Students, A Changing Studio Journey, & Pots on Facebook

I've been on a changing journey in the studio.

It’s mostly been about my students. There are four at the moment, individually taught, and each is on a different path from the others. I really enjoy their unique approaches to clay and their personalities. Here’s a glimpse of one sculptural work by a gifted student.

Bisqued, glazed but not yet fired- stay tuned for glazed sculpture “after”. Student work. So good!!

Bisqued, glazed but not yet fired- stay tuned for glazed sculpture “after”. Student work. So good!!

Meanwhile, last week I took a long look around my gallery, adjacent to my studio. So much nice work to sell- yes, I do think so!- and most of it is one-of-a-kind. Often they are related to a color or shape group, but they are still all individuals. And I am not working on more of these very much at the moment. The shelves are full enough and groaning. The pots will only be in the gallery till they sell, probably not to be replaced… Because I am working on a changing roster of other sorts of pots. These are sometimes bigger or more complicated than before, and sometimes from my gut instead of from the roster of “pottery I make”. Even though I love “pottery I make”. It was time and more for a change.

For example- I have a related (but not exactly the same) grouping of bowls, sgraffito color on black.

For example- I have a related (but not exactly the same) grouping of bowls, sgraffito color on black.

I’m challenging myself (and my students) to throw taller. 20” vase (below), underglaze color on raw clay, not yet fired or final-glazed. (View is of my unpretty kiln room, the first of the taller vases, and 1.5” texture stamps meant to help show vase size.)


I’m still exploring the rarified world of chanukiot (menorahs), now better adjusting the bodies for level stance and greater surface complexities. This study continues to be an evolution of changes!

Surface color and sgraffito is all over this chanukiah.

Surface color and sgraffito is all over this chanukiah.

Starting tomorrow and following daily except Saturdays- check Mimi Stadler Pottery on Facebook for a special look at individual pieces, under the category of “Does it speak to you?” You can always DM me if it needs to be yours.

Posted on February 11, 2019 .

My Web Site and... Boardman, Oregon

I noted in my blog fairly recently that my website Analytics shows lots of visits to my site from internet sources in Boardman, Oregon. Well, that's still happening pretty much daily as summer rolls into New Jersey. As I mentioned last time I brought this up, every page visit is from a different address source. Every single one. No two originate from the same computer address. 

So that's pretty weird.

I looked up Boardman, Oregon again yesterday, and looked a little closer. The stats indicate a population in Boardman with a  per capita income of about $21,765 annually for females and about $30,000 for males. Population is split nearly 50/50 between females and males and the median age is 25 years old, which is young! These folks are overwhelmingly young and I wondered as I saw that, how do they pay the bills? 

I was interested in academics- is there an institution of higher education in Boardman, Oregon that skews the age so young? Is some enormous ceramics class checking my website for commerce flaws or product design..? No, there is no college there. Is there an arts community, and people are loving my work till the cows come home? Not so I'd find on Wikipedia. At all.

What I did find on Wikipedia was interesting. "According to a November 2008 article in The Oregonian, a "huge data center linked to [was] under construction" at the 9,000-acre (36 km) Port of Morrow. The data center was to have a dedicated 10-megawatt electrical substation. A website focused on data centers suggested the Boardman site was created in response to the rapid growth of Amazon Web Services; earlier in 2008, Amazon had announced that Amazon S3 was storing 29 billion objects. The project made Boardman the second Oregon city along the Columbia River to host a power-hungry data center for web services: Google has a similar center in The Dalles. By 2012, Apple had announced plans for a server farm south of The Dalles in Prineville, where Facebook already had a similar farm. Rackspace was said to be considering a data center at the Port of Morrow."

No wonder there are so many 20-somethings in Boardman, Oregon. They work for Google's data center. What does that mean to me? Is something from my website- make that everything- because these bots (probably) are going each to one page only- stored in Boardman?  What is someone trolling for? I have never seen this sort of thing at all before. And...what the heck? Is there maliciousness in it? Is there a real reason "spiders" are crawling all over the pages of my site? My website is simple. There are no particular holes in it. Unseen  pages (stored from previous incarnations or attempts that failed to zing) are disabled and can't be viewed.

So I've disabled everything, and you won't even see this post until a couple of weeks have passed and I've re-enabled the blog.

If you have any ideas, comment on this post. I'm not as savvy about these things as I could be. Sure is odd. (Cue The Outer Limits music...)

Posted on June 21, 2018 .

Women Working With Clay Symposium 2018, Day 1: Winnie Owens Hart

First, a list of presenters for 2018:

Sunshine Cobb

Eva Kwong

Rebecca Hutchinson

Deborah Schwartzkopf

Keynote speaker: Winnie Hart Owens

Place: Roanoke, Virginia, USA, at Hollins University

Organizer: Donna Polseno assisted by half a dozen others at least

Number of attendees has fluctuated from around an annual average of around 30-35 people. Last year, an outlier, we were an astonishing 70+ women attending. This year we are 45 women. Men are welcome but rarely come to this, likely because of the name of the event. But the "women working with clay" at the symposium are the presenters, not the attendees. (So men, if you love clay, you can register too.)

For the first time, in 2018 a "pot swap" of a piece not larger than 6"x6"x6" is going to take place. This is my piece, called Treasure Jar, electric-kiln fired and earthy. 


I'll get my swap for it on Wednesday!

The drive down to Virginia on Sunday was long. Susan drove (it's her car) and Beth, Tzu and I rode along as passengers. It took 9 1/2 hours with a couple too many stops, but here we are. Anticipation was high. Susan and Beth and I have been to this symposium before. Tzu has not, but she is just as psyched as we are. Now that we begin Tuesday, Day 2, it's time to recap Monday, Day 1!

Monday morning after breakfast, with the symposium registration hours not over till 4:30 pm, we four took a drive to Floyd, VA, about an hour away. That was explore an interesting place. Floyd is a spread-out town on rolling hills, sparsely populated but with a surprisingly high concentration of artists of one kind or another. One administrator/artist we met at the art center there theorized a notion that Floyd is in a convergence spot of ley lines, like Sedona, Arizona. Whatever the reason, Floyd has creative energy in the air.

Back at Hollins, we had our introduction and outline of the symposium events from artist, teacher, founder and organizer Donna Polseno, who has fed my WWWCS habit for several years now and to whom I send a metaphorical hug all year for it. People were meeting and greeting each other. After dinner we met our opening keynote speaker, Winnie Owens Hart. Artist, educator, author and critical thinker, as Donna described her, Winnie is also funny as all get out and outstandingly honest to boot- an excellent thing in a clay artist (or anyone). She has spent years of both physical and intellectual concentration growing to understand, celebrate and work in pottery, particularly in immersion and scholarship drawn from the African cradle of this very old craft. The traditions remain in their home areas in Africa, still being passed from mother to daughter.  It was an extremely accessible presentation because Winnie lived the things she talked about, and her images and descriptions gave visual aid.

Ms. Hart Owens wanted us to think about what we think we know, and what is it that we need to travel to other places to know. Winnie advised us to go out and see the world. A myth, she said, is a fantastic story that impressed you when you were younger, but when you got older you found ridiculous. In her way she has explored myths and realities, in her travels and in her art.

She talked about her own journey, from her origins in the southern US, on through a great deal of time spent in Ghana and Nigeria and Burkina Faso, and the clay-working women she got to know in those places. She taught there and learned by helping make pottery, and photograph and chronicle pottery making and the people who did it. 

Back in the US, so that Winnie could have her own say in what she made from clay, she decided she was not going to make her living from making clay work, but would make it from teaching instead. That way she would not be bound by the necessity to make particular objects when she did do her work, but explore her own path. As a result, she went to teach at Haystack in Deer Isle, Maine, 24/7 to work- "and I was there all the time", she told us. Briefly: She is interested in work. 

Her work has been influenced not just by the African roots of pottery, but by the historical experience of evil and intolerance in the world, including the oppression and cruelty levied by self-named "religious people". We saw work referencing enforced genital mutilation of girls, which happens across a number of cultures and places, for example, and a we saw the image of her pot showing the lynching of black men all around the rim and using symbols of hate on pot's surface.

Considering the seriousness of the important topics covered, Ms Owens Hart presented with wit and humor. Best of all- this is what you want from a keynote speaker- the keynote speech was thought provoking and maximally engaging.

Posted on June 12, 2018 .

A Clay Studio Tour


Two wheels, one a motorized Lockerbee kickwheel (two options, electric power or kick power) and one a Brent electric. 

A slab roller, 48x36 inches of clay-rolling capability, with two canvas cloths on top and two knurled (like that word, "knurled") metal rollers, plus a a ship's wheel handle to turn the rollers. 

...and glaze color samples and random pottery photos on the walls and an air purifier and dehumidifier...

...and glaze color samples and random pottery photos on the walls and an air purifier and dehumidifier...

Plenty of boxes of clay, most fresh (in boxes in the corner), some old and long  unused (under the slab roller table) which lately I've been reclaiming to workable consistency 25 lbs at a time,  and some there for no good reason any more (under the work table in buckets, rock hard and dry- and they need to go out). 

Two kilns, one I use a lot (digital controller) and one I hardly use (the old one with a manual turn-up and junior cone system, which I use in crunch time for bisque firing when the other one is in use). my kiln room, which used to be a storage area... my kiln room, which used to be a storage area...

Tools. Jars and small buckets and mugs and big containers full of all sorts of tools. Throwing tools. Glazing tools. Carving, cutting, rolling, texturing, joining and shaping tools. place out of several where you can find tools... place out of several where you can find tools...

Glaze ingredients. Buckets of powdered ingredients. Their names are a language of its own: Dolomite, flint, talc, gerstley borate, wollastonite, kaolin, frit, Cornwall stone, nepheline syenite. A cabinet of more ingredients in bags and jars: glassifiers, opacifiers, stiffeners, melters, and colorants like powdered stains and carbonates and oxides. Buckets and buckets and bags and jars of ingredients I bought and a few, inherited. And pages of glaze recipes to be tried, or recipes that were tried and good enough, or recipes tried and great. The ones I use are in a yellow contractor's book that has wipe-down pages.


Buckets and buckets of glazes we've made from recipes out of those powders, my sometime helpers and I. Full buckets, half full ones, ones that need refills again, ongoing. Buckets of glazes in ten or twelve colors. Raw glazes in the buckets like muted pastels. After heating on the pots to over 2200 F they will be red, blue, cream, green, caramel, nutmeg, clear, and still more- they overlap to melt into additional colors. 

...about 2/3 of my glaze buckets...

...about 2/3 of my glaze buckets...

A scale and stirrers, sieves and pourers, toilet brushes (never used on toilets) for stirring the glazes after they settle in the buckets leaving a layer of water at the top and the other ingredients settled into the bottom.

The tiny-particle-loving vacuum, my trusty Nilfisk (goes by "Nils"), that gobbles up the bits and dust and splashes of dried clay and glazes. And the all purpose, industrial, frequently rinsed mop and bucket whose use keep me breathing without fine particulate settling into my lungs and those of my students and "date nighters". 

The sink- that's a hub! Water that keeps things going, the sink holding big cleaning sponges always in use, a basket of measuring cups and pitchers and cleanup scrubbies, dirty then rinsed out small towels and glazing tools, brushes and rubber gloves. Below, a plaster trap before the u-bend of the pipe, to catch all that clay and glaze sediment we try not to let go down the drain but that sneaks down anyway.

The air smells of clay, a faint damp dusty smell coming from everywhere but especially the water buckets at the wheels, where my students and I use plenty of water to throw lots and lots of pots. The odor emanates just as much from the reclaim bucket of wet clay scrap beside my wheel and its overflow partner, the bucket of reclaim standing below it. Both are full in busy times for twice weekly emptying and reclaiming of the slightly pungent mess inside them. If I leave them longer, they start to reek.

The plaster batts, for laying out the wet 'reclaim' scrap to be dried enough to be kneaded again to working clay consistency- the batts live in a crate beside the clay in the corner, often not drying out thoroughly for weeks at a time. 

The romance of clay! Is there romance in an ambience of mud, grit, tools, and cleaning supplies? The studio is a grind, a joy, a contradiction ending with creation. 

Clay studio: even the neatest is-- a serious, messy workshop. 

Posted on May 22, 2018 .

Making Perfectionists Unhappy for 33 Years Now

Today, most of what we use is machine made. This is useful, and also quite functional. Machine made dinnerware stacks perfectly. Designs in clothing and home decorations repeat “just so” from identical item to identical item. You always know what you get when you buy a replacement or addendum to something you bought before or from a company you’ve bought something from before. Perfectionists can find their mass producers, buy only from the, and be happy.

Handmade work would make a perfectionist unhappy. There could be a bump in the glaze, a slub in the fabric or a shadow in the print even in the best quality pieces. I am a potter and I know this: no two things are ever exactly the same, even if they come pretty close. “Identical” mugs might vary by a quarter of an inch in height and half an ounce in volume. Platters might not be quite flat- there may be a curve in the wall where you did not expect it, say, or a slight lift in the floor of the piece incurred in the drying and firing processes that changes the look of the piece.

My very first semester in college, long ago, a boy in my class had this idea: what if each thing is perfect? What if, in what we perceived as its imperfections, a thing was perfectly and completely itself? What if our fellow humans could accept that premise? That idea could go for people, too. There would be nothing other than everything being perfectly itself, which is a form of perfection.

I don’t buy this idea exactly (what about cruelty? Negativity? Animosity? Can you call those perfect?), but when it comes to the handmade object, I believe there is truth in it. This handle lifts a little taller and this one comes outward a bit more- which is perfect? This creamer rocks a little because of its construction, and this one stands solidly but lacks the curve of the other. Which one is perfect? None? All?


What it comes down to, for you and me, is this. There is beauty in many objects. Part of the beauty comes from the harmony of its parts. Part comes from its ability to function in some way. Part comes from its individuality; part is from your ability to recognize it as the object it is; part comes from its foreignness or novelty, and part from its homespun quality. 

If I didn’t love pottery, in its many aspects, I wouldn’t be spending my life making it and teaching it in my studio. I would have gone into a more mainstream and perhaps more lucrative line of work. I had my eye on publishing as a career, back in the day. But life intervened. And I found my way.

We have plenty of room today to find and use handmade objects, to complement the machine made most-everything in our lives. Handmade objects are here that help diversify our tables, homes, and clothing. I recommend that every once in a while, if you can, you buy at least one handmade thing because you love it, and for a change, be less frugal about the cost. Handmade is not perfect. Instead, it is different from whatever else you own and use. Someone made it with care in eye, hand and mind. Choose well, choose what feels right to you, and you will love it for a long time.

Posted on April 4, 2018 .

Racing into Spring

Notwithstanding another 6" of snow coming our New Jersey way, Happy Spring! Nothing is sleeping at the pottery studio and gallery here. So many things are happening!

You can now follow me on Instagram at Mimi Stadler Pottery, and I am on Facebook, same name. "Follow, follow, follow!" as the song in the Fantasticks went.

You can find more works added to my website with each glaze kiln that I fire and unload. 

My students are growing in skills steadily and exploring an expanding world of ideas.

Date couples have been in and out of the studio, having two hours of fun and getting their own finished work back a few weeks later. 

The studio is full of pottery drying, pottery bisqued and waiting to be glazed, pottery in the midst of the glazing process, and pottery going into, being fired, and coming out of the kiln. The gallery and website are filling up and are then getting thinned out again by purchases. 

So... follow me on Instagram! And Facebook! Please bookmark and check back to my website now and then. Because you never know what you might find!

Posted on March 20, 2018 .

"Date Nighters" in the Studio

Date night" is an event happening every few weeks lately in my studio. "Date Nighters"  are happily spending their two hours being creative with clay. It gets busiest when Saturday evenings are long and the weather outside is not so great. But even when the days are longer, as they will be in just a few days, Sunday or weeknight evenings are possible.

(Serving pieces in Nutmeg glaze)

(Serving pieces in Nutmeg glaze)

I have learned over the last few years that when I explain the options, and demonstrate the techniques for making projects, the "daters" still need to take a little time to understand what I'm preparing them to do. After all, I don't have readymade "paint your own". We work with fresh clay and make our own pieces.

So I've taken just lately to creating some infrastructure in advance to help them get the concept quickly. I've been designing and cutting out tarpaper templates (black roofing paper, which stands up to dampness). And I've been throwing mold forms ("hump molds") and bisque-firing them. The "date nighters" can still have the fun of rolling fresh clay into slabs using my slab roller, then cutting the flattened clay to shape using the templates I made, and either draping the cut-out clay over or wrapping it around these bisqued hump forms. They will be (ta da!) creating a 3-D object this way. The creative fun continues as they stamp, texture, and add sculptural bits.

People can choose between these projects in advance, so I will know what to set up before they arrive. The template and hump mold items I made this week are a salad bowl and a small pair of candlesticks, both of them objects that people have asked me if they could make, and which were deceptively tricky to do. There are other templates and forms too.

In case it seems I am babying my customers, I should explain: People who have never or rarely ever touched clay need to quickly gain some understanding of a few important things just so they can start. How thin can the clay be rolled and how long can it be worked in the raw state before it begins to crack or crumble? How deeply can one cut into the clay with a knife or needle tool before it has been given an excuse to crack in the drying? When does one need to take into account shrinkage (which happens while drying, and later while being fired in the kiln)? To help them just get on with in, in their two short hours of Date Night at the Pottery, I'm now smoothing the way.

(Very large coffee, for an all-day buzz, and a stamped serving platter) 

(Very large coffee, for an all-day buzz, and a stamped serving platter) 

(Lace-impressed serving piece)

(Lace-impressed serving piece)

(Leaf dishes, and square plate made over a drape-mold)

(Leaf dishes, and square plate made over a drape-mold)

(Lace, stamps, and various great textures on dining and serving pieces)

(Lace, stamps, and various great textures on dining and serving pieces)

After the pieces are made, I do the kiln firings and glazing work to their specifications, based on the glazes I have in stock (which I make myself from tried and true glaze recipes). 

This is a lot of fun. To those who are curious, I say, Save a date now (for after April 9th, 'cause I'm booked till then) and try it! The pertinent details are in Pottery Classes & Date Nights.

Posted on March 5, 2018 .

Funky Analytics Stuff

Website analytics is an interesting thing. I want to know, Who's looking? Where are they from? Are they coming back to look at more? 

I don't get to see who, but I get to see if they come back, and I can see more or less where they're from. (I mean- I don't live in the town my web footprint says, but it IS nearby, so... close enough.)

I get lookers from Ukraine, Ghana, The Philippines, Israel, Germany, England, Korea, as well as others... and all over the U.S., too. I was in North Carolina lately and left my card with various potters. Lots of hits from NC after that.  Lots of hits always from New Jersey, my home state, probably because my metadata on the website says (among plenty of other things) "NJ pottery". My cards are drifting around this state, too. 

Enjoying the pottery exposure, of course! But I often wonder if anyone is a would-be Loki, full of mischief. Lately I've had lots of hits daily from what appears to be a beautiful farming area (I looked it up) in Oregon, called Boardman. Each hit is from another originating number. No two alike. Yet all are from Boardman. That's strange! It feels like attempted hackings. If you're not scammers or hackers, Boardmanians, drop us a comment! Same for anyone who knows about this stuff... I'd sure like to know what the heck this is.

(Did a little erasing here for privacy, in case this browsing person is legit...)

(Did a little erasing here for privacy, in case this browsing person is legit...)

More by-the-ways-what-do-you-knows from the studio potter in the basement...

The beat goes on.

Posted on March 4, 2018 .

New Students Revving Up

Recently my students, a fairly new crop, have been coming in full of ideas. All I need to do is demonstrate how to make these happen, and they get right on it! Halfway through the semester, here's what we had: 

One session was about basic thrown lids: drop-in or sit-on-top? Make just an opening in the top of pot or create a gallery (ledge) in it for the lid to sit on? How to measure for good fit? What are the ways to add a knob or finial at the top?

One session was about throwing taller: collaring in technique, plus opening and raising the walls 1/3 (starting with top third), then middle third, bottom third last.

One session has been about making and attaching cup handles so they don't crack or fall off. All that good stuff.

Plus they've been absorbing handbuilding method tips, like texturing possibilities, how to join parts and finish edges, and how not to cause a flat object to warp... yes, all that good stuff. Full speed ahead!


Posted on February 27, 2018 .

Consider it Your Local Craft Show!

Customers both regular and new, you are hereby invited to see what it's all about at the gallery, most weekdays and Sundays of the year! 



If you can't visit in person, you can  browse the Website.

Best of all, there is plenty of new work for wedding, engagement and host/hostess gifts in a large range of prices. 

I also have a few "nice seconds" (there are sometimes a few in handcrafted work which are a little less than perfect), which are discounted to fit most budgets.

Of course, you can usually check with me and come by when I'm here working, most weekdays all year, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. 

*32 Years of Always Handmade* 

Consider it your local Craft Show!

196 Windsor Way, Hillside, NJ 07205

Call (908-354-7799) or text (not call) (732-492-8558) to visit. 

Posted on February 22, 2018 .

Color Inlay!

Recipe for Color Inlay:

Make the pots. Let them firm up a bit.

Etch lines in them as desired. 

Lay color into the lines.

Clean up surface as required.

Bisque fire, clear glaze, glaze fire.

Voila! Color inlaid pottery.

Time it took to write this: a minute.

Time it took to learn to make the pots and do these li'l tricks nicely: 33 years.




Posted on January 17, 2018 .

Forming Leaf-Shaped Hump Molds

I use a bunch of different forms made of glass, plastic, plaster, wood and bisqued clay that I use as "hump molds". Those are forms I drape soft clay slabs over to make vessels. A few days ago I made a small group of smallish bowls with "flying handkerchief" edges using glass bowls and an oval ice cream dish as my hump molds. 

You need to spray glass forms with WD40 lubricating oil before putting clay on them, or the clay will stick. Or you can powder them liberally with corn starch and hope for the best. Well, I made a narrow oval bowl I loved, with an oval foot and those flying handkerchief edges at the rim. But I had not sprayed enough WD40 on the hump mold, so it tore a little when I tried to lift it off. OK, a loss, but one that got me thinking, which is what losses make me do.

I had watched Shoko Teruyama create a hump mold at a Women Working With Clay Symposium a few years ago. She makes a solid form and hollows it out. Not a new idea, but watching the care she takes with hers was inspiring. She will use these many times, in effect living daily with them in the studio. So she makes them as attractive and well formed as she can. There is nothing slapdash about her process- even on infrastructure forms that are not the finished pieces but will be used to MAKE the pieces. 

I did the same this week, thinking also of how long I hope to have these as part of my studio infrastructure and how often I hope to use them. I spent about five hours making them with care.

Initial solid humps of clay, basically patted into shape and groomed around the edges.

Initial solid humps of clay, basically patted into shape and groomed around the edges.

Starting the hollowing process, leaving two ribs across.

Starting the hollowing process, leaving two ribs across.

Continuing the hollowing out. Ribs are structural support as well as handles. 

Continuing the hollowing out. Ribs are structural support as well as handles. 

They look like little rowboats. 

This is the underside of 3 finished hump forms.

This is the underside of 3 finished hump forms.

I first shaped the basic humps the day before, and left them out overnight on a plaster board to reach the state where they would hold their forms when carved. The clay was kind of firm when I carved it, about like a block of cheese. I don't know how Ms. Teruyama feels after making these, but I had a pretty good charley horse in my arm a few hours later. I had removed at least 11 lbs of clay, scrape by curling scrape of the sculpture tool.

When they are turned over, they look pretty much as they did before I began the hollowing out process. But they are light enough to handle while I'll use them as forms to drape clay over. They have to now dry s-l-o-w-l-y, lightly covered with dry-cleaner thin plastic. The walls vary from place to place from 1/4' to 3/8", which could stress these pieces as they dry and shrink unevenly. I don't want them to crack. I'll show you how I use these, after they go through the bisque-fire that makes them permanent.

Posted on January 2, 2018 .

Date Night or Friends Night!

Sign up now for a Date Night or Friends Night at Mimi Stadler Pottery studio, Saturday nights, beginning October 21! Dress down to get a little messy, BYOB, and have fun! Two hours, all materials supplied, $60 per person, 2 person limit.

Contact me to schedule, or text or leave a message at 732-492-8558 and let me know how to reach you.

You can ask about up to 4 people in case that becomes available.

Posted on September 14, 2017 .

Gift Shops

You can now find my work in the gift shops of METC (the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts, in Madison, NJ, which has my candleholders, various types), and in Wave Hill (Riverdale (Bronx) NY- honey jars).

(At Wave Hill)

(At Wave Hill)



Posted on September 14, 2017 .

Ayumi Horie, WWWC Symposium, 2017

A couple of weeks ago I saw an Instagram post from Ayumi Horie, who was up at Haystack at the time, with peers, who holding cups in the photo. She had put pictures on the cups of one of her signature fuzzy-headed (kind of kooky cute) little birds, and the following conversation (complete with blank spaces after): 

Where are you from?_________

I'm from....

...No, where are you really from?__________

This is a thoughtful interactive piece of Ayumi's from The Democratic Cup (click on that to read more). The Democratic Cup is a collaborative idea involving over 30 artists who contribute cups, meant to "encourage person-to-person civil conversations about social and political issues*" over coffee. The idea is about "dignity and inclusivity*". (*Quotes are from The Democratic Cup website.) Ayumi's own website reads, "The mission of The Democratic Cup is to support and promote civic engagement. ...Democratic and familiar, the coffee cup is the perfect object to act as a catalyst for social change and true dialogue." 

Ayumi's bird cup with the questions (OK, I'll explain the obvious) is about immigrants who appear to be from somewhere else. Even third generation Americans get that sort of question- 'No, really, where are you from?' (It's a timely question considering the road blocks being flung up to immigrants and those who seem "other" at this point in our nation's history.)

She talked about another idea she works with, Pots in Action*, or #PIA. People around the world own her pots. They send her photos of the pieces in use in their own homes. Until recently, photos of pottery was nearly always presented as photographed against a simple photo backdrop, lighted a particular way. I was taught to take my photos as I see photos in American Craft or similar magazines. But that is changing, and Ayumi is charting it on a map on her web page (*click on the link Pots in Action*, above). Brilliant. As Dr. Frankenstein said when he created the monster, "It is aliiiive!" I think Ayumi has taken the placid out of pottery.

The cup below is a different one than mentioned above, but it has a form you often see in Ayumi's cups... and it has one of those birds (painted in luster) with the fuzzy head, that makes me laugh. 


(Please go to Ayumi Horie's website to see this and more:

Each of the presenters at the WWWC Symposium led a breakout session on one of the afternoons. Ayumi's was about how to connect our creative work with social issues. The people in the room didn't come up with any group idea of how to change the world in one hour (that would have been better than major governments manage, but no, alas), but some became emotional talking about how much they would like to do something. I can speak only for myself; I came out of it thinking about how I might do more, but the opportunities will come singly and slowly, I'm sure. 

All the presenters showed us their techniques of "making" as they talked and chatted with us. I have to mention Ayumi's throwing in particular, because it gave my throwing-brain a nudge, right in the paradigm.

When I throw, it is with plenty of water to start, then using muscle and practiced moves to open and throw the piece while keeping it all from going off center. My jaw may have dropped to see Ayumi make a bowl, because she just did away with parts of the making process that have been in my repertoire of wheel work for decades.

She took a two lb. (or so) piece of clay, and patted it more or less into the center of the wheelhead- till it was roughly but by no means exactly centered. Then, pressing down into the middle of the clay with a large, thick steel rib, she opened the whole interior of a bowl with no water, only pressure. The exterior of the bowl, meanwhile, was still uneven, never having been properly centered.

She used a sharp tool (-wooden knife?-) to simply pare off a large, uneven ring of clay around the exterior of the bowl. This way she centered the exterior of the bowl and got the exterior  of the wall finished enough to trim- just like that. Pared away in a flash. And then- because no water was used to throw the bowl- she just trimmed it a bit more while it was upright. Just a little later, the bowl could be turned over onto a pad of soft clay and a foot trimmed. And then contrasting slip or underglaze could be immediately applied, because the bowl had never gotten wet and too soft to work on further.

(Turning over the bowl on a freshly thrown pad of clay to trim a foot.)

(Turning over the bowl on a freshly thrown pad of clay to trim a foot.)

What was mind-bending about the technique I've just described is that it was a way of throwing I've never seen before, even after 32 years of clay. And it was all-in-one. No waiting around to get back to it. No dragging out the process over a couple of days. 

(Ayumi applying luster (like the lustered bird in the previous photo) over a glaze-fired white pot)

(Ayumi applying luster (like the lustered bird in the previous photo) over a glaze-fired white pot)

I'll be glad to follow the work and career of this potter over time.



Posted on July 24, 2017 .

Julia Galloway, WWWC Symposium 2017

Julia Galloway's professional life both as teacher of ceramics at University of Montana and as clay artist are thoroughly thought-out and intelligently practiced. She has worked hard in a field that requires hard work and a strong personal vision, to really shine. Attending her presentation, I was delighted to listen to her because just as she has a way with clay, she has a way with language. 

Julia talked about the relationship of surface and form, and the development of her own ideas about that. Then she made a list on the chalkboard of 8 forms she would make for us over Tuesday and Wednesday. They were: pitcher, 2-lb. ewer (I think that's what it says!), 4 cups, salt & pepper shakers, water ewer, sauceboat, teapot and mug. These did get made, and different handles and handle application demonstrated as well. (I was there for her "celery" style handle, which I am going to try, it's so great looking.) And it was really fun to watch. I'm a thrower, and watching a master throw and take apart and reassemble parts is always riveting.

These 8 forms got made with various considerations of shapes and gestures, and best placements of handles for each piece that was getting a handle. Each was intended to get its own surface decoration.

A potter who challenges herself to fulfill different ideas while maintaining a clear artistic voice is a very interesting potter. Many aspire.

Julia is interested in form. "Form is about your body", she says, vs an intellectual idea removed from that. 

She has worked up a routine, in which she develops an idea, then mounts an installation that works around that particular idea in a gallery. "Figuring out some way of installing pots that support that idea" is, in simple terms, how she does this.

It takes her 3-4 years to put together a whole installation. The space itself helps determine how many and what size, and whether to hang some (i.e. her Clouds installation,, and in what configuration the pieces will be shown. Julia talked particularly about one installation, the John James Audubon birds that she drew on cups, one type of bird per cup, celebrating Audubon's entire collection of bird paintings. She talked about the inspiration she drew from  how, as he approached the end of his life, Audubon began drawing with both hands, trying to get the whole body of work completed as quickly as possible as time ran out. 

The decoration on the surfaces starts with the kind of drawing that is made by a pointed tool pulled or pushed along, etching the leather-hard clay, like a drawing by pencil or brush except incised. She applies color in media like slip or underglaze or oxide mix over the area of the etched drawing, then wipes it back with a sponge so it remains only in the etched lines. Other areas will have glazes on them after the bisque, possibly over drawings as well that might not be incised but might rather sit on the surface. Luster might be added in an additional fire.

From "Audubon" installation:



Here is a coffee or tea pot from her Dreaming and Daily Life installation, showing the development of a theme on the surface of one of her pieces- in this case a window, over an unmade bed, complete with a shoe sitting on the floor. Additional glaze areas are on the handle, in the spout, and on the lid, which is complete with a lustered knob.



To do her work justice, please spend some time with Julia Galloway's website. It's well worth the time spent browsing.

Posted on July 11, 2017 .

Patti Warashina, WWWC Symposium 2017

Patti Warashina began her life in art studying painting, "lots of it", as she says. When she began with clay, in the 1960s, she wanted to figure out how to build sculptural objects by hand. She found that her knowledge of sewing patterns could be translated into making patterns for clay. She felt that really helped her jump into controlling the material. Because of all her drawing experience, she learned to use the human figure to express ideas. The first thing she made was in fact a human figure- on a clay pot. That morphed into giant lips on pots. There, she was in tune with clay moment in art that had begun with Peter Voulkos and John Mason, change that continued foment with work by Robert Arneson and his Funk Art movement, which included David Gilhooly and Ken Price, among quite a few others. She was alive to the working moment espoused by these people, who were radically changing the face of modern ceramics. It was a heady and freeing time to work with clay, moving away from vessels snd towards personal expression of a different kind. Being a woman in a sexist academic world and art movement did not bother her much. Ms. Warashina was and still is a go-getter, from her reminiscences as she worked at the symposium.

She found that stoneware materials and firing temperatures in the 60s made it hard to keep oxide decoration (the then-current method of decoration on clay) from running and blurring with the melting glaze. (Only chrome stayed in place, which is a very limited palette indeed.) She really wanted lots of color. Those clay luminaries of her early years, the Funk Art clay folks, had begun using new low-fire commercial glazes on the clay, and china paints, and "cold" finishes like paint, bursting through the previous high-fired palette with great attraction for Pat. Learning, usually, when challenged by something (like those runny oxides), she adapted, and now she adopted those bright colors that stayed put.

As she worked, she found that figurative proportions could be played with; people would still understand what they were seeing if, for example, arms and legs became disproportionately small or lips disproportionately big. She has played with that ever since. If her animals were somewhat human-like and her humans somewhat animal-like, what difference would it make? It's all in service to a bigger idea for each piece.


She shrugs off the words "craft" or "art", saying it is not important what to name it.  The medium draws her back repeatedly. "There's always something there that keeps dragging me back into it." She continues, "The hardest thinking about ideas. If I can figure out the idea, I can figure out how to build it... Clay, I like the permanence of it." It is different from other media.  She likes "that fired quality." 

Warashina makes large molds to facilitate assembling the parts of her sculptures- just as she made sewing-type patterns earlier. Casting the forms or pressing them into the mold parts greatly aids in making the sculptures as thin as possible. First she draws her conception of the piece from various sides, then makes the lightweight mold from what appears to be fiberglass and plaster (which I believe is modern medical-cast material). As she talked, she built this cat (above). 

Recently, social justice projects have become increasingly important to her. Making objects, she says, is not enough any more. She is interested in "marrying craft and social justice in some way." I hope to see that.

Posted on July 10, 2017 .

Mulling Over WWWC Symposium Experience First...

There were four great presenters this year at the Women Working With Clay Symposium (Roanoke, Virginia, USA, June 12-15, 2017). I didn't always know who to watch and hear next. I hated to miss anything at all.

All four presenters this year were in one, very big L-shaped room. The two throwers, Ayumi Horie and Julia Galloway, were in one leg of the L; the two sculptors, Patti Warashina and Gerit Grimm, in the other. How should I have chosen? They were all doing work I wanted to see, and I hated to skip a minute of any. But short of cloning myself, not my forte, I had to hang with one pair at a time.

We could go up and take photos of the presenter or the work, or both together. It was structured to be informal and they were so amenable. People asked plenty of  questions and shared their own thoughts, and that was welcome too. I've been to four of these symposia now, and the format has been one where attendees and presenters alike could feel comfortable and open. 

That the 70 or so attendees were double the number of the other years I was there, was possibly because of the stature of all of these particular presenters. There were no relative newcomers presenting this time (although when there have been, they've been able to carry the load). Through dint of hard work, teaching, giving workshops and talks, through social media, and because of their personalities, they are all pretty hot stuff in the ceramics world now. The organizer, Donna Polseno (artist, teacher, organizer, former presenter on at least two occasions) selects them through some mysterious process that brings out the best of the best.

As in previous years, when I begin to write about this symposium for readers of my blog, everything I've experience over those few days (there's so much) needs thought and structure to really get down "on paper". Some of what takes place at the Women Working With Clay Symposium strikes sparks that need some really good mulling over. Because the symposium is small ("huge" this summer, with 70 or so attending), there's no bad vantage point to watch presentations. You can easily hear the presenters as they talk while working (or as they pause their work to expound), and clearly see how they go about making particular parts and pieces in their repertoires. They're taking questions and telling about their work processes and philosophical and business perspectives.

So I've been gathering my notes from the Women Working With Clay symposium and also- this is inevitable- thinking about my own professional practices in and out of the studio. As part of this, I've been making design notes for my two currently most interesting projects. Tweaking designs; thinking through forms and decoration yet again. This symposium is a perennial kickstarter for my summer and fall studio. 

So while I am not at home in NJ, but in Maine on a lake for a little while before plunging back into the business and pleasure of clay, I'm taking in the view and sorting out how to do the symposium justice as I write about it. I think I'll present the presenters... one by one.

(Loon in mist on the lake, Maine)

(Loon in mist on the lake, Maine)

Posted on June 18, 2017 .

Women Working With Clay Symposium, Quick Introduction 2017

I'm at the Women Working With Clay Symposium at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, June 12-15, 2017. Been here about 5 times now and I've never been less than buzzing with everything going by the end (heck, by the middle) of each day. I don't think it's possible to be underwhelmed. The presenters are powerhouses. There is so. much. to. absorb. Techniques. Ideas. Conversations. Discussions. 

Ayumi Horie:

(First time I've seen her "dry throwing" technique and I'm so intrigued.)

(First time I've seen her "dry throwing" technique and I'm so intrigued.)

Patti Warishina (It's Patti OMG Warishina, people. I first "met" her work in my Ceramics I (1985) class textbook, Hands in Clay by Charlotte Speight. Surprised by her work then and still amazed by it.):

(That's going to be one mother of a cat.)

(That's going to be one mother of a cat.)

Julia Galloway:

(Many parts will be assembled into about 8 pieces.)

(Many parts will be assembled into about 8 pieces.)

Gerit Grimm:

(Yup. That's a leg or arm she's throwing for a sculpture.)

(Yup. That's a leg or arm she's throwing for a sculpture.)

I almost can't take it, it's intense. 

So many potters to talk to- but with about 70 of us, it's not overwhelming like the experience of NCECA can be for a friendly introvert (can that be a thing?) like me. 

Those 4 potters who are the focus of this shebang this year- are accessible the whole time. Demo time. Meals. There's always chat going on. (They're going to be so tired when they leave.) Potters in general tend to be open to conversation- nobody's stuck up, and all of us (especially the solo potters) happy to be out of the studio engaging with fellow clayophiles. This is the center of it- we have access to these great demos and talks and breakout discussion with these seriously driven artists. And sheesh. They're so intense and funny, too. Too much to think about at one go, so... 

More to come!

Posted on June 14, 2017 .

Summer is Coming, in the Studio and Out

With students going their ways and the studio quiet till the end of summer (student slots becoming available soon for fall), now is the time for me to experiment as well as make some fall inventory.

I will schedule work around the Women Working With Clay symposium in Roanoke, Virginia, which begins next Monday. I love this symposium, as it is given and attended by gifted and capable people, and is very small, less than 40 people in a fairly intimate college setting at Hollins U. I'll write about that as it happens, and while I go over my notes and photos afterward. I come back inspired from this one.

I will also schedule work for either side of our 2 weeks in Maine, where I'll be refreshing my senses- all of me, really- with hiking and kayaking.

In between, time will be limited, and I'll have to work like mad. But I do love my work. The agenda: various kinds of candle holders, honey jars, and whatever is interesting in the minutes in between.



Apple Tree Honey Jar

Apple Tree Honey Jar

4-legged jar, as yet unfired stoneware. More 4-leggers to come- a sort of "whatever is interesting" right now.

4-legged jar, as yet unfired stoneware. More 4-leggers to come- a sort of "whatever is interesting" right now.

My favorite studio assistant will come mix up some glazes this week! I love when someone else becomes available to do the powdery work. My asthma thanks her (even if I wear a HEPA rated excellent filter mask, it's better done by someone else).

I hope the giant sunflower seeds I planted along the fence are sprouting! As soon as I get back in a day or so from Israel, where I have been visiting family, I will have a peek. There has to be room in life for watching the garden grow! I'm ready to pull some weeds on breaks from the studio.


Posted on June 6, 2017 .