Connie Norman
Connie Norman

Posts Tagged ‘pottery’

Pots at Rest @ The Clay Studio

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

 At the end of the summer I got a pretty exciting email from The Clay Studio in Philadelphia. I was invited to be in the Pots at Rest show by Elizabeth Robinson, which is in the gallery now. (side note I got to interview Beth on my blog a few months ago, if you’re  not familiar with her work please make the jump the to her incredible interview.) I have to tell you the thoughts that were going through my head when I opened the email. First of all I do subscribe to The Clay Studio’s newsletters, so I assumed this email was a newsletter. The title of email was “Show Invite”, but somehow my brain did not register this. I begin to read the contents of the email, it started with:

“Dear Connie

In the fall of 2012 The Clay Studio will undertake an exciting project that explores the relevance of handmade dinnerware in the 21st century. The project includes two exhibitions, one focused on the tableware of Derek Au, and the other a group exhibition, which I am hopeful you will be a part of, (this sentence didn’t even register again) titled Pots at Rest. Lectures, and a public project titled the Guerilla Mug Assault (The Clay Studio was honored to be a 2012 Knight Foundation Arts Challenge recipient for this project, one of thirty-five to receive funding selected from the 1,260 plus applicants submitted) are also programmed during these exhibits running August 17th  September 30th, 2012…….”

At this point I started thinking, “Oh sounds like a nice show, but I won’t be in Philadelphia anytime soon, can’t see the show, I think I’m done with this email and I’m going to hit the delete button. But somehow I keep reading… Three more paragraphs about the show Pots at Rest, yada, yada, yada, then suddenly I see, “I hope that you will agree to participate in this really exciting exhibition!” What! What exhibition! What are they talking about! What! I’m so glad that somehow the baseball bat finally made contact with my head and I realized that I was being asked to be in a show!!!!  Woot! Woot!

This is a dream come true!!! On the rare occasions that I have the opportunity to visit Philadelphia I’ve always gone to the Clay Studio and dreamed of having studio space, dreamed of being included into a show, now I’m delighted to say that I am in Pots at Rest at the Clay Studio.

Scroll down to read The Clay Studio’s description of Pots at Rest. 

Here is one of Elizabeth Robinson’s timeless plates. Then on to the show!

Here are some pictures of Pots at Rest @ The Clay Studio.

Here is the part of the show that Elizabeth Robinson curated. She I love the collection of pots she put together.

The Clay Studio’s description of Pots at Rest. 

Pots at Rest engages eight ceramicists as curators and exhibiting artists: Kari Radasch, Elizabeth Robinson, Lorna Meaden, Ingrid Bathe, Brian Jones, Munemitsu Taguchi, Matthew Hyleck, and Joseph Pintz. All are nationally recognized mid-career makers of tableware selected for the strength of his/her work: the conceptual content, formal qualities and his/her personal aesthetic. As a group they represent a broad range of material use, varied form and the primary processes of making and surfacing. All bring with them an extensive knowledge of the field, professional contacts, and buyers for their work. Each Artist/Curator was assigned a piece of equipment or furniture, typical to most kitchens, where pots when not in use, live or rest. Each selected functional wares for these spaces made by ceramicists from across North America whose work they admire and respect and share their reasons why they believe handmade tableware remains relevant in the 21st century.


Images of New Work

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Time for Tranquility

One Day When I Grow Up

You Can Never Have Too Much Sky

A Place I Can Be Myself

Breathe Deeply and Repeat

The Alphabet


Contagious Inspiration

Back of Contagious Inspiration

You Are So Loved

Plenty of Love

Kiss Slowly

Bottom of Kiss Slowly

I’m so Lucky

Bottom of I’m so Lucky

Elizabeth Robinson – Plinth Gallery Artist Interview

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012


“Elizabeth Robinson’s work is a very personal statement embodied in accessible work that is meant to be used. Her pottery is an intimate statement about the importance of the handmade object and the role such objects have in our daily rituals. Her attention to detail in both form and decoration results in work that is a joy to experience.” - Jonathan Kaplan, Plinth Gallery

Please join Plinth Gallery in welcoming Elizabeth for her, opening reception,  March 2, 6-9 PM.

Exhibition on display March 2 – 24th. 

Second Saturday March 10, noon-9pm

For more information on Elisabeth Robinson please go to her website.  And if you are in the market for beautifully designed postcards visit Beth at Postcards for Artists.  And to see the upcoming exhibitions at Plinth Gallery make the jump to their website. 

Tell us a little about yourself!

I am the mom of two small boys and a self employed artist and designer. I live in a small, remote town in Northwestern Colorado, and by remote I mean one stoplight and 55 miles by small roads from the nearest other small town. I have an undergraduate degree in biology, a master’s degree in fine art and travelled the world as a child.

I know that you are a Pottery Mom, how do you divide your time between work, children and life?

There’s never enough of it to go around, but I focus on trying to keep my priorities straight. What works for me is to have a clear daily routine with the kids which prioritizes their physical and emotional needs while also building in little spaces of time at home to get work related things done like designing postcards, communicating with galleries and customers, bookkeeping etc. Often I am working on these things late at night or early in the morning since I don’t want what my kids remember the most to be Mom staring at a computer screen or telling them to be quiet because she’s on the phone. Most importantly, as far as studio time goes, is that I have a work schedule, and barring illness or family crises, I don’t deviate from it. The most challenging part of that is, I can’t stay late or go in early when I need to get more work done, I’ve got to get what I can done in the time I have.

How did you become an artist?

I think I’m one of those people who have always been an artist. I remember wandering around as a kid with my sketchbook and drawing pencils and books on how to draw birds, horses and kitties. I always loved to make stuff and had a particular fascination with useful things. For some reason I didn’t like the idea of majoring in art in undergraduate school, but I was always taking a studio class. By the time I graduated, I had decided I wanted to be a potter. I realized I wasn’t going to be very good if I didn’t give it my full attention, so, I went forward with that, travelling the country and working in lots of different studios before going to graduate school.

I know you live in a remote part of Colorado, how do you get your name and artwork out, and keep current?

Honestly, Facebook is probably my best tool in this case. It makes it so easy to keep in touch with old art friends, colleagues and teachers and share what we’re up to.  I also have a Facebook studio page, Elizabeth Robinson Studio: which helps to promote my work and inform the general public. I try to keep up with maintaining my website and sending out email newsletters, but with 2 boys under 5, my computer time is limited. Living in such a remote area is helpful in the sense that there are few distractions.  With small children at home, my studio time is limited, but my focus is there, so I get the work done, and keep sending it out.

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?

Years ago I came across a blogger who described my work as: “your grandmother’s china meets wabi sabi.” That sounds about right. I’m interested in the junction between mass and delicacy, refinement and physicality, loose and formal lines. I think my work comes off as sophisticated and awkward at the same time.

I can honestly say that I’ve put little thought into developing a ‘style.’ When it comes to making things, I’ve depended first on instinct, then an awareness of my interests, and followed it up with a healthy dose of analysis. That last part I learned in Grad School. In one sense, I have a fairly modernist point of view in that I think that many people can pursue an idea or work with a similar inspiration and the work will have a uniqueness to it that is reflective of that person’s individuality. Not that there aren’t good copyists out there, but I think you need to look at a person’s body of work over time to determine if that is the case.

To have a ‘style’ that is your own and recognizable depends on having a fair amount of consistency in the work over time, either in aesthetic, subject matter or concept. I would never recommend, however, that someone stay with a body of work just for the sake of developing a style. I think that if you dig deep and make the work that is most interesting to you that the rest will follow, then go ahead and market the hell out of it.


How has your work evolved over the years?

The body of work I have been pursuing for the last 10 years, which has become very focused on the surface of the pot, and imagery that creates ever shifting compositions based on perspective, started in graduate school with an interest in pattern, decorative motifs and a lot of printmaking. Before that I was primarily interested in form and firing methods that created complex surfaces through atmospheric effects, wood and soda firing mainly. Gradually I realized that I wanted to deal with the surfaces more intentionally through my own hand and the making process itself, this process of activating the surface has evolved from thick slip painted on in distinct areas of pattern and fired with an atmospherically sensitive glaze to the layers of color and imagery that is characteristic of my work right now.  This latest evolution became firmly established when I set up my studio in Rangely and for the first time only had access to one little electric kiln instead of a kiln yard full of wood, salt, soda and reduction kilns. The surface wasn’t going to be complex an interesting unless I put it there myself.  As this aspect of my work evolved the surfaces of the pots became smoother and the forms became simpler, mostly as a result of my concentration on what I was doing with the surface, but also because I was working with a mid range porcelain that’s pretty, but has a lot of limitations. My work is in a period of transition right now. After years of small and simple porcelain forms, mostly dinnerware, I’ve switched to a terra cotta clay and am excited to be exploring larger pieces and working with the earthy qualities of this material.

What will you be showing in your solo show at Plinth Gallery opening this week? How did you come up with the title for the show?

The show is titled ‘Gestating” and it’s going to be a bit of a mix. I am showing some of my favorite porcelain pieces that I’ve saved back over the past year as well as some brand new terra cotta pots.

A little over 5 years ago I became pregnant with my first son who was born in the summer of 2007, and my second son was born in the spring of 2010. During this time my work was present, vital, but going through a period of refinement, constancy. I’m done having babies but I feel my work is now in a process of developing into something new.  I have to admit I feel a bit like a pregnant woman who shows up at the pool in a bikini, not because she thinks she looks cute, but because it’s the only thing that fits, and she might as well own up to it.

What is your inspiration for your pieces?

My work is inspired by a mix of global folk traditions and modern industrial forms, including my mother’s childhood teacup collection, decorative motifs and modes of ornamentation, landscape and painting. I take what is familiar and comforting and mix it with a bit of the unexpected.

What keeps you motivated?

I have always been driven to make things so I’ve never needed a whole lot of motivation to get into the studio. I admit, however, that sometimes after a period of time away from the studio it’s hard to get going again. Also, at the end of a making cycle, or after a big deadline, I usually take a break, usually because I’ve gotten behind in other things and need to catch up. Our family’s budget depends on some income from my studio, so money is certainly a motivating factor, as are show deadlines. Also, given that I have 2 small children at home, and time is even scarcer than money, it’s imperative that I have a work schedule and stick to it, so in that sense, just having the opportunity to go to the studio is a motivating factor, whether I feel like it or not.

Please tell us about your other business.

I have a home based graphic design business called Postcards for Artists. I focus on doing custom layouts for postcards, business cards, brochures, etc. I have always been comfortable on the computer, and my goal is to make the process of creating promotional materials streamlined, affordable and easy for artists, individuals, small businesses or whoever. I can help people through the process of picking their images, choosing their text and offer multiple layout options, or I can just do exactly what they already know they want. I keep it casual and easy and cater especially to those who aren’t comfortable with this part of the process or who need to focus their energies elsewhere. I’m good at working with the last minute deadlines artist are often faced with, and I think I have a knack for looking at someone’s work, or talking to them, and knowing how to design the card to suit their style. I love it, I get to know so many great people and it’s a great source of extra income that I can fit into day to day life at home with the kids.

You, like most people enjoy the process of making and didn’t get into it for the sake of “business”. But eventually you found yourself having to make the transition from crafter to a businessperson. What have you learned so far and what advice can you give others in the same situation?

Oh man, I am still trying to figure that out! I know that the key is following through on your commitments, keeping good records, meeting deadlines and always putting your best work out there. Being easy to find, taking good pictures, and communicating quickly and well. Easier said than done!

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

1. Make LOTS of work and keep working even when you don’t feel like it or when mistakes happen. If the work doesn’t turn out, do it again, keep at it until you have a real sense of completion to the idea. This, of course, is an excellent quote on that subject by Ira Glass.

Ira Glass

2. Seek honest critiques from people whose opinion you respect. Listen to their input, take what is useful to you and let go of what is not.

3. Follow your instincts.

4. Don’t be in a hurry to show or sell, take as much time as you can letting your work be just for you. Once you start thinking more about money and audience there are aspects of that which inevitably influence what you make. That’s not a bad thing, there is a lot that is relevant and important to consider when it comes to audience and finding a home for the things you make, but the uniqueness of your work will develop best if there is a good incubating period away from these things, and that’s much easier to get BEFORE you start showing and selling. JMHO.

Yoko Sekino-Bove’s Workshop!

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011


Yoko’s Sekino-Bove’s workshop at Plinth Gallery was amazing.  Her generosity was incredible.  It was great learning all her “Japanese, Korean and Chinese Pottery” secrets.  She told all!  Yoko has a grand sense of humor and we were laughing the entire workshop.  I know we all loved it!  If you ever have a chance to take a workshop from Yoko, do it!!!  I really loved her work before and then during the workshop, I really fell in LOVE.  She can paint and draw like nobody’s business!  Wow! Thank you Yoko for everything!!

Plinth Gallery really treated us right for the workshop, they catered a lunch for us from Fuel Café again and it was delicious.

The only thing now, I wish I hadn’t gone to Yoko’s workshop because… show and workshop is next.  Yoko really set the bar high; I don’t know if I can live up to what she did.  Now, I’m really nervous.

Well, here is Yoko’s workshop…..

After the workshop we made origami cranes  for OshKosh B’Gosh, they are donating to the children of Japan, an article of clothing for every crane that they collect.

Jim and Shirl Parmentier–Plinth Gallery Artist Interview

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011


This month Plinth Gallery Artist interview is with Jim and Shirl Parmentier.  The exhibition opens Frist Friday March 4.  If you’re in the area make sure you stop by!

Plinth gallery: http://plinthgallery.

The Parmentiers bring a team approach to their ceramic constructions. Starting with the initial design concept, they work together on all phases of the process, from shaping the forms to the decorating, glazing and final firing of the vessels.  The Parmentiers are recognized not only for their well designed forms, but also for their command of glazes and glazing techniques using wood ash. When fired, these specially designed glazes melt and flow into the carvings and crevasses on the surface to reveal a three dimensional quality.  With this continuity of form, alteration, carving and fluid glazes, their approach to vessel-making becomes a complete statement. – Jonathan Kaplan



Tell us a little about yourself! 

We have been making our pottery together for 35 years. Our studio is nestled on a hillside in Mars Hill, 25 miles north of the Asheville. The open studio space we work in invites the creativity into our style of work. Presently we are working on decorative work for the home and office. We work as a team in both the design and the making of the pieces. Some pieces pass back and forth and others are done individually.


 How did you become an artist?  

Jim took a pottery class as an elective in college and became a full time potter after 4 years of teaching high school. I always hand my hands in something creative while growing up and was instantly pulled in to what Jim was doing.


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?

In the beginning we started with traditional functional pottery. Soon after we began weaving with strips of clay and developed a line of woven clay baskets. These progressed into more elaborate shapes which requires us to work on them together. This technique has taken many years to perfect and is not done by any potter that we have seen. We still weave these baskets and also add woven inserts to many of our pieces. About a dozen years ago we had a custom hydraulic clay extruder built to extrude the strips of clay. We also had dies made for this to extrude 7” and 9” wide slabs for tile making. We found these strips to be much stronger than a rolled slab because of the extra compression the clay gets when passing through the machine. This allows us to make larger pieces because it has the strength and stability to hold up during the building process.


 What is your inspiration for your pieces? 

After this many years of working in clay, one pieces generally inspires the next. We also get a lot of feed back from customers. I am especially inspired by fabric for my carving designs. I’ll see a pattern I like and then I’ll keep working it until it becomes something uniquely mine.


 What keeps you motivated?

We simply love what we do. We have been very fortunate in finding the right pieces that will appeal to our customers. When working on something new it’s usually quickly obvious if it will have appeal or not. We are quick to admit failures and can easily accept criticism from each other.


 How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?

No set exercise routine but we do keep active. Long days of moving, lifting, stretching in the studio is about what we get. We eat pretty healthy and almost always at home. No matter how long the work day is I still opt to make dinner each night. Having the studio on our property makes that easier as I can take a break at 5, do some dinner prep then put a meal together quickly at 7 or 8. If I come in late without a game plan for dinner then I’m a mess. I do all the cooking and Jim is a pro at cleaning up.


 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?

We became full time artists in 1975 and have never thought to do otherwise. We both come from humble beginnings so starting small and “doing without” came easy for us. We have always been conservative in our spending and never bought what we couldn’t afford. We raised 2 daughters, showed them a bit of the world and sent them to the college of their choice. They have now off into the world as strong individual women who now make choices of their own. Although they are both gainfully employed I know that the thought of self-employment holds a firm spot in the back of their minds.

We know of many young craftsmen in our area who are doing just the same as we did way back when. I feel it’s much tougher for them. They are dealing with higher costs and more competitive juries and for them I have the utmost respect.


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

Keep at it and with hard work it will come.


Spring Workshops at Plinth Gallery

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Beginning in February 2011, Plinth Gallery will host a series of ceramic workshops in the Gallery’s recently remodeled studio space. Three workshops will each emphasize surface decoration and finishing techniques, and will be instructed by the Gallery guest artist for the month.

The series opens on February 5th for a one-day seminar with Shalene Valenzuela. Shalene, whose show, “Recipe for Disaster” is the gallery exhibit for February, will demonstrate a variety of surface-embellishment techniques and application of images. Through slide presentation, lecture and hands-on demonstration, she will share her unique process of illustrating on bisque surfaces and incorporating print aspects with her drawn images.

Shalene earned her MFA in ceramics from the California College of Arts and Crafts, and has recently taught at the Oregon College of Arts and Crafts. A former resident at the Archie Bray Foundation, she currently works at The Clay Studio of Missoula, Montana. Her quirky, humorous narrative vessels have been exhibited nationally.

On April 2, Yoko Sekino-Bove will demonstrate combinations of decoration techniques including sgraffito, carving, stamping, and a variety of glaze painting. Other wet clay surface techniques will include mishima and slip painting. Students will actively participate in this workshop and make a variety of clay stamps to use on their own work. A supply list will be emailed to participants in advance of the workshop. Yoko’s show, “Fragile Immortalitiy” will be the featured exhibit at Plinth for April.

Yoko Sekino-Bove is a 2011 Niche Finalist. She earned her BFA in graphic design from Musashino Art University in Tokyo, Japan, and worked as a commercial graphic designer in Los Angeles before her passion took her to study ceramics at the University of Oklahoma where she earned her MFA. After serving as an apprentice at Rowantrees Pottery in Maine, then artist-in-residence at the Armory Art Center in Florida, Yoko settled as a studio artist in Washington, PA. Her work has been exhibited at both commercial and educational galleries nationally and internationally and is included in museums and private collections. Her ceramic works are featured in the Lark Books, “500 Cups”, “500 Platters and Chargers”, and a wide variety of periodicals including “American Crafts”, “Ceramics Monthly” and “The Clay Times” magazines.

Connie Norman (that’s me) will conduct the final segment of the series on May 7, 2011. Connie will focus on glazing techniques for terra cotta and white earthenware pottery, using masking tape and other office supplies to cut resist-style designs. Students should bring several pieces of bisque-fired work to experiment with glazing techniques demonstrated in this workshop. Connie’s show, “Snippets of Conversation” will be the May exhibition at Plinth.

Connie, who was born in Japan and raised all over the world, is a graduate of the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. She studied ceramics in Tokoname, Japan, and her work has been juried into many national shows, including Strictly Functional, Ceramics USA, Origins in Clay, and a solo exhibition at NCECA, 2006. Connie has received numerous fellowships for her work, which has also been published in “Ceramics Monthly” magazine. Most recently, her signature work has been included in Lark Books, “500 Vases”.

Each day-long workshop begins at 9am, ends by 5pm, and includes lunch. Cost is $85 for each seminar, or register for all three sessions for $230. Space is limited to 20 students, so registration will be on a first-come, first served basis and advance payment will guarantee a space. Specific information for each workshop, including any necessary supplies, will be emailed to each student when payment is received. Cancellations will be fully refunded if made by 5pm on the Monday before the workshop. Students will also receive a 10% discount on any Gallery purchases the day of the workshop only. For additional information or to register, contact Plinth Gallery at 303-295-0717, or email

Paul Morris Artist Interview

Monday, January 3rd, 2011


Happy New Year!! 

Today’s interview is with Paul Morris he is sculptural ceramicist who is from in Fort Collins, Colorado and teaches at Front Range Community College. My friend Lili Francuz who was the Visual Arts person for the Wyoming Arts Council has had many shows with Paul. I’ve been getting show invitations from Lili with Paul’s ceramics sculptural forms for years. Then one day Paul and I became virtual friends on Facebook, I was pretty excited to see more of his work and get to know him. I love the internet. Ft. Collins is only 40 minutes from my residence in Wyoming. So I know that one day soon we will meet in REAL life. For now enjoy his interview he words and work is pretty fascinating.

Paul’s website:


Tell us a little about yourself!

We are originally from the midwest—the Missouri Ozarks—but my fibers artist wife, Paula Giovanini-Morris, and I have lived in Fort Collins, Colorado for 30 years. We moved to Colorado to be close to the mountains as we both were very involved at the time in alpinism, technical rock and ice climbing as well as backcountry skiing. Over the years I have worked in specialty outdoor retailing and commercial printing to make ends meet. At present I teach all levels of wheel throwing and hand building at Front Range Community College, Larimer Campus in Fort Collins and. My BFA is from Colorado State University with concentrations in pottery and sculpture and my masters degree is from the University of Northern Colorado in visual art, ceramics. Our son, Adam, is also an artist working in painting and relief sculpture and is an exceptionally gifted cook.

How did you become an artist?

My earliest memories of art involved making a pinch pot when I was about four years old. I recall the complete amazement of getting that pot back from the kiln and the magical transformation that had taken place from soft clay to durable, colorful ceramic. As I grew older I would spend many hours drawing and painting, thoroughly enjoying the bliss of being in the moment that such creative activity provides. I learned to throw in high school. After high school, I started a University BFA program in Missouri majoring in painting but dropped out of school foolishly thinking that I could make it as an artist without that degree. Later in Colorado, after realizing my paintings weren’t really all that good, I began to make sculpture by way of collages that morphed into assemblage/relief sculpture. I started to have some shows and sales and I became very serious about sculpture. I decided to return to school and finish my BFA. That program wasn’t quite enough so I went on to earn my graduate degree. In any event, to become an artist I had to persevere over the decades and continue to make art, to engage in art as a practice, and use art as a way of being in the world, of literally making my way in the world.


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 current work is “sculptural pottery,” making ceramic pieces that are premised on historical pouring vessels, that is, ewers. My pieces can hold liquids, they do pour (some better than others), and have all the parts of such a category of pottery: spouts, filling funnels, handles, belly volumes and the like. But unlike strictly utilitarian wares made for such ordinary purposes, my pots are generally much larger than one user could comfortably manage. Therefore these pieces become about pouring, and the implications of pouring as a social, possibly even ritual, transaction/interaction. Too, the surfaces of my pieces are much more visceral, more obsessively textural than any “useful” pot would have. Another aspect of the work that imbues meaning are the titles of these ewers. Titles become like a caption for the experience of each piece. I try very hard to make work that is visually interesting, emotionally exciting, actively resonant, physically palpable, intellectually provocative, consistent with the long art history of pottery/ceramics while being suitably relevant to the human experience of our time. This body of work was incipient in the early to mid 1990s with some tall pouring pieces that I had made, but really didn’t start rolling out in earnest until the early 2000s.


What is your inspiration for your pieces?

Formally, I am attracted to robust, natural shapes that we associate with plenty and sustenance: eggs, melons and gourds, ripe fruit, full pregnant bellies, shapely breasts, rounds of cheese and the like. These full shapes when hollow become strongly volumetric in their presence. The formal attributes of curvilinear things are also a huge turn on: chaotic tangled roots, the eroded sweep and visual flow of cross bedded slickrock, meandering rivers, traces of a receding tide on the beach, the taper and writhe of tentacles, the elegance of a beautiful head of wavy hair. Colors that I gravitate toward tend to be very saturated: the interior of hot kilns, neon lights and contemporary media, red roses, chile peppers, the rich blue of the sky at 35,000 feet, and so on. Conceptually, I am intrigued by a number of paired ideas that my work serves to explore: surface and shape, inside and outside, positive space and negative space; filling and emptying, giving and receiving, containing and dispensing, communication and understanding, presence and absence; male and female, touching and being touched, seeing and being seen, imposing and deferring, resisting and yielding, creation and destruction, etc. My most recent works are influenced by Art historical references that include horror vacui surfaces (Shang Chinese bronzes, Islamic tile work, Geometric Greek pots, for example) Eastern tradition ewers (vessels that have separate openings for filling and pouring,) and Japanese Dragonware with moriage decoration.


What keeps you motivated?

It is always wonderfully motivating to have the work well received by audiences, but that alone isn’t a recipe for a continual, sustained, lifelong effort. For that sort of motivation I have to look within. The excitement, the expressive anticipation that is present during the hard work of making is so rewarding that it keeps me coming back for more. With the completion of each piece I feel a renewed desire to make the next one better and more aesthetically, expressively effective than the one just finished. Ultimately, I suppose the best motivator is my certain death, that sober realization that my life will be over one day and I have no other honest choice than to make every minute count in the interim.


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 studio artist that teaches ceramics when college is in session. Over the years I have filled many sketchbooks with drawings of possible configurations, so I am never at a loss for what to make next. I simply don’t suffer creative blocks because a quick look through my sketches will always turn up a new twist on the old theme right away. Repetition with variation is a design strategy that has worked well for artists for centuries in individual compositions. This same principle has worked for me as a way to develop the serial body of work that I am becoming known for. The fact that my work is generally premised on the same general ewer form is kept fresh by the structural variations and revised surface treatments that are rendered with each successive piece in the series. The only arbitrary parameters I have to take into account are the interior dimensions of my kilns and the expressive limitations of pottery as an art vernacular. Everything else is open for exploration. The basic 3D shapes I use to configure my ewers are the cone, the cylinder, and the sphere or semi-sphere. I use plaster press molds to make some shapes, but may throw a part if a more specific shape is needed. I drape clay over paper covered traffic cones, and wrap slabs around paper covered dowels or tapered mandrel shapes for spouts and handles. Each of these basic parts can be modified from their severest geometric presence by distorting, bending, twisting or otherwise darting the part to become more biomorphic in shape. All of these pieces are then assembled from the tabletop up using a heuristic (as Philip Rawson describes) of “juxtaposed shapes with overlapping volumes.” I rely heavily on visual feedback as the works progress, very rarely following the source drawings for long, but only as a rough guide at the beginning. The work soon takes on a life of its own independent of the drawing. Gravity becomes the standard by which the work literally stands or falls, on the tabletop or later in the kiln. I bisque fire once I have enough stable greenware to fill a kiln. I usually have three or four things going at a time and will alternatively build, dry, glaze or fire pieces as the need arises and to keep me fresh for all the tasks that need to be done. When it comes to surfaces and glazing, I also rely on visual feedback, evaluating what has or has not been achieved in an open ended succession of layered glaze/slip applications with subsequent firings, repeated until I have taken the work to a satisfactory stopping point. Sometimes that end is elusive. The work may have to sit in the studio for a week or month or three before I know that it is in fact finished. If it isn’t as good as it gets after all that evaluation time it receives another round of layer of glaze and a trip back to the kiln.


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

There is nothing that has been as satisfying and life affirming to me as making art. I certainly have tried other ways of being in the world, in the past by foolishly trying to meet other people’s expectations for who or what they thought I should be, with limited or non-existent success. It was when I finally gave in to this calling, this yearning, the itching, the passion to make art that things finally came together. There were specific events that were memorable about the experience of art, like seeing a certain painting and thinking, I want to do something like that or a specific sculpture and feeling compelled to make something sculptural. In general it has been for me a long process of awakening to the fact that I, at my core, needed to make, that I am destined, that I have no other choice but to create art.


What or who inspires you?

Travel is getting to be a bigger part of our lives as it makes it possible to witness so much great art in person. It is one thing to look at images of artwork in a book, but those pictures are not even close in impact as seeing those actual pieces a few inches or feet away. Collections of great art always serves as the standard to which I aspire to achieve in my own art, of making work that can stand alongside those time tested pieces and hold its own. There are a few artists, a few works that seem to resurface frequently in my imagination. Examples include the mannerist tour de force, Bronzino’s Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time in the London’s National Gallery; Giorgione’s mysterious The Tempest, in Venice’s Academia; the works of Philip Taaffe; the installations of Judy Pfaff; Kiki Smith sculptures; and fiber works by Lissa Hunter. We have been fortunate to have been able to collect some wonderful pieces over the years for our personal collection, artworks to live with day in and day out. I have great, outstanding artists friends and their work and life stories are always inspirational. My immediate family are all artists and their critical takes on my work is very valuable. Certainly my students inspire me as I watch them grow as artists and they begin to achieve great things in their own work.


How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?

Clay work is a physically demanding activity. I mix my own clay bodies so moving bags of raw materials and hundred pound buckets of mixed clay every few months is an occasional although strenuous work out. I don’t have a pugmill so I wedge all my clay by hand. That is a bit more frequent than mixing clay, but not particularly aerobic as I pay close attention to good biomechanics in that task. I therefore try to exercise several times a week, daily when school isn’t in session, by either riding my bicycle or running. The benefits of aerobic exercise are many: it keeps me in reasonably good physical shape, gives me time to unwind outside in fresh air, and provides a time to think about events and circumstances in my life. I enjoy reading. As previously mentioned, I love to travel and Paula and I try to go abroad as often as possible. Getting away from home is so refreshing and is a welcome opportunity to see great art, and experience other peoples and cultures. We try to eat healthy foods and we garden in season. I really try to get enough sleep, although sometimes deadlines make it tough to do. Another bonus of plenty of sleep is the problem solving that can happen in dreams. The other thing we do that helps greatly in keeping things in balance and our lives focused is to ignore the telephone.


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 never considered myself a “crafter” but an artist that happens to work primarily in the “craft” medium of clay. Craft is the nuts and bolts of making, the way to form these expression laden objects we call art. Howard Risatti’s thesis not withstanding, it is an arbitrary distinction to separate art from craft. They are simply aspects, character traits of the same one thing. That having been said, I have learned the necessity of an all business approach to promoting my work. It all starts with making the best work possible, where every detail is attended to and nothing really is left to chance. An investment needs to be made, both in time and money, to get the work seen. Studio production need to be documented with photography, making the very best images possible and adaptable to many uses which include websites, printed materials in a variety of sizes, portfolios, low resolution thumbnails for indexes, etc. You may have to buy a better camera as well as Photoshop and learn how to use both tools effectively and intelligently. That investment may include filling out entry forms and paying fees for shows, or compiling portfolios to be distributed to gallerists. It could be developing your website. I certainly entails preparing packages and paying for work to be shipped, or even schlepping your work around the country to venues where it can be shown. It might mean being interviewed with some tough questions and you having to think very hard about your answers. The list goes on and on. Without that considerable effort, and taking that effort as seriously as making the work in the first place, few will ever see your achievements, will ever get the chance to appreciate (or pan, even hate, for that matter) what you have devoted your life to as an artist. Plan on doing about an hour of promotion time for every hour spent in the studio making work. I suppose that once you are rich and famous enough to afford a publicist and accountant you can spend more time in the studio.


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

Preparation is first and foremost. The Arts are categorized as the Humanities for a reason. I believe that you need to become like a sponge and take in everything in life that provides insight to the meaning of being human. An exceptionally good way to accelerate that process is to get the best liberal arts education you can. Read the classics. Study the history of art in general and specifically the very rich art history of ceramics. Fill your memory with those resources from past and present so that they can be called up as guides when you need to solve problems. Along the way you are bound to find something you can be, or maybe rediscover what you already are passionate about. Expect to invest a considerable amount of time and energy practicing your art. There are no short cuts to doing the work and putting in the time. Since mediocrity initially feels safe and comfortable, expect and welcome spectacular failures because you will have a harder time recognizing real achievement without them. Develop a very thick skin and pay attention to ruthlessly honest criticism of mentors worthy of your respect. At the same time, forget about the uninformed comments of fools. Master the techniques necessary to craft your pieces, but don’t stop there. Use those methods to communicate significant self expressions to your audience. Be sure you know what significance really is. Ensure that you are saying something worthwhile and relevant with what you make. Focus on what you want to say with your art. Have a detached attitude about what you make and regularly smash the things that aren’t your best lest they come back to haunt you. Pay attention to the details without missing the big picture of what you are about. Once you are prepared, create fearlessly! Remember that life is short and if you live or make art without passion, you are wasting your time.


Jonathan Kaplan – Plinth Gallery Artist – Modern Moche

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

First Friday Opening  December 3rd, 6-9pm at Plinth Gallery in Denver, Colorado.

Exhibition on display through January 29, 2011

Reception with the Artist

Plinth Gallery’s website:

More info about Jonathan:

In December, Plinth Gallery proudly exhibits new ceramic work by artist Jonathan Kaplan in the show “Modern Moche”. 

Jonathan Kaplan newest work can be seen in the show “Modern Moche”. Glimpses of this work have been previously shown at the Foothills Art Center “Colorado Clay” exhibition, The Art Students League of Denver, as well as other exhibitions in Colorado, Nevada, Texas and California. Now, the entire collection, including new pieces and new glaze surfaces, will be on display at Plinth. 

The Moche (pronounced “Mo’-chie”) culture flourished on the northwest coast of Peru between 100AD-800AD. Their style of pottery-making often used both animal and human forms on vessels and included a distinctive  “stirrup spout”, serving as both handle and pouring spout. Moche ceramics became easily recognizable by this signature feature. Kaplan uses the stirrup spout in this current body of work appropriately called Nouveau, (or New) Moche.

Kaplan, who has mastered the ceramic slip cast process, duplicates items such as children’s toys, corrugated tubes or found objects, which he assembles into highly structured vertical sculptures.  The distinctive stirrup spout provides both a cultural and historical perspective and the use of stylized animal forms imparts a subtle sense of humor to this body of work.

Jonathan did a interview with me this past  February, make the jump to read it. 

It’s been almost a year that I have been working with Jonathan at Plinth Gallery. He has introduced me to so many impressive artists in the ceramic field.  I am grateful that he has helped me to interview so many incredible artists on my blog.  Thank you Jonathan heres to another great year!!  And I’m really looking forward to my show at Plinth in May.

New work for Among Friends Art Show And Clay for the Fight Against Cancer

Saturday, November 27th, 2010


CLAY FOR THE FIGHT AGAINST CANCERI am selling raffle tickets for a pair of my black and white salt and pepper shakers ($150) with the quote, “Add Spice to Your Conversation.”  Proceeds will go to my friend Heather Blakely Voyles who is battling breast cancer.  Heather is only 32 and just had a double mastectomy, hysterectomy, and her biopsy came back positive for malignant lymph nodes. Heather is a second grade teacher and will be missing the rest of the school year.

$1.33 for one ticket and $5.45 for six tickets.  

The weird prices for the raffle tickets are to offset the Paypal charges, so when I give Heather the proceeds of the raffle she will won’t have to share with Paypal. The drawing will Dec. 11 at the end of our Among Friend’s Art Show and Sale.  If you are buying a Paypal ticket I will fill out a raffle ticket for you for the physical drawing.  I will email the winner on December 12. 

Please pass this on to your friends.  


 Please excuse the horrible photos.  I’m still trying.  But any hoo, here some of the work that just came out of the kiln.

Small ice cream – cereal Bowls

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Large Serving Style Bowls

Shallow Serving Style Platters

Small Oval Bowls

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artwork winter2010 007

Small Vessels

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Salt and Pepper Shakers

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If by chance you see any work you interested in and do not live in the Cheyenne area, please feel free to email me at

Thanks Connie

If you live near me, please come to our show.


Among Friends Art Show and Sale
December 9, 10, 11
Artful Hand Gallery
302 East 1st Ave.
Dec. 9 Thursday 5-8 PM
Dec. 10 Friday 5-8PM
Dec. 11 Saturday 10 AM-5PM

Whynot Pottery – Meredith Heywood – Artist Interview

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Today’s interview is with Meredith Heywood of Whynot Pottery.  Whynot Pottery is owned operated by Mark and Meredith Heywood. Meredith is the brains behind the show Clay and Blogs: Telling a Story.  I was really impressed with the brilliant idea of the show and the clay community. I loved reading the all the posts leading up the big event. You could feel the excitement gather all around the world. In my opinion, what made this such an amazing event; it brought a community together that lives in the virtual world to the real world. The artists got to meet, converse, see each other’s art and touch each other, figuratively and physically. The relationships that were already formed are now stronger, and the clay community is now so much more intertwined. Meredith congratulations on a making a grand idea a reality!!

Meredith writes a blog called Whynot Pottery Blog, if you have the time and want to learn more about Meredith and Mark Heywood and Clay and Blogs: Telling a Story, click on over. 

For more information on Jugtown Pottery visit the Craft in America website. 

meredith and mark

Tell us a little about yourself!

I am the 4th child, second daughter of 5 children. My father was a Newspaper man and my mother was a Math teacher. I was born in Charlotte North Carolina but I was reared in Norfolk Va. (I was always told you rear children and raise pigs)  In 1959 my grandparents retired to my grandfather’s birth place of Why Not North Carolina. There my two brothers and two sisters and I would spend our summers.  Some of our jobs on the farm were chasing cows, and working in tobacco, but we spent more time fishing and swimming in the large pond on the property.

My first exposure to pottery would be through friends and neighbors of my grandparents; Philmore Graves and his wife Nell Cole Graves of JB Cole’s pottery and Walter and Dorothy Cole Auman of Seagrove Pottery.  Pottery became part of the family summers, just as working on the farm was. We spent time in and out of Seagrove and JB Cole Pottery.  My of my favorite memories of the potteries were of picking up small bits of glazed shards out in the driveway at Cole’s pottery. We thought of the tiny bits of glazed pieces as if they were gems.

meredithcelebration%20meredith2009How did you become an artist?

In 1976 my husband Mark, myself and our 3 month old son, Joel, moved to the family farm to take care of the property. We added a daughter, Anna, at the end of 1977.  Mark went off to work while I stayed home with the children. We were raising goats, pigs, rabbits and had a large vegetable garden. I baked bread and canned everything we grew. We were a couple of Hippie kids living off the land.

After moving to the farm we became very close to Walter and Dorothy Auman. They were like a second set of parents to us and grandparents to our children. They were always there when we needed advice making us feel welcomed and cared for.  One day Dorothy called to introduce me to a young woman who was working at Jugtown Pottery, Agnes Almquist. Agnes needed someone to take care of her daughter while she made pots. I took in Sarah 3 days a week so Agnes could throw. She fit right in with my two. My son and she were the same age. Anna, our daughter was 9 months at the time.  We became good friends with Agnes, and her husband, John, also a potter. They encouraged us both to learn to throw. We started out on a borrowed wheel from Jugtown Pottery and after many attempts we knew we needed more instruction so we enrolled in the Pottery program at the Community College in Troy NC.  We also took full advantage of the older potters who lived and worked around us. We watched them work and they were full of useful information.  We were greatly influenced by them and their dedication to their work.

I also worked for 15 years on with the North Carolina Potters Conference in Asheboro North Carolina. I was able to meet and be exposed to many contemporary working potters, which was an education in its self.

meredithcreamandsugar2009How would you describe your style?

I have been greatly influenced by the older potters of Seagrove. I was lucky to be here at a time when some of the old timers were still living and working. It was potters such as Dorothy and Walter Auman, Nell Cole and her brother Waymon , Virginia Shelton and Vernon Owens who would have an influence on what I do now. It was important to take the traditional shapes of the area and put my own spin on them.

markironredvase2009 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 think it took many years for me to come to a place where I feel comfortable with clay.  I started out following the type of wares made in the area. It would be about 10 years before I would step away from those pots into something new.  I think I am always looking for new things to add to what I do. I love to have a thought and follow it.


What is your inspiration for your pieces?  What keeps you motivated?

Bills- we have to pay the bills we call the bills our incentive.  Mark and I have been at this for close to 30 years.  We went into this as a business and treat it as such.  We are motivated by many things:

The desire to create and the determination to make a living from what we make.

It is a fine line between just making pottery and making pottery that will pay the bills.

Jeri 081309 Are you a full-time artist?

Yes, we knew we wanted to be able to make our living from pottery. We knew potters who had been making pottery all their lives. We went into this with the knowledge that it was hard work but rewarding. We are a two person operation with both parties completely responsible for every step in the process from the bookwork and marketing to the throwing, glazing, and firing. We talk daily about what we are doing and how we can make it better.  I know this is supposed to be about me but it is hard to write as if I am doing this alone.

My husband Mark and I started our business together and the journey into clay so I have to add him into my conversation.  Mark and I both trained as production potters. We knew in order to make a living from our work we would need the skills to reproduce some of the same work over and over. During the first 10 years in business this is what we did.  We developed shapes that we could easily reproduce.  It was about 10 years in, with some skills behind us, when we allowed ourselves the time to play. We added in play time to our weeks and out of the play time the pots began to change. We started to take a plain pot and see what would happen if…

We also moved from pottery that was just plain- shapes made for decorating- to shapes that we would carve and stamp to enhance the areas where the ash glazes were drawn to.  We moved left field over to wood ash glazes and they wanted places to run and settle.  Our work is ever evolving, just as our audience is. We try to shift and change to meet the needs of the customers without compromising our needs.  I started making tiles a few years back and now I find myself less and less on the wheel and more on the slab roller.

My main advice to anyone new who is starting up is you have to love this.  Pottery is hard work physically and mentally.  It takes a toll on your body so keep in shape and it takes a toll on your mind. There are so many times that you will doubt what you are doing. I have days where I think I am done. I walk out of the studio and fantasize about working some where else. Then the next day I am up and ready for what ever the day brings.  Or in the middle of the night you think – what if I …. Back to clay once again!

the%20kiln%20after%20fire%20and%20cool How do you come up with your creations?

This is a good question.  It might be just a shape I want to work on.  It might be an item I want to reproduce for sale in our gallery.  Or an item I am working on for a customer.  I have never thought of myself as an artist, but more of a person who went after a skill.

Tell us about Clay and Blogs:Telling a Story .

the%20dayafterinside%202008 In July Of 2008 we were struck by lighting and our main work building burned.  For the first time in out career we were out of a place to work.  It would take weeks of clean up to set me  up in another building with a borrowed wheel.  We were offered and took spthe%20day%20after2008ace at a factory about 10 miles away.  Mark packed off what he could there and set up a place to work and I stayed here.  It would be the first time in years we would work separately.  It was a very difficult time for both of us. There was a lot of stress from losing the work building, the damage on wheels, slab roller, pug mill and loss of 28 years of “stuff”.  The fire was hotter on my side of the building- I lost books, patterns, notebooks, tools bats, you name it if it was plastic, wood or paper it did not fair well in the fire.  Mark lost as much as I did – homemade brushes, tools.  There are still days we look for an item that was lost to the fire.  This separation of  space let me at home with times where I was not working.  I was spending a lot of time on the  computer looking up prices for replacement items and dealing with the insurance claim.

I had started a blog back in May.  I really did not know what to do with this blog it was mostly just recipes.  With the fire it became a way for me to write through my thoughts.  There were many posts where I would just weep as I wrote.  The first time someone posted a comment I was floored- someone was reading what I wrote. I felt so fragile at that time and the positive response was uplifting.  I continue to write and post pictures as we rebuilt, moved back in and as we resumed our lives.  I can never express how great it feels to have our life as potters back.

So the show- Clay and Blogs: Telling a Story.

As bloggers we are always story telling- this is what a blog is.  The clay part- well- we are all potters.  I wanted to do a exhibition that showed the connection and communities being built on line.  For me, over the course of rebuilding our studio and going back to work, I found this community. Many of the potters in the show have become very good friends of ours.  It is interesting to have not met a person in the flesh and yet feel the connections you feel to them.  I truly enjoy checking in on the blogs and seeing what is new in someone’s life.  The blogs are a combination of work, family and thought.  They are daily diaries of working potters of today.  I find they run the gambit of content.  Some are all business while most cross the line of personal thought, family, food, travel and business.  I also found that most of them are very positive and supportive.

Why these potters for this exhibition?

I did not choose all the potters for the exhibition.  I chose the first group and asked them to give me a name of someone they read and admired. They did and then asked for a name from that person and so on.  The funny thing that happened was the whole thing seemed to go full circle. I asked someone that asked someone and then it would come back around to someone I knew and read.  There were just a few folks in the exhibition that I did not know and yet over the course of working out the exhibition I feel I know all of the potters in some way. It was such a pleasure to work with this group.  I had 50 potters with 46 blogs and only two decided not to send work.  I think with the odds of this the show was quite a success.  Especially with the work shipped in from The UK, Spain, Australia and Canada.  I have been to see the exhibition twice and each time it has had more to give to me.  The exhibition comes down the end of this week, but a lot of the work will be moved into the gift shop of the gallery. I hope that folks will still get over to see some of the work.

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