A picturesque lavender house with a mulberry door holds the personal ceramic studio of local potter, Charlene Abinante. The bright-eyed smiling artist greets us in cowboy boots and matching lavender apron as she ushers us in, ready to share her contagious, creative energy. Charlene has lived in Chico for most of her life, attending high school here and then continuing on to receive her Bachelor of Fine Arts at Chico State. She’s worked at various other jobs, even going back to school to get her teaching credential, but she’s always wanted to be able to circle back and focus on her pottery. At Chico State, she concentrated on conceptual based sculpture, but has since found her true love in creating clay tableware. The creative process begins in her home studio. A potter’s wheel set near the window to catch the light while throwing bats hang on the wall, ready to be pulled down when needed. Here she throws her clay and shapes it into cups or bowls or whatever form she’s decided. Once the structure is complete and set, she heads out to the 60
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garage studio she shares with her husband Kyle where she bisque fires it and applies one of her glazes. After the piece is glazed she’ll place it in the electric kiln once again and fire it for the final time. Charlene likes to use a variety of clays rather than just sourcing one type of material. She will rotate between red clays, B-mix clays, and speckled buff clay with iron castings. By using various types, she can achieve a different feel for each piece and have a variety of finishes to share. The clays with the iron castings for instance will react differently when coated with glazes, creating their own unique appearance particular to that glaze. Charlene doesn’t like to create things that are confined to one particular niche. She enjoys developing simple pieces that can speak to anyone and fit any style— a cup for everyone. Looking around the studio, the eye picks up an array of colors and designs. Traditional red clays cups, pale stoneware bowls with dark flecks, darker speckled olive oil bowls with strong splashes of glaze designs, and coffee
mugs with a bee detailed on them. All pieces that would fit and meld with any home décor. When asked about her inspirations, she says it can come from anywhere really, a picture, or another artist, or even a suggestion from a friend. One of her favorite pieces right now is her garlic grater dish inspired by the request of a friend. The nubby teeth in the center of the dish grate the garlic and with a few splashes of olive oil and spices it makes the perfect dipping dish for the table. Her butter crock is another design originating from a customer request. The two-piece decorative crock keeps butter spreadable and fresh on your counter by using cold water to create an airtight seal. Charlene loves creating custom items and embracing the challenge in making something special and unique for her clients. Her advice for other artists who are thinking of branching out on their own, “Don’t compare your work with others. Just keep finding your own voice.” WHEN SHE’S NOT WORKING IN HER STUDIO OR WORKING PART-TIME AT WILD INK PRESS, SHE’S PROBABLY SPENDING TIME WITH HER HUSBAND, HER HORSE, OR HER TWO AUSSIES, YOU CAN FIND CHARLENE’S WORK AT MADE IN CHICO, BIDWELL SUPPLY COMPANY, WILD INK PRESS, AND PATRICK RANCH GIFT SHOP, OR CHARLENEABINANTE.BIGCARTEL.COM.
WRITTEN BY SHELLY BRANDON PHOTOS BY FRANK REBELO
For Everyone A CUP MADE