Arrowmont workshop—a great learning experience!

Posted: August 16th, 2012 | Filed under: Art excursions near and far, In the studio, Inspirations | No Comments »

This summer I spent two weeks attending a workshop at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, taught by wonderfully talented potter  Lana Wilson. It covered hand-building techniques, plus Lana’s crazy cool slip decorating methods. We also had the treat of a guest artist for a couple of days, so we got some instruction from Sandi Pierantozzi, one of my absolute favorite potters ever!!

The best part of the whole workshop (where I learned to make several new pieces, including beautiful hand-built bowls!) was watching the contrast between Sandi’s and Lana’s work styles. Funny woman Lana calls herself “the queen of low standards,” which you certainly can’t tell if you’ve ever seen her work, but means she doesn’t stress over each seam and rim, and also just kind of likes to see what happens when, say, you slam the clay on the table 10 times. Sandi is more of a perfectionist, paying careful attention to measurements, angles, and symmetry in each piece. But both artists love texture and surface decoration (as do I!), and both produce stunning work, just with different ways of getting there. They were also charming, funny, and seemed genuinely delighted to share with us their experience and techniques, making the workshop a wonderfully comfortable learning environment—and making me energized and excited to create new work with all my new skills!


Arts and Crafts Inspiration in Boulder, CO

Posted: September 9th, 2010 | Filed under: Art excursions near and far, Inspirations | No Comments »

Last weekend my husband and I attended a wedding in Boulder, where we stayed in the charming neighborhood of the Colorado Chautauqua National Historical Landmark. This lovely place at the base of the Flatirons is full of adorable Arts and Crafts style bungalows, like the Missions House where we stayed, which got me thinking about the Arts and Crafts movement.

If you are curious about this period of focus on craftsmanship and egalitarianism in art and architecture, there is a great article at There I found this lovely quote from the artist William Morris: “I do not want art for a few any more than education for a few or freedom for a few.” What a wonderful sentiment! If only all of us had equal access to all three. If you love utilitarian art and lofty ideals about the aesthetics of everyday objects, the Arts and Crafts movement is really inspiring and interesting to learn about.

Boulder is a rather inspiring corner of the world aside from its connection to one of my favorite art historical periods. In fact, most people go there or live there for things like hiking, biking, climbing, and otherwise exerting themselves just for fun. While I am often moved by the sight of a beautiful mountain or rock, I rarely think, “Gee, I want to attach myself to a rope and haul myself to the top of that thing.” But, this is what my husband and his friends spend much of their free time thinking about, so of course there was some outdoor adventure associated with this wedding trip to Boulder.

While I did not climb anything, I did hike along with the crowd and took note of the incredible textures of the mountains that are so different from my beloved Appalachians. Here are a few photos of the scenery I found inspiring on the trip.

New supplies, new books, new day!

Posted: August 20th, 2010 | Filed under: Inspirations | No Comments »

I’ve just placed an order for about a half dozen items, all related to my work here in the studio. These types of shopping sprees are rewarding for me on just about the same level as racking up at J.Crew or splurging on a new piece of (handmade, of course!) jewelry.

It is just so satisfying to bring home shiny, colorful, new tools and fabrics and books and begin putting them in their proper places, where they will soon—but not right this second—become a part of my daily routine. Oh, the things I could make with that bright red thread! It is the perfect hue, sitting there round its untouched spool in my sewing box, nestled between the orange and the pink. And that cleverly titled new craft book! The lofty lessons I will take away from its pages! My heart swells with thoughts of endless possibilities, all my new necessities working together!

While I know even as I think these thoughts that they are perhaps a bit overly enthusiastic, and that the red thread may not be stitched into the most ingenious design know to woman, and I may never have the patience to finish that book, I can’t help being truly inspired by new materials. My husband, who would rather mend his pants with a bit of twine found on the floor of the garage than—gasp—rush out to buy a new spool of string, often doesn’t understand my affection for fresh purchases, and you, dear reader, may not understand either.

But I honestly come up with new ideas at times based entirely on new supplies that I bought with no particular purpose in mind, or that I stuffed in my shopping basket on an impulse based solely on pleasing color or texture or shape. Sometimes all it takes is some fresh blood, or rather, material, coursing through your tool boxes and cupboards to let your imagination run wild and leap in directions you never would have thought of with that old, dusty, beige thread. Here’s to inspiration, wherever it is found!

Virtual and print inspirations

Posted: January 31st, 2010 | Filed under: Inspirations | 1 Comment »

Since I live pretty far from any organized ceramic instruction, I have turned to books and the Internet to help keep me educated and inspired in my work.  Unfortunately, I am usually under the impression that I am too busy to do this kind of research with any regularity, but that’s just not true, and in fact, I really can’t afford not to look at what other artists are doing—just seeing different forms and colors keeps me excited about making things and motivated to improve my skills (all of my art teachers were right! Next thing I know I’ll be religiously drawing in my sketchbook every day). So here are some results of my dedication to my continued education:

Today’s online search for pottery blogs led me to, where I found some of the writer’s sources of inspiration, such as ceramic artists Liz Kinder, Molly Hatch, and Amy Halko. Each of these women makes lovely, useful pottery with her own unique spin. What I love about all three of them is their use of color and surface decoration, something I am fascinated with right now. I am also particularly drawn to women potters, because I love to see how contemporary women interpret forms that have historically been relegated to the female realm—serving vessels, cups, bowls, plates, etc.

Because neither of my degrees is a fine arts degree, my background isn’t technically in ceramics. Therefore, I still have a lot to learn, and am kind of finding out about things as I go. One print resource that is indispensable for potters of any skill or experience level (in my opinion) is a ceramics periodical. I have a subscription to Clay Times, which comes about every other month, and has info on clay workshops, exhibits, practicing artists, and studio safety. The former journalist in me just loves to get a shiny new magazine in the mail, and there’s nothing better than a trade mag to keep you up to date on such a specific topic.

Some books that have helped me figure out technical aspects of making pottery in the studio are The Complete Potter by Steve Mattison (a great all-around resource on clay bodies, construction and decoration techniques, firing information, and more), Handbuilt Tableware by Kathy Triplett (well-illustrated, and filled with construction techniques for entire sets of tableware, from teacups to salt shakers), and Handbuilt Pottery Techniques Revealed by Jacqui Atki (this one suggests some great tools and coiling methods I’d never thought of). All of these are available on

I also never pass up a chance to buy a (reasonably priced) piece of pottery or other original artwork that appeals to me, or an interesting looking art book that has nothing to do with ceramics—inspiration can come from anywhere, and it’s one of my New Year’s resolutions to keep my eyes and ears open! More to come on this topic in the future…