Artist Profiles

We enjoy nothing more than seeing our glazes in action. In this gallery we shine the spotlight on different artists that use Mayco in their work.

  • Steven Sylvester

    From Art . . . to Architecture:  Steven Sylvester

    steven sylvester“Driven by an appreciation for uncommon uses of materials Sylvester continues two avenues of his work. His current work-in-progress series of life size ladies dresses made from clay and wire continues to amplify this drive as it develops into the travelling museum show for which it is slated. In addition, Sylvester became a member of Architectural Ceramic artist Peter King's StoneHaus Team. Along the side of world renowned artist Peter King, Sylvester worked on numerous public and private commissioned art projects, thus further feeding the drive for uncommon material use in addition to large scale public works.”

    The quote above, taken from Steven’s website (www.stevensylvester.net) neatly summarizes his current work.  I got to spend a lovely moment with him to talk about what moves and motivates Steven these days.

    LBC: Hi Steven! I have been looking through your bio and artist’s statement, I wonder if you would take the time to answer a few questions for me?

    First of all, we all love your series of women’s dress sculptures. I noticed that you frequently reference the idea of the “post-feminist woman” in your work. Can you tell us what your interpretation of her is? Also, what made you decide to speak for her through your work?

    SS: My interpretation of Janet Jackson’s “Wardrobe Malfunction” is probably the best example of “post-feminist-woman”. Even though advancements in the workplace have been made, sadly enough women still receive less pay for similar work. Whether I am speaking through a woman or simply making an observation about women and where women find themselves in life I attempt to do so by paying homage to them. It makes for good, respectful art.

    LBC:
    I read that you grew up in Detroit. You say that as a boy you were inspired by the art you saw there. Have you returned to Detroit recently, since the city has struggled with hard economic times? If so, has this had an effect on the art scene there?

    SS: I haven’t been to Detroit in twelve years. At one time it was a magnificent city with exceptional art, culture and history. It breaks my heart. I used to live in an old historic mansion that was embellished with many examples of Pewabic Pottery tile. Sometimes we are too disposable with our culture.  (Pewabic Pottery: http://www.pewabic.com/)

    LBC: I see that you did some training at the Artist as Entrepreneur Institute. Please explain the importance of this type of education to our young artists.

    SS: I live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where the Broward County Cultural Division is involved in a professional growth and development workshop for artists. The Artist as Entrepreneur Institute provides formally educated and self taught artists valuable skills needed to be successful as an artist in today’s real world. I have taken the workshop and now speak to other artists about pursuing successful careers. Professional growth and development is critical in today’s art world. For information about Artist as Entrepreneur Institute: http://www.broward.org/arts/home.htm

    LBC: You and I became acquainted through your use of Mayco glazes. Would you mind taking a moment to describe how commercial glaze products aid you as an artist? Which glazes are your favorites?

    SS:
    Some people love a life of mixing, measuring and making colors. I do not. While I have very strong opinions about color and what I want to see on my art, I focus more of my time and effort on sculpting. I love the idea of another professional being involved in my work by being my glaze master. I like Mayco Colors because Mayco makes reliable quality products and also has the company personality and services to back them. I like and use all of your fired products but I use them in unorthodox manors. I get good and interesting results by layering colors and products and also by firing them at temperatures other than their original intended use. My concerns are aesthetics since food safety is not an issue.

    LBC: You are heavily involved with some really awesome charities and youth groups.  Can you tell us about a couple of the charities? Has your involvement with certain charities changed you as a sculptor? What inspires you the most?

    SS: It is important to me to have some things and events in my life that are larger and more important than me. I have involved my art and skills in several very cool and worthy causes. Right now I am working with several community partners on a project to raise awareness of foster care and “Aging Out” of foster care. It is titled, “Help me build a home of my own”.  When a child who is receiving foster care services reaches the age of 18 those services are abruptly terminated. Many of these children suddenly find themselves without support and out in the streets. Right here in America twenty four thousand children “Age Out” annually. My clay art project involves foster care children and together we will make small clay houses that will be glazed and kiln fired. While we are making these houses our conversations will include building relationships and creating our own homes and families should an adoption not occur. Each child will keep the house that they created and extra houses will be made so that this video documented project along with clay art houses and other information will become a traveling art exhibit to raise awareness of “Ageing Out”. I am very happy to have Mayco Colors’ assistance with this very worthy cause.  (“Aging Out”/Forever Family: http://foreverfamily.net/)

    Recently I had the honor and challenge with Lighthouse of Broward to teach clay art to sight impaired teenagers. The project was a success and the student’s art is currently being shown in a local exhibit. For information about this exhibit: ArtServe: http://www.artserve.org/

    My involvement with worthy causes has made me a better person and therefore a better person who wants to make better art. I am inspired and dedicated to become better at life.

  • Kimberli Cummings

    kimberli cummingsLBC: Hi Kimberli! It was so fun to meet you at NCECA this year and I wanted to thank you for allowing me to put one of your lovelies in our Mayco Booth Gallery. The Fish Pot was a popular Sounds like your entry into the world of clay was an interesting one. Can you explain?

    KC: I became a child actress at the age of 3. That was my world without exception until the last 4 TV shows that I guest starred or appeared on were cancelled. I felt it my duty to retire from the business to give actors a chance to continue working. That was 10 years ago.

    Back up; I always felt drawn to clay. My public schools offered NOTHING in the way of clay ever. 20 years ago while passing the famed CLAY FACTORY here in Tampa, Fl. I read their marque; ‘you know you always wanted this so CALL TODAY!’ I felt like God sent me a clear message. My first teacher was Kim Kirchman. Twenty years later, we are part of The Fl. Westcoast Ceramics Society and The Tour de Clay. Potters are similar to stage actors; very supportive and encouraging. Most of my clay friends are full time potters and College art professors. I am the greenest of most. I still am spongelike, sucking any and all info on form, glazing and technique from the best of the best. I prefer to draw and paint on clay because high fire glazing and I never dated and will never marry!

    kimberli_1

    LBC: Please take a moment to tell us about your process. How do you incorporate Mayco’s glazes into the work?

    KC: Jeannie Paul at Hyde Park Studio watched me agonize for years with underglazes, having to paint 3 perfect coats on each apple and leaf I created. You lose so much light and value by doing this. She found Mayco’s One Strokes and encouraged me to try them. I was able to do 5 pieces in the time it once took me to finish one. I love to layer and use my piece as a canvas. I treat the canvas like watercolor paper. You can’t go wrong, ever! The Mayco colors are so vibrant and true that a third of my work is glaze fired only once, leaving a matte but RICH color finish. Many of my clients custom order them this way.

    LBC: What inspires your ideas for imagery? Form? Color?

    KC: My Mom was a professional artist, a fashion illustrator when I was a little. I have always been a color ‘freak’! I repainted my childhood bedroom all the time, using bright purples. In my adult life, my garden is all I need to inspire me. There are over 55 greens that I’ve counted so far ( are you ready for inspiration for some additional greens???). We have summer 10-11 months a year so I am never at a loss for inspiration. My other is the Gulf of Mexico. The water changes colors as the sun shifts, the sea shells make me feel like I’m 8 years old again and the beach houses are painted in various shades of hot pinks and turquoise and yellows. What’s not to love here???

    What my clients tell me is that when I was not happily married, I had a palette of black. 7 years ago, after marrying Bill Cummings, my pallette immediately resembled a color wheel. Need I say more?

    LBC: Finally, it looks like you have a really close group of clay artist friends in the Tampa area. Would you like to give any shameless plugs to them?kimberli_2

    KC: Robert Pipenberg was my first celebrity guide. He taught me all about Raku. I furthered my interest in this with Scott L. Aubrey, who is my current clay coach and for the last 9 years. He is the most under estimated and overlooked potter I know. I studied 2 summers with Paul Soldner and Rudy Autio, as well as one week with Peter Voulkos.

    Rudy was my favorite ever! I had a mad crush on him. I think I stalked him for years. He reminded me to be childlike and free with clay and to make pieces that I want to make, never to conform. He used to always say, ‘ Don’t tell me what you want to make, show me what you’ve made!’

    My Clay group has an impressive list of potters as well; Ira Burhans,Glenn Woods/Keith Herbrand,McKenzie Smith, Mark Fehl(Kim Kirchman), Peter Streit, Jack Boyle, Harry Welsh and Kim Wellman and Chuck and Linda McGee.

    Linda Arbuckle changed it all up on me once more 2 years ago when she taught me the true meaning and history of Majolica. She keeps no secrets but instead gives every idea she ever birthed, away. I am the luckiest for knowing her.

    (Note:  Find out more about Kimberli by visiting her website).

  • Meredith Host

    meredith hostLisa Bare Culp (LBC): Hi Meredith! I really enjoyed attending your workshop demos at the Potter’s Council Surface/Form event in January at Funke Fired Arts, Cincinnati. Your process is incredibly fun to watch and the end result is amazing. The work is so clean, the forms simple and elegantly decorated. I love the use of layering that adds depth to the work. Can you explain a little about how you do this?

    MH: Hey Lisa!  I’m so glad you had a good time at the Potter’s Council workshop!  I decorate my work using paper stenciling and thermofax screen-printing with underglaze to add most of my layers.  Almost of all the color and pattern is put on the piece before the bisque firing, but one last final iron oxide decal layer is applied and fired after the glaze firing. I choose to make forms that are simple and clean to contrast the complex surface decorations.  Although my formal language is minimal, my approach to surface decoration is “more is more.” I layer these designs and iron oxide decals to make an intricate, complex surface that would not be possible with only a single layer of pattern. It is a challenge to know when a piece is finished, because my tendency is to fill all the blank space.

    LBC: Can you please tell us a bit more about what inspires you and your work?

    MH: My current body of work is inspired by over-looked domestic patterns.  More specifically, paper towel and toilet paper patterns.  I have been collecting these subtle dot designs for many years now from numerous public & private bathrooms and kitchens.  I obsess about these patterns that we see, use and throwaway everyday.  I am taking these dot motifs and reintroducing them to another material, giving them visibility and celebrating their presence in the context of other domestic objects meant for daily use.

    LBC: I see that you have been an Artist-in-Residence at some amazing places such as the School for American Crafts at RIT, (Rochester, NY), Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts, (Newcastle, ME), as well as the Dresdner Porzellan Manufactory in Dresden, Germany. A residency always seems to alter the course of an artist in some way. Which of these experiences had the greatest impact on your work?

    MH: Honestly, all of them have influenced my work!  To narrow it down, when I was a ceramic resident at RIT, I switched from firing cone 10 reduction to cone 6 oxidation. It was a way to change my color pallet to the saturated bright colors that still are a part of my work today. When I started at RIT, I made a conscious effort to make my work fit my personality. The aim was to create pieces that had a quirky sense of humor with a penchant for the bizarre. At the time, it was a giant step for me.

    LBC: How did the heavy production you did at Watershed effect your own work, once you had a chance to slow things down?

    MH: While at Watershed, I was the Salad Days artist, which meant I made 500 salad plates for their annual fundraiser.  Making so many plates meant there was a ton of surface area to experiment with decorating!  I was working in terracotta, so a bit out of my comfort zone, but overall I definitely can see the influence those plates have had on me. Each plate built upon the last, so there were many design dilemmas worked out along the way.

    LBC: You recently returned to Kansas City to live and work after residing in many great places. Can you tell us about the clay scene there? It is really an incredible place to be.

    MH: I went to the Kansas City Art institute for my undergraduate degree and I moved back years later because I knew I would be part of a supportive arts community.  Kansas City is really affordable and has a lot of financial support specifically for artists.  For example, I was able to travel to Germany through a generous LIAEP grant (The Lighton International Artists Exchange Program) from the Kansas City Artists Coalition.  Opportunities like that are not so common in other cities.

    LBC: Finally, I see you as a clay artist who is doing what she wants to do, the way she wants to do it. You are truly enjoying what you do and it shows in the work. What can you say to our young readers about how to attain this balance?

    MH:Stay motivated and keep working! Remember to always stay playful with your work and have fun with it!

    Links:

    Meredith's Website
    Ohio State MFA Days

  • Angi & Scott Reed

    scott_ang_smLBC: Hello, Angi and Scott! From the looks of your websites (see links through this article), you are prolific artists that work in a variety of media.

    One thing that stands out to me is the quality of the photography - I love the way your work is photographed. Who is the photographer in the duo?

    A&S: We both are! We each have a degree in photography.  We started working together by opening a commercial photography studio in 1989.

    We’re also graphic designers and have a greeting card company, Petaling Our Work,  that combines our love of photography and graphic design.

    LBC: So how did you get into pottery?

    scottandangireed2_smA&S: We started throwing on the wheel about two years ago after we built a potter’s wheel from an old treadmill.  We’ve always been interested in ceramics, especially since we've photographed the work of various ceramic artists over the years.  We both throw pots: Angi likes to make bowls and I really enjoy making lidded jars.  Angi’s slip-trailing gives much of our work a very distinctive style.  Our “Dottie” and “Spiky” line are examples of that.  Both have become extremely popular with our customers and we are thrilled.

    LBC: Where do you draw inspiration?

    A&S: We're a very spiritual couple and believe everyone’s beautiful ideas for artwork come from God.   An idea comes to mind and Angi draws it in one of our many drawing pads around the house.   And then we make it.   Once the idea become 3-dimensional we get new ideas: the more pottery we make, the more ideas we have.

    LBC: How do Mayco’s products help you in your studio?

    A&S: We love the Burnished Steel (EL_119)!   Really like the contrast of the Burnished Steel on the outside of our Spiky mugs and vases, with a bright glossy glaze on the inside.   Mayco’s Foundation White (FN-001) is consistently glossy every time and we use it on the outside of our white spiky mugs.   We are having fun experimenting with layering the Elements, Element Chunkies and the Jungle Gems with different colors and coming up with new interesting looks.   We are finding that Mayco glazes are very compatible with other glazes and brands, so we can layer other glazes over Mayco and get fantastic results every time.

    Most of our work is cone 06 - can’t wait to see what they do at mid-fire temperatures.

    LBC: Your tile work:  how do you two collaborate on these projects?

    A&S: When we are making tile, we work together - start to finish.  Angi comes up with the design, and I figure out all the sizes and shrinkage to make it fit the client’s kitchen. For instance when we are making our grapevine backsplash insert, Angi makes the leaves and tendrils and I make the grapes.  We do use some Mayco glazes in our tile work: it’s important to have glazes you can rely on and Mayco glazes provide us with that confidence.

    LBC: Please describe your studio and can you include how you work together in such harmony?

    subway_tilesA&S: We work out of our home in our garage.   We have 2 potters wheels, slab roller, tile press, and an electric kiln.

    As an artist couple we work together on everything.   It’s much more fun to work together on a project rather than mine sells better than yours, ha, ha type of situation.  There is plenty of competition out there, no need to compete with your spouse.  After all, the most important result is that the client likes it.

    And yes, we wrote this together!!!

    WEB LINKS:

    Angi & Scott's Pottery

    Angi & Scott's Tiles

    Angi & Scott's Photography

  • Justin Rothshank

    LBC: Hi Justin! I was just looking at your website and I do not know where to start. You and your wife Brooke are seriously busy and gifted artists and active community members. You are currently active in wood-fired ceramics and also functional earthenware. Can you explain what draws you to each of these methods?

    justin_rothshank

    JR: I attended my first woodfiring as a high school student. This has always been an important and energizing component of my ceramic interests. Nearly 6 years ago I began experimenting with ceramic decals. I was initially drawn to iron transfers because of their durability and function across many clay bodies. Upon moving to Indiana 3 years ago I lost access to a high fire kiln, so I made the permanent switch to earthenware for my production work. I like the control I have with an electric kiln, but also I really love the way the red clay looks with a white glaze. I continue to wood fire because it is a way for me to connect directly with my ceramics colleagues in Goshen, but also because I use wood firing as a way to experiment with new forms and ideas. I feel like wood firing is what inspires my production earthenware pieces.

    LBC: I see that you were instrumental in founding a non-profit organization called the Union Project. Can you tell us about that?

    JR: I was one of the founders of Union Project in 2001. Check out the organization, www.unionproject.org. In short, Union Project is housed in a fully renovated, 15,000 square foot historic gothic stone church building in Pittsburgh. It is a community center devoted to providing space for artists, community members, and people of faith. It houses a ceramics cooperative, a coffee shop, a worshipping congretation, and at least 8 small businesses. My passions at Union Project were centered in starting the ceramics cooperative, building kilns and workspaces, and leading the volunteer driven restoration of the building. I'm very interested in historic preservation and restoration. This project continues to be a one of the most exciting things happening in Pittsburgh, in my opinion.

    LBC: I was lucky enough to receive a gift from you during your time at Arrowmont for the Ceramics Surface Symposium earlier this year. It is a wood fired piece with a Mayco Foundation glaze included in the surface treatment. (for our readers: Mayco Foundations are typically used at lowfire temps in electric kilns. Justin pushed the range of the product into higher temps as well as the unique atmospheric conditions of woodfire.)

    The piece is a treasure and I wondered if you could explain some of the things you like about pushing commercial glazes in this way?

    justin_rothshank_3JR: As I mentioned earlier, I've often used wood firing as my time for experimenting. I've often intentionally used low fire clays, glazes, decals, or other materials in the wood kiln to see what happens. It's not uncommon for me to unload my kiln and find pots that are warped, puddled, or bloated, or glazes that have completely run off the pot. But it's also not uncommon for me to find experimental pieces that are extremely exciting and rewarding. Although I think that the instructions that come with commercial products (clay, glazes, decals) are important to be aware of I'm not necessarily buying the product just to repeat the picture on bottle. I want to test for myself what the product can do.

    LBC: Finally, Mayco was so happy to award you the Grand Prize in our Purchase Award competition before NCECA this year. It seems that your work has entered a new (and wonderful) chromatic area with the addition of the Mayco glaze line. The lowfire decal work and Mayco’s colors are so perfectly suited for each other. Can you tell us what you use and why?

    justin_rothshank_1JR:  I'm very excited to be adding color to my pieces. This has been something I've been interested in exploring for quite some time, and the Surface Symposium at Arrowmont was a perfect opportunity to give it a try. I'm very interested in underglazes, especially for using in wood and soda fired environments. I'm also using Mayco color glazes straight out of the bottle for some of my earthenware pieces. I feel like this is an area that I'm just beginning to consider, so I haven't settled on any given methods yet. I've often chosen to bring color into my pieces by using small splashes of color from decals, but using glazes and underglaze has given me a chance to reconsider some ways that color can interact with the forms that I created.

    Links:

    www.rothshank.com
    www.unionproject.org
    www.rothshank.etsy.com
    www.michianapotterytour.com

    on Facebook:

    Justin Rothshank Ceramics

  • Meghan Howard

    meghanLBC: Hello, Meghan! You are a busy lady these days. Your studio, Tulane Road Pottery here in Columbus is humming with retail and wholesale orders PLUS you are 9 months pregnant with your first child. WOW. How has pregnancy altered your studio practices?

    MH: I’ve found that I have to take more breaks in the studio – I get tired really quickly! I took a prenatal yoga class that has helped a lot with relieving the normal aches and pains from working in the studio all day.

    Right now, I’m just using Mayco’s liquid (vs. dry) glazes so that I don’t need to worry about dust exposure or wearing a respirator. I also have been relying on friends and family to help with anything else that expose me to dust: cleaning the studio, scraping kiln shelves, etc. Going into my pregnancy, I thought I would need to stop throwing at some point, but except from adjusting how I sit at the wheel, I’m doing fine. (I’ll admit, my baby bump has smooshed the edge of a pot a few times…)

    LBC: I know you are a long time Mayco Glaze user. Please take a moment to share your favorite glazes, products and how do you incorporate them into various pieces?

    MH: I love some of the original Stoneware glazes – Capri Blue, Green Tea, Oyster, Black Walnut – both alone and in combination with each other. The soft matte colors are gorgeous and produce interesting, almost metallic, effects when overlapped. I’ve been using Mayco’s underglazes more and more. They are perfect for sgraffito or when I want a pop of color. The ice glazes are fantastic for showing off a piece with texture.

    (Click image to start slide show)

    {igallery id="6198" cid="41" pid="7" type="classic" children="1" showmenu="1" tags="" limit="0"}

    LBC: Your background is in Structural Engineering. Can you tell us how you ended up a studio potter? How does engineering and architecture factor into your current body of work?

    MH: I started doing ceramics as a hobby in graduate school. It was such a fun escape and stress relief while I was writing my thesis. I kept taking pottery classes when I moved to Columbus and after several years realized that I was so much happier doing pottery than engineering.

    MH2Before moving full time to ceramics, I worked in new product design for the construction industry – designing building materials like roofing shingles and acoustic panels. Working with color and shape on such a large scale has definintely influenced my work. I also love making pieces that will be used – a favorite coffee mug or a lamp for your dresser. It’s a similar feeling to when I would see a product that I designed at Lowes or Home Depot.

    I am inspired by details – an old door hinge, how a roof and wall might come together. I try to bring those details that I see around me into my work. When I’m working on a more complex piece, I’ll create a 3D model on the computer to get the angles and dimensions correct. Then, I will print “plans” for each element to use as templates.

    LBC: Finally, how do you get your work out there? Can you share approximately what percentage of time you attribute to the following practices: -Making work? -Photography? -Marketing? -Shows?

    MH: This year, I’ve had a lot of commissioned work. People find me through my Etsy shop or my website or see something they like at a store or festival. I love working with an individual client to help them articulate what they have envisioned while still maintaining my own aesthetic. Because of my pregnancy, I’ve also cut way back on the number of art fairs that I’ve done this summer.

    • Making work? 60%
    • Photography? 10%
    • Marketing? 20%
    • Shows? 5%
    View more of Meghan's work online at Tulane Road Pottery or at her Etsy Shop.
  • Adena Griffith

    Adena Griffith

    adena

    Adena Griffith is one of the many new talents who have joined Mayco in the past two years.

    LBC: Hi Adena! Thank you so much for sharing some things about your work and process with us. Can you please take a minute to tell us about your background with clay? Education, inspiration, artistic heroes?

    AG: My background in clay, well it found me. I was working at the Columbus Zoo and needed a degree to go further in my position. At 25 I decided to go back to school. I had no idea how fast classes fill up and missed my year sequence for a needed class.

    My aunt, an art teacher and Otterbein graduate, mentioned there was a new professor named Jim Bowling.  She suggested I take his beginning ceramics class. I did. I then took all of the classes in the art department I could get my hands on.

    But_You_Said_smMy ancient art history class, which is still influencing my work today, gave art a deeper meaning for me. I then switched majors after realizing this was a passion woven into my being. I graduated from Otterbein with a degree in ceramics after many years. I took the long route - working at my degree part time. As it turned out this approach was the best thing for my work.

     

    "During my time at Otterbein I was told over and over not to be afraid of my voice. Professor Bowling encouraged me on many occasion to not censor my art. To be true to my work was a difficult lesson."

     

    The Otterbein Ceramic Institute has been a constant inspiration. I had the opportunity to meet amazing clay artists every summer. There are of course the artists like Kiki Smith and Frida Kahlo who inspired me to speak with each piece. During this two-week class I had these fantastic artists - in the flesh - right in front of my eyes! This is where I also meet Janis Mars Wunderlich and Julie Byrne. They changed my life and the way I was thinking.

    They gave me the courage I needed to work in clay while raising a family. You see during my time at college my husband and I had two children. This meant split shifts and late night or overnight working in the studio to be able to be home with my children during the day. It was hard but these women taught me the power of letting myself, as a mother, practice my art. They were my heroes because they showed me to think of my art as a job and not as a selfish act, to allow myself to work in clay without the dreaded “mommy guilt”, and they taught me it was okay to be in my studio working and raising small children. In times of question I still remember what they have taught me as "Clay Mamas". That inspires me daily.

    Losing_Baby_Cope_smLBC: I love your work, as you know. As an artist who works in both sculpture and in pottery, please tell us how you divide your time between the two?

    AG: It is never a set thing in my studio. But I am always throwing. Unless I have a commission to fill or deadlines looming in the distance I really don’t set a schedule for what I am going to do that day. Sometimes I go into the studio to work on a sculpture and get an idea for a vessel and have to throw and vice versa. I never really think of my work as “this week ten hours throwing and ten hours building”. When I am between figures I tend to throw more to keep my hands working. I also get bored very easily and doing both gives me many options inside my studio. Plus while I am waiting for a figure to dry up a bit I can throw some pots.

    But I will admit throwing is my therapy. It centers, please excuse the pun, my crazy always thinking brain. My thoughts and worries are silenced at times when I throw.

    LBC: Your work in sculpture intrigues me on so many levels. Could you please share a little about them? Specifically; what drives you as far as subject matter and ideas are concerned? Plus, the process is elaborate on these. Please tell us a little bit about that.

    AG: I use the coil hand building technique for my figures with the exception of the “bunny girls”. I also have a slight obsession with underglaze which I layer. Speaking of obsessions, I am addicted to texture. This is funny to me because I spent many years early on trying to make them as smooth as possible.

    My sculptures are stories of my life or, in a way, self portraits. There are many times in my life that has had an impact within my being. The birth of two healthy children has been an inspiration with the work I have created. The process which it takes to create life and the woman’s body as a vessel has been a starting point for much of my work. The fact it has inspired art from the beginning of time puts me in a state of awe. A woman’s fertility and the capability to create a child within inspire symbols which have been used since the days of cave paintings.

    Birthing_Malignant_Growth_smThe symbolism of women in itself has driven my art. The piece “Birthing Malignant Growth” speaks of the time I was diagnosed with cancer four months after my first daughter was born and during the pregnancy of my second. This moment of joy and new life had this double meaning. Because of the extensive testing during my pregnancies they found it very quickly - thankfully. Yet I felt this death being born at the same time. In a way I was creating both life and death within my body.

     

    I recently had the joy of being that vessel of another person for the third time. The pregnancy did not last nine months. I may not be like many women. Some can dismiss such an experience and move on. I felt the loss as if I had spent years being the mother of this child. But I find that this experience has lead my work into a direction which I have no control over. Maybe it is from the experience of being so alone in this depth of pain. Maybe it is the fact that women who have this experience are in a secret society and I forgot to get my membership card. Maybe in a way I am screaming to them “you are not alone”. Maybe it is all of these moments tied into one.

    Losing_Baby_smWith these recent pieces, these “bunny girls”, I have taken the symbol of reproduction to manipulate my figures. They are all thrown forms that I alter, which goes back to the idea of a women’s body as a vessel. I have used the rabbit for the double meaning of fertility and trickster. The figure wears it like a suit. This misleading idea of her fertility is taken away. Yet she is stuck within its holds.

    I have also used the spiral symbol which has been seen throughout history. It has been used as a symbol of birth, death, rebirth, and fertility. Each one is dealing with a part of the process of healing. What drives me? Well it is this thought I have that if I tell my story then others will not feel alone. It maybe crazy but I have found that because of speaking up about these moments of my life others share their stories. It opens up a conversation for healing.

    That is the power of art. It enables a jumping off point for something bigger.

  • Susanna Giller

    We first met Susanna Giller at NCECA 2010 in Philadelphia. With portfolio in hand, she stopped at the Mayco Booth to share images of her work and ideas that inspired her.

    LBC talked with Susanna about the "interesting" influences found in her work.

     "I have found myself being excited about the uncertainties and experimentation that occurs when the kiln has the final say in how the pieces turn out."

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    LBC: Susanna, I love your work. I am intrigued by your background in science and how it relates to your current work. Can you elaborate?

    SMBG: I was raised in a household with two neuroscientists where the Molecular Biology of the Cell was referred to as the "Bible." I have always had a passion for science, especially biology, and studied neuroscience at Vassar along with psychology and art.

    I went on to teach biology in middle school and high school. I also taught art and found a lot of fun projects integrating the two. For example I had my students assemble a wall size 3-D illustration of the life cycle of locusts.

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    LBC: You say on your website that you use other art media. Which ones?

    SMBG: I started my first ceramics classes as a child, but also learned various crafts from my mother such as stained glass, cross stitch, needlepoint and some quilting. I studied charcoal drawing and oil painting in college, have dabbled in jewelry-making and photography, and generally have always loved trying new media.

    LBC: But you consider clay as your primary medium - why?

    SMBG: Somehow there seems to be much more freedom of expression in clay, and I have found myself being excited about the uncertainties and experimentation that occurs when the kiln has the final say in how the pieces turn out.

    It feels like there are fewer rules, starting with just clay and glazes, or raw chemical ingredients, rather than a canvas and store bought paints, for example. Clay really puts the whole creative process in my own hands in a three dimensional format.

    LBC: As I look at your current work, the images suggest a deep connection to nature. What do you use for reference? Do you take photographs?

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    SMBG: I do take photographs, sometimes cutting out images and making something of a collage in planning the tiles. I also love collecting and looking through vintage scientific (botanical, entymologica) texts with illustrations of wildlife to help me learn about different species and their anatomy.

    If I become fascinated with a certain bug or species of fish, sometimes I can get lost tracking it down with Google images as well to generate a composite feeling for the life dyamics of individual plants and animals. It's also fun to scroll through different artist renderings of the species, such a wealth of images at your fingertips.

    LBC: You have experienced a steady demand for your pieces lately. Why do you feel that people identify with these types of images? Could it have   something to do with our high-tech society and our need to get back in touch with nature?

    SMBG: I hope the idea of a society so high-tech that it is removed from all contact with nature will remain relegated to sci-fi movies, but I definitely see your point. Maybe we are already so far down that road that instead of going camping or lying in the grass watching an insect walk across your book, we would prefer to have a lovely tile on the wall, free of creepy crawly segments, while we peruse the web and catch up on email in the AC.

    If any of my images remind people of the beauty of nature and inspire them to get out into it, and look more closely at its intricacy, I'll be happy.

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    LBC: You use a few Mayco glazes in your work. Any special firing methods or favorite glazes?

    SMBG: For the most part I have been using low-fire glazes, drawing designs onto tiles and painting with the glazes. I love that the color of Mayco glazes are so close to their finished, fired color, which makes it easier to visualize the final project. I also have a lot of fun mixing glazes to create an almost infinite palette. I have really been enjoying experimenting with the Stroke & Coat Accents as an alternative to the traditional technique of using cuerda seca as a glaze separator, which needs to be mixed with turpentine and is somewhat of a mess.

    LBC: I know potters can become attached to their kilns but you say you have a "huge, unique kiln?"

    SMBG: My mentor found a listing for an old vintage Unique kiln from the 1960's (the company has since been bought by HED). The kiln is a large (20'x 20') front-loader, not as popular/common in the U.S. but considered the "Cadillac of kilns" in European art schools - and my mentor!

    I rented a pick-up truck, drove to Augusta, Kentucky in a scenic journey to pick up my first big (600 lb) kiln that will last the rest of my life, very likely. Getting it functional actually included buying a small studio for my yard, since the kiln would not fit in my house! After wiring the studio with electricity, getting the monster in it, rewiring, replacing the elements, etc., it is now fully functional! I used it to complete a 7' by 5' mosaic mural of an octopus that will be installed in a client's bathroom.

    LBC: Finally, where do you see your work heading in the future?

    SMBG: Right now I am learning some techniques with a clay which can be made into thinner tiles so that I can do larger mural pieces which won't be too heavy to hang. I am also interested in doing work in public spaces, with the population of inner city kids that I currently counsel, so am looking into grant opportunities for that at the moment. Part of the excitement of this career is the new ideas that pop up around every corner and with every new project so I can't wait to see what's next.

    To view additional images of Susanna's work please visit her website: Susanna's Tiles.

  • Ben Clark

    ben clarkeBen Clark has been a mainstay at Funke Fired Arts for close to 10 years, now serving as their education director. Ben went to DePauw University for undergrad and got a degree in English (yes, English.) He then went to Wichita State for his M.F.A. in clay. He works mainly on the wheel and create sculpture as well as functional forms.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Lorraine Bracher

    Lorraine_Bracher_PhotoLorraine Bracher is an artist with a mission. It isn’t to create award winning works, although she has done that. It isn’t for the love of the art, although she does love what she does. It isn’t even to fulfill a desire to try something new - she’s done that too. Lorraine creates for many reasons, but her mission revolves around money- specifically fundraising for the Wounded Warrior Project.

    After retiring from a 30-year teaching career Lorraine and her husband, Greg, moved to Florida. The gift of a pottery course from her children was the catalyst for her current path as a ceramics artist. She was asked by a fellow potter to complete the surface decoration and glazing for his finished pieces, which brought her into a new realm of her artistic endeavors. Lorraine received Medal of Excellence in Art at the Great Gulf Coast Arts Festival for her efforts in this collaboration. Since that time, Lorraine has created a series titled “Duets” which features her collaborations with other artists.

    Like most artists, her art is always evolving – she enjoys trying new techniques. She loves to create hand built dishes, kitchen cookware, vases and tiles, but her specialty is finishing the pieces. She incorporates sculptural elements and photos into her work in addition to the extensive time she spends drawing details and hand-painting designs onto the surface. Inspiration also comes from friends and family members that send drawings and photographs for Lorraine to recreate on ceramic tiles.

    All of her work is decorated with Mayco products and has appeared in exclusive shops and museum stores, but the most unique part of her artwork is that it is not a business…it is a labor of love.

    Scott_Bracher_PhotoLorraine’s son, Lt. Cmdr. Scott Thomas Bracher, USN, lost his life serving the United States in 2005. Lorraine donates all of the profit from her art sales to military organizations that assist our nation’s heroes. By giving to The Wounded Warrior Project, The USO and Fisher House, Scott’s love for his country and for his military family continues. Through his mother’s art, his compassion spreads to fellow warriors and their families.  Lt. Cmdr. Bracher was a decorated pilot and earned the Navy Top Hook award five times during overseas deployments and earned two Air Medals and a Navy Commendation Medal for his honorable contributions to the war on terror during Operation Enduring Freedom.

    We are very appreciative for the efforts of people like Lorraine and are particularly proud that Mayco products can be part of her work. Her story is particularly touching to some of us at Mayco as we have sons, daughters and other family members as veterans or currently serving our country.  We are grateful for all military personnel and their families for their service and daily sacrifice.

    To learn more about Lorraine, her son Scott and her art and her mission, visit http://potterybylorraine.com/

  • Kathy Pepicello

    Kathy Pepicello

    momdad-428x428It is a rare occurance for a studio owner to have a Manager that can run the studio the way you would and be a fabulous artist. Well, Marcy Freed at Marcy's Clayground in Powell, OH has that gem of an employee in Kathy Pepicello.  I was visiting Marcy and was blown away with the custom portrait work.  As you can see by the photo's Ms. Pepicello has a remarkable touch and captures the subject.  I was amazed at how much life and depth there is just using Mayco's Stroke & Coat - SC-15 Tuxedo, so I had to find out more about this fabulous artist.

    Mayco:  What is your background?

    Kathy:  I've always been creative, started doing portraits shortly after my second child was born but it was just a hobby.  when my oldest child was considering her college major I heard myself telling her to go for what she enjoyed and felt passionate about.  I decided to take my own advice and went back to school the next year.  Four years later I found myself with a  BFA in painting from the Columbus College of Art & Design.

    Mayco: Your work is mainly done in B&W.  What draws you to B&W images?

    Kathy:  My oil paintings are conceptual, abstract and brightly colored - the portraits are the exact opposite - I like the contrast.  I do occasionally add color to a portrait but selectively, a pink ribbon, a red santa hat, etc.  The end result looks more like a hand-colored photograph.

    Mayco: How did you get into ceramics?

    Kathy: After graduating, I started what I thought would be a short term stint in a pottery studio and ended up loving it. The more I experimented with the glazes, the more I learned and the more people asked me to paint custom projects.  I've always enjoyed portraiture so  I kept working with the glazes until I felt as confident with glaze as I did with watercolor or oil.

    Mayco:  I think portraits are very difficult.  How do you ensure your work looks like the picture?

    Kathy: I've done alot of portraits from life. That kind of observation teaches things that working from a photograph can't teach you.  Now, working from a photograph is much easier.  Still I have the occasional subject that gives me problems.  Then I just stay with it, no matter how long it takes, until I'm satisfied.  Sometimes leaving it for a few hours and then coming back with a fresh perspective helps.  The final step is to have someone totally objective critique it (usually my husband - who has a great eye).

    baby-tile-page_1_-394x394Mayco: There is so much fine detail to your portraits.  What is your procedure and about how long does it take you to complete a portrait?

    Kathy: A single subject on a 6" tile can take 6 to 8 hours.  A bridal plate with two figures takes 16 to 20 hours.  Detailed clothing, landscaping and intricate patterns, of course, add to that time.  I start by getting a contour drawing transferred onto the ceramic (graphite on ceramic can repel glaze so I rarely draw directly on the bisque).  I begin painting the darkest darks with SC15 full strength and then progress to lighter layers, diluting the paint as I go to achieve a wide range of values.  The lightest lights are bare bisque.

    Mayco: We have all had disasters, that's just the nature of ceramics.  What was your worst disaster?

    Kathy: I had a bridal platter break in the kiln (something I worked a whole weekend on).  It's heartbreaking to open up the kiln and see hours of work gone and know you have to do it all over again.  There's no way to tell if your bisque is flawed before you paint.  Fortunately, out of hundreds of portraits, it's only happened twice.

    Mayco: Is there anything else you think people would enjoy learning about your art?

    Kathy: On the back of my business cards is this quote:

    motherchildfull_tile_page-382x382"A portrait affirms; it gives the gift of self to it’s subject.  It says, “Yes, you are worth spending this time over, your story deserves to be told, you should be recorded for you will not pass this way again."   I think about each person that I paint while I'm painting, I try to gain insight into their story and I believe that something inneffable is transferred in the process.  And this, to me, is just as important as achieving a likeness.

    For more information or to order a portrait her is Kathy's website:  Kathy Pepicello, http://www.portraitsonceramic.com

  • Sunny Carvalho

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    Mayco: How do you describe your style of artwork?

    Sunny: I resisted the word “whimsical” as I was finding my style…but it fits! Ceramics are a huge part of my art but I am also a painter (in several different mediums), a fiber artist, a woodworker and a willing participant in anything else that catches my attention in any given week. I also teach with several of the national retreats and individual studios across the United States.

    Mayco: I noticed you have stamps, posters and jewelry. When did you turn to ceramics?

    Sunny: I was primarily a porcelain artist for about 15 years at which point a change in my focus and living circumstances (meaning my 4 children were getting older and more self-sufficient!) allowed me to spend more time in the studio. As I developed what would become my true style, I began to play with ceramic clay. I really enjoyed the freedom of the shorter firing times and the wonderful bright colors of the glazes.

    Mayco: How do Mayco glazes fit into your style or work for you?

    Sunny: In my paintings, I choose to use a lot of bright color and odd characters. Over time and with lots of experimentation, I found that Mayco glazes could be used in layers, adding a brightness and boldness to my ceramic work that would reflect my style in all my other mediums. Mayco glazes are easy to work with and relatively inexpensive enough that I can try lots of combinations to find what works best for me.

    Mayco: Where do you find your inspiration?

    Sunny: I find inspiration in daily life. The funny things kids say and do, the things I think animals are thinking and would say out loud if they could! I am also inspired by many other things from nature to the pattern on the tile in my bathroom! Inspiration is everywhere. You just have to look at things from a fresh perspective.

     

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    Etsy

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