Connie Norman
Connie Norman

Posts Tagged ‘Artist interviews’

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.

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 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.


Ayumi Horie – Artist Interview!

Monday, May 9th, 2011

                  Porcelain mugs rabbits

It is my great pleasure to interview Ayumi Horie.  I have admired her work for some time and I’m thrilled to feature her on my blog!  She is one of my most favorite artists.  Her work is stunning and unique.   She is a mastermind at organizing her sales and fundraisers on the internet.   Her ideas are fresh, innovative and enormous!  Ayumi has a unique way of “dry throwing” her pots using no water.  She is the first potter I’ve seen do this.  She complements this freshness of form in the decorating process by preserving drips and fingerprint marks made during glazing and slipping. Then she finishes them with her wonderful animal drawings.

For more information please stop by Ayumi’s website.

 Today’s the debut of Ayumi’s Match Striker Video! Enjoy!


Tell us a little about yourself!

First and foremost, I’m a studio potter. From this base and with a lot of help from the internet, I branch out to do a number of things. In the last few months, I co-founded Handmade For Japan, which has so far raised almost $90,000 for disaster relief in Japan and I’ve also just made a new video. I typically teach half a dozen workshops yearly, serve of the board of directors at the Archie Bray and get most of my work out into the world through selling online. The idea of advancing craft to a wider audience is key to a lot of what I do. I live in the Hudson Valley about two hours from New York City and adjacent to a 112 year old deconsecrated church where I host studio sales and craft shows.

How did you become an artist?

Art was always present but I committed to it slowly and after a long courtship. When I was fifteen my dream was to shoot for National Geographic, so after college, I started freelancing as a photographer for several papers in Seattle. When it became clear to me that clay was the right medium for me, I dropped photography for a long time but in the end, it’s served me well as a way to engage ceramics with the world. I have a new love of it.

This is a special picture of Michael Connelly taken by Ayumi while they were residents at Archie Bray.

I’ve noticed that you collaborate with other artists frequently; would you tell us how the collaboration process works for you?

It starts with an excited scheme to make something that hasn’t been done before on some level and then it just moves into problem solving. It’s a matter of finding the right fit with someone and then responding intuitively to what they do. It’s a bit like a road trip; it’s always more fun to share an experience with someone, finding all the unexpected and amazing things that pop up in two minds instead of one.

Andy Brayman putting decals down.

What are the similarities and differences between Obamaware and the Handmade For Japan fundraiser?

The most important parallel is that both began at a low point where I had a feeling of being ineffectual and powerless. When the “light bulb” moment came, the goals were at once clear and compelling to me. Leading up to the 2008 election there was a collective feeling among liberals that if Obama didn’t get elected, the country was done for. We all wanted to help and be a part of that change he was touting and so contributing as artists, by doing what we love and are good at, was really exciting. On the other hand, Handmade For Japan was born more out of concern than hope. The morning after the earthquake in Japan, I sat at the kitchen table emailing Japanese friends and family to make sure they were all ok. Like many people, I was really worried and had an intense desire to help. The understanding that something needed to be done, and done quickly, was such a certainty that the next step was all about action and rallying people. In both fundraisers, it was easy to find people who wanted to help.

The fundraisers were different in the sense that Obamaware was a “commissioned” and themed auction spanning five weeks from conception to auction end, whereas HFJ happened in two weeks because it consisted of work that was available in the moment and had a dedicated team of three (and we were all working a full 18 hour day for weeks plus had volunteer help). I was so lucky to have Ai Kanazawa Cheung and Kathryn Pombriant Manzella as colleagues in Handmade For Japan because with them, our ambitions, capabilities, outreach, and effectiveness increased exponentially. Obamaware made almost $11,000; Handmade For Japan made over $75,757 in the auction and almost $90,000 to date for disaster relief in Japan. We’re also grateful for the institutional support we received. eBay and MissionFish waived their fees because we were donating 100% in the auction and GlobalGiving, the charity we chose, publicized the auction and has continued to support us immensely. I think that both fundraisers are great examples of the power that artists have to affect positive change through the mobilizing force of the internet and through the good will of people who support the arts.

Handmade For Japan East Coast Headquaters

Handmade For Japan East Coast Headquaters

I’ve noticed that the pots in your postcards have always been in “action”? Was this the start of the pots in action idea?
When I first set up my website in 2001, one of my central ideas was to show pots outside the standard gray gradated background. While gray works well to focus attention on the pot itself and has its place, it somehow felt disingenuous to present pots in this singular way. From writings by Mingei artists, the ceramics community had already absorbed the idea of every day beauty and so it seemed like a natural progression to show pots as they really are. Like any other object, they live in the world we present, as well as in our mess. They live off in the corner and then circulate on to the table with some lovely morsel of food on them. Underscoring their place in our imperfect realities and showing how people really fall in love with them felt like a great way to champion pots.

The idea of “Pots in Action” started with postcards, moved on to the website where I asked people to send in pictures of my pots in use, then expanded into using Google maps to plot the pictures, and finally has been explored via the new match striker video. Combining a modern medium like video with a timeless phenomenon like fire makes us see ceramics differently. We all know in the ceramics community how amazing pots are, so the charge now is to turn on handmade pottery to the rest of the world.

Ayumi Horie Match striker postcard 2010

What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?
Reflection is great, but good work doesn’t come from a lot of thought alone, so work every single day whether you want to or not. And don’t forget to turn off the cell phone, iphone, ipad, tv, computer, etc…and now if I could just listen to my own advice…


For more information on Handemade For Japan, please go to the website. 

Visit Handmade for Japan’s Facebook page.

Become come a Friend of Ayumi Horie Pottery on Facebook.

I am the feautred artist on Art Palaver!!

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Two posts in one night.  I’m trying to catch up with everything that has been going on.

I am very excited to be the featured artist on Art Palaver this week.   If you don’t know the Art Palaver blog it is about helping artists sell art by offering resources to help you better market and promote yourself and your art.  The blog has some great advice and artist features.

Jen Mecca – Artist Interview

Thursday, May 13th, 2010


My husband asked me the other day if I could move anywhere I wanted, where would I go. After I thought about it for a second, I said North or South Carolina, one or the other, because since I’ve started my blogging journey, I see this amazing clay community there. After I explained my answer he looked at me and said, “Oh, we have to stay in the Rocky Mountains.” Well, so much for hypothetical questions and dreaming. For now, I’m very happy to be part of this community via the internet, the next best thing.

Today’s interview is with Jen Mecca, and she lives in York, South Carolina. I love her ceramics. Her glazes are so luscious, and her surface designs are complicated, yet very whimsical. I’ve really enjoyed our conversations, and hope someday our paths will cross in real life.

Jen’s blog:

Become a fan of Jen’s on Facebook.

Tell us a little about yourself! 

I’m a full time Mom who also tries really hard to be a full time potter! In my spare time I teach art history and ceramics to balance out the bills with keeping a five person circus, which is my family chuggin’ along.

I grew up near Ithaca New York and moved to the south while in Junior high school. I come from a small but very close family and spent the majority of my childhood around my paternal grandparents who where Italian. Most of my memories of childhood center on the preparation of food, presentation, eating and the conversation that goes along with all these activities. When my family got up in the morning, the conversation at breakfast was about what we were going to have for dinner!


How did you become an artist?   

As a child I was diagnosed with dyslexia. In the 70’s children with reading disabilities where just getting recognized and helped for these sorts of things. I was lucky enough to have parents who where educators and did everything they could to get me help, encourage me and realize that although I had a disability and I was intelligent and gifted in the arts. My parents always encourage me to create and work as hard as I could at what I loved.

After four years of design school and one internship at an architectural firm I decided that the “business” of design was not offering as much creativity as I needed for a career so I quickly decided I needed to try something else and I found myself managing a large craft gallery in Durham North Carolina by the name of Cedar Creek Gallery. Here I was surrounded by potters and a family who made their living making and selling fine crafts. I was able to learn a lot about the business of owning a craft gallery as well as being a craftsperson. After three years of being on the retail end of the craft business one of the potters who had a studio there showed me how to throw a pot and I was hooked! I than went back to school at East Carolina and got another undergraduate degree in Fine Art and also my masters in ceramics.


How would you describe your style? One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look?  

My work has always been described as being whimsical and fun. I always have people come into my booth or studio and tell me that my pots make them smile. This is such a great compliment and although most potters don’t like it when people tell them there work is cute or fun, I guess it doesn’t bother me. I love what I do and I’m glad that the work speaks for itself. When I have a moment to be by myself in my studio, it is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable feeling that I experience in my hectic life.

It has taken me a long time to have my own voice and I am still working on this. I’m not sure I was taught to really reach deep down and bring out my own ideas. I have in the past taken what I have learned from other potters and used those techniques in my own work. Sometimes this has worked and sometimes it has not. For myself, I would love the opportunity to work alongside some other wonderful potters and just focus on my surface and “voice” more. In my world, I don’t always have the time to spend a whole weekend staring at one pot and really looking at what makes it my own ideas or someone else’s. I live a life of deadlines and multi-tasking so for the time being, I’ll keep doing the best I can in the amount of time I have to make work that is “my own”.


What is your inspiration for your pieces?  

I love to look at pieces from the turn of the century. Any art from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s really catches my eye because it’s all about the MORE, MORE, MORE. I love detail and color. I love fabric and wrapping paper and fashion. This is what inspires my surface. As for my forms, I always have seen them as little cartoon characters. I think this use to illustrate itself a lot more in my work about 3 years ago. In that past few years I have been so focused on my surface that I have kept my forms pretty straightforward. I would like to re-visit the days when my pieces had an attitude and took on a more gestural look.

In my head my life is a running cartoon or sit-com and I’d like to show that in my work.


What keeps you motivated? 

Funny as it may seem, rejection letters keep me going. I don’t like anyone to tell me I can’t do something. I guess that stems from having trouble in school. If I don’t get into a juried show or a certain gallery I keep trying, over and over again. The initial blow hurts but I just tell myself that my work needs improvement and to just try again. Also, my pottery friends these days really keep me motivated. I have a few really close friends here in the Charlotte area the support we give each other really keeps me going. I wear many hats throughout the day and although I love making pots, at times its hard to keep applying to shows, keeping up with the current trends and choosing the best venues to show my work. I have a great support system that keeps me going!


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? 

I have a short attention span so coming up with new idea has never been a problem. In fact, I have to tell myself to keep making the same sort of forms and just perfecting them instead of moving onto all the new ideas that pop into my head on a daily basis.

When I do come up with an idea I sometimes sketch it out but usually when the wheel and hands meet up my vision sometimes changes. Once I make that first piece, I take it to shows and see what sort of reaction it gets. I would say the majority of the times, I have to tweak a piece three or four times to get it just the way it needs to be. Sometimes I make something and it doesn’t work but I come back to the same form in a year or so and re-evaluate what was working and what was not working.


What was it that made you want to start creating? Did something specific trigger it? 

I have always made things every since I was a child. I can remember trying to make a pair of high heeled sandals out of cardboard and ribbon when I was about 7. It has always just been something I’ve done. Now that I’m a Mom and my oldest child has endless projects for school, I jump at the challenge and chance to help him come up with the most creative and ornate projects he can dream up. We joke about how I say “Bring it on!”


What or who inspires you? 

While in grad school, I was really inspired by all the wonderful female potters who where current (and still are) like Suze Lindsey, Silive Granitelli, Sandy Parentozzi, Gay Smith and Linda Arbuckle. It wasn’t until I had my first child and really needed a mentor and someone who had been a Mother and a potter at the same time, I found a mentor in LindaChristenson I took a workshop with her in 2004 and even though we make totally different work and live different sort of life stylesshe has inspired me to be a patient teacher and true to myself as a potter.   I’m a pretty introverted person so networking is not my strong suit. Linda, who is also sort of a funny but quiet individual, had great advice about being a part of a support system and just getting my work out there in as many show as I could enter. I’m still hearing these words or wisdom and I just think of them anytime I need some inspiration.


How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?

OHHH…I’m not so sure I’m as good as I’d like to be at this. One more thing I’m trying to work on. I do exercise as much as I can. I walk and go to the gym. I have always tried to eat right and hopefully soon I will be able to start back at Yoga, which I think is really beneficial if you’re someone like me who is tightly wound at times and has a lot on her plate!  I have noticed in the last 2 years that my work habits, which usually centers around late night studio visits, is getting to be a bit much for my body. This year my new year’s resolution was to get more sleep. So instead of working in my studio from 8 to 11-12 every night, I try to stop working at 10pm. I have many hats to wear throughout the day and I do try my best to spend as much time as I can with my children, husband and also do what I love. My house on the other hand….suffers greatly. Just this year I was able to hire a cheap cleaning lady that comes when I’m in desperate need of some help. This is a true luxury and since she does not charge us a lot, it’s well worth it!


You, like most people enjoy the process of making and crafting 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?

Keep good records of everything you buy, make and sell. I think a simple spread sheet to start off with is an important step. I’ve learned that you need to have a good relationship with any gallery owners you do business with. Make sure you ask lots of questions about who they do business and what they expect from you as a craftsperson and visa versa. Not every gallery that you encounter is always a right fit. Also make sure a gallery has been in business for a number of years or has some sort of know-how about the product they are dealing with before you send them your work. Same goes for craft shows. If possible, visit the show you are applying for to make sure it will suit your needs. Ask other craftspeople about what sort of cliental they have encountered at the show to make sure it will be beneficial to your sales.

I also believe that these days the internet is a very good resource for craftspeople these days and it is one that I’m slowly perusing and learning more about.


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

Attend as many workshops and conferences as you can. Get together with other potters and talk about your work. Just make, make, make as much as you can and keep up with the current trends. Read and educate yourself about historic pottery and the different periods in art. Visit and really look at different types of work in art galleries and museums. It’s all about looking and really seeing what you are doing.



Thanks Jen, it’s been great getting to know you.

Hayne Bayless- Plinth Gallery Artist Interview

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

 hayne bayless 1

This month Plinth Gallery Artist interview is with Hayne Bayless. Hayne is a hand-builder extraordinaire! Bayless constructs his work from slabs of clay and exploits the use of the extruder tool. A master of this forming device, he is able to construct intricate and elaborate shapes that so often defy ceramic convention. His show opens Friday, May 1 at Plinth Gallery in Denver.

Hayne’s website:

Plinth Gallery:

How did you become an artist?

After spending 10 years working for a newspaper I was ready to do something else. I’d had a serious fling with clay in high school and a year or two following, but I got distracted and went on to get a degree in journalism. The news business was beginning its downward spiral in the late 80s and by ’92 I thought I’d like to go back to my first love. I quit my job and started making pots.


What was it that made you want to start creating? Did something specific trigger it?

I think I’ve always felt the need to make things.


What is your inspiration for your pieces?

Contemporary studio work, old Japanese pottery, modern Japanese printmaking, colonial silver and pewter, Asian stenciled fabrics.


What keeps you motivated?

In some sense I guess it’s knowing that there will never be enough time to make all the things I’d like to make.


How would you describe your style? One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look?

I want my work to look old and new at the same time. I hope it’s both traditional and fresh. I want to put a new spin on ancient forms and themes. The style wasn’t something I consciously pursued, it pretty much came about on its own. I think it’s something that has to evolve naturally, organically. It’s a tough thing, but I don’t think it’s something you can force or try to make happen. It just does.


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?

Yes, full time. I’ve learned that keeping a sketchbook close is important. Ideas for new forms and techniques usually come up from my subconscious at odd times and if I don’t write them down immediately it’s like trying to remember a dream.


How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?

I’m not sure I do. But I’m not a workaholic. If I can take time off from clay I do, otherwise I’m in the studio. I can only say I feel fortunate to be as busy as I am.


You, like most people enjoy the process of making and crafting 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 have yet to make the transition to businessperson. It might not ever happen. There is, of course, a certain amount of office time that’s necessary, otherwise things would come to a grinding halt. But I hate it and put it off as long as possible, sometimes longer.


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

I think struggling is perhaps the wrong approach. My advice, for what it’s worth, would be to make things that make you happy and try to understand why they make you happy. Try not to worry about what sells or doesn’t, or what other people are doing or not doing. Be fearless. Someone wiser than me said something like, “If you’re afraid of being wrong, you’ll never do anything original.”


Thanks Hayne for your words of wisdom!

Kurt Anderson – Artist Interview

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010


Today’s interview is with Kurt Anderson. He has something in common with Jackson Pollack. Both Anderson and Pollock have roots in Wyoming, and then got the hell out. I think due to the lack of startled wildlife in both of their subject matter, they sensed that an art career in the Cowboy State was out. Kurt, with this Wyoming legacy I expect big things out of you; a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art… perhaps.
I think it’s so amazing when an artist from Wyoming, or has roots in Wyoming, starts to get recognized. I ran into Kurt at NCECA and he told me that if he can he would love to come back to Wyoming. I hope it happens, we would all benefit. With that said enjoy reading Kurt’s interview.

Kurt’s email:

You can find Kurt’s work at: AkarDesign and at The Clay Studio and his website.


Tell us a little about yourself!

Originally I am from Santa Rosa, California, which is an hour north of San Francisco.  When I was 20 I moved to Laramie, Wyoming, to attend the University of Wyoming.  I ended up spending 10 years there, where I finally had a “happy childhood”.  I took a pottery class at UW to fulfill a degree requirement and ended up falling in love with the process.  It’s all I’ve wanted to do since then.

I’ve had some great teachers and mentors throughout my career.  Phyllis Kloda was my first “real” ceramics teacher.  I also spent 2 years as a Post-Bac student at S.U.N.Y. New Paltz, where I worked with Mary Roehm. I also spent a year at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design working with Walter Ostrom. He was probably my biggest influence.  In 2004 I Moved to Baton Rouge to get my MFA from LSU.


How did you become an artist?

To be honest, I’m not really comfortable with the label “Artist”.  I’m just someone who make stuff.

How would you describe your style? One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look?

Matt Metz said my pots were “Manga meets Mingei”, which I thought was hilarious.  I am not really a fan of Manga, but I love Japanese folk pottery, and my drawings are definitely cartoonish.  If I were to define my style it would be “Historic Tradition meets Modern Dissonance”.

It took me a very long time to finally find my own voice, and to be honest, going to grad school was what truly helped me to galvanize all of my ideas into a unified vision.   So I’d say it took me a good ten years to finally put all the pieces together and make the work I am making now.  In the ten years before I went to Grad School I made a lot of really bad work, with the occasional bright spots.  These bright spots, along with encouragement from mentors is what kept me going.


What is your inspiration for your pieces?

I am definitely influenced by old pots; Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Persian, Iznik.  When I’m feeling a little stuck I look at these pots for a jolt of inspiration.  I am also attracted to archetypal floral motifs, which play a large part in my surface compositions.

Finding inspiration for my drawings feels a little more like “work”.  I look at a lot of advertising logos, comics and graphic novels.  Indie-rock concert posters and street artists are also a huge inspiration to me.  I love the line quality a street artist achieves with a can of spray paint.  I strive for that same line quality in my own drawings.

There are very few contemporary potters I look at for inspiration.  Matt Metz’s pots were an early influence.  His drawings reminded me of Saul Steinberg, whom I adored as a child. It was his pots that probably inspired me to start drawing on my own pots.  Kirk Mangus was also very influential on my work, though he is much looser than I could ever hope to be.  The same could be said for Ron Meyer’s pots. Michael Simon’s and Robert Brady are so amazing I don’t even want to own their work.  It would be too daunting having that great work around,  knowing  I could never make anything that good.


What keeps you motivated?

Motivation definitely waxes and wanes throughout the course of a year.  There are times when I absolutely DO NOT feel like making work.  I’m sure this happens to everyone.  One way to combat this is to apply to lots of shows so you have deadlines.  Deadlines are a great motivator for me.

It’s also imperative to understand that down-time is a big part of the cycle of making.  I feel that I sometimes need to withdraw from the world to solve problems in my work.  It could be that during these down-times I actually experience the most creative growth.

Walter Ostrom had a great saying about down-time.  He said:  “When fishermen can’t fish, they mend their nets.”


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?

I have never had the fortune to be a “full-time” artist.  I have always had to have other jobs.  Right now I am fortunate to have a fellowship at Ohio State University, which pays me a stipend and gives me free studio space, firings, and most materials.  I am extremely lucky to be here.

My creative process is really quite simple.  The first step is to just throw a bunch of pots.  I make them with very little thought to what the surface will look like when they are fired.  When the pots are bone-dry (or close to it) I incise lines into the surface.  My surface work is very intuitive.  I never sit down and sketch out what a pot is going to look like.  I just start incising lines and I see where that takes me.

I have some basic design templates, which are mostly based on Sung and Ming dynasty pots.  These templates help me get started. The rest just kind of flows.


What was it that made you want to start creating? Did something specific trigger it?

I think I was always a creative person.  I just discovered pottery when I was in the right frame of mind to really commit to this type of endeavor.  I took my first pottery class when I was 29.  Before that my life had very little purpose or meaning.

What or who inspires you?

I’m really inspired by those in my generation who have figured out how to make a living off their work, without a teaching job or supportive spouse.  Tim Rowan is one who inspires me.  I live near him in the Hudson Valley, so I see him quite a bit.  He is a force of nature.


How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?

I have a dog.  Without her I would be doomed.

You, like most people enjoy the process of making and crafting 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?

The one piece of advice I have is be realistic about your prices.  If you are just starting out, I would recommend you keep your prices on the low end.  If you find there is a market for your work, then raise your prices incrementally.  I remember having this same conversation with Josh Deweese.  He said you can always raise your prices, but you can never lower them.


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

I can tell you what NOT to do.  Don’t go to the latest issue of CM or Art and Perception, or 500 Teapots. This will only encourage you to copy your contemporaries.

Walter Ostrom always encouraged me to look at the classics for inspiration.  This is when I first discovered Tz’u-chu ware, and Shino and Oribe ware.  The first drawing I did on pots were attempts to copy these types of pottery.  So if you want to follow my template, find something old to “borrow” from, work hard at it, and eventually the work will evolve into something uniquely your own.

It is very important to know what you like, and not worry about what other people think of it.  Be honest with yourself about what truly inspires you. also, do not be motivated by the trends in ceramics.  When I first started making pots in the mid-90′s, wood-firing was the thing to do.  Now there are a lot of unused wood kilns out there.

I would also recommend that you fill up your life with good literature and music and other aspects of the visual and performing arts.  John Havlicek, the Boston Celtics star,  said that if you eat hot-dogs and hamburgers, you will play like hot-dogs and hamburgers.  I think this applies to artists as well, because if we fill up our brains with crap TV and AM radio, then this mediocrity will be reflected in our own work.

I also find that reading good literature is very helpful, especially when it comes to talking about my own work.


Kurt, Thank you for taking the time to do the interview.  Have you considered drawing startled elk on some of your pots?

Margaret Realica – Plinth Gallery Artist Interview

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Margaret Realica’s mixed media work incorporates plexiglass, pneumatic parts and fittings, found objects, and porcelain. She deftly reinterprets ideas of common vessels into highly contemporary art objects. The everyday teapot is deconstructed into its basic parts and then reassembled into a totally new form that abstractly references the original vessel. According to the artist, she”pushes the boundaries for a balance between the organic and the mechanical, working towards a coexistence of the two”. Her work is both playful and totally unique.  Join Plinth Gallery in welcoming Margaret Realica in her first Colorado exhibition.

First Friday Gallery Opening and Reception with the Artist , April 2nd, 6-9pm

Margret’s website:


Tell us a little about yourself!
I am originally from the U.K. and Hawaii. Now living and working in northern California. Am an artist, potter, mother and teacher.


How did you become an artist?
I was always one.

How would you describe your style? One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look?
My style is contemporary but has been influenced by where I’ve lived and by some of the events
in my life.. I feel that ‘style’ is inherent and just develops and matures over time.

What is your inspiration for your pieces?
Colour. Music. Film. Environment. Today’s visual technology.

What keeps you motivated?
Curiosity. Deadlines and the joy of sitting down at a wheel. Having an idea ‘work’.

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.
Yes. I am full time. Have to have a concept first. De-construct, reconstruct, play and edit.

What was it that made you want to start creating? Did something specific trigger it?
Nothing triggered it. I have always done it as a child/teenager and on.


What or who inspires you?
Other artists work including dance, music, street art and film. Architecture and constructions.


How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?
Take time out to play. Friends and family.


You, like most people enjoy the process of making and crafting 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?
Adapt to the times. Be willing to compromise. Open to new ideas.

What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?
Be willing to play with the work. Find time to experiment and visualize/ Keep going.


Thank you so much Margaret!!

Kip O’Krongly – Artist Interview

Thursday, March 18th, 2010



I love blogging!! In my opinion, blogging is the one of the greatest inventions since duct tape. When I first started my blog I thought I was pretty familiar with what was going on in the clay world.  As I started my blog travels I’ve found many amazing artists I had never seen before, and I wanted to find out more. My blog has connected me to fellow ceramicists and now I have daily conversations with them. It has opened my world so much, and I’m so grateful. So with that said… Kip O’Krongly is one of those artists I ran into during my blog travels. Her work is striking, and I think her imagery is unforgettable. Kip is currently living in Minneapolis, Minnesota and working at the Northern Clay Center. See Kip’s work in the March 2010 issue of Ceramics Monthly and at the NCECA Invitational Exhibition, Earth Matters, in Philadelphia March 31st – April 3rd.

Kip’s blog:

Kip’s website:

First off, thanks so much for asking me to do this, I’ve really enjoyed reading other artist’s interviews on your blog and I hope this sheds a little light on my own path in clay thus far.  With that, here goes!

Tell us a little about yourself!

I currently work as a studio artist, instructor and the material technician at the Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis.  I began taking classes at NCC in the fall of 2008, moved into a private studio space in January of 2009 and started the tech job and teaching this past September (just in time for the American Pottery Festival!).  Given that my job and my studio are both at NCC, that’s where I’m spending most of my time these days – luckily my husband and I only live five blocks away!   Before starting at NCC in 2008, my husband and I lived in Pittsburgh for almost three years where I worked as the ceramic coordinator at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts (similar to my current job at NCC, but on a much smaller scale).  Since I graduated from Carleton College in 2001, I’ve had jobs as a dental assistant, a bookbinder, a ceramic apprentice, and a baker.  These days, when I manage to get out of the studio, I love to spend time baking (I’m just about to pull some bread out of the oven), knitting, and I’m learning how to sew.  I guess I’m a fan of working with my hands :)



How did you become an artist?

That’s an interesting question.  Looking back I guess I realize that I always was.  I was fortunate to take a lot of art classes as a child, and would get lost for hours painting and drawing.  It’s not something that I ever thought of as a possible career, however, until I apprenticed with Tom Gilfilan at Whitefish Pottery.  After an intensive year of clay in Whitefish it felt possible (and necessary!) for me to piece together a life with art playing a central role.



How would you describe your style? One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look?

I feel pretty strongly that I’m still developing my voice in clay.  I’ve made some real strides in the last year toward establishing a unique clay vocabulary, but I feel like I have a lot to explore yet (which is a good thing!).  At this point, my work is an attempt to make everyday, functional pieces that encourage conversation.  I use bold contrasts and crisp imagery to draw greater attention to these objects we use on a daily basis.  Meal times provide us with an opportunity to gather and connect and I see these daily moments an amazing opportunity for idea generation.  I hope that my work sparks conversation about contemporary issues and can be an instigator (however small!) for positive change.

It has taken me a loooong time to get to this point in my ceramic work (I started working with clay my sophomore year in college which was 1998 – and I’ve had a few years off here and there) and I am still learning and exploring new avenues all the time.  Starting out there are so many technical hurdles to jump over before you can begin to express yourself well.  Now, I feel like I have a solid “tool-kit” to draw upon when I have an idea.  I still run into problems (glazes have always been my nemesis!), but I feel like I have a framework to break down issues into manageable parts.  Plus, I’ve got an amazing resource in all the wonderful people who work at NCC.


What is your inspiration for your pieces?

My current body of work is influenced both by contemporary discussions about food and energy as well as a few pivotal events  in my past.  As a child growing up in Alaska, I experienced our thirst for energy firsthand in the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 – I was just ten years old at the time.  I had no clue what a considerable weight the event would have on my future relationship with energy, but it remains a vivid moment over 20 years later.   My husband, an environmental economist, also has a significant impact on my work in clay.  His studies of resources and energy weave into our conversations and ideas we discuss often filter into my work.  On his recommendation, I first read the The Omnivore’s Dilemma by food activist Michael Pollan.  This book marked a significant change in my approach to working with clay.  His clear voice gave me a concrete structure to ideas I had previously only been able to piece together.  Using his book as a starting point, I have found a written framework to explore in a visual format.  I continue to be influenced by and draw from some of the concepts contained in his book as I think about my work today. 

What keeps you motivated?

The other afternoon two women stopped by my studio and were looking at some of my pots with wind turbines on them.  The three of us started talking and we had this great conversation about wind power and alternative energy.  The thought that this work can stimulate constructive dialogue gets me so excited!  Plus, I really (really!) love the material.

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?

 I am not full time in my studio, but I do feel like I am a full time artist.  Pugging reclaim clay can be an art form!  So can mixing glazes or baking bread.  Working at NCC has provided me with an excellent support structure for my continued work in clay and I get to stay involved with ceramics even when I’m not in my own studio.   Given that I do have some pretty big obligations outside of my own studio time, the evolution of my own work has slowed down a bit.  I do a lot of sketching and try to record those random ideas that pop up for later.  I love post it notes!  Typically, once I have an idea that’s appeared a few times in my sketchbook I’ll start trying to make it in clay.  Something that I’m really excited about right now are cake stands.  But cake stands feel like a big project to dive into, so I’m starting out with some cupcake stands as a place to work out a few ideas.  I am a big fan of starting small.  Taking a problem and breaking it down into smaller components can be a huge help in resolving those larger forms. 

What was it that made you want to start creating? Did something specific trigger it?

I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t interested in making things.  I think the urge to do something creative, to decorate things and to make in general, is a fairly ingrained human characteristic.  It’s just a matter of weather or not that creative side is nurtured and encouraged.  I was very fortunate to have a family who pushed me to explore my interest in the arts.  I have always been drawn primarily to crafts, I’m not exactly sure why.  I did a lot of bead work as a teen, had a business painting furniture as a young adult and one binding custom books after I graduated from college.  Something about clay though, (maybe the combination of science and art), has me thoroughly hooked.

What or who inspires you?

So many things!  Cooking and food (food production, processing and packaging in particular); community, energy use, climate change, technology and the field of science in general.  I also just love color (the work of Niki Buckley Crosby is great color inspiration!) and design.  In terms of specific clay artists, I have long been inspired by Nick Joerling and currently swoon over the work of Shoko Teruyama and Diana Fayt.


How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?

Sometimes, I don’t.  I’ve been in a fairly work-intensive period for the last year, but it doesn’t really feel like “work”.  I think that for me, the line between work and life is pretty murky.  Ceramics is a huge part of who I am, so it’s hard for me to ever fully shut that part off.  Eventually, I would like to be in my own studio full-time, have a little more time for my husband and friends, and to pursue some other hobbies more fully (like baking and sewing!).  But right now, as I’m still in the early stages of establishing my ceramic career, it feels like the studio is where my attention needs to be.


Tell us about your experiences at the Northern Clay Center.

I really enjoy working and having studio space at NCC.  There aren’t many places like it in the country solely devoted to clay – I am thankful every day to be there.  Sure, there are some not-so-fun parts (like when I spilled a garbage can full of reclaim slop onto the floor recently – disaster! Or when the gas kiln didn’t want to shut off until 11pm on a Friday night), but it is so invigorating to be around such a creative, supportive group of people.  A typical day for me means walking to the studio by about 8am, and working on my own work until 10am.  From 10 – 4pm I transition over to the tech position and then back to my own studio for the late afternoon and evening.  During my studio tech hours, I spread my time between reclaiming clay, mixing class glazes, slips and stains, loading and unloading bisque kilns and glaze kilns, restocking supplies, material inventory and whatever else comes up.  The tech position is a year-long job, with the option to renew for a second year pending performance.  I’d like to stay on for another year if possible, and then am thinking about applying to graduate school.


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

I just read Ron Philbeck’s interview not too long ago and I think we’re on the same page with this question.  PERSISTENCE is key.  It’s all about working, especially when it’s hard and you don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere (easy to say, but difficult to remember, I know!).  If you want to find that voice, if you know it’s in there somewhere, it often takes some digging (and pulling, and prying) to get it out.  And even once you’ve hit on something, the work doesn’t stop there.  It’s a continuous process of pushing yourself, being present, and then knowing when to just let your hands and intuition take over for awhile (I still struggle with ALL of this, by the way!).  Ultimately, if you keep working, keep talking and keep thinking, with time you’ll look around and find yourself in whatever it is you choose to pursue. 



Kip thank you so much.