Connie Norman
Connie Norman

Posts Tagged ‘earthenware’

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.

Snippets of Conversation: My solo show at Plinth Gallery

Monday, April 25th, 2011

My show at Plinth Gallery starts May 6.  If anyone is in the Denver area, stop on by.  This is my first show solo show since we’ve had our son.  I was worried how things would go with my artwork after the addition of children, so I applied for shows 2 years away.  Well the two years have flown by and my show is two short weeks away!  I’m really excited and nervous.  In addition to the show I am also teaching a workshop, May 7.  If you are interested, please call Plinth Gallery.  It would be great to meet some clay people who read my blog!

Plinth Gallery … 3520 Brighton Blvd, Denver, CO 80216 … 303-295-0717

Here is what Plinth Gallery sent out!

On Saturday, May 7, Plinth Gallery will host the third and final workshop in our “Surface Decoration” series.  Ceramic Artist Connie Norman from Cheyenne, WY will instruct this one-day class, demonstrating glaze techniques for terra cotta and white earthenware pottery, using a variety of common office supplies to cut resist-style designs.  For more information about Connie, check here:, and her newest work in a solo show, “Snippets of Conversation” will be the Plinth Gallery exhibition for May.

Cost for the workshop is $85, which includes lunch catered by Fuel Café, Denver.  Additional information is in the attached flyer or you can contact the Gallery at 303-295-0717 for details and to register.  Workshop hours are 9am until about 5pm, and space is limited to 20 students, so advance registration is strongly encouraged..

Please feel free to forward to anyone you feel may be interested in attending this workshop.  Thanks for your interest,

A nice surprise this morning.

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011


Today I went blog browsing and I ran across my salt and pepper shakers on the (Mud) Bucket.   What a nice surprise.  Jesse Lu really did an elegant layout on her blog.  I love all her choices for her Setting the Table: Crisp Black and White post.  My favorites are Kathy King and Melissa Mencini.  Thanks Jesse Lu!

Posey Bacopoulos – Artist Interview

Saturday, September 18th, 2010


A few months ago I received a letter telling me that Posey Bacopoulous had images accepted to the upcoming book 500 Vases, (due out next month). I was very confused. I looked back at the envelope and then again at the letter. The envelope was indeed addressed to me. At first I was extremely disappointed, I thought my application had been rejected, and somehow  I got  Posey letter, instead of my rejection letter. What diabolical trick!!  As I went through the rest of my mail that day, I found another letter also address to me from Lark Books, this HAD to be the terrible rejection letter. But amazingly, it was not!! I had also been accepted to 500 Vases!! Now the mystery is how did I get Posey’s letter? I have no idea. I did throw it in another envelope and mail it to her. Thus our conversation started and I asked her to be interviewed on my blog. This is one of the more interesting stories of meeting an artist’s to be interviewed on this ol’ blog.

For more information of Posey’s work visit her website at 

Tell us about yourself

I am a studio potter living in New York City. I have lived in the New York City area all my life except for a time when I went to college in Madison, Wisconsin at the University of Wisconsin. My apartment is in Greenwich Village. It is in a big tall building and I am on the 14th floor so I have great views of the Empire State Building and west to New Jersey . My block is really lovely with lots of trees and beautiful old brownstones. My studio is in Long Island City and I get there by subway. I do not own a car. The trip door to door is about half an hour and I use that time to catch up on my reading._poseyMG_8499How did you become an artist?

When I was in school in Madison I studied European History. When I graduated there was not much for me to with that degree so I went back to school to get a masters degree in elementary education. I came back to NYC and started to teach elementary school. I was a classroom teacher and taught everything-reading, math science etc. One day I decided it would be fun to take a class at night and be the pupil instead of the teacher. I called a friend and asked her if she wanted to go with me. She said she had always wanted to take a pottery class. I did not really want to do that because I did not think that I was artistic. I had never had any art classes in high school or college. But she convinced me to go and that was it. Clay is very seductive and I was hooked very quickly. Teaching school I had my summers off and I started going to all the craft schools-Penland, Haystack, Anderson Ranch.posey1178How would your describe your style

Living in NYC it would be very difficult If not impossible for me to have a gas kiln or a wood kiln. So after spending a semester in Italy in the University of Georgia Studies Abroad program where we did majolica I decided to continue working that way. It is suited to my city life as it only requires an electric kiln. My style is a contemporary approach to the majolica of the Italian Renaissance. I have been working with majolica for the past 15 years. The floral motifs on my pots are patterns rather than actual representations that serve to divide the space in interesting ways.posey4066What is your inspiration for your pieces?

I like to look at Japanese Orbie and Mimbres Indian pots. I am inspired by the way that they use their decorative techniques to enrich their pots. Whenever I see a “good pot “ either old or new I am inspired to make my own pots.posey4073What keeps you motivated?

I am motivated by the search to make “better and better” pots. I love to make pots and I love to decorate and I combine these two loves in my work.posey341079-R1-E002Are you a full time artist?

I am a full time studio potter. I find that one pot leads to another. If I try a new form on a mug and it works I will then try it on a pitcher and then on other pots. There are so many variations on single idea. It keeps me going. It seems there is always something new to work on.posey341079-R1-E007What made you want to start creating?

I took my first pottery class and was quickly hooked on clay.Posey%20%20Bacopoulos%20Flower%20BasketWhat or who inspires you?

I was lucky to be able to go to various craft schools when I was learning to make pots. I was inspired by the many teachers I worked with during these summer workshops. Also I have a large collection of pots in my apartment which I look at and use everyday. I am constantly inspired by them.posey_bacopoulos%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20scalloped%20PlateHow do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?

I do not always. I try to work during the week and take off on the weekends but it usually does not work out. I am often in the studio on Saturdays and sometimes on Sunday. I do take time to exercise and do Pilates two mornings a week. But my life does revolve around my studio.I enjoy being in the studio and working.posey_MG_5747You 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 businessperson. What have you learned so far and what advice can you give others in the same situation?

I think of the business aspect as part of the whole process. It completes the pot when someone buys and uses it. The “business” is not as much fun as making pots but it is the end of the process that gets the pots to the user.poseyBAC-P-174What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice?

Make lots of pots and then make more. It is through the making that you find your own voice. It’s a process and lots of hard work but in the end it is worth it. 

PoseyB_0105 posey_MG_5756

Melody Ellis – Artist Interview

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Today’s interview is with Melody Ellis. I have loved her work for years. I can’t remember where I became acquainted with amazing sculptures, but her work has always been one of my favorites. All of her work is made from earthenware clay, steel and range from 7 – 9 inches in their largest dimension. Most of her work has moving parts as well.

Check out Melody’s website:

m.ellis jumping%20dog%20sideTell us a little about yourself!
I’m approaching 40 and have a small child who gets most of my time and attention. I’m fortunate to be married to another clay artist (Matt Wilt) who is my instant community when I need some technical help or input. At present, we have to carefully schedule our time so that we can both get studio, social, and family time. I relax by gardening and
playing with our daughter and our dogs, or getting together with friends.

m.ellis Rocking%20Monkey m.ellis Rocking%20Monkey%20detailHow did you become an artist?
My parents and maternal grandfather were very handy people when I was growing up– always making or fixing things.  Whether it was painting or carving or cooking or gardening, I got the message that making things by hand was a useful and engrossing occupation. I also come from a family of avid object-collectors, so I got to live in a house full of interesting and mysterious artifacts that I still find inspiring.

m.ellis Mr%20Punch 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 guess I would describe my style as exuberant, dark, humorous, controlled, detailed… It’s a difficult thing to say when one develops a “style”, as it’s a process of evolution that is never complete. The more you work, the more it develops all on its own– it’s just a natural process.

punch What is your inspiration for your pieces?
I love to look at other artwork, whether historical majolica, handmade quilts, mosaic, or contemporary painting. I tend to gravitate toward figurative and narrative work, which is my own subject matter as well. But I do also take inspiration from toys, antiques, book illustrations… I think you just have to keep your eyes open and take it where you find it. It can come from anywhere. Just being in the world, gardening, interacting with people and animals, taking a walk with my daughter,  it all finds its way into my work.

m. ellis Judy%201m.ellis Judy%202What keeps you motivated?
Sometimes it’s the desire to see what happens next or to try something new or to just finish a piece I’m excited about.  Sometimes it’s a deadline, and that’s valid too– that really works for me when I’m not feeling particularly interested in working. A good audiobook and the prospect of some quiet concentration time can also be very alluring.

m.ellis Busts 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 can’t say I’m full-time. I don’t have an outside job, but being the mother of a small child who is not yet in school is very time-consuming and really restricts my studio time. As for new pieces… a lot of that, for me, has always been dependent on having the time to daydream and ponder and sit quietly with my sketchbook, or get out to shows for new inspiration.  Those things are in short supply these days, but I can usually get excited about an idea just by looking through my sketchbook at things I haven’t gotten to yet. I start with a drawing of a finished piece I’d like to create, and my next step is to figure out how I’m going to construct it. Since my sculptures have jointed parts and hang on the wall, there is a lot of planning ahead required to make a successful piece. That’s a fun challenge for me. I always have a well of unrealized ideas to choose from because I don’t get into my studio enough to make all the work I’d like to– but this keeps me energized and excited about making new work.

M.Ellis Pugilist%201m.ellis Pugilist%202What was it that made you want to start creating? Did something specific trigger it?
I have always enjoyed making things by hand, since I can remember. Nothing else I’ve tried, or other jobs I’ve had, has really changed that or taken me from it.

m.ellisLive%20Mermaid%20mosaicWhat or who inspires you?
My family, other work I see, colors, textures, pieces I’ve made that have been successful or unsuccessful, discovering a new material or process, the excitement of a show coming up, approaching a new concept and hoping it will work, spending time with friends who are artists and who experience the same struggles and successes, getting out of the
studio and into the world.

m.ellisKrampus%203 m.ellis Krampus%202M. Ellis Krampus%20dHow do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?
I don’t have much choice right now– my schedule is pretty structured at the moment. Having less free time has really made me appreciate the quiet studio time that I do get to myself. I’m a bit of a daydreamer and slowpoke, and I’ve learned since becoming a mother that I can work even when I’m not in the mood, and I can work a lot faster and more efficiently than I thought. I now work in chunks of time as I get them, and I can shift gears a lot more quickly than I used to. The rest takes care of itself– I play with my daughter, have family outings, see friends, garden and spend time outside– almost anything I want to do, I can do with a 3-year-old, except working in the studio.

monkey-1-hi-resYou, 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 always made it a point not to mix business and art more than is necessary. I know this would be completely impractical for many, but since I am not a full-time artist making a living from my work (and have never aspired to be), I have enjoyed being able to work slowly and do whatever I like in the studio. In the past, I have had full- or part-time jobs to support myself, and kept a home studio where I worked as much as possible. Now my husband supports the family with a university teaching job, I take care of our daughter, and Matt and I both eke out studio time where we can.  Having said that, of course the time comes when one must decide if, when and how to show one’s work– and then price it. My disinterest in business and production ruled out craft fairs and shows. I have mainly tried to find a few fine craft galleries that can show my work in exhibits on a regular basis, and then taken part in group shows when I can. I do keep track of expenses and income, but that’s more for my own amusement than for any other purpose. I declare my art income, and there is a reckoning on tax day some years, but it’s all pretty small potatoes.

m.ellis figureheadWhat advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?
Look at a lot of stuff that excites you, work as much as you can, try new things, talk to and watch people– especially those who are good at what they do, and are generous with their knowledge. Take every opportunity that comes your way, as much as possible. It will all lead you somewhere, even if that path isn’t evident at the moment.

m.ellis Amazing%20Twin%20Girls%20mosaic

Melody, thank you for contributing to your interview to my blog, I’m sorry it took me so long to post.  It was a real pleasure reading about you and your thoughts!!

I’m so Lucky!!!

Monday, July 19th, 2010

This is one of my favorite sayings for my bowls.  I truly feel that I am so lucky and so thankful for all the amazing family that I am a part of.  I thought it would be nice to share some “Luck”.    All you have to do to win this Lucky bowl is, write a comment on my blog about how lucky or thankful you are.  I’m a little nervous, I hope someone out there wants a gift from me.  I will pick Monday the 26th.  Don’t forget to include your email. 


Also, go to Facebook and “like” my page, (Connie Norman Ceramics) it would be great to get up to 900 followers.  I’m at 828 now.  I never believed that I could have that many followers.  When I started FB ceramics page I thought I would only have my friends and family “like” my page.

Lisa Pedolsky – Artist Interview

Monday, July 12th, 2010


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

Lisa’s work can be seen at Plinth Gallery.

artful-home-spring-catalog-09-0011 Lisa Pedolsky’s forms are hand built slabs constructed in terra cotta. Beginning as a sketch, each form evolves with the use of patterns, cutting, folding, darting and assembling. Lisa uses many homemade or found objects to create unique patterns on the clay and to apply slips and glazes in an interesting way. 

I first became aware of Lisa’s ceramics when our work appeared together in The Artful Home Spring Catalog in 2009. (The photo on the above.)  Then our paths crossed again when Jonathan Kaplan of Plinth Gallery introduced us for the interview series.  If you’re dying to know how she puts her work together she is teaching a workshop at the Taos Clay Studio, July 17 &18!

Tell us a little about yourself!

I grew up in and around New York City and involved myself in the arts throughout my childhood.  In the early seventies I moved to the Bay Area where I pursued my formal art education at California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, and U.C. Berkeley.  Presently I live in Durango, Colorado where I am a studio artist.


How did you become an artist?

I’ve been a “creative” all my life. In elementary school an hour in the art room was the highlight of every week, and in my later childhood years I was scandalized to learn that Art was not everyone’s favorite subject in school. Playing at art was part of my home life as well, and art progressed naturally as I became more serious and focused over the years. It was a given that I would study art in college. (What else was there?) My post college path was circuitous for a time but I always returned to art. I think it was both nature and nurture that did it for me.


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?

Style is a tough one to convey in words. I have not consciously worked at developing a style. Rather, it is something existent that I have cultivated. Each of us has innate tendencies: our touch, flamboyance or exactitude, approach, etc. An overview of my work from earliest pieces to my most recent body of work will reveal characteristics throughout that are uniquely mine. As my work has developed and matured over time these characteristics have become more pronounced and refined.


What keeps you motivated?

It certainly helps to love one’s work, which I do.  Many years ago I identified myself as a strongly kinesthetic learner. I find that information and ideas are best addressed when I am in motion, and so it comes as no surprise that my process is so physical in nature. Working with my hands both engages and frees my mind.  The purest moments in the studio occur when I am completely given over to the work and time seems not to exist.

I am compelled to create.


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 a full-time artist.

My process of slab construction is very much like package design or dressmaking, and a plan must be hatched before I touch the clay. I spend hours thinking about forms and do a lot of problem solving before taking pencil to paper. All pieces start as drawings from which patterns are made. Patten pieces are attached to the clay slab followed by cutting, folding, darting, connecting, etc. I also have a strong idea about surface treatment from the start. That said I’m open to deviating from my original plan if something interesting presents itself along the way. It’s an exciting, engaging process. Attention to detail and fine craftsmanship are paramount in my work, and I find my own character in this regard to contrast with that of my gritty earthenware clay which is loose and casual in nature. The clay and I have developed a wonderful symbiotic relationship over the years.


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

I have been a maker of things as far back as I can remember. The act is more than the mere fabrication of objects; it is my way of processing information as well as communicating, and runs the gamut from meditation to obsession.


What or who inspires you?

There’s no short answer, but here are a few examples.

In 1972 I visited an exhibit at MoMa, African Textiles and Decorative Arts. The sublime nature of the work through the use of unassuming materials was striking. There was an intangible depth (something beyond physical attributes) in much of the work that I found engaging and which I strive to achieve in my own. The human touch evident in so many pieces stirred me. Many of the objects from that show – textiles, hats, implements of all kinds, and so on – remain influential. Through my show catalog I continue to contemplate these pieces.

I have another book, now out of print, called How to Wrap Five More Eggs. It contains page after page of images of ingenious Japanese packaging. Dried fishes strung together with raffia have an unexpected beauty. Humble materials are used to extraordinary ends. I am able to see these objects through a child’s eye, with no preconceptions, as so many pictured are unfamiliar to me. I value this perspective.

Lately I’ve been noticing the effects of urban decay – distressed street striping and rusted dumpsters in particular – with great interest and curiosity. This will undoubtedly affect my work in some way.


How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?

I pay attention. I’ve been working at my art for enough years to recognize when I need a break, whether for an hour in my day or a day in my week. My studio is right outside my back door, and although I am quite disciplined this easy access allows for less rigidity in my work schedule. There are times when I push long and hard to meet deadlines, but time in the studio can also be seductive. I make room for the people in my life and my many other interests. Balance seems to affect my performance as an artist in a most positive way.


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?

When I discovered that I wanted to spend my days in the studio above all else, business was inevitable. In my opinion, the work is never to be compromised. Trial and error has great value. Research. Learn from others. Be accountable.


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

Make honest work. If you’re stuck, start with what you know. Experiment. Take risks. Be courageous.

Thanks Lisa!!

“Take A Road Trip”

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

terra cotta-earthenware-tape resist-connie-norman

Here are some of my bowls that came out of the last firings for my DIA commission.  I filled the rest of the kiln with some bisque I had lying around.  I was ecstatic to the DIA project but, it’s really nice to get back to doing purely what I want to do.  I work in terra cotta and white earthenware.  When I glaze my terra cotta I fire the work at cone 05 and when I glaze fire the white earthenware I fire to cone 04.  I have fewer glaze combinations that I like with the terra cotta, I so I tend to work in white clay a little more.  But here are a few from the last firing. 

The text on the bowls; in order: “Take a Road Trip”, What Would You Do If You Could Not Fail”, “I Hate Liars, Yet I Lie.”

I just found out the four vessels I made for DIA are going to Mr. Mamoru Tsuchino, Mayor of Takayama, Mr.  Kenichi Kaba, President, Takayama City Council and to Mr. Tadao Shimohata, President, Takayama-Denver Friendship Association and Mr. Barry Hirschfeld who is the chairman of DIA’s Tokyo based Ascent to Asia committee.  Laura from DIA said she would send pictures when they get back from Japan.  I can’t wait to see them. 



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.

Ron Philbeck – Artist Interview

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

 Happy Birthday Ron!!!!

ron philbeck4

Ron’s website:

Ron’s Shop:

Today’s interview is with Ron Philbeck living in Shelby, North Carolina. After studying mathematics and horticulture at North Carolina State University, he returned to his hometown in 1992 to begin work on becoming a full-time potter. He focuses on utilitarian pots that he hopes will be used in the daily rituals of eating, drinking, and food preparation.  Ron is so generous he cheerfully shares so much information; he has answered many questions that I have asked him and if you read his blog he is always showing us something new. His blog is a great blog to follow.

Tell us a little about yourself!

I’ll be turning 40 this month! I have been making pots since I was 22. I made salt glazed stoneware for 14 years before switching to earthenware. I live out in the county with my wife, Sarah. I really need a hobby! I have a pretty goofy sense of humor and not very good fashion sense. I enjoy napping, drinking tea, cooking and drawing when I’m not making pots.

ron philbeck3

How did you become an artist?

My mom drew with me as a child and my father was always building things. I was a creative child, making up drawings and stories and playing on the farm where we lived. I had the desire to go to college to study art but I was not encouraged by anyone to do that. So I studied mathematics and horticulture for 4 years at NC State University. I painted some during that time but it wasn’t until I left college and moved back home that I encountered clay. I took a pottery class with a friend at a local community college. I thought I’d like to be a sculptor. Later, while in Florida taking a workshop, I read an article about Warren Mackenzie and also Susan Peterson’s book on Hamada. I knew then that I wanted to become a potter making functional pots. Here was the chance to make something that was beautiful and useful.

ron philbeck
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 throw with soft clay on a Leach style treadle wheel. I think these two things give me pots that have some gesture and aren’t overworked.

I feel like I’m still searching for my voice in some ways. It was almost 8 years before I made a good cup. A few years later I realized that I favored a certain kind of pot. I could force myself to make certain shapes but the ones that I could make comfortably and naturally I saw as my own. I’d say it was at least 12 years before I even began to see myself in my pots.

ron philbeck2

What is your inspiration for your pieces?

I’m very interested in English slipware and Medieval Italian majolica right now. Living a slow life out here in North Carolina is wonderful. I am surrounded by farmland, rolling hills, lots of small animals and birds and livestock. This certainly feeds my soul and my work.

ron philbeck5

What keeps you motivated?

This is the only thing I’ve found that I love to do over and over again; it’s my job and my passion. I think the desire to be the best I can motivates me. I see my work as a journey, as my life, I want it to grow and I want to keep trying to ‘get it right’ and to have fun.

ron philbeck6
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 a full time potter. I work within the limitations of functional pots. That’s very broad but I do find that I need boundaries to keep me from going all over the place. My forms are fairly set at this point, but I do pay attention as I’m making to see if something new emerges.

I’ve only been seriously decorating my pots for 2 years. I draw in my journal everyday. I pay attention to the things around me; I look at historical pots and other forms of art that move me.

ron philbeck7
What was it that made you want to start creating? Did something specific trigger it?

I have always had the desire to make things. I’ve drawn and built things since I was young. I had a brief period in my late teens and early twenties when I wanted to be a painter. I couldn’t seem to find what I wanted to say on the canvas. It wasn’t until I was introduced to clay that I felt I had found the right medium.

ron philbeck8
What or who inspires you?

There are many amazing pots in the world that inspire me. We have a great collection of pots in our home that we use all the time too. It’s wonderful to be surrounded by beautiful things that are useful. My wife Sarah is a huge inspiration. She keeps me grounded and sane.

ron philbeck10

How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?

I try to have set hours in the studio and maintain a routine. Of course being a potter often means working 7 days a week. I try and stop working everyday around 6pm to come in and get ready to cook supper. I don’t work at night much any more. I spend evenings with Sarah. I’d like to be doing yoga or exercising more, but I’m not so motivated.

ron philbeck11
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?

My mailing list is the most valuable piece of information I have. Early on I collected names and addresses of people who bought my work or who were seriously interested in it. I use direct mail to let folks know when I am having one of my 4 annual studio sales. Now I also use email, my website/blog, and social network sites to keep people up to date.

I have tried to view marketing in as much of a creative way as I do my work. There’s no need for it to be boring or conventional. If I can make it fun and an extension of myself and my work then I think I am more likely to do it and I think it’s more effective.

I try to keep good books, but I do admit that in the past I have always filed my taxes at the last moment. This year I am using an accountant, it’s worth it for me to pay someone to do the job I dislike and get it done on time.

Pricing pots has always been a challenge for me. I have never over priced, if anything I have under priced my pots. This is mainly due to my belief that hand made pots should be accessible to all people. I’ve had to loosen my grip on this system as my work has become more time consuming to make. I feel now I am pricing to the current market price (still a little below probably), for the kind of work I make. I like to get paid for my hard work. There’s no need for me to pretend I want to be a starving artist. I still want my customers to use my pots, and I’d like a student to be able to buy my cups and bowls and such. It’s a balancing act and I have never taken pricing lightly.

I’ve learned to pick which shows work best for me and to drop those that aren’t profitable. I’ve also learned to say ‘no’ when asked for certain commissions if I feel that I am going to hate doing it or have a hard time completing it. No need torturing myself when I can be making the work I enjoy.

ron philbeck12

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

Make as much work as you can. It’s in the doing that I have found what works for me and what doesn’t. For me, there’s no use in trying to figure it all our in drawings or in writing although those are helpful places to start. It’s in the making that I learned how I handle the material in my own way.

Pay attention and be kind to yourself.

Become a fan of Ron’s on Facebook.  (I am!)!/pages/Shelby-NC/Ron-Philbeck-Pottery/94387339054?ref=ts

Thanks Ron.