Kathy Pallie: Birch Still Life. Earthenware, acrylic cold finish, 13”H x 19”L x 12”D, 2010

Kathy Pallie: Birch Still Life. Earthenware, acrylic cold finish, 13”H x 19”L x 12”D, 2010

Interview with Connie Norman - Spotlight, November 2011

Interview with ceramic artist Connie Norman - Spotlight, November 2011

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→ The full interview with Connie Norman is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One / Winter 2011-2012.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: Text and pattern is seen everywhere on your works; they make a fantastic rhythm and enhance the forms. When did you start to use text on your works?

Connie Norman: My current style using text started years ago when I was making mixed media sculptures that were mostly clay integrating text. I gave myself the challenge to make something esthetically pleasing. What I wanted to do was -to be able to tell a story with pots. I suddenly had the revelation of incorporating the text onto my pots. But it is very ironic that I use words on my work, because I have always struggled with writing. And I still do! When I was working in sculpture I only used single words, but now I have expanded to phrases. 

You recently came home from Ethiopia. What did you experience there? Tell us your impressions.

My journey to Ethiopia started approximately four years ago, when my husband and I started the adoption process for our son Vander. In 2009 our permanent relationship with the country of Ethiopia started, we traveled to Addis Ababa, to pick up our son. As the days, months and years went by; I realized I wanted to give back to the country that gave us our son. I started looking for a way to go back to Ethiopia and volunteer. I went to Ethiopia this past July for three weeks. I worked with three organizations, One Child Campaign, Vision on Africa and Mission Ethiopia.
Connie Norman working with Tigist, the master potter of Vision on Africa.I worked with women to help restore their dignity who are HIV positive and who have leprosy, and women who are destitute. Through the language of clay we were able to communicate, laugh and be with each other without a common language.
The women of Mission Ethiopia are HIV positive and suffer from leprosy; these women are considered outcasts and unemployable. Women like these and their children, spend their days searching the garbage dumps for food. Now, these women make pit fired beads, which are fired on the ground in an open fire.Currently they are able to feed their children and themselves.

I sat with the women much like an old fashioned quilting circle, they showed me how to roll the beads in my palm and decorate each bead. While we were making beads their children ran in, out and played outside with meager toys like old tires, but were always smiling. 
Vision of Africa is an organization that is helping destitute women in many diverse ways, they provide medical care for mothers and children are educated on contraceptives, sponsorship programs of orphans, and of course they train women to be potters. Ceramics in Ethiopia is a very hands’ on process  I was asked to help the women with their production process, but I felt like I learned more from them, than they learned from me. Tigist, the master potter gently guides the women from mixing the clay they collect from other regions of Ethiopia, to hand building bowls, vases, spice cellars, and coffee pots, and much more. While I was there, Tigist did a pit fire with me. I was amazed at her skill; she laid the green pots near the fire and slowly moved them into the fire ring. Then just like in American raku, she threw the pots in some dried leaves for a post reduction process. 

Connie Norman in Ethiopia with boys from one of the orphanages in Addis

"Me in Ethiopia with boys from one of the orphanages in Addis Ababa.  I caught my frist chicken."

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Els Wenselaers

Els Wenselaers contemporary Belgian ceramics

Els Wenselaers' profile on Ceramics Now Magazine - View his works

“I am currently using ceramics and mixed media. My work is characterized by a reflection of contemporary society with a subtle humor and a tendency to idealize. I make works that stand alone, as well as installations.

The ceramic figures of ‘Sisyphus Work’ are condemned to an inevitable and senseless action. The titles that I use are referring to an existentialism in which an absurd figure plays the main role, extending far beyond the limits of vanity. They perform actions, although they realize that life is without meaning, but they stubbornly refuse to take the escape routes of death or faith. Spraying grass green, air exchange systems which are much too small to have any effect, machines that suck volatile odors, trying with mental control to move a vehicle. Again, and again, and again. Acceptance of the fundamental emptiness is the only thing that’s left.

The “Human Hybrids” installation is about the possible consequences of genome manipulation and malleable man. Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct human manipulation of an organism’s genome using modern DNA technology. In examining the effect of specific genes, scientists have already made a fish that glows under UV light, pork with spinach genes, goats which produce spider’s web and there is also a Genmouse with super muscles that is protected against obesity.” Els Wenselaers

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Els Wenselaers: Human Hybrid with Racemouse, 2009, 25 x 80 x 30 cm, Ceramics, white glaze, slibs, leather, rubber, metal

Els Wenselaers: Human Hybrid with Racemouse, 2009, 25 x 80 x 30 cm, Ceramics, white glaze, slibs, leather, rubber, metal