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Archive for the ‘Artist interviews’ Category

Mary Fischer – Plinth Gallery Artist Interview

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Mary Fischer: “The Architecture of Space”

Mary Fischer’s ceramic forms are reminiscent of the landsettled by her great-grandparents and where Fischer grew up. Her sculptures of barns, water towers, granaries and other farm buildings are influenced by her surroundings on the Texas landscape. Fischer has always been fascinated with buildings and architecture, ”I’ve been interested in buildings and photographing buildings and reading architectural magazines ever since I can remember”.- Jonathan Kaplan. Plinth Gallery

Please join Mary at Plinth Gallery for the opening of her show First Friday, August 2nd, from 6-9pm.

For more information on Plinth Gallery ande Mary Fischer please their website.  www.plinthgallery.com

 

When and how did you discover the passion for ceramics?

I first noticed ceramics when I was stationed in Thailand and Okinawa.

(I spent 8 years in the Air Force, in the 60′s and 70′s.)

After looking at clay at craft shows and galleries, I thought it was something that I could do. So for our 40th birthdays, a friend and I decided to take lessons at a city run facility in Austin. Of course I couldn’t do what I thought I could, but I did get addicted to clay and eventually gave up drawing maps for playing full time with clay.

You create all sorts of architecture. How would you explain your attraction for buildings and are they a metaphor for you?

 First, the buildings I make aren’t a metaphor, nor do they represent any particular building I have seen. They are a product of everything I have seen, photographed, and read about in books and magazines on architecture.

Buildings have always fascinated me. As kids, my older sister, cousins and I built a fort at our grandparents house by stacking cedar posts. Our grandparents let us build cities in the mud after the occasional rain. At home we made the outline of rooms with limbs and lumber and played house.

I briefly considered architecture as a career but figured my lack of math skills would make anything I built suspect.

My pieces are sculptural, they are pretty useless for anything except adding buildings to train sets, or gathering dust.

Mary Fischer’s ceramic forms are reminiscent of the landsettled by her great-grandparents and where Fischer grew up. Her sculptures of barns, water towers, granaries and other farm buildings are influenced by her surroundings on the Texas landscape. Fischer has always been fascinated with buildings and architecture, ”I’ve been interested in buildings and photographing buildings and reading architectural magazines ever since I can remember”.

 

What other clay artist influenced you if any and why?

I’m sure lots of other artists have influenced me at one time or other.

I do tend to come back to Hans Coper because his texture and lines are so exquisite.

 What techniques do you usually work with and what is your favorite tool?

As to techniques, I hand build with slabs and extruded pieces. So it stands to reason that my favorite tools are my slab roller and extruder.

The last couple of years I have been using more images in my work. I have learned to use etching and pronto plates I have made from some of my photographs by printing them on clay. The hardest part is not the technical but finding images that work on a particular piece.

What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?

 Just keep working. Copy from the best. Be conscious of what is copying and what is copying with a twist of your own until it is all your own.

What are you showing at Plinth this month and how did you come up with the title?

I just got back from delivering work to Crimson Laurel Gallery in Bakersville, NC and Snyderman-Works Gallery in Philadelphia. So I’m just now getting into thinking about the show at Plinth which is in August. I don’t know what the title will be. The work will probably be similar to what I have been doing this year, which is more emphasis on industrial/agricultural buildings, boats and images with “graffiti” , i.e. photos applied to clay and made into buildings. Maybe some new kinds of barns, since we saw lots of them driving across Pennsylvania and Ohio.

 

Patricia Griffin – Artist Interview

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

As I started my interview series I’ve found many amazing artists, but this time one found me.  Patricia Griffin found me!  Then I fell in love; with her scraffito work!! Her imagery is very frisky and cheerful.  I imagine her frolicking in her garden.  I am so grateful that I get to meet other ceramic artists through the internet, and I always hope to meet them in person.

With that said…Let me introduce Patricia Griffin Scraffito artist extraordinaire!

If you would like more information on Patricia please hop on over to her blog, and like her on Facebook!

When and how did you discover the passion for ceramics?

It was about 16 years ago. I was running a very busy marketing and design firm and was up to my eyeballs in stress. A counselor suggested that I pursue a creative outlet that was not a part of problem-solving for a client. That eventually led to clay classes at the community college.

In between client meetings, I would rush to the college, run into the school restroom to change  out of my business suit and into clay clothes, fly into the ceramics studio, find a vacant wheel, and then try to mellow out enough to throw a pot… At the end of class, I’d do the whole thing in reverse. I can’t tell you how many times I’d be at a client meeting and see that I still had clay stuck to my forearms!

After a couple of years of that chaos, I set up a home studio. I spent the next seven years or so spending as much time as possible in the studio and going to workshops for additional instruction and inspiration. Seven years ago, I opened a studio and gallery in a converted one-room schoolhouse in Cambria. It’s a little artist colony on the central coast of California.

There is a remarkable touch of sensibility in your decorations. Tell us more about how you decorate and where do you get inspiration from.

On my (almost) daily walk, I follow a bluff trail overlooking the central coast of California where I live. What I experience here shows up in woodcut-style imagery on my forms — the rhythm of the sea and patterns of pines needles, rocky coastline and grassy meadows.

I etch plants, insects and animals, line and pattern — creating images that resemble woodcuts and scrimshaw on my pieces.

Please tell us about how you started working with Mishima and what do you love most about this process. 

I have been combining mishima (etching a line design and later inlaying color) and scraffito (applying color and carving out designs). I really enjoy using both techniques to create a layered collage of imagery. But it’s sooooo time-consuming!

How has your work developed throughout the years?

I love so much about clay, and it’s been my greatest challenge to narrow down and hone in on what makes my work “my work.”  I’ve had years exploring form, several years with earthenware and majolica, then left that for a year or so to do larger sculptural pieces that looked like the heads of cartoon animals.

When I moved to the coast seven years ago, I started working in the style I’m still pursuing. It’s held my interest. I feel like the pieces and decoration are more resolved and integrated. I like what comes out of the kiln and it inspires me to see how I can advance it further.

What techniques do you usually work with and what is your favorite tool?

In terms of form, I work with the wheel primarily. But I’m increasingly mixing it up with the slab roller and extruder, adding hand-built elements and combining forms.

I do most of my decoration at the cheese-hard stage, and each piece takes a considerable amount of time to decorate. So, there is a lot of plastic covering pieces in my studio so they stay at the cheese-hard stage until I can get to them.

My favorite tool:

My favorite tool is a ball stylus that I use when I initiate the woodcut-style scraffito work on my pieces. It has a .030” on one side and a .045” on the other. I have other favorites too, but I go crazy if I can’t find this little guy when I’m ready to start working on a new piece.

How would you explain your attraction for functional ceramics? 

I love the idea that people take my pieces into their own homes and use them on a daily basis.

Do you have any favorite blogs you read?

Yes, I have a long list of blogs on my reader. Top on my list are those who share their own work and inspirations, as well as news and interviews about others in the field. Here are a few:

Conne Norman: I was thrilled to find your blog and read the interviews! (aaw shucks!  Thank you for saying that!)

Carol Epp: Musings about Mud – Emerging artists, inspiring work, clay exhibits and competitions

Ben Carter: Tales of a Red Clay Rambler – Also subscribe to the podcast. Great stuff!

Whitney Smith: Practical and very forthright advice. This girl pulls no punches, so it’s always an interesting read. I’ve learned so much. (Unfortunately, she’s on a blogging hiatus right now.)

What other clay artist influenced you if any and why?

So many!

Gary David Wright, who led the first workshop I attended at Sierra Nevada College, got me thinking beyond the basics. Lana Wilson and Nick Joerling team-taught at Arrowmont and my mind exploded with more possibilities. I returned a couple of years later for an intermediate workshop with Suze Lindsay and Peter Beasecker. They started out the workshop with some creativity/design exercises that I still use today.

More recently, I have been looking at the decoration/imagery on the work of artists like Jenny Mendes, Diana Fayt and Kip O’Krongly. And I love the way you turn words into patterns, imprinting the letters into the clay and making the meanings even more profound. Another one is Chandra Debuse whose work is pure fun and inspiration. The common denominator with all of this work is the layering of pattern, images and mark-making that interest me.

Please tell us about your creative dreams for 2013 and beyond. What are some of the future projects would you love to work on?

In the studio, I am interested in further developing my forms, staying within the functional arena but adding sculptural elements that integrate with the decoration.

At the same time, I have an almost dynamically opposed dream of creating a line of handmade pieces that can be produced more cost-effectively and be accessible to a larger market. I’ve been mulling that over, and watching the progress of wonderful artists like Molly Hatch and Rae Dunn who have put their creativity and business savvy to work.

 

Tell us about your studio?  And what do you love most about your studio?

 My studio and gallery are in a converted one-room schoolhouse on Main Street in Cambria, a small tourist town on the central coast of California. It’s a beautiful area, along the Pacific Coast Highway south of Hearst Castle and Big Sur.

I rent the 100-year-old schoolhouse from the Lions Club of Cambria. It still has a bell tower and people can come inside and pull on the rope to ring the bell. Because of the historic nature of the building, it feels like I’m part of the community.

I love the light that pours into the building from these beautiful old windows. And the double-door on the front entrance is adorable.

I also love having Mae and Champ with me (two very large standard poodles), and listening to my music playlist on shuffle all day.

 

Thanks for stopping by my blog, comments are continually appreciated, and it is always great to hear from everyone.  I’m sure Patricia will love to read your comments too.

Plinth Gallery Artist Interviews – Lisa Pedolsky Part 2

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Lisa Pedolsky’s handbuilt functional forms  go beyond strict utility. They are also vessels that hold personal references where a myriad of experiences and ideas reside, establishing context and giving meaning to the work.

Package design and dressmaking come to mind as the piece is brought to life by cutting, folding, darting and connecting. Visual and tactile depth is developed through the application of multiple layers of clay, slips, stains and glazes, and by scraping, incising and carving into the surface. This working process is slow and methodical. – Jonathan Kaplan, Plinth Gallery

Lisa is teaching a workshop at Plinth Gallery -April 6-7, 2013 “Design, Decoration and the Handbuilt Pot”

Using techniques similar to package design and dressmaking, we will  explore a multi-layered approach to slab constructed functional  ceramics.  Participants will be guided through the process from initial  drawings, to pattern design using paper and roofing felt, to assembling  components. Surface treatment will include the use of slip, sgraffito,  stencils, and unconventional tools to achieve visual and tactile depth.   Technical and aesthetic aspects will be considered while exploring  closed and open forms including boxes, bowls, platters and cups.  Participants will leave the workshop feeling competent in a number of  forming methods.

•All levels of experience are welcome.

•Cost for 2 days, includes all materials and catered lunch  $250

Check out Lisa’s web site, Two Fish Studio.

Lisa’s work can be seen at Plinth Gallery.

What are you showing at Plinth Gallery this month?

The show is titled, Connecting the Dot’s: Design, Decoration and the Hand built Pot. There is a play on words here, since there will be literally thousands of dots on the work in the show. Beyond that, I’ve created an array of forms, all connected by design elements and relationship such as groupings and sets. More specifically, one will find boxes (among my favorites to build),vases, platters, teapots, bowls, plates and cups .

Let‘s go back to the very beginning how did you become a ceramicist?

There are a number of “beginnings” in this becoming. Without wanting to sound overly sentimental, I must acknowledge my very first awareness of clay. This was when I was just five years old and my mother was taking a ceramic s class. I truly do remember my moment of awareness and I was awed. My art path was evident over the course of my childhood years and throughout there was an interest in clay, supported by a strong arts program in my high school. I went on to California College of the Arts (then, California College of Arts and Crafts) and U.C. Berkeley, where I studied under such notables as Viola Frey (CCAC) and Peter Voulkos (U.C.B.). For many post-graduation years I worked in a variety of other media and in 1999 made the decision to dedicate myself to work in clay.  So, the short answer is that after many years in the arts, a career focused in ceramics began in earnest fourteen years ago.

 

You create mostly functional work. How would you explain your attraction for functional ceramics?

I have an interest in innovative design and impeccable craftsmanship that can be traced back to the mid-century modern furniture and household objects that surrounded me during my youth. As a young artist I also became interested in traditional Japanese craft and traditional textiles and functional objects coming out of Africa. These are all deep-seated influences that continue to inform my work. Often, I am awed by the artistry that can be found in even the most humble objects intended for everyday use. I’m excited by the challenges inherent in creating functional forms that that are also compelling in design.

There is a visible preoccupation with pattern in your work; how do you do it and how important is pattern and surface for the message you want to send?

Pattern and surface are integral to my work; The forms I create would be otherwise incomplete. When I conceptualize a piece, pattern and surface are among the many considerations from the start. Over the years I’ve developed an extensive “visual vocabulary.”  Part of this developed out of necessity. Because I use electric kilns, visual and tactile depth will not be provided by the firing process; it’s up to me to work surfaces to achieve those results. However, be yond t ha t is the story in the work. I may give a nod to a spectacular textile I’ve seen, appreciating the nuances that can only result from a work made by hand. The beauty found in calligraphy – Kanji and Arabic, for example – moved me to create my own characters that are often used repetitively on the surface of a piece. These are but two examples. In all cases I’m interested in personalizing influences so that the marks I make are truly my own.  I employ numerous methods t o achieve my results. Often I’ll distress the clay surface, scraping and poking with a variety of tools; white or colored slip is applied, sometimes over stencils or resist, leaving some of the red clay exposed. Sgraffito, stamping, staining and applying layers of underglazes and glazes all contribute to building up the surface and to patterning.

What techniques do you usually work with and what is your favorite tool?

All of my forms are slab constructed. Each piece begins as thumbnail sketch followed by a scale drawing. (I never thought I’d appreciate any of the math and geometry I was taught in public school, but I do! I’ve dredged up long forgotten lessons and have refreshed my memory online.  Numbers and proportions are essential to my design process.) I then create pattern pieces – working much like a dressmaker or package designer – that are attached to the clay slab. From there I cut out and assemble the components, and follow with surface texturing and glaze processes. All work is twice fired and I take the glaze fire to cone 03.  It’s difficult to pick one favorite tool. I use many that have served me well for years. I’ll pick one tool made specifically for clay and one that has been repurposed. At the commercial end, my Mud Tool steel scraper is indispensable; I use it for both scoring and texturing and there isn’t a piece that this tool doesn’t touch. My repurposed tool is a plastic cap that came off a hair spray bottle. I’ve been stamping and incising with this tool for ten or more years, and have a bright yellow tape running around the middle of it so I can easily identify it from among the many other handy objects in my collection. I could write pages about my tools! 

Tell us what you do for fun when you’re out of the studio.

For one thing, I’m a foodie, interested in cooking and also culinary experiences. If I’ve been unable to produce work in the studio for more than a day or two I invariably find myself creating in the kitchen. Baking is a strong interest of mine; some aspects are much like working with clay so it seems there’s no escaping it! In my mountain town hiking opportunities abound and my bicycle is important to me in all but the coldest months of the year. I’m a long time Yoga practitioner (and Yoga certainly contributes to keeping me balanced and well, given the rigors of my creative process). Travel and the urban experience are high on the fun list, too.

Forrest Lesch-Middleton – Artist Interview

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Today’s interview is with Forrest Lesch-Middleton.  He is in the second week of his Kickstarter to expand his studio, for his newest chapter in his life to make handmade tiles for a company called Clé Tile.  I believe in Forrest and wanted to support him, plus I just love his work!   Hope on over to Kickstarter and check out his project watch the video and learn more about what his is doing.  You are just getting a taste of his project and ideas here.  Good Luck Forrest I wish you the best!

Tell us a little about yourself!

I am and have always been a potter! I began in the studio Freshman year of high school and it just stuck! My brother is an amazing 2-D artist and I had to do my best to avoid any classes he was in or I would end up being hazed! So, it was clay, and I loved it! At that point I was convinced I was going to be an auto mechanic, the fast cars went with my mullet.

Now, exactly 25 years later and I have discovered the world through clay. I had a teacher in high school tell me that it was in every culture and on every continent; I would always find common ground wherever go. And I have! She was also the fist person who told me I could go to college for pottery. I thought she was joking! But alas with her prodding me along, and after two years in between high school and college, I finally ended up at Alfred, eventually graduating with a BFA in 1998.

After a year in Maine, at Watershed; two years in Mendocino, California at the art center, and 3 years owning a gallery in Berkeley, I figured Grad school was a good choice. Utah State was the best decision I could have ever made personally, and of course for my work. I was ready to go, I went with the intention of injecting my work with a heavy dose of surface and history, and I think it worked out quite well. I will never be able to credit John Neely and Dan Murphy enough. They create an atmosphere that is ideal for developing a respect for the material and education while also honoring the social aspects that the material can demand of someone.

Now, Finally here I am six-and-a-half years later, (five of which were spent developing a program at a local Arts center) and I have committed the next chapter to tile!

When and how did you discover the passion for ceramics?

My passion for clay came to fruition on the many trips I would take to potters studios around New England after dropping my mother off at the airport, (she travels doing community intervention for indegenous communities that struggle with the trauma of government and racial oppression (that’s a mouthful!), and I often refer to her as my hero). I fell in love with the day-to-day studio ethic of a production potter, which I recently realized I have rarely glimpsed in my career. Instead I have gone in the direction of a potter/educator/tile maker/adminstrator as a way to make a living in clay in a very affluent part of the country. Making pots full time in the San Francisco Bay Area is very tough, so I have been happy to create my career as someone who has truly embraced and fallen in love with every aspect of the medium.

What other clay artist influenced you if any and why?

I think that this changes almost daily. History is the best teacher because it forces me to think critically as the artist, the historian, and the student. But unlike most good teachers, history never seems to return any of my emails! That said, contemporary artist are tricky; right now: Howard Kottler, Ursula Hargens, David Linger. I honestly don’t look at too much contemporary clay these days, so much of it is so good that when I do I often find myself thinking “Now why didn’t I think of that. Instead I am trying to shift my focus to the periphery of what I am enjoying these days; global events, science and the universe; the latter is a bit too big to ignore.


Has a significant personal experience shaped your work?

Yes, the bombings of Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Israel, Somalia, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Haiti, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos. And the entire political tension that has overshadowed the people of the Middle East since long before world war two.

What techniques do you usually work with and what is your favorite tool?

I have been working primarily on the wheel since having started in clay, but now, architectural tile and monolithic tile is very appealing to me. My Favorite tool is my ridiculous looking heat gun and my hole poker for teapot spouts. I also like my little tile press!

Here is Forrest’s video of his Volumetric Image Transfer if you haven’t seen it’s amazing to watch!

There is a remarkable touch of sensibility in your decorations. Tell us more about how you decorate and where do you get inspiration from.

My decorations are not my own. I use historic pattern right out of the books and images I find that illustrate the places that I draw the most inspiration from; primarily the middle east and the asian countries that have influenced middle eastern pattern over the last thousand years. So I have to give credit where credit is due. My surfaces however are really what I am trying to use to give a deeper meaning to those patterns. When a piece has turned out well in my eyes it is a mostly a comnbination of the consisitency of the slip, transfer medium and clay coupled with the speed at which I remove the transfer from the clay. This all underlies what the atmosphere in a reduction cooled firing does to the object to give it a patina that I am happy with.

You work with great delicacy when using patterns and symbols of ancient cultures on your work. How do you choose these patterns?

The patterns I choose to use are indicative of the story that has been told throughout history of how commerce and trade have effected cultures with the end result usually being a war or conflict that is played out in the middle of the lives of the everyday person, effecting them in horrific ways. Pattern is as old as time, and indeed MUCH older than humanity. Complex geometric patterning is not simply a mark of humanity. When people refer to sacred geometry they are referring to the crossroads of science and mysticism,. Right now, I am completely engrossed in the very complex patterns of sound and its effect on the physical realm.

What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?

I used to work as a corporate communication consultant. It was fun work that allowed me to ask very hard questions of people in very high paying jobs. I was taught a number of great exercises by many masterful people. The exercise that I use most frequently in teaching students that are stuck is called the five whys, and it very simply goes like this:

What is important to you?

Why is that important?

Why is that important?

Why is that important?

Why is that important?

Once you have gotten to the fifth why (and don’t avoid the hard stuff) make artwork from that place. And if you get stuck from there, look back in history at least 100 years or more.

 

 

You have recently launched a Kickstarter for your Origins Tiles; please tell us about your project.

A friend from the United Arab Emerates introduced me to Kickstarter when I was exploring a body of work that I imagine will come to fruition through my endeavors in tile. She basically opened up the dome of crowdfunding and the light poured in! Simply, I have been making tile that speaks the same language as my pots, it was picked up by a very thoughtful and artistically minded tile company who just so happens to do FANTASTIC marketing, and now I have to make more tile; MUCH MORE TILE! Kickstarter will not only help me fund this project, but it will give me honest feedback, though dollars and cents, as to the validity of my forray into tile (Disclaimer: never let money make your artistic decisions for you; unless of course you live in the real world and have children, car payments, grocery bills etc. then just do what you love well and do it just differently enough that it brings in a little income)

Through Kickstarter you’re hoping to raise $20,000 how will this help your tile production?

The $20,000 will be for a Tile Press, pug mill, and kiln. If I don’t make the goal, I get none of the money. If I make more than the $20,000 goal, I will put it toward a silkscreenexposure unit for the tile, and another top secret project that I hope to implement that could really change the way some people do some things with clay and glaze! – To be continued. I hope!

 

For more information please visit Forrest’s site here.

Here is the link to his Kickstarter.

Follow Forrest on Facebook too!

Thanks for visiting the blog and taking time to read all about Forrest.  I hope you take a minute to comment to let Forrest and myself you’ve stopped by.

Jonathan Kaplan – Plinth Gallery Artist Interview Part 2

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

 

Back with Artist Interviews again! Jonathan Kaplan has his second interview on my blog, (read the first interview here.)  Jonathan is the owner and curator of Plinth Gallery in Denver, Colorado.

“Divertimento” opens at Plinth Gallery on First Friday, March 1, with an artist reception from 6-9pm.

The exhibition runs through March 30th. 

Building on the 2011 exhibition, “Prelude” at Plinth and most recently, “Ceramic Forms” at Laramie County Community College, Kaplan continues to explore the textured slab and his signature use of industrial parts and fittings in this new body of work. The pieces in “Divertimento” reflect his interpretation of the theme of parts and wholes, or what Kaplan refers to as “the combination of singular objects combined to make complex forms.”

Incorporating wheel thrown, hand-built, and press-molded ceramic parts, Kaplan builds both sculptural and functional vessels including large basins, condiment sets, serving pieces and teapots. His deft use of industrial parts such as phenolic ball knobs, metal handles, shaft collars, and coated cable provides both a visual and structural counterpoint to the ceramic form and surface. In addition, his bird and fish forms appear, as seen previously in his “Nouveau Moche” series as well as his “Plinthed Vessel Series”. -Plinth Gallery

For more information on Jonathan and Plinth Gallery make the jump here.

You have a solo show coming up at Plinth Gallery; I hear that you have chosen musical titles for this exhibition and at Plinth in 2011.  How did you come up with the title of “Divertimento” for your show?

Classical music has very interesting structures and can take many forms. Having been a student of both classical piano and flamenco guitar in my past, I understand some of how music can be put together. There are small parts, sections, or elements that are combined to present a larger part. For instance, in music dynamics,  the opening of a the first movement in a piano concerto might be played forte or loudly, and then it transitions decrescendo, decreasing in volume and tempo soon thereafter. The analogy for the work in this exhibition the “parts and wholes”, how it is constructed from smaller parts that comprise and whole, of completed piece. The first exhibition “Prelude” ( a movement or section of a work that comes before another movement or section of a work, although the word also has been used for short independent pieces that may stand alone), was the beginning of this theme “Divertimento” (an composition usually in a number of movements)  is the next step in moving this body of work forward.

Can you tell us what you are making?

I have included new large basin constructions and an entirely new grouping of handbuilt teapots. The fish and bird elements have again surfaced and have now become fully integrated into some of these pieces.

 

When and how did you discover the passion for ceramics?

While I was intrigred with how ceramic objects were made when my first instructor, Rebecca Willis at Oakwood School, made a piece on the wheel.

I think my passion for ceramics began when I saw Edward   Kidder’s book  “Jomon Ceramics” and learned that the history or ceramics paralled, or even charted the evolution of cultures and of human beings.

I’ve been a fan of your work for a long time now, and I notice that you approach to clay is to incorporate industrial components together to make your work.  Would you elaborate where that idea came from?

I had a ceramic  manufacturing business for many years and there was enough forming and finishing equipment to whet the appetite of any potter.  It was important to have spare parts on hand and I was already a customer of Grainger’s, McMaster-Carr supply, MSC, and a host of other industrial suppliers.  Browsing these incredible compendiums of “more stuff then you could possibly imagine”, I wondered what I might do with some of these parts.  Over time, I have learned that more is less, and I now have good selection of industrial fitting, fasteners, components, cable, rubber hose, etc. that I incorporate in the design of the work.  I am also enamored with how clay is the antitheses of all these parts.

 

Over the last few years I have had the pleasure of seeing the bodies of work you produce, with every body of work you have a new series, and how do you come up with each series? 

 I spend a good deal of time thinking about what I might make and how it will take shape. I struggled for a while with the idea of what constitutes a “ signature body of work”. After much anxiety, fear, and being told that I overly think stuff way too much, I realized that what I needed to do was to determine what my strengths were as a ceramic artist. For me, one of my strengths was form and design. So I then began to approach what I could make from a design point of view. Process then just became a means to an end. I just don’t get all that caught up in ways of working or of ascribing judgment or dogma to any particular way of working with clay. Time is just too short for such mental machinations.

 

Has a significant personal experience shaped your work?

I worked as a professional mold and model maker for 16 years and it provided with an entirely new context about looking at ceramics. And how important it was for potters and ceramic artists to look at how ceramics are made industrially.  We need to look at the ceramics industry really as an ally rather than a foe. There is an incredible amount of information that can be of significant benefit to our studio practice if we would only take off the blinders and open our eyes. Well, we need to ask the right questions first…..

In you last interview you talked about working in your studio 5 or 6 hours a day.  How do you maintain a rigorous and consistent studio practice?

I have found that if I have a goal to work towards, it is a bit easier to maintain a rigorous or perhaps better put, a consistent studio practice. I am very easily distracted and am learning how to deal with this. Sometimes I think I am a slow learner. Ideas keep me motivated, but sometimes it is difficult to get started. Like most of us, there are so many other things that are necessary to get done during the course of a day! I know, all our plates are overflowing…….

What techniques do you usually work with and what is your favorite tool?  

I don’t have a particular technique that I usually work with. It all depends on what the idea is, then I can decided what I need to use or work with. If I think a particular item or part needs to be press molded or slip cast, then that is the technique I will employ. For instance, when designing the teapots in this exhibition, I had a particular curved spout in mind and, the obvious way to make this was in a press mold. I carved a plaster model and then made a simple 2 part press mold to make the spout.

However, I have a growing list of favorite tools: I use two Slabmats and  a Yixing mallet to beat out my slabs. I then use a rolling pin and two equally sized wooden strips to make a slab of a particular thickness. I do have a very nice selection of Bison tools. A substantial mechanical pencil with an assortment of leads, a Foray brand rolling ball .5mm(fine) or .7mm(medium) pen, and my sketchbook are favorites. I am starting to draw on my iPad using Paper53 or Noteshelf  (both apps). These are all very cool tools.

If you could do one thing much better, what might it be?

I can’t isolate just one thing, however…….

My time management skills need to be improved for sure.

I do not draw very well freehand, but I can get the idea across. I would like to be a better draftsman.

My typing skills are absolutely horrendous. They need work as I devote too much time to making corrections.

As someone who has been involved with ceramics for al long time, is there one important thing you might share?

Sure.  For me it is important to give back in some substantial way and to pay it forward. Currently, in am on the board of the Studio Potter journal. The journal is the documentation of how we work within the context of being part of a larger society. It is the chronicle of experience as potters and ceramic artists, a compendium of ideas. It is an important part of our ceramic culture and has been so for the past 40 years. We need your help to continue for the next  40 years.  So if you would like to join and receive this quality publication twice a year, please email me. (jonathan@plinthgallery.com)

Jonathan and Dorothy @ Plinth Gallery

Tell us what you do for fun when you’re out of the studio.

I wish I could spend more time outside of the studio! Gallery work keeps me quite busy, and I certainly would not have any studio practice whatsoever if it were not for the hard work of my wife Dorothy.  She runs the back end, so to speak, of the gallery. Her hard work and involvement with Plinth Gallery are truly responsible for its success. Thanks sweetie!

 

I have never thought of myself as an athlete or particularly athletic.

Nonetheless, I am an avid bicyclist and aside from being great exercise, any riding I do helps relieve stress for me. I have skied since my dad taught me at age 5, so I get out twice a week during ski season on my alpine or telemark boards.

Thanks for visiting the blog and taking time to read all about Jonathan.  I hope you take a minute to comment to let Jonathan and myself you’ve stopped by.

 

Nancy Utterback – Plinth Gallery Artist Interview

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Today’s interview is with Nancy Utterback, she is the director of the Boulder Pottery and is instrumental in bringing Flashpoint – An International Wood fire Exhibition to Plinth Gallery.  It’s been a pleasure getting to know Nancy via electronic communication.  She seems to be the “Flashpoint” for ceramic community in Boulder, Colorado.  I know in the very near future I will be taking a road trip to the Boulder Pottery Lab.  Enjoy the interview!

To learn more about Nancy visit her website and the Boulder Pottery Lab click here.

To learn more about Plinth Gallery click here.

“Plinth Gallery and The Boulder Pottery Lab present, Flashpoint-An International Wood Fire Exhibition”, a two-month juried show of wood-fired ceramics. Juror John Balistreri, Professor of Ceramics at Bowling Green University in Bowling Green, OH, has selected an exemplary collection of 50 pieces for this exhibition. The works for this show demonstrate a diversity of style by contemporary ceramic artists who continue to use this ancient tradition of firing with wood.” – Jonathan Kaplan – Plinth Gallery

Flashpoint opens First Friday, October 5th 2012, from 5pm-10pm with an artist reception and awards ceremony. A special wood kiln demonstration, construction, and firing, is scheduled for November 2nd and 3rd at Plinth Gallery, to coincide with Denver Arts Week.

Plinth Gallery 3520 Brighton Blvd Denver CO

Tell us a little about yourself!

I am a Colorado native. I grew up in and around Boulder, I went to school in Boulder and I have worked at the Boulder Pottery Lab since 1991. I always knew I was an artist. I started out studying painting and printmaking, first at DU and then at CU, but it was love at first touch with clay. I have never looked back. Today, after more than 30 years in clay I still can’t wait to get to the studio. I have a full time job running a teaching facility and teaching classes and I work 20 or 30 hours a week in my own studio.

It may sound like I don’t have a life beyond working in clay, but I do. I am married and have a wonderful dog name Word who is a year and a half old. My days are filled with hikes in the mountains, walking with Word in the park, drawing, making pots, firing and spending time with great friends.

I’m active in my community. I sit on the board of Studio Arts Boulder, run the Boulder Wood Fire group and wood fire research project and I teach pottery to people with mild traumatic brain injuries.   

How were you instrumental in bringing Flash Point: An International Wood Fire Exhibition to Plinth Gallery?

I started the Boulder Wood Fire Group in 2006 to help me conduct the Wood Fire emissions research project. Last year I was contacted about a wood firer, Hiroshi Ogawa in Oregon. He was celebrating his 50th year in clay and was thinking about an exhibition that would tour the country. I contacted Jonathan at Plinth and asked about doing a show. Hiroshi didn’t end up having a touring exhibition but that idea planted the seed for the show and Jonathan was generous enough to let me be involved in the Flash Point exhibition.

I love the communal sharing of the wood firing, and it sounds like you have created quite the community of wood fire potters in Boulder, will you tell us the story how all this came about.

I was doing a lot of the American Craft shows around the country including Baltimore and San Francisco. I found myself interested in all the wood fired work I was seeing. After attending a NCECA conference I became determined to learn more about wood firing.

Hiroshi Ogawa was having community firings at his studio in Elkton Oregon. He watched me as I circled his booth at every show and eventually we started talking. He invited me to come to Oregon to fire. I set out with the idea of changing the surface of my work, working on larger forms and learning more about the firing process. I packed up the van and headed to Oregon in March of 1996.

It took us 3 days to load the kiln. Working side by side with potters from all over the country I began to realize how little I knew. We were looking at the work in a new way, but we were really beginning to give ourselves up to the idea of collaborating with fire in a process that had consumed most of us for decades.

I started out thinking I would learn a new way to reach for personal expression. I fantasized I would add another tool to my tool belt. While I always realized that working in clay is a kind of meditation, a prayer of sorts, I never really understood the Zen of clay until that very first wood firing. By the time we had loaded the kiln, my world had expanded and I was no longer just interested in my work, I was obsessed with the entire 400 cubic feet of work. Every pot in the kiln was important to me and I knew that I would be connected to each potter in the firing crew for the rest of my life.

A wood fired kiln is quiet. You may have a crew of 8, 10 or 12 potters working at once. Each potter stoking in a rhythm, working as one for the crew leader. I had to dig down deep to keep up my energy and to understand the kiln, every move we made seemed counter intuitive. I began to understand that clay had always been my teacher and now the wood kiln was taking my education to a new and profound level.

I fired in Oregon for about 6 years, each year learning more. I began to think about building a kiln in Boulder where my students and colleagues could share a similar experience. I finally decided to propose building a wood fire kiln to the City of Boulder. I was required to get a permit and when I went into apply for the permit I was told that they would not allow a wood kiln in Boulder. I started to leave but I turned around and asked “why”? The guy behind the desk stood still for a moment and then said he didn’t know.

After returning to the lab I decided to try and find out why the planning department didn’t want us to fire with wood. I sent out a request for help to the combustion-engineering department at CU and immediately heard back from Michael Hannigan. He was a combustion engineer and he was willing to help me. We decided to do a wood kiln emissions research project.

We got permission to build two kilns and do the research project for the next 3 years.  I worked with Michael Hannigan and John Zhai from CU and we teamed up with Jeff Sorkin from the US Forestry department. You can read all about the research in Studio Potter Magazine.

What other clay artist influenced you if any and why?

As a self-taught potter it is difficult to identify influence. I think that everything we see, hear, feel influences the work we make. Every potter I have had the opportunity to watch work has left a mark on me. From Hamada to Cardew,  Picasso to Ruth Duckworth , Lucy Rie and Hans Coper to contemporary potters like Michael Simon, Jeff Oestreich, Ron Myers, David Shaner, Don Reitz, Betty Woodman—the list goes on.

Tell us about the history of the Boulder Pottery Lab.

The Pottery Lab was started in 1954 and in 1956 Betty Woodman convinced the City of Boulder to move it into the old fire station #2 at 1010 Aurora. Betty set up an educational program for students as young as 4 and as old as 94.

Betty had come to Boulder with her husband George who was teaching art at CU. Betty decided to offer classes for spouses of professors and other individuals looking for a challenge. Her program was so well thought out that we continue to run the program in almost the same way. Over the years the program has been run by other well-known potters such as Steve Briggs, Kate Inskeep, David Clinkenbeard and currently myself.

The Lab has a great reputation as a teaching facility; we have 20 wheels, 5 electric kilns, 3 gas kilns and a Raku kiln. We have 2 extruders, slab roller and a pug mill. In 2006 we built an Anagama wood kiln and in 2009 we built a Bourry box kiln. The program continues to thrive. There are 140 adults and 110 children that go through the program every 9 weeks. Many potters in the area took classes at the lab and many have returned to teach at the lab.

What is most inspirational to you?

Clay. When I see, smell or touch clay, my heart opens. Music, nature, color and laughter all enter the studio and keep me going, but it is truly clay itself, the way it moves, breaths, changes and teaches that inspires me.


Has a significant personal experience shaped your work?

I come from a fairly large family. Privacy was non-existent. I began keeping a journal when I was very young. Writing helped me find out who I was and helped me get away from the chaos. My work still integrates my journal entries with my clay forms and I experience the same kind of relief from the pressures of the world. Love, loss, happiness and despair all find their way onto my pieces sometimes through a drawing and sometimes just written between the lines.

What techniques do you usually work with and what is your favorite tool?

I am a thrower and a hand-builder. I throw and alter my forms and for more extreme or precise forms I turn to hand building. I build surfaces with slips, glazes, washes, and stains. My pieces are fired in atmospheric kilns using salt, soda and/or wood ash.

My favorite tool in my first treadle wheel. It came to me magically and changed the way I work.

You are mostly creating pottery pieces. How would you explain your attraction for functional ceramics?

We sometimes think that our lives are made up of extraordinary experiences. Our visit to the art museum or a once in a life time trip to Paris. But for me, the most sacred moments are ordinary. The sharing of a good meal with someone you love, an intimate conversation over a cup of tea, the washing of dishes at the end of the party standing side by side with your best friend. These are the moments I treasure and these are the moments I celebrate with functional pots.

What do you love most about your studio?

Privacy. I am by nature an introvert. I love walking those 10 feet from my back door to my studio and sinking into that sacred creative space that brings out the best in me.

 

What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?

Make pots. Make lots of pots. Our voice comes with experience and confidence. Be honest, tell the truth, the whole truth in your work.

Georgia Rowswell – Artist Interview

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Today’s interview is with Georgia Rowswell.  Georgia is a force of nature in the art world.  She moved in with gale force winds and conquered Cheyenne’s bleak art scene.  She has worked tirelessly to help rejuvenate our town, by opening The Artful Hand Gallery, starting the Art, Design and Dine: Art Tour, serving on the board of the Hynds Building & Lights On project to bring an art center to our downtown.  On top of all that she works with the artists in the area, by freely giving advice, representing their work, and most importantly bringing us all together.  Georgia is completely inspirational in all that she does for the arts.  She recently has been featured in The Great Lakes Airlines in flight magazine Peaks and Plains, and she landed the cover! (To read her interview in Peaks and Plains click here.)  Such a well deserved honor for her!  Congratulations Georgia, I wish you continued success!

For more information on Georgia please visit her website.  http://www.artfulhand.org/

And to learn more about Art, Design and Dine, make the jump to http://artdesigndine.org/

 Did you grow up with an awareness of art?  Let’s go back to the very beginning—how did you become an artist?

I give my parents and especially my mother, Dot Stiefler, a lot of credit in nurturing my life as an artist.  Handwork was her constant quest from my earliest memories to the end of her life. Through my mother, I gained a rich understanding of textiles and the traditional “woman’s arts”. My parents never discouraged my pursuit of a career in the arts, an attitude I tried to practice with my own children. Its not about the money you can make in a job, its about doing what you love.

 Has a significant personal experience shaped your work?

Moving from Atlanta to Wyoming in 2008 caused a seismic shift in my work. In Atlanta I was harvesting and working in bamboo,which of course is nothing that will ever grow in Wyoming! I had to reinvent myself and find a new way to express the West in my voice. The one constant in my work has been subject matter, the land. Wyoming presented totally new vistas for this East Coast born and bred girl.

A year after arriving in Cheyenne, I was given the opportunity do a residency at Jentel in Banner Wyoming. It offered me the time and space to explore my Western voice and set me on the right artistic track. This October, I will be starting my second Wyoming residency at Brush Creek in Saratoga. I am really excited to see what comes out of it!

 

 I love that your blog has the tagline Two Artists-One Life, please tell us about your husband, his artistic skills and how he inspires you. 

My husband Dave, is a high school art teacher at East High in Cheyenne. He is a talented and patient teacher with the gift of encouragement. He has always been my cheerleader, encouraging and enabling me in my career. Dave’s art takes him in totally different directions than mine. He is a sculptor and loves to draw the figure (two areas I have little talent in ). Sometimes we are dangerous together when we start with,”what if you did this…” or “ we should make this…” The idea well never runs dry at our house. When our two kids Ian and Abby are home it gets worse! Add to that a new daughter-in-law that’s an artist and the Rowswell house explodes with creative and sometimes crazy ideas!

Your devotion to art is inspirational; your gallery is also your house, can you explain how this idea came about? 

When I came back from my Jentel residency I decided I needed to get busy and add to the artistic life of Cheyenne. I sold the sofa set and proceeded to turn our living room into a gallery. I said, “who needs a living room? Doesn’t everyone  hang out in the kitchen anyways”! With the expense of renting commercial space and the uncertainty of the economy, an in-home gallery seemed like a smart move. Right after we started the gallery my sister Nancy, sent me a  NY Times article about NYC artists doing exactly the same thing! Who knew Cheyenne was so hip!

Next I decided that the city needed a monthly art tour that would include our gallery, Artful Hand. My goal was to raise the profile of the arts and artists in the city and region. Currently in its third year,  Art Design & Dine has seen steady growth and has been very well received by the community and city officials.

What other artists influenced you and why?

I am attracted to unusual materials and artists that focus on texture, pattern and color. I really connect with El Anatsui’s large scale liquor bottle, metal cap art. I love the, something from nothing approach to art. Using something small and insignificant and giving it new meaning. El Anatsui says of his work,

“ I saw that if you have a scale that is petty, using discarded media, than the work is going to be petty- in fact too petty for anybody to bother about trying to listen too. On a larger scale it becomes more effective. Its like the saying, ‘If you meet one ant, you’re not going to notice but if you meet an army of them…’ So, the kinds of media that I use are like ants. One is not effective, but many are”

Are you a full-time artist? How do you come up with your creations? Can you walk us through your creative process when dreaming up new pieces?  Where do you find inspiration for your work?

I am a full-time artist working in the studio and presenting workshops around the state. Coming up with ideas has always been the easy part for me. Winnowing them down and extracting and executing the best ones is the challenge. When I talk to students and groups about creativity, I always say, “keep your eyes and mind open. Inspiration can come from anywhere. From fascinating museum exhibits to the composition form by cracks in the sidewalk. When an idea emerges, I make a few notes and thumbnail drawings in my sketchbook. Sometimes I work on an idea right away and sometimes it needs to wait for the concept to fully develop. 

What do you love most about your studio?

Getting to it! I spend the morning answering emails, working on art tour business and generally checking off my to do list. Then I allow myself to enter, “art La La land” That timeless state an artist goes into when working on a piece. If I have an appointment later in the day, I literally set an alarm to pull me out of La La Land and back into reality. 

What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?

Keep working, struggling and searching. Find one or two like-minded people you can bounce ideas off of and count on for constructive criticism. Make work that is true to your heart and vision and not what the market demands. “In large measure becoming an artist consists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your own voice, which makes your work distinctive.” Art and Fear Observations on the Peril (and Rewards) of Artmaking

 

 

Don Davis – Plinth Gallery Artist Interview

Friday, July 20th, 2012
This month’s Plinth Gallery Artist interview is with Don Davis.
Exhibition Dates:
August 3 – September 29
First Friday August 3
Second Saturday August 11
For more information please visit Plinth Gallery’s website.  Or if your int the area please visit the beautifully designed Plinth Gallery @ 3520 Brighton Blvd, Denver Colorado.
Don Davis’s dedication to clay work is due to an enduring love for the material and the processes of forming and firing it. Most of his work has been wheel thrown porcelain forms although he has pursued many other ceramic techniques. Davis’ early work focused on form, surface treatment and the concepts of duality, indicated by the play between interior and exterior which provided sufficient content. His latest work with terra cotta has become more sculptural and involves content of a more specific yet complex nature. While the natural world and ancient traditions provide the greatest inspiration for him, he allows his work to take its own unique contemporary direction. At its best, that direction is a cooperative effort between the clay, the fire and myself. – Jonathan Kaplan Plinth Gallery
Don sent this interview from Italy!  Grazie e buon divertimento!

For more informatin on Don and his artwork please make the jump to his website.

Don Davis will conduct a 2 day participatory workshop at the Gallery August 4-5.The workshop will demonstrate both wheel thrown and hand built forming methods. Starting with bowl forms and moving on to composite pieces constructed from components formed by various methods. Discussion will focus on clay choices related to form, using wild materials, the importance of improvising, the challenge of throwing thick or thin, relating surface treatments & firing methods to our particular forms, and staying open to new possibilities while exercising personal choices toward your desired results. Ceramic history and cultural influences will be discussed as fundamental inspiration for our own contemporary philosophy and work.  Please call the gallery for more information and to register for this highly instructive workshop. Graduate college credit is available through Adams State College.  303 295-0717
For more informatin please visit the website of Plinth Gallery.

Let’s go back to the very beginning—how did you become a ceramicist?

Fell into it along the way.

Has a significant personal experience shaped your work?
Many
What other clay artist influenced you if any and why?
Chuck Hindes, Norm Schulman, & Jun Kaneko – significant input as teachers.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Ancient things.
What are you showing at Plinth Gallery this month? How did you come up with the title for the show?
Showing the tower forms influenced by ancient architecture, omphalos bowl forms, & muse baskets.
If they stuck with the title “transitions”, it references my transition from high temp, Asian influenced ware to my recent work in terra cotta.
Can you tell us a little bit about your book, “Wheel Thrown Ceramics”?
It was a great experience for me.
How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?
Good food, wine, and keep a garden.
You, like most people enjoy the process of making and didn’t get into it for the sake of “business”. But eventually you found yourself having to make the transition from crafter to a businessperson. What have you learned so far and what advice can you give others in the same situation?
I was a full time studio artist for 22 years; now a university professor. Business (making a living) and the transfer of information (which can also be part of making a living) are both part of the profession.
Tell us about your studio. What do you love most about your studio?
It is comfy and right across the yard from my house.
What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?
Keep an open mind and don’t be in too big of a hurry to “arrive”. Don’t follow trends; pay attention to the ancients!

Sandi Pierantozzi and Neil Patterson Plinth Gallery Interview

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Sandi Pierantozzi

Neil Patterson

Sandi Pierantozzi and Neil Patterson: New work!

Exhibition dates:
June 1 – July 28
First Friday June 1          
Second Saturday June 9

Sandi Pierantozzi will teach a 2 day participatory workshop at the gallery presenting her innovative approach to form and surface at the gallery June 2-3. This weekend workshop will focus on using slabs, texturing the surface, and then by altering them through techniques such as darting, creating interesting and innovative forms.

Sandi Pierantozzi’s functional work comes from a deep appreciation of food, celebration, and setting a beautiful table. She feels that “pots help me connect with people on a very basic human level” by communicating some creative life into the daily rituals of eating and drinking Sandi believes that a handmade ceramics contains ”the soul and energy of the maker” and that with use, a real human connection is made. These connections between people are essential to keeping alive the soul in all of us.

Neil Patterson ceramic constructions honor the handmade object and the simple daily rituals of use. He makes pots that are designed to be used and enjoyed. Through their carefully considered volume, weight, surface and textures he hopes to provide a slow, savory experience for the user. There is always an evidence of the soft material, clay, often bolstered by a formal or architectural structure. -  Jonathan Kaplan, Plinth Gallery

For more  information on Sandi Pierantozzi and Neil Patterson please go to their website. http://sandiandneil.com/

And for more  information on Plinth Gallery go to thier webiste.  http://plinthgallery.com/

 Tell us a little about yourselves! And how did you meet?

We met at Anderson Ranch in 1989. Neil was the studio assistant in a Chris Staley workshop and Sandi was taking the workshop. We became friends during the workshop and wrote letters for a couple of years, so I guess you could say we fell in love through the mail. This was before email. Then we hitch hiked all over the UK in the summer of 1991, and that is when we knew we would be together forever.

Neil Patterson

Sandi Pierantozzi

When and how did you discover the passion for ceramics?

Neil:In high school in Cleveland, Ohio, Neil was very inspired by his teacher Joe Turkaly, and decided then he wanted to become a potter.

Sandi: At the Clay Studio in Philadelphia, Pa. Sandi got turned on to clay in 1984. She took a class because she loves to cook and wanted to learn to make serving dishes for her food. At the time she had a graphic design business, but the more she worked in clay, the more she wanted to. When computers took over graphic design, she decided to make the transition to full time potter.

Sandi Pierantozzi

Neil Patterson

What are you two showing at Plinth Gallery this month?

 Sandi will be showing her newest work in which she combines stamped designs, colored slips and slip trailing.  Forms included will be teapots, vases, candlesticks & jars, among others.

Neil will be showing his current work which is wheel thrown and assembled. Forms include boxes, vases and jars with niches. He will also be showing his newest forms, which are handbuilt bird forms.

Neil Patterson

Sandi Pierantozzi

Since our show is not theme based, we decided we would just call it “New Work” since we are both showing our most recent work.

Sandi Pierantozzi

Neil Patterson

Do you share the studio or have separate spaces? What is it like to work so closely with your spouse?

We share a studio and work right along side of each other in a fairly small space.  Working so closely together presents some challenges, but fortunately we get along very well, and respect each others creative space. We love working at the studio together and cannot imagine having it any other way.

What do you love most about your studio?

Our location in the city, near the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the community support we get from our neighborhood.

 How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?

We continue to work on that, but we do have a regular Friday Night Date, where we do something fun and try not to talk about the studio.

What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?

Find sources from within and through your own studio practice. Look at the world around you for inspiration, not just at the work of other artists. You have to make a commitment of time, energy and lifestyle in order to develop and grow your work.  

Neil Patterson

Sandi Pierantozzi

Would you two explain your attraction for functional ceramics?

Sandi:Since the whole basis of my working in clay came from cooking & wanting serving dishes, that set me on a path of making things I wanted for myself, which were always functional. When people started offering me money for things I made for myself, this was a turning point. That is when I decided I would focus on functional work, so that others could enjoy a handmade pot as much as I enjoyed them. I love that people get a little piece of my soul when they buy one of my pots, and that something I made could enhance a daily meal for them.

Neil:Functional ceramics is an accessible art form that everyone can understand. It is an art form that has been practiced for thousands of years, and continues to integrate into our daily lives.

Sandi Pierantozzi

Neil Patterson

Sandi, it looks like you are handbuilding most of your pieces. Can you walk us through your creative process when dreaming up new pieces?

I sketch a lot. I always have a sketchbook with me, since I never know when I see something that might inspire a new form. When I am ready to make a new piece, I look through my sketchbooks to see what hits me.  Then I proceed to work out the form. Sometimes I make a small piece to work out the details, but other times I just go for it. Often, the piece does not look like the sketch, but the sketch provided the spark.

Neil Patterson

Sandi Pierantozzi

Neil, it looks like you use the wheel as a tool to start the construction of your work, will you tell us how the wheel informs your choices for what you make?  And can you walk us through your creative process when dreaming up new pieces?

The wheel has a historic connection to pottery, but I don’t always use it in the traditional way. The process of throwing informs the choices I make. There is a “back and forth” between my ideas and what the wheel gives, such as round forms and “stripes” or throwing lines. Then I apply my ideas for forms that might be inspired by architecture or nature.

Sandi Pierantozzi

Neil Patterson

Please tell us more about  the CircleMatic Form Finder Template Set. 

Sandi: The CircleMatic Form Finder Templates are a set of 24 templates based on a circle. The development of my circular templates happened several years ago, when I broke a finger six weeks before a major craft show. Since I had to wear a splint for at least four weeks, I could not continue to make my usual work, which was based on rectangular templates, because I could not dart and push the clay out to develop the forms. I devised the circular templates so I could just make parts and stack them without having to push any walls out. This let to a whole new body of work based only on circular templates.

I started bringing a few of the templates to workshops, to teach people how to develop their own, but most people just wanted to either copy mine, or offered to buy them from me. After years of having people ask me if they could buy my templates, I decided to take the time to produce a set. I did not want the set to be a “how to” but more of a jumping off point for people to develop a variety of forms based on their own ideas of how they might put the various parts together.

Sandi and Neil

Plinth Gallery Artist Interview – Farraday Newsome and Jeff Reich

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Jeff Reich

Faraday Newsome

Compatible Visions: Farraday Newsome and Jeff Reich

Exhibition dates: May 4-26

First Friday: May 4, 6-9pm Reception with the Artists.

Second Saturday: May 12, noon-6pm, and RiNo Open Studio Tour Sunday May 13, 11am-4pm

Visit Plinth Gallery for more information on Farraday’s and Jeff’s show.

For more information Jeff and Farraday please visit their website, Indigo Street Pottery.

“Farraday Newsome has worked with the vessel format for over twenty years. She explores ideas of lushness, sadness, time, and grace with surfaces that are very painterly. She is interested in the relationship between the “painterly space” and the “actual space of the three-dimensional object.”

Jeff Reich’s ceramic sculptures integrate abstract expressionist influences with contemporary desert landscapes. The Sonoran desert where he lives with his wife Farraday Newsome profoundly inspires him. Angled, sectioned and recombined forms of teapots, jars, wall tiles, and sculptural vessels are influenced by the growth patterns found in desert plants, rocks and mountains.”- Jonthan Kaplan – Plinth Gallery

Farraday Newsome

Tell us a little about yourselves!

Farraday: I grew up in the redwoods of California. It was very quiet and very beautiful. My father was a dinnerware designer for a big dinnerware company in Los Angeles called Metlox. The company flew him down for design meetings every 6 weeks or so. Many of my adult relatives worked in the arts. Making things and painting was part of my life growing up. When it came to college though, I majored in Biology (UC Santa Cruz, 1977) since I was so interested in nature. After earning my BA I moved to San Francisco and decided to go back to school in the arts. I received my MA in Art, Ceramics Emphasis from San Francisco State University in 1987. I moved to Arizona shortly thereafter.

Jeff Reich

Jeff: I was born in Livonia, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. My father was an engineer with an eye to detail, and my mother a homemaker who loved to paint and garden. I grew up with interests in architecture and basketball. Early in my college career at the University of Michigan, I moved to Arizona to transfer to the University of Arizona in Tucson. I first settled on a major in Arts Education. After taking a ceramics course there, I knew that ceramics was my deepest studio art interest. I studied with Maurice Grossman and treasured the knowledge he shared with students. I recieved my BFA in 1984. I started a small studio in Tucson and quickly picked up 11 galleries across the country. Three years later I started working at the Mesa Arts Center in Mesa, Arizona building a ceramics program there that I still direct. In 2005 the Mesa Arts Center moved into a $100 million new facility, for which I helped design the ceramics studio.

Farraday Newsome

And how did you meet?

Farraday: Jeff and I met after I moved to Arizona, around 25 years ago. Jeff was a directing the ceramics program at the Mesa Arts Center, which he still directs. We probably met at an opening – hard to remember exactly when. Although friends for many years, we’ve been married for seven year

 

Jeff Reich

Jeff: I met Farraday first at the Tempe Arts Festival in 1988. She was showing some amazing maiolica. We became friends and in 2001 she started teaching with me at the Mesa Arts Center. We married in 2004.

Farraday Newsome

When and how did you discover the passion for ceramics?

Farraday: My father got his BA at Alfred University in New York, majoring in ceramics. He studied with Daniel Rhodes and met Susan Peterson while he was there. After college and a stint in the army, he became a dinnerware designer for Metlox Potteries in Manhattan Beach, California. When I was little, he would sometimes take us kids to Metlox and we would glaze in his office on stock dinnerware. I loved that! I let that interest go when I went off to college and majored in biology. I didn’t really take any art classes during my undergraduate years. It wasn’t until years later, when I was working in the sciences in San Francisco, that I took a community college ceramics class. I rediscovered that all-engrossing feeling of joy. I quit my job and went back to school to earn my Master’s in Art with a Ceramics Emphasis from San Francisco University (1987).

Jeff Reich

Jeff: I thought I would be going for an architecture degree. I switched to an Art major after learning I wasn’t accepted into the program for architecture. Later at the University of Arizona my scupture professor, Dennis Jones, took us to see the ceramics studio where the teacher , Maurice Grossman, threw a pitcher. I was amazed and knew after watching that I had to try the wheel. Afterward Dennis tried to get me back to metal sculpture but it was too late, I’d fallen for clay. I love how simple and complex working with clay can be. After graduating I sold my 1969 Mach I Mustang to buy a kiln and wheel to start my career in clay.

Farraday Newsome

What are you two showing at Plinth Gallery this month?

Farraday: I’ll be showing work that is predominantly vessel-oriented, some with high relief imagery. Some will be colorfully glazed and some glazed in black-and-white. The imagery will be mostly from the natural world, but I have just finished a teapot that has unnatural objects in high relief (a watch and a playing card) along with my usual natural imagery. My imagery generally speaks to the passage of biological time and to chance.

Jeff Reich

Jeff: I’ll be showing some of my latest sculptures, teapots, and wall work. My glaze palette is influenced by the Sonoran desert and the unique plants that grow here. I am inteested in portraying the contrasts of desert textures through glazes, drawings into glaze and crawling glazes. My shapes are informed by boulder piles left in place after thousand of years, as well as from the growth patterns of desert trees and plants.

Farraday Newsome

How did you come up with the title for the show?

Farraday: People often tell us that our work looks so different from each other, but that somehow it looks good together. All I can think to write is that we are huge fans of each others work, asking for and giving lots of feedback in our shared studio while work is in progress. I think this all translates to work that is made in close proximity with mutual interest and tenderness, so somehow it is compatible.

Jeff Reich

Do you share the studio or have separate spaces? What is it like to work so closely with your spouse?

Jeff: I teach 4 days a week at the least but get into the studio as much as possible on my 3 days off. We love listening to NPR and books on tape together but when I need to watch sports, well, we don’t share that interest. The studio could be bigger sometimes but I think every artist wants that. We have 3 electric kilns: his, hers, and one small one we share. I fire high fire reduction in our old West Coast updraft kiln. We feel really fortunate to share our passion for clay with others.

Farraday Newsome

Farraday: Yes, we share a home studio. It is about 750 sq. ft. Of course we wish it was bigger!! Over the ten years we’ve lived in our home, we seem to have settled into an understanding of whose tables are whose, but it changes if one us needs more space for a certain project.

Jeff Reich

What do you love most about your studio?

Farraday: I love that it is at home, and that our beautiful 1 1/2 acre wildscaped desert yard is right out the door. I also love sharing it with a fellow ceramic artist who is my husband and whose work I think is terrific!

"Dark Blue Jar with Yellow Birds"

Jeff: I think Farraday said it all above ( I think her work is amazing too!)!

Jeff Reich

How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?

Farraday: That balance is pretty elusive. I seem to have three main interests these days, and never enough time to spend on any one of them. Studio work, gardening, and now trail running. I cook most days too – we eat pretty well (vegan) and cook a lot from our beloved kitchen garden.

Farraday Newsome

Jeff: Teaching full time and trying to get work out to the galleries can be trying but I have found a way to do it for 25 plus years. I remember Rudy Turk, who was the director of the Arizona State Museum of Art at the time when I was hired at the Mesa Arts Center, telling me how he wrote books, painted and directed the museum. The secret was “lots of late nights and early mornings”. I don’t do the late nights too much anymore but early mornings work. An ideal day would be a run, then a little gardening, then the studio. That seems like a wonderful day to me (especailly when I get to share it with Farraday).

Jeff Reich

What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?

Farraday: I think an individual voice develops with making lots of work over lots of time. Just keep at it and pay attention to what you like in your work. Stay in touch with your inner eye – your dreams and imagined forms.
Jeff: The best advice I heard when I was starting was to keep making pots/art. Seems simple but the ideas come when we keep working. I also tell my students to look outside of the ceramics world to plants, quilts, landscapes, architecture, etc. Blend what you are most passionate about (for example growing rare desert plants) and find a way to speak about it throught your work. Go to openings and see shows. Read about history of art to see what has come before us.

Farraday Newsome

 

Farraday, how would you explain your attraction for functional ceramics?

Farraday: I really like the combination of the practical and thebeautiful. As I mentioned before, I grew up in a household where designing beautiful dinnerware was an everyday thing. I like that there is a shared, understood language of pottery forms: the bowl, the pitcher, the plate, etc. I also really like the formal qualities of contained space, from the shallow contained space of platters to the voluminous contained space of pitchers, teapots, and vases.

Farraday Newsome

 

You work with great delicacy when using patterns and symbols, how do you choose your images?

Farraday: I have always been interested in objects from the natural world. As child, I think I was simply struck by their beauty. Like many children, I collected seashells, presse and collected wildflowers, etc. My collections were in the hundresds though and quite organized. As an adult, I am drawn to psychological associations with different natural forms. It makes them even more interesting and compelling. For instance, oranges seem to me to be an ultimate round, vibrant shape of fertility. So lively! Shells strike me as a combination of momento mori (a reminder of what is left after death and that life is fleeting), and fertility symbol (historical association) – nice combination. I started interspersing man-made, unnatural imagery with objects from the natural world in a flat painterly way as a drift on my work several years ago: things like eyeglasses, dice, watches, playing cards, etc. Now I am just starting to use those images in high relief.

Jeff Reich

Jeff, how does the desert landscape influence your ceramic work?

I love the desert and it’s unique plants that grow only in our area of Arizona. We are fortunate to have 1& 1/3 acre that I grow many plants on that I draw. I take pictures of the plants at different times of the year to work into my glaze drawings . Most agaves, yuccas, ocotillios and thorny plants amaze me with their tenacity to grow even in the harshest environs. We get 7″ of rain per year here on average, so most plants have adapted ways to survive that are unique.

Farraday Newsome

Farraday, it looks like you are handbuilding and throwing in most of your pieces. Can you walk us through your creative process when dreaming up new pieces?

Farraday: I usually turn my eye inward, relax, and imagine. When I get an inkling of an idea, I visualize it loosely in my mind’s eye. I usually draw it so I won’t forget the idea- sketchily changing it until it looks like it might work in three dimensions. That first inkling though – that’s the magic. The rest is just fine tuning. Whether to coil build, throw, slab, pinch etc. – that’s figuring out the meansof making the idea look good.

Jeff Reich

Jeff, you divide all your surfaces with such beautiful glaze windows and silhouettes of plants drawings. When did you start using glaze to define and enhance the form?

In 2004 I started glazing by superimposing 2-dimensional drawings over the 3-dimensional forms. First I used crawl glazes, then I added drawings by scratching (sgraffito) through white glazes with a dental tool.