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.