Utilitarian Clay Recap: Part 1

I flew back into DFW last Sunday from the Utilitarian Clay symposium at Arrowmont in Gatlinburg, TN. Held at 4 year intervals, this event marks a major event in the vessel-oriented clay community. My past professor Peter Beasecker and Bill Griffith spearheaded the event and coordinate it to this day. Between rotating morning and afternoon artist demonstrations by invited presenters, 6 independent exhibitions, numerous engaging attendees, tasty meals, and meaningful discussion I managed to snap a woefully inadequate amount of photos. I can’t begin to verbalize the excitement, influence, and significance of the experience; I recommend it highly. This was my 2nd go-around, since I attended in 2008 as well.

I don’t necessarily feel like I need to explain why I like these pieces, but I will touch on a few key highlights. The images and forms have a solid relationship, beautiful craftsmanship, and appear cohesive, all of which demonstrate the merit of this work. Kip O’Krongly was one of the symposium presenters, a wonderful choice for a last-minute addition.

Angry canary salt and pepper set.

These bad boys get carved by hand, an hours-long process. The result captures the morose expression of the canary left to die in the mines, a manifestation of the artist’s exploration of agricultural, livestock, and food-production based methods.

Part of Molly Hatch’s presented work.

Stellar design and classic U.S. pottery forms are a sort of trademark for Molly Hatch, who has also been brought on by Anthropologie to do design work. I wholeheartedly support the sheer awesome-ness of this development, but doubt I’ll ever be graced by such a situation, plus I’m still considering how I might react. At any rate I enjoy these pots quite a lot.

Shoko Teruyama platter, aerial view.

Although Shoko Teruyama could not attend as a presenter, some incredible pots remained on display during the symposium. The elaborate and strange images covering the pots demand some extended perusal, which I engaged in. Drawing on pots definitely falls into a category near and dear to my heart.

Some more elegant Teruyama pieces.

The faintly Egyptian qualities of the oblong vessel in the above right photo and the canopic-style jar on her home page have a sort of childhood-delight appeal for me. As a little bitty girl, my favorite version of Cinderella in picture-book format was The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo and illustrated by Ruth Heller, based on an early recorded version of the story about a girl named Rhodopis. I admit to still being somewhat mesmerized by the graphic stylization of Egyptian art, which probably has a lot to do with my love of drawing in a frieze-like style to this day.

A massive flower brick.

A rainbow of gorgeous bowls by Monica Ripley.

Elegance and simplicity with gloriously textured loose slip decoration adorn many of presenter Monica Ripley’s pots. These bowls don’t boast that particular element, but the range of sexy hues inside of the vessels begged to be documented. I admit to already owning quite of few of Monica’s pots, and her salad plate is usually the one I reach for in the cabinet first.


A duet installation by Gwendolyn Yoppolo.

To emphasize the connectivity of the bi-lobed two person tea cup set, presenter Gwendolyn Yoppolo knitted all of the yarn elements. Experiencing the piece with James Connell had a delightful quality while at the same time causing me to confront a sort of discomfort with the intimacy of the piece. Interesting stuff. I already really love the crystalline glazes and silky smooth clay body in her mostly-handbuilt pots, too.

Sunshine Cobb jars.

Sunshine Cobb demonstrated her spontaneous yet sophisticated process, with some candy-coated finished pieces on display a stone’s throw from the studio door. Again a set of different and wholly superior work, with lovely little breaks in the slip exposing red clay and a glorious line of glaze halo.

That’s all for the first installment. I did still take a bunch of photos, so watch for continuing editions of the symposium recap.

Salt Fired Pots in September

I got my most recent batch pushed through a cone 10 reduction salt firing at the Guild. It’s primarily more ambitious pieces and prototypes, but the nice high temperature at shut-off and good quantity of salting gave me pretty successful results overall. I think the Some Bright Green did a bit too much running, but otherwise warping and cracking didn’t plague the pots. This is an ideal situation considering I use grolleg porcelain which tends to take any opportunity to warp and/or crack.

A successful teapot, with a well-fitting lid fresh from the kiln.

The colors and textures evident in the glazes are a bit different than the palette I am accustomed to. A few re-fired bowls got some unbelievable color and crystal variation, for example. The halo and richness of hue in the teapot shown above represent the overall results well. I am happy with the blue slip decoration, both inlaid and trailed, including the few pots with sufficient glaze fluxing to make the slip bleed and run.

Part of the newest batch.

The next event I know of that I’m bringing pots to will be the Fall Sale & Show at the Craft Guild of Dallas, which arrives in early November. I plan to get some more pieces completed by then. The finished pots in my studio are beginning to overflow, however, so we’ll see.

I’m Still Here…

Albeit not posting much lately, I am progressing in the studio. I am just wrapping up the making stage for a 2/3 electric kiln load or so along with two trophy bowl re-makes. I poured more labor than usual into some especially complex forms and several decorative processes including sprig molds, slip trailing, and inlaid slip. I’m currently drying a batch of zoomorphic ewers, new and improved teapots, butter dish prototypes, fully decked out gestural vases, etc. These newest pieces reflect a measure of an increasingly ornamental, palace-ware aesthetic. Here’s a teaser photo of some dry greenware pots.


Trophies in Progress

Here's a bird's eye view of the incomplete Breeding Stallion trophy bowl.

I received a custom order for a regional horse show in the fall, for 12 trophy bowls. I was given full artistic freedom with the requirement of including the club logo, year, and title. I placed the logo in the bottom interior, and scrolled the text around a flattened rim. I hand-carved all stamps and sprig molds myself, then the slip-trailing was completed freehand. After all, I believe in authenticity. The slip and sprig molds are colored with blue stain, dark for the slip and medium for the sprigs. I still have 7 more to make, and these 5 still need to be trimmed. Let me tell you, this sort of decoration takes FOREVER. I really hope the pieces live up to the expectations of the club President.

Here are the five with finished decoration. There are slight variations in text placement, but I think that indicates their hand-crafted nature.

After trimming, I’ll cut out three chunks in the foot ring to match up with the three stamps on the rim band to give these a nice visual openness underneath.

P.S. I’ll be showing/selling work at two craft sales in April and May. Stay tuned for details as the dates approach.