may take 30-45 minutes (plus clean-up). 16. Put wax on the bottom of the mug so glaze does not stick to kiln shelf. 17. Choose design and glaze mug. 18. Let glaze dry thoroughly before firing again. 19. Apply kiln wash to kiln shelves before loading glazed pieces. 20. If glaze scratches or gets bumped on its journey to the kiln, scrape off glaze, wash pot, let dry and start back at step 17. 21. Fire glazed mug to approximately 2230 degrees (cone 6). This takes another 8-12 hours. 22. Wait approximately 12-24 hours for kiln to cool to under 200 F before opening. 23. Remove mug and inspect closely. If cracked, smash with hammer and start over at step 3. 24. If mug has miraculously survived to this point, clean sharp bits off bottom with a grinding stone or emery paper, and put out for sale. 25. Last, but certainly not least instruction, try not to attack the foolish person who innocently asks, “WHY DOES THIS MUG COST SO MUCH?”
ON LEARNING We are all influenced by others, learning through copying. Imitation is OK for a spell, but then there comes a time to make it your own. There are a handful of galleries who (probably inadvertently) show work that is clearly a copy of others. This should not happen. 158
BIOGRAPHY Eric Rempe has been working in clay for almost 30 years. He received a BFA in ceramics and a BS in Art Education from Penn State University, and an MFA in ceramics from San Diego State University. After finishing his MFA, Eric was hired to begin a ceramics program at Coronado High School in Coronado, CA. He designed and supervised the construction of a state-ofthe-art ceramics facility, which became the home for 160 students to actively work in clay. With Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts he established a scholarship program that sends three students each year to summer workshops. Partnering with Empty Bowls, his students raised $150,000 and provided half a million meals in San Diego County. Eric recently moved back to the East Coast to be closer to his family, settling in the farm country of southern New Jersey. He is an Adjunct Professor of Ceramics at Camden County College, a ceramics teacher at Perkins Center for the Arts, and a studio artist. His teaching and his work have received numerous awards. Eric’s work has been exhibited in Japan, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and in galleries and museums across the United States.
STATEMENT I grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It is the area that attracted the Amish to settle and establish a farm-based community due to the rich soil. Each winter I watched the earth lie dormant for months. In the springtime it was awakened for a new season of growth by teams of mule-led plows turning under the winter-crusted soil. Flocks of birds followed on the heels of the teams, feeding on the abundance of grubs and insects revealed by the plow blades.
Watching this each spring and the growth that followed, I became tied to the earth. It only seemed natural that I found myself working in clay as I grew older. I work in clay because of the connection it gives me to the earth. I am attracted to the connections my finished work makes with other people. Making strong functional pieces that become a part of people's lives is an underlying motivation in my work. The potential shift in consciousness of the user is something that I find incredibly compelling. In our age, machines have replaced many of the handmade objects, which previously added richness to our lives, with objects devoid of meaning. I feel this shift occurs because something of who I am comes out in every pot, and I believe many people want to connect with that. I am hopeful that my pieces impart some measure of additional significance to the daily rituals of eating, drinking, and using handmade objects.
ON MENTORS Making a cup was something that I learned from my high school art teacher Dick Ressel in Lancaster, PA. We got to work on the wheel for about three weeks, just long enough for me to get hooked. The possibilities with clay were endless, but I knew I wanted to make pots that people could use. I made plates, bowls, cups, and anything else I could think of for the kitchen. Continuing as an advanced student, Dick tailored his teaching to me and it changed my life. I eventually became a high school ceramics teacher for fourteen years because of his influence. Each day that I turned the key to my classroom I tried to remember that I was repaying a debt that I owed to my high school teacher.
ON CUPS My dad drank from my mugs every day and had a favorite that he would often take the time to wash instead of getting a different one. If anyone was qualified to critique my coffee cups, it was my dad. I once sent him a mug out of kiln that I thought he might like. I received an email thanking me and he shared a few comments as well. My dad, a coffee drinker, and not a potter, proceeded to share some very perceptive observations. He discussed where the weight of the cup fell on his finger as a result of the handle style, talked about the overall balance of the cup, and even touched on body ergonomics related to the use of the piece I had sent him. It was a cup he liked, but I knew it would not be one he would hand wash so he could use it. My dad wanted me to be a better potter and closed that email with the following: When I was in the carpet business we used to have an expression that might translate to some of your work. After a carpet passed all the visual inspections and technology tests, the ultimate test was very unscientific: “How’s the hand?” That meant, as you’ve probably guessed, how does it feel? Once a customer likes the look of a carpet, what do they do? They run their hand over it. Maybe you already do this with your mugs, but before I would fire a mug, I would take it in my hand and try to imagine what it would be like to drink a cup of coffee from it. I would say to myself, “How’s the hand?”
Eric Rempe Hammonton, New Jersey
ON INFLUENCE My dad talked about the “small” things in the same way that my professors have over the years. Chris Staley is one of the longest running influences that I have had since I started making pots back in the late 80’s. He loved the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe quote, “God is in the details” and would reference it often. Chris would look at a series of mugs
and point out the very subtle differences in how the handles attached, or how the pot met the surface of the table. The tiny details made all the difference in the world to him. Mies was an architect who strove for simplicity and clarity in his work and I think Chris responded to that.
My dad wasn’t a maker but an avid user, and that credential carries tremendous weight for me. In the years that have passed since, I have often heeded his advice. If strangers had a window into my studio they would surely wonder about the odd potter taking phantom sips from unfired mugs, holding bowls aloft as if passing them, or pouring from an empty pitcher. 160
Steve Roberts Helena, Montana
Steve Roberts was born in Kansas and grew up in Montana. He is a graduate of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Kansas City Art Institute, and the Program in Artisanry at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.
I choose to create functional pottery because I am fascinated by the idea of communicating not just through sight but also through touch. Use is an important concern in my work, but I try not to view utility in a narrow context. A pot can be functional without being conventional. My work is functional without implying simplicity, streamlining, production speed, or boredom. I am not trying to move beyond function or to free myself from it but to expand your idea of what a functional pot can be.
That cups are among the most tactile forms is one of the clichés of ceramics, and like most pottery clichés, this one has a strong basis in reality. I am intensely concerned with the visual appearance of cups, but if they are not lively in the hand I lose interest immediately. Balance, variations in wall thickness, texture, and a delicately substantial character are essential.
Steve taught at the Kansas City Art Institute, Bowling Green State University, the University of Alaska at Anchorage and the University of Wisconsin-Stout. He has been a resident artist at the Archie Bray Foundation, the Jingdezhen Sanbao Ceramic Art Institute, and Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts. Steve exhibits nationally. His functional pottery has been published in American Craft, Ceramics Monthly, and Clay Times, and he has written about tools and color for The Studio Potter. He lives in Montana.
In my work I try to soften the Apollonian precision of a structured, clearly articulated form by contrasting it with Dionysian elements of swelling, curvilinear volume. My choice of glazes combines with firing decisions to transform an initially structured surface into an atmospheric veil of sublime color. I hope the contrast between classical and romantic elements of form and surface will intensify the experience of both aesthetics by presenting them in the context of their visual opposites.
The touch of the hand is important to me, and I don’t want my cups to be too regular. Too clumsy is bad as well. Gesture matters. I cooked for a chef who characterized his food as “refined interpretations of vernacular cuisine,” and I think of my work in the same way. I carve shapes inside the foot-ring of my cups, where I will not see them during my own use. They appear to the person sitting across and for the person Todd Wahlstrom knows as “The Washer-Up.” Of course potters love feet more than any other part of a pot, and I am no exception. Certainly the idea of making a foot engaging is not a new one.
Phil Rogers Powys, Wales
Phil has been a potter for 34 years and apart from making pots has written a number of books on various aspects of ceramics. He has exhibited in galleries around the world and his work has found homes in more than 50 museum collections in the USA, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Korea, Germany and Holland.
I am not a potter attempting to make social or political statement. Rather, I am trying with the best of my ability to provide an audience with work that has beauty, grace and function while, at the same time, furthering a tradition that I am happy and comfortable to be a part of. The challenge for me is to find my own way along a narrow path, to seek creatively that variation and nuance that distinguish my pots from the work of another.
I am essentially self-taught and never really had a mentor. My learning was done as I worked each day striving to be better than I was the day before. Of course, I looked, listened and absorbed: from books, museums and, at the beginning, workshop demonstrations. However, for the most part I simply kept my eyes and ears open, made a lot of mistakes (still do!) and made my own way. That is not to say there haven’t been very strong influences on what I do. I have taken or borrowed from English slipware, Medieval European pottery, including the late Medieval salt glaze tradition from Germany. I have looked closely at 15th and 16th century Korean Bonchong, and certain, but not many, Japanese pots, particularly Shigiraki. American settler pottery has also provided impetus.
Phil is a fellow of the Craft Potters Association, a member of the International Academy of Ceramics and was elected a member of the Royal Cambrian Academy. There have been a number of awards. Most recently he won the International Vasefinder competition in the United States and was voted Maker of the Year in the UK in 2011. In 2007 Phil Rogers: Potter was published in the USA and a film by Charles Mapleston, Passion for Pots, was released in 2008 by the Goldmark Gallery, UK. The book Phil Rogers: A Portfolio was published in May 2012 by the Goldmark Gallery, UK and a TV documentary was made in 2005 by HTV entitled Creative Roads. The latest film is a 30-minute documentary entitled Drawing in the Air, which was made to coincide with a major exhibition at the Goldmark Gallery in 2014 and is available from the Goldmark Gallery or on YouTube.
Technique is important. Skills enable the vision to become reality. However, that innermost intuitive expression which is contained in the heart is more valuable to the potter than the fundamentals of hand. Technique can be the enemy of spontaneity. There should always be evident a sense of adventure. I endeavor always to leave a personal signature, to imbue my work with an indefinable quality that speaks of me as an artist. That is my role as a contemporary maker. Indeed, it is all we have left.
For more contemporary influences I would say Bernard Leach was an inspiration right from the very beginning. In college we only had one book, Bernard Leach’s A Potter’s Book. It was the chapter where Bernard recounts the day-to-day goings on in the workshop, the cozy, self-employed, personal endeavor that so attracted many people to pottery, including myself. His post-war pots and their increasing austere, sculptural quality were something to aspire to. Shoji Hamada, for me, was a genius, and I have been moved by his pots for a very long time.
ON CUPS Nobody taught me to make a cup, thankfully! I think that too much direct teaching can be a bad thing. It requires a talented mentor to guide a pupil through the mechanics of making while, at the same time, not imprinting a style upon the student. I have seen many times the “apprentice” potter who never quite leaves behind the masters’ style. I once gave a talk at NCECA about the teaching of throwing. The point I tried to get over to the audience was that throwing isn’t really that difficult. Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people can do it from all over
the world. What is difficult is knowing what to do with that skill once you have attained it. To find a voice, a style, a signature, that’s the difficult bit. My way was, for the most part, a solitary journey: being aware of what was around, being incredibly self critical, never being satisfied, learning from looking as to what a pot required to be a “good” pot, orchestration, finish, glazing… in short, professionalism. I once asked a group of U.S. ceramics professors why there was so much importance given to the MFA in the USA. I had noticed that potters even in their fifties and sixties, when introducing themselves,
would say where they had achieved their MFA. I failed to see the relevance. I was told that students HAD to get an MFA to be able to teach because it was almost impossible to make a living as a working potter in the USA. So, I asked, being a little mischievous, are you teaching a generation of professors to be able to teach a new generation how not to be able to make a living? It seems to me that whatever qualification one has, there comes a time to forget about it, move on and to stop telling everyone that you have an MFA from 35 years ago. Nobody really cares! It’s about what you do now, not about what you were doing 35 years ago. 164
S.C. Rolf River Falls, Wisconsin
S. C. Rolf lives and works as a studio potter in River Falls, WI, creating one-of-a-kind functional pots. His work reflects an ongoing search to unite his ideas with the generosity and the intimacy that the functional pot offers. “I continually play with shape and surface within parameters set by the intended purpose of the pot. These parameters open a world of exploration for me.”
As a potter, I make one-of-a-kind functional objects that are meant to be used daily. The daily routine of life is often filled with beauty that is missed or passed over.
S. C. Rolf holds an MFA from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute, and a BS in Broad Area Arts from the University of Wisconsin, River Falls. He also apprenticed under Wang Hui Ming, a master painter and wood engraver. S. C. Rolf exhibits his work throughout the United States and has received a number of national and international awards. He also lectures and teaches workshops throughout the country. S.C. Rolf’s work has been included in magazines and books including: 500 Teapots from Lark books, In the Potter’s Kitchen by Sumi von Dassow, and American iPottery by Kevin Hulch. His work resides in noted private and museum collections, including the Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, OR; Ulsan City Museum, Ulsan Korea; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN; American Museum of Ceramic Art, Pomona, CA; and in numerous kitchen cupboards.
I have made a study of making objects that fit one’s hand and hopefully engage the user’s eye, head, and heart as well. My work celebrates the daily routine of eating, drinking, storing, and pouring. Beautiful objects have the power to trigger thoughts and emotions. Interesting and beautiful clay pots do this for me because they are made of mud, and mud leaves a trail and a record of the maker’s touch, capturing his or her ideas at the moment of making. Pots additionally deal with containment. This containment relates to use, the body, volume, space and even containment of ideas as metaphor. My work employs the physical process of layering, which describes a sense of growth of the pot, both inward and outward. The addition and subtraction of the material leave a record of time in the work. Layering of wet clay over leather-hard clay is similar to the transformation of a landscape, such as an eroding riverbed. As a maker of one-of-a-kind functional objects, I use the premise that I transmit feeling through the subtle touch in working. I feel that in order for the user to “get it” they must also touch the work. My hope is that my pots will be used frequently in the daily routine by those who bring them into their homes. 166
Justin Rothshank Goshen, Indiana
STATEMENT We believe that artwork and creativity are a catalyst for social change and economic improvement as well as enhancing everyday lives with beauty. Art gives a voice to the voiceless, enables self understanding, and provides a window into other cultures. These are among the reasons we have chosen to pursue lives as working artists. We commit to: • respect and cherish our environment • seek and promote non-violent means of reconciliation • tithe regularly • participate in a faith community • educate ourselves and those around us – Brooke and Justin Rothshank, 2009
ON LEARNING After college I moved to Pittsburgh. It was a new city where I didn’t know any other potters, and wasn’t sure if I wanted to pursue clay, or woodworking. I took an apprenticeship with a cabinetmaker. The wood shop was in a large industrial building in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. I also bought a potter’s wheel, and set up a small studio in my basement. After making pots for several months, I wanted to wood fire them. I Googled “ceramic artists in Pittsburgh who wood fire,” and found Dale Huffman, whose studio was in the same building as mine! This relationship helped lay a foundation for my exploration in clay.
Over the years, Dale became a good friend and a mentor. His inspiring wood fire pots continue to be some of my favorites. Dale has a laid back, instructional, and deliberate method to kiln loading that continues to influence my thought process when I’m inside a kiln. He’s thoughtful and intentional about firing, yet willing to take risks and experiment. We set up a weekly throwing night. I’d come to Carlow University, where Dale is still teaching, and we’d each throw our own pots. I remember Dale’s direct, challenging critique, and kind suggestions for improvement. I also remember learning from Dale about the importance of clay body selection, especially for wood firing. He had a cold spot in his kiln. Instead of changing the kiln design, or struggling to raise the temperature during a firing, or lamenting the uselessness of that spot, he made pots out of clay with a lower maturation point. This seems obvious to me now, but I’d always thought wood fired pots needed to be made with stoneware or porcelain, and this completely changed my perspective. After my cabinet building apprenticeship ended, I helped start the Union Project. As a fledgling non-profit with no budget, I needed a part-time job to supplement my income. I began working for Elvira Peake, who operated The Clay Place. I delivered Standard Ceramics’ Clay and Amaco Glazes to schools in Western Pennsylvania and every month I unpacked and helped set up the rotating exhibitions in her gallery. The first show I helped with was a solo exhibition of work by Malcolm Davis.
One of Malcolm’s mugs from that show is the first mug I ever bought, and still one of my favorites. Over my two years of working for Elvira, I got to unpack, touch, and learn about pots by dozens of the best clay artists in the country. I learned that to study pots, you can't just look at pictures. You need to pick them up, touch them, use them, pack them, and feel them. My time in Pittsburgh, working with Dale and Elvira, and becoming co-founder of the Union Project, were my formative “graduate school” experiences. I was able to learn from great, experienced teachers, and then implement my research into a real world experience. Dale and Elvira's feedback and encouragement of my work came at a valuable time. I was able to sustain my creative exploration because of my own drive, but also because I had critical feedback to help me improve. Dale didn't teach me how to make a cup, I already new how, but he gave me feedback on how to make a good cup. Not just how to make a good handle, but how to load it into the kiln, what kind of clay to use, where it would look good, and how to build the kiln to fire it in. Elvira didn’t teach me how to make a cup either, but gave me access to a library full of real cups that I could touch, and that were successful for all different reasons.
BIOGRAPHY Justin Rothshank has been working as a studio ceramic artist in Goshen, Indiana since 2009. In 2001 he co-founded the Union Project, a nonprofit organization located in Pittsburgh, PA. Justinâ€™s ceramic work has been exhibited and published nationally and internationally, including articles in Ceramics Monthly, American Craft, Studio Potter, The Log Book,
and Neue Keramik. He has been a presenter, panelist, visiting artist, and artist-in-residence at numerous universities, schools, conferences, and art centers throughout the United States and abroad. His functional and decorative ceramic ware is available for purchase in more than two-dozen galleries and gift shops around the country.
Justin was presented with an Award of Excellence by the American Craft Council in February 2009. In 2007 he was recognized by Ceramics Monthly magazine as an Emerging Artist. He has also been awarded an Alcoa Foundation Leadership Grant for Arts Managers, a 2007 Work of Art Award from Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, the 2005 Decade of Servant Leadership Award from Goshen College, and was named to Pittsburgh Magazineâ€™s 40 under 40 in 2005. 168
Judith Saloman Shaker Heights, Ohio
BIOGRAPHY Judith Salomon earned a BFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1975, and an MFA from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 1977. She received a prestigious National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1981, two Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist fellowships in 1981 and 1987, and was awarded the Cleveland Arts Prize in 1990. She taught for 37 years at the Cleveland Institute of Art, where she served as Department Chair in ceramics, and she led workshops throughout the U.S. and in Osaka, Japan. She was represented by Garth Clark Gallery in New York for 12 years and was included in American Potters Today (1986) and American Ceramics 1876 to Present (1987). She has exhibited nationally and internationally, including Canada, Taiwan, New Zealand, England and Wales. Her collectors included the Cleveland Museum of Art, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
STATEMENT The work that I make revolves around my interest in domestic space and the interaction of the object and the viewer’s touch. These vessels are intended for use and contemplation. When they are full of food, flowers, or mail, they have one visual meaning, and when they are empty they can be viewed and appreciated.
The way two building walls meet, the way a banana sits next to a peach in a bowl, the way a sidewalk meets a curb… all of these images are purposely selected and funneled into a dictionary of images in my mind and eventually become my aesthetics and my artwork. I build my ceramic vessels like a collage, layer upon layer, to create mass and abstract pattern. The walls of the vessels are my way of defining volume and space, while the inside and the outside of the pieces are enhanced and emphasized by soft colors and whiteness. Architecture and constructivism play a large role in the aesthetics of the artwork, while structure and manipulation of the clay form the essence of the piece. Ceramic history and personal use is an integral part of the intent and the visual totality. I am primarily a hand builder, using slabs to construct volumes. I use slip- casting techniques to produce multiples and vary their surfaces with a variety of muted and sand blasted glazes. I work in series that slowly evolve. Repetition and movement, like a dancer's choreography, are apparent in my constructions. These ceramic objects are an interpretation of my visual memories.
ON INFLUENCE I have been influenced by so many outside forces – from Russian Constructivism, Bauhaus, Japanese packaging, Joseph Beuys, topiary, industrial ceramics, etc. – the list goes on and on. Copying is a great tool as long as you know you are copying. “Know your sources and acknowledge them,” is something I always emphasized to my students. As a teenager I apprenticed with a potter, Peter Craft, in Ogunquit, Maine doing everything from sales in the gallery and babysitting, to reclaiming clay and learning about production pottery. It put me on the road to going to RIT to become a potter, a wonderful life altering experience.
ON MENTORS The role of the mentor for me is a very layered mass. I have been in ceramics since the late sixties. I feel so lucky that I have had so many incredible teachers and peers who have all mentored me in one way or another. Albert Paley at Rochester Institute of Technology really pushed me to go to graduate school, and I am forever grateful. At Alfred, I was lucky to be there with wonderful teachers like Val Cushing, Wayne Higby, Robert Turner, Ted Randall, Tony Hepburn, and others. My classmates, including Chris Gustin, Barry Bartlett, Akio Takamori, Andrea Gill, and Stan Welsh, have continued to influence me to this day. I have learned different things from each
of them to make me the artist that I am. My time at Penland with Cynthia Bringle and Jane Hatcher gave me the gift of confidence to be a female ceramic artist. I’m not sure who taught me to make cups, but I do remember making hundreds of handles with Jane Hatcher and Paulus Behrenson at Penland, who taught me to let clay be clay, with no rules. Having Garth Clark as my gallerist in NY and LA in the 80’s and 90’s – what a mentor he has been for me. Having taught with Victor Schreckengost in the ID Department and William Brouillard in the Ceramics department at the Cleveland Institute of Art was a huge life-learning experience.
When I was asked to speak at Kirk Mangus’s memorial in 2014, I gave clay and friendship a great deal of thought. It made me realize how important the sense of community, the sharing of meals, and the beauty of the handmade object meant to me. I talked about Kirk’s life and spirit living on in all the objects that he made. I talked about having breakfast with Kirk every morning because I drink out of his cups and eat my cereal out of his bowls, so he is still here in my thoughts. The power of the handmade object and the touch of the maker are so permanent in my day-to-day existence.
Akira Satake Asheville, North Carolina
Akira Satake was born in Osaka, Japan and has been living in the U.S. since 1983. In 2003 he relocated from Brooklyn, NY to Swannanoa, NC. The Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show awarded him the National Award for Excellence in Contemporary Clay and his work is included in the collection of The Mint Museum and The Phillips Collection. He has also been featured on the weekly PBS Series A Craftsmanâ€™s Legacy. Akira is widely sought after for workshops and lectures and has given classes in France, Belgium, Israel, Australia, England, and Scotland.
I have been influenced by many ceramic artists over the years; I learn from everyone. I would love to own a cup by Lucie Rie. Her work inspires me to make pottery. My wood fired work is influenced by the Japanese potters of the Momoyama period (1573 - 1615). Other influences include Shozo Michikawa, Nobuhiro Mizuma, Judith Duff, and Peter Lane.
STATEMENT For me, the act of creation is a collaboration between myself, the clay, and the fire. I am searching for what the clay wants to be, to bring out the natural beauty of the clay. Undulations in sand that has been moved by the wind, rock formations caused by landslides, the crackle and patina in the wall of an old house, all of these owe their special beauty to the random hand of Nature. The fire is the ultimate random part of the collaborative equation. I hope the fire will be my ally, but I know it will always transform the clay in ways I cannot anticipate.
My two assistants have learned technique from me, but I hope that I have been influential toward them regarding my philosophy towards ceramics. I give workshops where I teach my techniques and approach to pottery making, but I expect that my students will use what they have learned from me to create their own forms and style. I believe that if you get too much influence in your work it takes many more years to unlearn and find your own direction. I hope that people who use my cups will be warmed by them spiritually and contented with them functionally and aesthetically. I enjoy using my own wood fired cups because Iâ€™m always awed by the ways the fire created its serendipitous beauty.
I began my ceramics journey in elementary school and went on from there.
BIOGRAPHY Sam was born and raised in Seattle, WA and began working with clay in high school in 1968. He went to the University of Washington to work with Robert Sperry, Patti Warashina, and Howard Kottler. After receiving his BFA in 1975, he proceeded to set up his studio in the Seattle area. Over the years he has taught at the University of Washington and Everett Community College and has given numerous workshops. Sam currently teaches at Shoreline Community College. His work has been shown in important national and international exhibitions and has won various awards. His work was published in magazines and books, including Ceramics Monthly, Pottery Making Illustrated, Making Marks by Robin Hopper, and China Paint and Over Glaze by Paul Lewing. His work is included in corporate and public permanent collections, including Virginia Mason Medical Center Permanent Art Collection and The American Museum of Ceramic Art, Pomona, California.
STATEMENT I have been a ceramic artist in Seattle since 1968 and have worked predominately in porcelain on the potter’s wheel. My forms are defined by functional simplicity, and the white surface of each piece is decorated with abstract brushwork in blues, browns, and grays. I also utilize the contrast of the white porcelain surface with a black matte glaze. The development of this glaze has allowed me to employ new forms of decoration on the clay surface, juxtaposing biomorphic poured shapes in contrast to the dense white porcelain. These drips create a graphic tension that is enhanced by orienting the directional flow of the glaze from both the rim and foot of the piece.
The shape of the pot informs the pouring process, creating overlapping patterns that integrate the form, surface, and decoration, which unify the overall design. My goal is to blend technique and intuition in both form and surface treatment while working in the vessel format.
ON INFLUENCE As a student interested in pottery in the early 1970s and trying to decide where to go to school, I encountered the work of Bob Sperry at a gallery. At this time, Bob was doing over glaze brushwork on the surface of the pot, and it was this brushwork that enthralled me. I decided to attend the University of Washington in Seattle where I lived. As a student embraces the mentor’s influence, it is necessary that his work reflect the mentor’s style. This was the case with me. As I look at images of early work from this time, I can barely tell if it is Bob’s or my own. The goal of this relationship is to acquire the skills that the teacher has while finding your own voice. He showed me how to make brushes and how to approach the surface of the pot. After a while, my brushwork began to reflect my personality. As the arrangement of marks on Bob’s pots exhibited a manic burst of shapes and patterns, my brushwork became clean, tight, and rhythmic. Once an artist finds his or her own voice, the work communicates the personality of the maker. After graduation, I continued this important relationship until his death in 1998. Over the years, Bob’s work evolved from the brushwork to other styles of decoration, as has mine. But even today, I feel the impact of his influence as a teacher and as a friend. I regularly engage that first brushwork piece of his that I purchased as an undergraduate and remember the spark that began in my own work.
ON CUPS The cup, mug, and yunomi are all objects that people integrate into their daily lives. People express the connection to the artist by using these objects. While functional pottery is fulfilled with its use, there is another perspective on owning these vessels – the cup as the entry-level piece of the collector. Potters are inveterate collectors. Often, the cup is the only object they can afford, either from a well-known artist or even from someone early in their career. When I am invited to participate in cup shows, I always pick up a couple of pieces, including one from an established artist I admire and one from an up-and-coming craftsperson who has found their voice. These cups go into my collection. Some people have working collections and use them daily. I do not want to chance a mishap, so they stay safely in my display cabinets. The cups I use daily are my own. This gives me the opportunity to test drive my own decisions on size, shape, handle, and the various other choices one makes in creating the best personal expression of this drinking vessel. This does not mean that I refrain from engaging my collection. I will often select a couple pieces and reflect on them — a Rookwood puzzle mug, or the puzzle that is a Jeff Campana cup; the confident surface of a Bob Sperry mug, or the story that is revealed on an Akio Takamori vessel; the subtle carving on an Elaine Coleman piece, or the simple honesty of a Warren Mackenzie yunomi; the comfortable handles of John Britt and Victoria Christian, or the colorful vitality of a Posey Baccapolos cup; the animated form created by Deb Schwartzkopf, or the smile-inducing Texaco decal on a faceted cup from Dan Anderson. I marvel every day at the decisions these artists made in creating these wonderful pieces and rest assured that they are safely protected from the pitfalls of life. I do this while enjoying a cup of coffee from one of my own cups.
Sam Scott Shoreline, Washington
BIOGRAPHY Yoko Sekino-Bové was born in Osaka, Japan. She graduated from Musashino Art University in Tokyo, Japan with a BFA in Graphic Design before moving to the United States. Yoko worked as a commercial designer in L.A. before her passion for ceramic art took her onto a new path. She received an MFA in Ceramics from the University of Oklahoma in 2004, and served as an artist-in-residence in the ceramic department of the Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach, FL from 2004 to 2005. In 2005 Yoko and her husband moved to Washington, PA, and she started working
from her home studio while teaching at local colleges and art centers. Her porcelain work has been included in many prestigious group exhibitions nationally and internationally. Yoko was selected as an Emerging Artist by the Ceramic Arts Daily Council in 2011. She has presented solo exhibitions at Red Star Studios, MO, Appalachian Center for Crafts, TN, Charlie Cummings Gallery, FL, and The Clay Studio, PA. Her work was included in “Push Play” NCECA Invitational Exhibition in 2012.
Sekino-Bové has exhibited internationally including at the Icheon World Ceramic Biennale 2013, South Korea. She completed the Arts/Industry residency at John Michael Kohler Art Center in Wisconsin in 2014 and served as a fall residency artist at Archie Bray Foundation in Montana in 2015. Her work is featured in books and periodicals including American Craft and Ceramics Monthly, and Pottery Making Illustrated magazines.
Yoko Sekino-Bove Washington, Pennsylvania
STATEMENT There is a reward in creating functional pottery. It is that my work will become a part of the owner who uses and touches it every day. My work becomes a part of their identity as well as a part of their life. In this industrial and technology-driven age the question of why we still create and use handmade objects over mass-produced, technologically sophisticated merchandise should be investigated and discussed. Although there are no concrete answers to me, I believe it is partially a way to establish our identity as an individual and celebrate it. A part of the reason we acquire an original, one-of-a-kind craft object may not only be for the practical use, but also as a vocabulary to describe our identity. It is also a tool for our little rituals (our daily routine) that we subconsciously participate in, in everyday life. My porcelain work represents the integration of my collective emotions, curiosities, insights, and fancies in shapes of plants and animals. Capturing these emotions and translating them into a certain shape is like picking up wild flowers for making a bouquet: a mixture of random choices and selective chaos, inspirations and the anticipation for something unexpected. The forms I developed are primarily for practical use, but also to challenge the users to exercise their imagination. Form and the surface design entwine to create a story, yet it is the function that establishes the identity. Function is a great tool to enhance
the story/identity I want to deliver, as well as an invitation to everyone to touch and play with the piece. This is a great advantage to me that we can share the excuse of function with the ceramic work to engage in an intimate, long-term relationship beyond the function through use. As a maker I hope my functional work grows on the users to the level of a reliable companion that provides unconditional comfort. I hope that my work offers intimacy, joy, and affection to the owners in their private spaces. My goal in functional ceramics is to create art with a personality, which will live and work with the people who adopt them.
ON CUPS I have been thinking about cups for a long time, the definition of a cup, and how to make a good one. Cups are one of the few kitchen objects in the modern American culture to be personal and private, something we consider as a territory marker, as “my” cup. Many people have a unique coffee mug just for himself or herself, even if it does not match anything else in their kitchen. What makes cups so special and how did we develop the exceptional love to them? Once, my mentor Sheila Varnum Howard, the owner of Rowantrees Pottery in Blue Hill, Maine, said that it is important for functional potters to provide reliable work for people’s everyday lives. Sheila said it’s because many people spend a lot longer time in their kitchen
than the time they spend at a gallery or museum. The beautiful, honest, comfortable cups that they enjoy touching in their private time is the most intimate and important art they experience every day, closest to them than any other art in their daily life. She had worked as a functional potter for more than sixty years, and was still trying her best to create the “good” cup each and every time. Several years ago, I got a phone call from a friend. She was very upset that her favorite cup was shattered by an accident. I offered to send her a cup, but she declined it because “it’s not gonna be the same.” This incident made me realize that our affection and emotional attachments are the actual judging point, not just a physical comfort or a visual appeal. Until then, I thought there was a set of explainable conditions for a “good” cup. Differed by individuals, but there would be some rules based on the practicality to provide the comfort to the owner, or an exceptional beauty that we cannot find anywhere else. But the roots may be deeper – our affections and emotional attachment to subjects are often instinctive and hard to explain. My new goal is to create a unique cup that will be an irreplaceable companion to one person for a long time. There is no one answer for a good cup, yet every cup may be the answer to one person somewhere.
Mark Shapiro Worthington, Massachusetts
BIOGRAPHY Mark Shapiro makes wood-fired pots in Western Massachusetts. He is a frequent workshop leader, lecturer, curator, panelist, and writer, and is mentor to a half-dozen apprentices who have trained at his Stonepool Pottery. His work was featured in the 4th World Ceramics Biennial in Icheon, Korea, and is in many public collections. His interviews of Karen Karnes, Michael Simon, Paulus Berensohn, and Sergei Isupov are in the Smithsonian Archives of American Art. He edited A Chosen Path: The Ceramic Art of Karen Karnes (UNC Press 2010). He is on the advisory board of Ceramics Monthly, and is a contributing editor to The Studio Potter Magazine. He is a founding member of POW! (Pots on Wheels) and is director of the New Apprenticeship Project in Ceramic Art.
ON MENTORS I grew up in New York City in a large, slightly shabby Upper West Side apartment on the 15th floor. There was a doorman named Al who was a family favorite. Often, my mother would send him down a mid-morning coffee in the elevator. She would place it, steaming, in the corner of the elevator so it wouldn’t be noticed or disturbed should an additional passenger get on. Al would retrieve the cup, have his coffee, and return it via the same conveyance. This was arranged through the building’s barely working intercom system. The cup was part of a set that we regularly used—looking back, it might have been
Bennington Pottery or Arabia, an off-white stoneware with a slightly speckled surface, cylindrical with a 3-finger handle, very straight forward. To my four-year-old self this practice seemed magical and strange: The elevator was for people in their public guise, not for unaccompanied stuff and certainly not for something meant to be consumed hot, right away, something that might spill or be subject to contamination. I knew that cups full of coffee didn’t go on the floor, much less on a public one that moved. Also, the separation between tenants and building staff was a given that I understood even then as a fact of life. I was not aware of other instances of exchange between these two worlds other than a passing greeting, thank you, and holiday tipping. That cup, with its offering of sustaining warmth and energy, for a moment turned upside down the dyad of server and served, and connected the private domestic world of our family and apartment to the public world of the street and lobby and to the people who made things run and who in fact made that private world possible. That slightly transgressive cup on the elevator floor was a gesture of human fellowship. A simple cup could have the power to reach out to make unexpected connections between individuals, geographies, and cultures. I can only aspire to make cups that go on such interesting journeys as the one in my childhood kitchen.
STATEMENT The town is sacked. Silver and gold, even bronze, are beaten into crude billets to be hauled off and melted. Houses burned, prisoners taken, or not. And in the wreckage: bones, stones, and potsherds.
on the earth. The bottom of the ovoid jug is marked by the potter’s two-hundred-yearold fingerprints, just as the earth’s strata are uniquely marked in clay fragments by all the peoples who struggled here to endure.
Clay’s low material intrinsic value and fragility, paradoxically, make it endure as one of the most compelling records of the human touch
Where will my pots end up? In the landfills with the busted bikes and lawnmowers and
all the other cheaply made or quickly obsolete tech-no-junk—in the giant middens of our endless desires? No matter. I am glad to leave a record of my own touch in this most receptive, fragile, and enduring material.
Andy Shaw Baton Rouge, Louisiana
My cup collection is large, but I’ll assume that my admission fits well with the current reader’s own kitchen collection. They are all beauties. A cup or mug in my house finds use most often if it can hold a large volume of tea. For one reason or another, when the winter flu finally grabs hold, I reach for a lovely small celadon glazed wheel and hand-built mug by my former student, Normandy Alden. It’s beautiful, gentle, and carries a kindness that sure helps deal with feeling sick.
I apprenticed with Patrick Eckman of Basin Creek Pottery. Talk about a mentor! I learned so much from Pat. On my last day as I drove off, I pulled over a quarter mile down the road in tears. I turned the car back around to hug and say ’bye to Pat one more time. That was 1994. To this day, I have not had such an emotional parting. His type of mentorship was parental as well as professional.
BIOGRAPHY Currently Associate Professor at Louisiana State University, Andy has also taught at Alfred University, Gettysburg College, Arcadia University, and Andrews University. In 2000 he earned an MFA from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University and in 1992 a BA in History from Kenyon College. Additionally, he studied at Penn State University, the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and worked as an apprentice at Basin Creek Pottery, Montana. He has been an Artist-in-Residence at the Archie Bray Foundation, the Arrowmont School of Crafts, The Clay Studio, where he was the 2006-2007 Evelyn Shapiro Foundation Fellow, and the Northern Clay Center, where he was a 2015 McKnight Resident. Andy’s work is included in museums and private collections both in the U.S. and internationally. In 2014 Andy traveled to Reykjavik, Iceland to serve as a visiting artist. He has taught workshops at the Penland School of Crafts, the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, and the Arrowmont School of Crafts, and has been a visiting artist at numerous universities. Andy won LSU Teaching Awards in 2012 and 2014. His work is published in many periodicals and in several recent books.
STATEMENT I design each piece of pottery so that it can adapt to place and to the personal preferences of each homeowner. In my studio I resist the artistic impulse to create overall resolution, opting instead to leave room for improvisation by the cook whose own need for creative resolution is just as necessary as mine. By leaving the glaze color neutral, cooks recognize the invitation for color in the foods they prepare, such as a spinach, strawberry, and almond salad, or perhaps a grilled turkey club panini with purple onion. In this way, color is not a fixed quality in the pottery, allowing it to have an active role in daily cooking.
Paring the tableware down for utilitarian needs, the round forms develop consistency within a dinner set while the patterns, variations of lines and grids, offer individual distinction while maintaining the unity of the set. Patterns extend to the rims of plates and seemingly beyond to interact with the incidental, linear, domestic patterns present in shadows and in the architectural elements of wooden floors and stair railings. My patterns respond to contemporary home design trends while bridging to the pliability of handcrafted textiles. The generalized character of the patterns allow the porcelain to adapt to place easily, becoming a complement to a diversity of existing home designs. In order for a pot to be functional, it must be used. As the potter, I design opportunities for the homeowner to add color to the porcelain and to incorporate it actively with other objects currently in the home.
ON MENTORS There are really too many mentors to count, each to be credited for something distinctly necessary, but for this exhibit, I will choose Chris Staley. Chris supported my career from its earliest days as a pottery apprentice, into a Special Student year at Penn State, through today. Of his many letters, one stands out. I wrote to Chris and to all my previous mentors to let them know that I was headed to Alfred to begin my MFA. In Chris’ reply he wrote something along these lines (paraphrased): “I admire your decision to go to graduate school to become a better potter and a better person.” Not having much idea what to anticipate from grad school, the “to become a better person” part landed with me in a sticky way. How could art school make me a better person? What did he mean? Was this an overreach of sentiment? I kept this letter on top of my most important documents, pulling it out now and then to read the words and to wonder what he meant. After three struggling semesters, my 4th and final semester at
Alfred was one of the happiest, most satisfying periods of my life. In my teaching and in my studio, I felt connections back into myself. Personal histories and life experiences became acknowledged and asserted into my creative action. I credit Nick Tobier for generating these experiences—I could write so much about Nick—but it was Chris early on who had me looking for a bettered life. So in my 4th semester, as I was feeling and living at what was my best, I recalled Chris’ letter and decided to give him a reply. I wrote something along the lines of “Thanks, Chris, I get it now. Had you not given me the prompt, I would not have been looking for personal betterment.” One of the best experiences that a teacher can encourage is to have a student look for something that they cannot yet see. I’m grateful for this and for all of Chris’ guidance over the decades.
ON INFLUENCE It’s great to be curious and to look at everything; it’s easy then to feel overwhelmed by the amount of information out there. Looking helps me to strive towards something. I’ve learned too that I must leave time to be influenced also by myself; by the silly, nonsensical parts of the day and to realize that this is my best material because it reveals how my temperament addresses my viewpoint. I recall working with a class of students who were stumped on a project. I asked them, “What interests you?” Each one had a great answer, to which I replied, ”Why aren’t you pursuing that idea?” Their dilemma seemed clear, and it was one that I recognized. They were trying so hard to utilize external influences, sources, and content that they forgot to acknowledge the most obvious personal motivators and curiosities, in effect dismissing them for being seemingly insufficient. So, my thoughts here are simply a word to myself to remember to allow self-awareness to influence my work.
Sandy Simon Berkeley, California
BIOGRAPHY Sandy Simon has been a studio potter since 1970, after leaving the University of Minnesota with a group of potter friends, including her then husband, Michael Simon. She moved to rural Georgia to set up a studio; first in an old chicken coop and then in an abandoned house in the rural countryside near Athens, Georgia. She and Michael lived and worked there for eight years before Sandy left to teach at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago in 1978-79. This was followed by a long list of adjunct teaching positions at Purdue University and the Appalachian Center for Crafts, TN, where she met and later married Robert Brady, a sculptor from CA. They moved to Berkeley, CA in 1986 and renovated a large warehouse they purchased from sculptor Peter Voulkos. Sandy continued teaching at San Jose State University, Hayward State University, and finally San Francisco State University. Teaching came to an end at the start of TRAX gallery in 1995 in west Berkeley, CA. Sandy wanted to showcase work from functional potters who had devoted their lives to making pots for use. TRAX was so named because of its original warehouse location, just 20 feet from the Southern Pacific RR.
In 2001, Sandy and Robert moved with their two children to a new location five blocks south of the warehouse in west Berkeley. They built a new TRAX gallery with living space above and studios behind near a hip and happening shopping area called “Fourth Street.” TRAX hosts approximately six to eight exhibitions a year. The focus of the gallery is still functional clay with few exceptions and much of the work is sold online.
ON INFLUENCE We are influenced by all we see; we are subjects of the information highway. There is a plethora of possibilities out there. I would not be ashamed of influences unless my own take on it did not move beyond the one I am influenced by. I don’t believe we should copy other’s creativity, yet this is quite a common practice in our clay world.
ON LEARNING An MFA is required if you are going to teach. Even if you think you are not, it’s a good idea because you really can’t predict your path. But beyond that, an MFA is a period of experiences, where your life is not your own, but you have the option of meeting new people, working with new people, and gaining knowledge toward the next step with guidance from your professors. I encourage it. Above all, practice is key and to do that steadfastly, you must have a low overhead.
ON CUPS A comfortable handle is key to producing a good cup. My former husband, Michael Simon, first taught me how to make a decent handle by attaching a lug of clay to a leatherhard cup and pulling it from the cup. Once attached, the top edge of the handle is pushed downward on each side to create an attachment that looks as if it has grown from the body of the cup.
Cups hold attention along with the liquid. For a cup to be really good, it must delight the sense of touch, smell, and sight without distracting from the drink or demanding too much of the user. A successful cup must abide within the conformity of intention. I use and own many different makerâ€™s cups. A few cups that I own and admire, but rarely use, were made by Peter Beaseeker. They are handle-less, double walled, clear porcelain
with a blue dot in the bottom. Peter told me they were intended for martinis, double walled to keep the contents cool, but not the hand. One cup that I am particularly partial to is one I made. It is red clay with porcelain slip and a green transparent glaze. Iâ€™ve come to believe that this cup appeals to me because of its handle. It is comfortable and the cup size is right. It may not be for someone else, but it is for me. And ultimately, we are who we want to please. 182
Alec Smith Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan
STATEMENT I make objects in search of the balance between one-of-a-kind and the mass-produced. Mold making and complex shapes help to accomplish this. I keep my materials and color palate close to their natural state, raw clay and simple color combinations. I create objects with specific functions to bring awareness to the userâ€™s experience. So many things in the world are overlooked and generalized. I hope that my thoughtfully designed and well-crafted objects help the user to slow down and connect with the things around them.
BIOGRAPHY My interest in ceramics started in high school and I have been pursuing a career in the field ever since. I attended the Maryland Institute College of Art, in Baltimore, Maryland, for two years. The conceptually focused education was very beneficial to my creative development, but I felt I was missing the technical ability to produce objects at the level of craftsmanship I desired. I transferred to Alfred University in Alfred, New York and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts, focused in ceramics. From prototyping with different materials to sculpting, throwing, slip casting, and mold making, I learned the technical aspects of ceramics I needed. After graduating I interned for Paul Eshelman at Eshelman Pottery in Elizabeth, Illinois. This exposed me to the possibilities of production, advanced my mold making skills, increased my attention to detail, and showed me what it takes to achieve consistency. Returning back to the Detroit area, I went to the College for Creative for my certification in Professional Automotive Clay Modeling and am currently work as a clay modeler in the automotive industry.
ON CUPS What comes to mind when you think of a hand made cup? Answers vary from a generic Styrofoam coffee cup to an expertly crafted ceramic drinking vessel. I found my response to this question drastically changed when I began making my own pots. My first cup was messy, chunky, but somehow still resembled what I thought a cup should be. It was cylindrical with an ear shaped handle. Since then, my vision of the perfect cup has evolved. In high school I imagined a delicate porcelain teacup but lacked the craftsmanship to create it. When I entered college, I had a better understanding of how to make what I envisioned.
My instructors guided me to consider the aesthetics of the cup: Matt Kelleher taught me that every angle of a cup had to be considered, even the bottom of a cup that can be enjoyed by the person doing the dishes; Linda Sikora stressed that cups are intimate objects used every day and our interactions with everyday objects have the potential for more thoughtful design. These ideas resonated with me and widened my perception of what a hand made cup should be. My vision of a cup was evolving to an interactive sculpture rather than just a simple vessel.
ON MENTORS A summer apprenticeship with Paul Eshelman helped me to see how pottery existed outside of the structured academic world. During my time there, I was able to take part in the very grounding processes of what a maker goes through in order to achieve quality and consistency, while still evolving their designs. Paul had an efficient production process that maintained the integrity and quality of his work. Without the support and guidance of my mentors I would still be in that first pottery class trying to make my uninspired idea of a cup. My high school ceramics teacher, Thomas Szmrecsanyi, said that no one can tell you how to be an artist, but it is how you process the knowledge you receive. I am extremely thankful for all the help and eye opening experiences from my mentors, and aim to become a mentor to continue this evolution of knowledge.
Kala Stein Sonoma, California
BIOGRAPHY Kala Stein is an artist and designer noted for innovative mold making and casting techniques. Her work explores dynamic systems and sustainable practices within the intersection of design, production, and the handmade. Kala received her BFA in Ceramics from SUNY New Paltz in 2002 and her MFA in Ceramics from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 2009. She stayed on at Alfred to teach and curate at the Cohen Gallery from 2009-2015. She has exhibited in over 40 national shows and works with private clients on custom designs for the home and hospitality industry. Her community-based work is aimed at developing models that will help organizations, schools, and private practitioners operate with more sustainable practices. Kala recently took the position of Director of Ceramics at Sonoma Community Center, in Sonoma, California where she is developing their community studio, artist in residence program, and community outreach programming
STATEMENT I hold reverence for techniques and efficiency synonyms with mass production as I fold in traces of process and touch. Working within this dichotomy highlights contrary approaches to ceramics, exploring the intersection of industrial design and the traditional craftsman.
Each time I cast, I build the mold, configure the plaster parts into formations that are clamped, strapped, and bound together. These modular mold systems and the resulting forms celebrate the individuality of handcrafted objects, the continuum of the handmade, while working within the framework of craft and design.
ON MENTORS My most influential mentorship developed out of my time apprenticing with Donna Polseno and Rick Hensley in Floyd, Virginia. I came to Donna’s studio in 2005 with the ambition to learn about myself, my work, and the lifestyle of a studio artist. My end goal was to develop a new body of work that I could apply (and get into) graduate school with. The first time I met Donna was tell tale of what it would be like to work with her, to be swooped up and join her life as a member of her continually growing extended family and community. The kind, jovial, and genuine nature of Donna’s demeanor is what has helped to make our mentor/mentee relationship long lasting. Her honesty and wisdom has been valuable on so many occasions during my apprenticeship as well as the years after. I feel comfortable talking with her (at high points and low points) about my work as well as personal or financial issues. I have made a point to talk and reunite with Donna on regular intervals after my apprenticeship was complete. Connecting and cultivating this relationship, like all relationships, takes effort
and intention. The mentorship continues and remains relevant as mutual respect is maintained. Donna’s sage advice and point of view is priceless and I continue to learn from being her student, friend, and admirer. After graduate school, when I was setting up my own studio, Donna’s studio practice became a model for my own. Like her, I have multiple directions in the studio and will adjust my materials and firings accordingly. Maybe to a fault, I do not hesitate to work with new clays or find a more effective glaze as the work calls for it. This way of working continues to challenge me and keeps things interesting in the studio with a significant amount of experimentation and risk taking. By using molds, I have been able to have a studio assistant help with my work while not worrying about compromising the aesthetic or form. Because the mold can act as a “control” in the process of ceramics, I feel comfortable training someone to work skillfully and efficiently. Furthermore, I feel a responsibility to continue the paradigm of mentor/mentee to contribute to the continuum of learning through an apprenticeship model. I have taught ceramics in most, if not all, formats. The mentor/mentee paradigm is one of the most fulfilling as there is an intimacy that comes of out working one-on-one. The resulting bond of this reciprocal partnership has a longevity and depth that is not as common in classroom scenarios.
ON LEARNING I learned about making cups in the very early years of working with clay. Of course, most of us start on the wheel with the assignment of throwing a cylinder. A cup is a cylinder and a cylinder is easy to drink from.
When I began making good cups, an object for everyday and frequent use, I felt like I had a purpose. With this form, I was convinced that I could create objects to fulfill the needs of others and others could easily understand them and evaluate them on their own terms. I felt my time and skill could more readily draw value and reach an audience, and market, beyond my art school community.
In my cupboard the lineage of my cup collection marks my time in clay and those who I have crossed paths with along the way. I have a cup to signify almost every milestone and significant influence. Every time I go to use a cup I am reminded of those people and moments.
Liz Zlot Summerfield Bakersville, North Carolina
BIOGRAPHY Liz attended the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis to complete her Master’s of Fine Arts in 2004. Since graduation, she has lived in Bakersville, North Carolina and currently works as studio artist and adjunct instructor in the Professional Crafts Program at Western Piedmont Community College located in Morganton, North Carolina. She has been an instructor and visiting artist at numerous clay facilities, colleges, and universities. She exhibits and sells her work nationally through exhibitions, galleries, and fine craft shows. Her work resides in various permanent collections. She has been featured in, and on the cover of Ceramics Monthly and Clay Times magazine and has authored and been included in a variety of ceramic publications. Ceramic Arts Daily recently released an instructional DVD featuring Liz’s ceramic process and her work.
STATEMENT Recontextualizing utilitarian objects is a common thread woven throughout my work. My interest lies in what an object once was and what it can become; this curiosity inspires me to create my work. I reference functional, everyday objects and intend to formalize them by focusing on their form, surface, and stance.
I am passionate about collecting and the theories involved. Why do we collect and display certain objects? What new meanings arise once they are grouped among similar objects? Within a collection, everyday objects have the ability to gain importance as members of a whole. They start to become more than the sum of their parts, subtle nuances are noticed, and there is the potential to give value to valueless objects. I find function a vehicle for expression, while also allowing approachability to my work. Sets, such as creamer and sugars, and salt and peppers, lidded containers, and pails are my primary forms. My work is small and intimate in size. These handheld objects are constructed with slabs that softly drape over one another, creating three-dimensional drawings throughout the surface of the piece. These lines are kept visible to accentuate the process of the making. What fuels my interest in the making of clay objects is a constant curiosity to fulfill a set of personal intentions. I believe this continuous search allows my work to remain sustainable and timeless.
ON MENTORS Mentorship comes in many forms: aesthetic, philosophical, business, and in some cases you may not know that someone has “mentored” you until many years later. As information gets passed down from mentor to mentee, I often imagine the information passing through a filter that morphs into something new over the years. This passing along of information while personalizing it is one element that helps to maintain richness in the field. I have been a full-time clay artist and educator for over ten years. It is through my teaching experiences that I most often reflect upon my mentors. My approach to teaching is greatly influenced by my graduate experience of working with Margaret Bohls and Mark Pharis at the University of Minnesota. Both overlap as pioneers in the field, but with different teaching approaches and philosophies about the work. One great lesson I learned upon reflection is that the more mentors you can access, the richer your experience. One enlightening experience is to follow the family tree of your mentors. Who were they mentored by? How did their personal filter affect their mentees? I am grateful to part of the American ceramics field and I too will continue to watch the tree grow and morph in the coming years.
Daniel Ricardo Teran Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
BIOGRAPHY Daniel received his BFA from the Kansas Art Institute and has completed residencies at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts in New Castle, ME, and The Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach, FL. He is currently a Resident Artist at The Clay Studio, Philadelphia. Daniel regularly gives workshops, teaches at community art centers throughout Philadelphia and New Jersey, and has been a guest artist at multiple universities. His work can be found at The Clay Studio, Schaller Gallery, Harvey Meadows Gallery, Red Star Studios, and LillStreet Art Center, as well as the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, KS and numerous private collections.
ON MENTORS I stumbled into the Kansas City Art Institute because I had no idea what else I was supposed to do with my life. Of course, like many nineteen year olds, I was incapable of seeing any further and than ten feet into the future. Making art, painting and printmaking always felt very fulfilling outside of breaking my body skateboarding. I had no intentions of becoming a part of the KCAI ceramics department, nor did I understand that this program was so well renowned. I knew nothing of Ken Furguson, Victor Babu, or George Timmock and the legacy they had created.
I knew I wanted to go in to painting and when it came time for an orientation of all departments I was arrogantly reluctant to visit any department save the painting department. However, my classmate and good pal Jesse Ring was visiting the ceramics department and convinced me to come along. My mind was blown! It was not only the incredible facilities or the aura of professionalism and expertise that the professors in the department had, it was also the incredible energy you felt just walking through those double doors. People were motivated and seriously exploring clay, and my experience with printmaking and painting seemed applicable and relevant. I had not a doubt in my mind that The KCAI ceramics department was where I needed to be. My dad has been making pots for 25 years as a hobbyist and has recently, since retiring, begun to sell his work at craft shows. I had never cared about his interest in clay, never tried throwing a pot until college. After my sophomore year, I remember coming home to visit and going into the cabinets to mindlessly grab a cup for tea. There in the cabinet, as though I had never seen before, were my dad’s pots. I remember going out to his studio with the mug of his I had selected, to talk to him about the cup. I wanted to “critique his handle.” As I started to talk to him about the handles and what works and what doesn’t, he gave me a hand made tile with my name on it. It was a thick stoneware tile, and my name and some hearts were glazed in
semi-opaque white. I turned over the tile to read, “To my son Daniel, with love, Papasito, 1989.” He laughed at me and with his thick Ecuadorian accent said, “You know, Tiger, I’ve been doing this longer than you have.” It’s only now, having spent years making, selling, and teaching people about pottery, that I really understand what my dad meant. He had years of teachers sharing their love of pottery with him, years of class potlucks sharing food from hand made dishes, years of getting pleasure out of making his own pots, having breakthroughs and building his skill set. I had only one hyper-intense year. I was a pottery critic with few skills, a head full of historical pots. The joy of pottery is not just in the making; pots bring people together in celebration of food and community. At the end of every class I teach, we have an epic potluck. People bring in food and serve it from the pots they made in class. During these potlucks I discovered something my dad has know for years: pottery is a stage for food, for the celebration of being human, and leaving behind our differences to come together and build community.
ON LEARNING My aim, as a potter, is to create an opportunity for an intimate experience â€“ for the viewer and user of my pieces to slow down, to hold, turn, touch, and investigate what I have created. I have become increasingly concerned about the pace at which most people move through their day, with little time for community, family, explorations of the natural world, and
oneâ€™s overall wellbeing. The notion of slowing down to enjoy life's subtleties must absolutely be manifested! In slowing down, we can begin to rediscover how community can bring us warmth, family can ground us, heritage shows us our roots, and that the natural world is abundant and salubrious.
I find solace and joy in making hand made pottery that, to me, inherently shows reverence and embraces these principles of slowness.
Shoko Teruyama Alfred, New York
BIOGRAPHY Shoko Teruyama grew up in Mishima, Japan. She earned a BA in Education and taught elementary school before coming to the United States to study art at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1997. Shoko received her MFA in Ceramics in the fall of 2005 from Wichita State University. She finished a three-year residency at the Penland School of Crafts in 2008 and is now a studio artist in Alfred, NY. Shokoâ€™s handbuilt work is made of earthenware with white slip and sgraffito decoration. She has developed a cast of characters based on experience with human relations. As the characters interact, Shoko wants the viewer to find their own stories. The work is seemingly whimsical, but reveals itself to be something more devious and interesting.
STATEMENT Growing up in Japan, I remember tradition being part of daily life. Temples and shrines were everywhere, even inside our home. I was drawn to these sacred spaces and ceremonial objects because they were decorated with texture and pattern contrasted by areas of calm and stillness. These memories inspire my current work. I make boxes, intimate bowls, and small plates for precious objects, vases for flower arranging, and a variety of serving pieces.
Many of the forms allude to function and would serve food well, but are more comfortable being placed in sacred spaces of the home, like the center of a formal dining room table, a hope chest, or a bedside stand. The making begins with bisque molds, slab construction, and coil building to make thick, heavy forms. I carve, shave, and sand excess clay away to slowly reveal the final shape. Puff handles and other elements are added for physical decoration. White slip is brushed over the red earthenware to create depth and motion. I then carve back through the slip, exposing the red clay. Shiny translucent glazes are applied over the decorated areas and opaque matte glazes over the calm areas. Ornamentation is important to my ideas. I have created motifs called vine patterns to lead your eye around the work. Patterns run continuously to create narrow borders or to fill large amounts of space. They can flow into tight curves just as easily as they can bend around the belly of a form. The patterns create visual movement representing water, wind, and clouds. I create characters based on human relations and things I have experienced. To me, it is much easier to draw owls than humans. I don't want to tell specific stories to people, I want people to create their own. Sometimes you feel like the weight of a turtle standing on top of you, and sometimes you feel like an owl standing on top of the world. Some of my characters have a dark nature. I think that is life. Sometimes dark things happen. Overall, I want my work to have a sense of hope and a sense of humor, because life goes on.
ON MENTORS I spent two years with Jenny Mendes, a mentor, during my residency at Penland School of Crafts. At that time I had just finished my MFA and it was the first step of my career in ceramics. Jenny was already an established artist. I learned a lot of things from her, which I would have never learned in an academic situation.
ON CUPS While in an intermediate class at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Pete Pinnell brought a bunch of cups from his collection for us to touch. After we examined each cup, we talked about our favorites, why certain cups require certain beverages, and certain cups require you to hold them a particular way. I use a Linda Christianson mug every morning to have English tea with milk. It holds the perfect amount of tea. She gave it to me more than ten years ago. We have a John Neely guinomi cup. It was a gift from him. To me, it is a perfect cup that I often think about. It has a feeling of generosity, warmth, sense of history, and is inviting to touch.
Theo Uliano Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania
STATEMENT My work is always in transition. I am currently exploring the vessel and plate form using gestural curves and lumps, formed through naïve or clumsy building methods. The surfaces are pocked with expressive underglaze paintings, drawings, scratches, and other marks. My forms often change from functional to sculptural and the drawings flow from representational to abstract. The vessel and painting are the only constants through my disjointed working methods, tangled subject matter, and my inability to commit to one expressive format, be it utility or autonomy. I use the vessel as a universal entry point to the ideas represented on the surfaces of my work. The surface paintings can be simple narratives that are derived from my everyday life, or gestural and intuitive expressions of emotion and material. Some surface renderings are sweet and some sinister, some can be taken at face value and some are subversive. I want this representation of daily life and my experience to be complete with all of its fashions, failures, fractures, and fleeting anecdotes.
ON MENTORS I’m lucky to have had some very important mentors in my life, without whom I would have certainly dropped out of the ceramics game soon after college. Bits and pieces
and parts of these people (and hopefully a few bits of my own) are what I have mashed together and are what make my earthenware forms, color my surfaces, define my values of what is “good work,” and influence how I teach the next generation of ceramic strugglers. It started for me with Professor Jim Chaney at Kutztown University. He was intense and he had high expectations. He was insistent on a consistent work ethic, and he was unyielding in his approach to craftsmanship while being sharply critical in his approach to all things ceramic, whether it was functional, sculptural, technical, or conceptual. He also motivated us and was excited about every facet of the medium from its history, its technicalities, its content, and its ability to tell a story. I looked up to Jim then for his passion, and I still do. Jim is passionate about everything he does. In the beginning, every one copies their teachers, and I was no exception. As years passed I developed work that was my own, but I can still see Jim’s influence – I still trim the feet on my bowls with the same angles he used and I can still hear him in my head when I’m throwing earthenware cups: “Geez! Don’t make ‘em too thin… it’s earthenware, it’s typical for them to be a little heftier – the clay isn’t as strong.” Professor Chaney and I kept in contact through the years after college, when I wasn’t making work and I was only working. It was he who (with his subtle but still unyielding nature) pushed me to apply to graduate school.
He was instrumental in my being accepted to grad school and then in my retaining my sanity while there, and then in my narrow-squeak success in completing the MFA. I have known Jim for over 10 years now and we have never gone more than a few weeks without talking, no matter if I am making stuff or not. It’s not about just ceramics anymore. Our relationship has evolved and we are good friends now, but I am still learning from him. I got out of school and went back to work; meaning I wasn’t making any ceramic work, again. I somehow was offered studio space from Lisa Naples to work in her studio. Lisa is someone else that has become an important mentor in my life. Speaking to my mentor/ mentee relationship with Lisa is a whole other story in and of itself, one that the space here doesn’t allow, but she merits equal praise for helping me in my career. After working with Lisa I was able to begin establishing myself in the field. Anyone who looks at the handles on my cups can clearly see that they are just an exaggeration of her own, and that the lips on my cups are lifted right from her cups as well. I suppose that I can now by most measures consider myself a professional ceramic artist. It really wouldn’t have happened without these two people. It all started with clay and these people who were first my mentors and have become good friends or close to family. Our relationships are no longer just about clay but about everything else, too. And I’m still mashing up all those bits and pieces and parts, trying to make something of my own.
BIOGRAPHY A lifelong native of the Philadelphia area, Theo Uliano completed his MFA in Ceramics at the Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia in 2011, after earning his BFA in Ceramics at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania in 2007. Theo is currently Adjunct Professor in Ceramics at Tyler
School of Art in Philadelphia and at Middlesex College in New Jersey. Recently, Theo completed an artist residency at AIR Vallauris in the South of France and was also selected as an â€œEmerging Artist 2015â€? in the May issue of Ceramics Monthly. 194
Alex Watson Kansas City, Missouri
Alex Watson graduated with a BFA in Ceramics from Utah State University in 2005. After graduating, he taught ceramics classes and managed the Ceramics Department at a small school in the Berkshires. In 2008, Watson moved to Colorado, where he lived and worked until 2013. He has be an Artist in Residence at the Carbondale Clay Center and the Studio for Artists Works. In 2010, he was a visiting artist at Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute in China. Upon returning from China, Watson became a full time studio potter. He currently lives and works Kansas City, MO and is a founding member of the Kansas City Urban Potters.
While at Utah State University, during one of the last critiques before graduation, I recall John Neely saying that what made my pots nice, simple or not, is the attention to detail. Even today when I make cups, I think back to what John said and always try to pay attention to all the details in every aspect of the cup.
STATEMENT My goal is to make a simple well-designed object, a pot that is modern and elegant, yet still very utilitarian and user friendly. The details of the pottery are key to its success. From the surface, to the weight of the pot, I try to consider every aspect of each functional object. I choose to use terra cotta because of its warm tones, and when paired with slip, its warmth softens the colors. The red detail that is found in most of my pots is there for visual stimulation.
Trevor Dunn is another one of my mentors. He showed me that with tough discipline and hard work, making pots can be an enjoyable and rewarding career.
ON CUPS One of my favorite cups is an Owen Rye cup that I purchased in 2004 while attending Clay Push Gulgong, the Australian pottery conference. The beautifully tenmoku glazed cup reminds me of a really nice Japanese tea bowl. It has a casual fluidity to it that shows the maker’s years of experience and comfort with the material, and a simple elegant design that references traditional pottery making. It’s a great cup for sipping whiskey on a cool fall evening and it fits perfectly in my hand. It also brings me back to my amazing experience and friends down under. I would love to add a Ron Nagel cup to my collection. I’ve always found them to be interesting intimate objects with great forms, textures, and colors.
Melissa Weiss Asheville, North Carolina
Originally from New York City, Melissa Weiss is a self-taught, full time studio potter in Asheville, NC. Melissa graduated in 2000 from The School of Visual Arts with a BFA in Photography. She bought land in the Arkansas Ozarks and traveled to Europe, Central America, and Alaska before settling with her daughter in Asheville, NC in 2005. She began taking pottery classes, attending workshops and working in a cooperative studio, piecing together an education. She now runs and works in an 8,000 square foot warehouse with two-dozen artists.
Cups are the most necessary pot. The most intimate, utilitarian object. A pot to sit with, walk around with and contain your morning coffee and your end of day nightcap. I start and end my day with cups and they hold everything in between. I have a chawan style tea bowl made by my friend, Will Dickert. I picked it up, fell in love, and bought it. It is made from wild clay, wood fired and glazed in shino. It has a life that you can see and feel.
STATEMENT I make simple clay objects intended for use in one’s simple habits of eating, drinking, serving, and holding. These objects have a life to them, a raw yet tamed look not out of place in the natural world. I strive for my pots to hold balance in a place of primitive, modern, and timeless aesthetics. To me, these pots have a melancholy presence that feels light. My process-intensive work is made from hand-dug clay to create a rich wild clay body that is apparent in the final pot. Layers of slips and glaze are added to compliment the clay as opposed to covering it up. My pots reflect myself and my own conversation with the timeless medium of clay. As I constantly evolve and grow, so does the work.
Of course there are many cups I have seen, held, appreciated, and loved, but there isn’t one I covet. Cups are my favorite pot because they are not precious or unattainable. No one cup can be it all. They are like your favorite people, where you enjoy small things about each, but one cannot take the place of the others.
ON INFLUENCE I met Michael Hunt and Naomi Dalglish and learned to fire wood kilns less than two years after I started making pots. They taught me a lot and influence the way I see and make pottery to this day. Their thoughtful approach to making pots, from making the clay to firing the pot, is something I hadn’t seen before. Every step is an important and relevant part of completing a pot. Keeping the marks of the maker and letting the pot feel alive was something that really resonated with me.
The tight, controlled perfection of much studio pottery I had been exposed to before that was not what I wanted to make, I just wasn’t sure what was. Michael and Naomi’s pots were pots like ones I had never seen. I was not formally trained in ceramics and had never studied it. They opened a door of history, ancient and recent, that led me to find my voice. The world of pottery has been an open and generous one in my experience. Learning to make pottery in Western North Carolina means being surrounded by incredible makers, and the community here is a supportive and welcoming one. Learning from teachers, studio mates, and others in the community was no less educational than a formal education, I would even argue more so. The hard work and self-motivation required to be a potter presents itself in the environment of learning outside of a formal school setting. The information is there, you are just required to seek it. It does not come to you but it is not hard to find. I pieced together an education through classes, a communal studio environment, workshops, books and work/trade. I didn’t just learn to make pots; I learned how to be a potter, which is quite different.
Adero Willard Chicopee, Massachusetts
Adero Willard currently lives in Western Massachusetts where she is a studio potter and instructor of ceramics at Holyoke Community College. She received a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts at Alfred University in 1995 and Masters of Fine Arts at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 2006, where she studied with Walter Ostrom and Neil Forrest. She completed a yearlong residency in 2008 at Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts in Maine, where she was the Salad Days Artist. Adero has taught at universities and art centers. Her work has been shown in galleries and craft shows nationally, and featured in multiple publications and books on ceramics.
My Graduate Professor Walter Ostrom often used the word “subversive” to describe how a pot can deliver an idea to the person who uses it. I try to transfer an idea or experience to my cup’s user through work that is uniquely my own, expanding on the fundamental precepts of detail and craftsmanship in a three-dimensional object.
STATEMENT The unifying thread in my work is manipulation of clay surfaces. A principle inspiration comes from designs on textiles, my love of which began in my childhood: from quilts of North American cultures, to hand-sewn Indian wedding dresses (where I visited as a child, and which made a lasting impression on my sense of color and fabric), to West African Kente cloth. This led to a lifelong exploration of cultural identity within artistic expression, a pursuit that was especially meaningful to me as a woman of mixed racial heritage. I work with surfaces in ways similar to the textile artist: overlap, camouflage, veiling, revealing, and decorating. All of my designs on clay are created free-hand; I am profoundly intrigued with decorative surfaces. My work combines pattern, sgraffito, and color, incorporating a wax resist technique where some surfaces are hidden, some are revealed, and some are seen through the veil of other layers.
I enjoy changing the shape of the mugs I make, balancing their use and aesthetics between the shape of a diner mug and a dainty teacup. I often treat a series of cups — especially tumblers — like a sketch, allowing it to be a way to work through new form and surface ideas.
ON CUPS Pete Pinnell, Department Chair and Professor of Art at University of Nebraska, produced a video called “Thoughts on Cups.” I find it to be an articulate and thoughtful discussion on why the cup is an important object. I enjoy using cups made by a variety of different artists; I more often choose a cup based on the mood I am in at that moment than the functional integrity of the cup (shape, weight, handle shape, surface decoration, etc.).
ON MENTORS In terms of mentors, there are those who taught my first classes, and those who provided the formal schooling where I got my degrees. I see curiosity as the center of who I am as an artist: that is the part that evolves and perseveres. Beyond that, there are the many people and experiences that have been supportive and encouraging to me in my life.
Emily Schroeder Willis Chicago, Illinois
BIOGRAPHY Emily Schroeder Willis has a BFA from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and an MFA from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She has held residencies at the Archie Bray Foundation in Montana, the Zentrum für Keramik in Berlin, Germany, and was a visiting artist / instructor at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Canada. Currently, she teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. As a young high school student, Emily was fascinated by the idea of making the perfect bowl lined with a black glaze so she could see the milk in her cereal. Twenty years later, she is still fascinated by new ways to look at familiar objects.
STATEMENT “I am sorry to have wearied you with so long a letter but I did not have time to write you a short one.” – Blaise Pascale 17th c. French philosopher and mathematician I love this quote by Blaise Pascale and the way he speaks about the economy of words.
In many ways, I feel this same way about the economy of my work: how to say enough without saying too much. In the past few years I have been trying to simplify the work I make, constantly asking myself, how much is too much? What is essential and what is excess? I try to make every mark on the surface of my work matter, every dart necessary, every line indispensable. Each pot I create shifts into form through pinching and darting the surface of the clay. My fingertips guide the shape of the vessel, creating lines, giving rise to the visual landscape of my work. Through this slow and intimate process of pinching, I create a different type of relationship between the viewer and object. My fingerprints act as a brush stroke on the surface of the clay, each pinch making a formal impression of the hand that created it. Simplicity and the mark of the hand are important to my work, which steps back to a time where work isn’t about production, but rather the touch of a fingertip.
ON CUPS My favorite cup comes from Marc Digeros. I bought it for myself for my birthday in 2011. It is covered in an incredible matte brown-lavender glaze that has a really warm patina to it with these dark brown pock marks around where the glaze has almost crawled. There is also a lighter line like a graffiti tag meandering along the body of the cup. The form has a waist that sits really low to the table that makes the cup almost feel like it’s squatting. I love this cup because it is so simple, yet the surface has so many interesting components to it. I also find it really interesting being a born and bred Minnesotan, that in spite of all my travels and education, I still find myself completely enamored with that Mingei-sota style of pottery. Artists like Mark Pharis, Warren MacKenzie, Linda Christenson, Linda Sikora, Jeff Oestreich, Sam Chung, Marc Digeros and Maren Kloppmann always inspire me and those are the pots I am always drawn to first. Every once in a while I will venture outside of my simplistic earthy toned pots, but really, they are my true love.
Emily Free Wilson Helena, Montana
BIOGRAPHY Emily Free Wilson is a ceramic artist in Helena, Montana. She currently runs her pottery business, Free Ceramics, with her husband Matt Wilson. In 2014, Emily and Matt purchased an old funeral home that they converted it into an art center. The home of Free Ceramics, the space hosts community events, art classes and private studios. Emily recently retired from ten years as the Gallery Director at the Archie Bray Foundation. Emily was born in Anchorage, Alaska and grew up in Roseburg, Oregon. She received her BFA at the University of Wisconsin, Madison where she received an athletic scholarship for running, and as an artist continued to receive grants for her ceramic work. Emily has also received grants from the Montana Arts Council and the Myrna Loy Art Center. Emily has been a visiting artist at Pottery Northwest and Jackson Art Association. Her work has been published in Ceramics Monthly and can be found in galleries across the United States.
STATEMENT I need to make fun, happy, colorful things out of clay. This need to create, and for those things to be shared with others, is inherent in who I am. Hand-built pieces and functional pottery are created out of mid-range porcelain. The majority of my current work is done collaboratively
through my pottery business, Free Ceramics. Having my hands in both an artistic business and my own studio allows me to push my designs and ideas, and challenge myself to keep evolving as an artist. Simple and inviting pots are made on a wheel or pinched out of large coils by hand and decorated with quick black lines and colorful dots. My imagination can turn images of rain, fireworks, or candy into fun abstract designs that dance across the forms. I strive to make a beautiful and whimsical piece of art that makes you smile and is a joy to use.
ON CUPS When I made the cups for this project, I was specifically thinking about cups by two potters: Bobby Free and Rosalie Wynkoop. My brother, Bobby Free, makes awesome cups. We started making pots together almost ten years ago when we started our business Free Ceramics. He took Free Ceramics’ forms, added his own instincts, and the effect of his distinct character came through. Recently, there was this cup moving around the studio, you know, that cup that stays in use. It gets cleaned and then immediately grabbed out of the drying rack. I think we all end up with our favorite cups that hang at the front of the cupboard. This porcelain Free Ceramics cup was made by Bobby and decorated by me. It is a sweet little cup with a delicate lip and a high foot. It is light and balanced. I tried to make cups like this cup.
And of course they were not quite as great as that cup Bobby made. Working with Bobby Free has definitely made me a better potter. Years ago, I won a mug in a white elephant holiday gift exchange at the Archie Bray Foundation. The staff had each brought a cup out of our cupboard to exchange and I ended up with the coveted mug by Rosalie Wynkoop. I am pretty sure I legally won it, but the memories are blurry and opinions might clash a bit on this point. I love this mug. It’s rounder near the foot and the lip goes straight up, holding the coffee in and keeping it warm. It is covered with sepia toned moth decals from back when decals could be printed with a home printer. The mug was made with dark red clay, glazed with white majolica and then completely covered with the decals. On the inside of the white interior at the very bottom is a single moth decal. It reminds me of the things I learned from Rosie, like how important it is to invest time in the activities we love. I have been attempting to throw a version of this mug that is just big enough, but not too big for my morning coffee. And still, my own version of this mug never seems to affect me the way that wonderful Rosie mug makes me feel. Occasionally you will hear someone say, “Oh, I can make that!” and I used to think the same thing. Now I will try, but of course with my own twist to it. Those cups that I love, cups by mentors, friends, strangers, they put a little of themselves in each piece. And you cannot remake that. 204
Tara Wilson Montana City, Montana
Tara Wilson is a studio potter living in Montana City, Montana. Wilson received a BFA from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2000 and an MFA degree from the University of Florida in 2003. She has been a resident artist at The Archie Bray Foundation and The Red Lodge Clay Center. Wilson was selected as an emerging artist for the 2006 NCECA conference. She was a presenter at the 2006 International Woodfire Conference in Flagstaff and a demonstrator at the 2009 NCECA conference in Phoenix, Arizona. She has given lectures and workshops throughout the United States, and her work has been exhibited internationally.
Quiet pots initially speak softly, yet reveal complexity in both form and surface through continued investigation and use. Embodied in my wood fired vessels is the serenity that I experience by surrounding myself on a daily basis with a rich natural environment. These situations provide calmness, a physical as well as mental space that allows me to relax, contemplate, and focus on the important details of my life.
Cups are the most intimate object that potters make. We hold them in our hands and put them to our lips. They were the first form I learned to make and often the first form I teach students. In my studio practice, I make a few cups every day, as a sort of warm up exercise. I love to make handles and have to give credit to Mark Peters for teaching me to pull handles from the pot in my beginning throwing class. During graduate school, Matt Long challenged me to make handles that capture my individual style.
The surfaces of the vessels represent the natural world, and the forms often relate to the figure. Pottery’s inherent relationship to the figure is accentuated in my gestural forms. The dialog between the forms changes as the pieces are used. The simple things in life are often the most important, the great outdoors, the company of my dog, and the beauty of making pots on a daily basis. My pots speak of my passions, while at the same time allowing the user to recognize the important things in their own lives.
My kitchen cabinets are full of other potter’s pots. I don’t necessarily have a favorite cup, but many favorites depending on what beverage I’m drinking. Many of my cups have been acquired in trade and bear memories of their maker. Cups often serve as a form of commodity, educational tool, and entry into this world of clay. I love to give cups as gifts, especially to my non-potter friends, educating them a little about our unique ceramic community.
Suzanne Wolfe Honolulu, Hawaii
BIOGRAPHY Suzanne Wolfe was born in Chicago, Illinois and received three degrees from the University of Michigan, including a BA in Anthropology in 1965, a BSD in Art in 1968, and an MFA with concentration in Ceramics in 1970. From 1971, she was a Professor of Ceramics at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she taught courses at all levels. Since she retired in 2011 as Professor Emeritus, she has been able to devote most of her efforts to creative endeavors.
STATEMENT I have been obsessed with cups for about eight years. It began with a project for a class that I taught on mold making and slip-casting. The students selected disposable plastic or Styrofoam cups and used them as models for molds, producing multiples and experimenting with various approaches to surface. As the project progressed and I worked alongside the students, the act of transforming something that was impermanent and cheap into a permanent and potentially valuable object opened up many avenues for exploration, and became the impetus for a body of work that now numbers more than 600 cups.
ads for women’s products. They promise us that we just need that thing or experience to become better, to be happy, to reach our potential, and of course to point out our inadequacy without it. Do ad writers really think that we are that stupid? I hope not. Still, there is something about those slogans, and I admit to being drawn to them, wrenching then out of context and realigning them with other text and images. “Finally a tube of truth” is much more intriguing when you are not referring to face cream. I readily admit to being a great fan of Barbara Kruger, and certainly her wit and incisiveness have inspired my work. Recently, I have turned to bits of racy text found in women’s romance novels, which add an element of spice. There always seem to be avenues for further exploration, which make the process at once both exciting and frustrating. As the cups have progressed, they have become more complex and ever more valuable, so that now they are displayed on stands and offer richly gilded interiors.
ON MENTORS My ceramics professors at the University of Michigan were paramount. They supported me and had confidence in my potential. Without the encouragement from John Stephenson, I would never have gone to grad school and ended up teaching at the University of Hawaii. My students have always unwittingly caused me to reflect on just about every aspect of my life. Every conflict, every joy, every love, every challenge, every success, every failure, everything, everyone, everywhere—they are the mentors. Now I just have to listen even more attentively.
Most of the text that I have used is taken directly from women’s magazines and tabloids—snippets from headlines and 208
Gwendolyn Yoppolo Oaklyn, New Jersey
BIOGRAPHY Gwendolyn Yoppolo uses words, ceramic objects, and food to stretch boundaries and transform perception. She creates sensuous kitchen and tablewares that use the physical experience of hunger and satiation to allude to larger issues of human desire and relationship. Her visionary designs challenge us to rethink the ways we nourish ourselves and others within contemporary food culture. She earned an MFA in Ceramics from Penn State University, an MA in Education from Columbia University, and a BA in Sociology from Haverford College. A passionate educator and thinker as well as a maker, her writing can be found in Studio Potter, Pottery Making Illustrated, and Passion and Pedagogy.
STATEMENT To be held in the hands or touched to the lips, these are intimate objects. The forms I make engage the threshold of subjectivity by offering a conduit for nourishment into the body or between bodies. The experience is more than visceral, as the body’s pursuit of sensual experience is tied into the process of making existence meaningful on all levels. How we choose to feed ourselves, and others, is connected not only to our sensations of hunger and gratification, but also to our deeper perceptions of ourselves, and of the larger stories we live by.
Making utensils enables me to dwell in the moment of appetite, where the anticipation of satiation moves the body through the world of materials towards the consumable. It is a movement driven by desire and guided by memory, by ancestry, and by our sense of self. A utensil extends the body and transforms the energy of this movement into purposeful action. The verbs of the kitchen are not only the processes of food preparation – grind, separate, mix, ream, drain, heat – they are also metaphors for our internal processes of combustion and transformation. The moment of consumption also transcends bodily experience, invoking our senses of culture, body image, emotion, and relational identity. By making visible those layers of meaning that reside in a food event, the forms I create arouse the physical and nonphysical faculties and extend our understanding of significance. A service designed for a dining ritual can shift the perceptual horizons through which we comprehend food as nourishment, and nourishment as relationship. The pieces I make are questions, and they remain open-ended until fulfilled through use. My work makes tangible my intentions, and aims towards the receptivity of your attention. Through a minimalist design that attracts the quiet eye and responsive touch, my forms invite you to access your own silence, listening to the echoes of my gestures for arousal of your own resonance and response.
ON CUPS Long before I could make a cup that was satisfying to drink from, I remember reading an essay on how a handmade cup could save the world. The author of that essay, Chris Staley, understood the power of working with clay to reconnect us to elemental and universal human truths, and his words resonated with me. I felt drawn to study with him. Once at Penn State, it ended up being the combination of Chris Staley’s thoughtful abstractions and Liz Quackenbush’s practical direction that helped push me further. A good mentor can’t tell you what your resolution is going to be, but she can help you define your own parameters and refine your technical and aesthetic choices. The actual unfolding is up to each of us. My cup crisis slowly came to its epiphany: I had been working from the outside in, thinking about how I wanted the cup to look in the end. A good cup fits our hands and meets our lips with unnoticed poise and balance. The cup sympathizes with the gesture of drinking: how a handle feels related to the center of gravity and how the hand carries the weight of the liquid to the mouth. During my cup crisis, I stripped my cups of unnecessary elements and focused on the empty spaces within the form and inside the handle. So began years of making, using, and adjusting cup forms based on sensual experience and feedback from my self and others, feeling my way towards a cup satisfying to use.
The mission of The Clay Studio is to provide a unique learning environment in which to experience the ceramic arts. Gallery The Gallery and Exhibitions program at The Clay Studio showcases the work of national and international ceramic artists through approximately 16 exhibitions each year. The program supports and promotes new trends in clay while honoring its cultural traditions.
Shop The Clay Studioâ€™s consignment-based shop features over one hundred North American functional ceramic artists, including current and former Resident Artists. The shop, both online and in-store, offers everyone from casual shoppers to established collectors the finest in functional ceramic art.
School The Clay Studio School serves over 4,000 adults and youth through classes and workshops for beginner and intermediate level learners, as well as advanced workshops for the practicing artist, family workshops, and summer clay camps for youth beginning at age six. We also hold social workshops where beginners can learn to throw on the wheel in a relaxed, supportive environment. Approximately one-third of our students are advanced level artists and nearly all of our instructors hold MFAs. Many of our classes are available for Act 48 credits for teachers in Pennsylvania.
Community Engagement Programs Hands on Clay, funded by PNC Arts Alive, brings art directly into neighborhoods and festivals throughout Philadelphia, breaking down barriers and inviting everyone to experience creating ceramic art through wheel throwing, group sculpt activities, and clay animation. The Claymobile is a direct-service mobile arts outreach program that provides hands-on subsidized ceramic art education to over 2,000 underserved Philadelphia youth each year. Since 1994, the Claymobile sends teaching artists to schools, community centers, and social service agencies in two vans equipped with all of the tools, clay, and glazes needed for a ceramic art lesson. By bringing ceramic art education directly to students who need it the most, we are furthering our mission while also integrating art and culture into the lives of a new generation.
Guests Each year, The Clay Studio hosts six Guest Artists-in-Residence from the U.S. and around the world. Guest Artists are given free housing, a stipend, and use of studio facilities. Guest Artists interact with Clay Studio Resident and Associate Artists, allowing for valuable cultural and artistic exchange. Each is asked to host a lecture on their practice and technique that is open to the public.
Associates The Associate Artist program is a continuing education program that serves individuals seeking the time, space, and resources to deepen their ceramic art practice. Through rental fees, The Clay Studio provides shared workspace and offers discounts on resources such as clay, tools, glazes, and kiln firing. The communal culture allows for exchange of ideas, artistic critique, and valuable feedback from other Clay Studio artists and instructors.
The Resident Artist Program offers 12 of the top emerging ceramic talent in the U.S. and abroad the space, time, and resources to create a new, complete body of work. This competitive program allows artists to stay for up to five years and supports them in the pivotal time of transition from graduate programs to the life of working artists. Resident Artists are invited to participate in several group shows throughout the year and one solo show during their residency.
The Work Exchange program provides young artists with an intensely focused, self-directed technical educational study for a period of up to two years. In exchange for access to a shared studio space, affordable materials, firings, and professional feedback, each participant provides 40 hours per month of support in the Studio school, gallery, and Claymobile program.
Hand Crafted Hand Crafted seeks to connect art and audience by exploring the use of ceramic art and functional pottery in everyday life. These low-cost events invite everyone to enjoy ceramic art in a social setting. The Clay Studio received a 2015 Catalyst Grant from the Barra Foundation to continue and expand this popular series.
THANK YOU! We are truly grateful to all those who have made this exhibition and publication a possibility. To the entire staff of The Clay Studio, who work incredibly hard on a daily basis, supporting our artists, students and entire constituency. To John Carlano for the beautiful images contained within and for dedicated service to The Clay Studio for more years than we can count. To Kirkwood Printing for masterful and expedient services, to Anthony Schaller for always being willing to share, to Pete Pinnell for a thoughtful introduction, and to each and every artist participating in this project, thank you for allowing us to be part of what you do.