Interview with Els Wenselaers, Belgian ceramic artist

Interview with Els Wenselaers / Spotlight
By Ileana Surducan
Published in Ceramics Now Magazine Issue 2

What made you choose ceramics as a way of expressing yourself?

Clay is as good as any other medium, it is a material with lots of possibilities but it doesn’t influence my personal perception of art. Sometimes because of its limitations in format, in height, due to the measures of my kiln I have to find other solutions than I used before, but that are technical issues. I have also used other materials like papier maché before but the outcome of my figurines would be the same.

What is for you the importance of figurative representation?

It’s the essence of my work. It wouldn’t be possible for me to make work if my thoughts and feelings are not involved. All of them have a meaning and reflect my personal view on society. It’s not necessary for the public to understand it, you can enjoy them without knowing the background, but I need to be able to make them. Some of my works have a spiritual dimension. Love, understanding and insight, the meaning of existence - of evil, the happiness of life and the tragedy of death affect us, but are by themselves invisible. You can see it as a spiritual quest in which I will not flee, but indeed want to decompose and play with. The human figure in this case is the most suitable.

Els Wenselaers Contemporary Belgian Ceramics - The brain controller

Els Wenselaers: The Brain Controller, 2009, Ceramics, used materials, 25 x 29 x 16 cm.
> View more works by Els Wenselaers


Art no longer has to be “beautiful”, since the beauty of an object is derived not only from its appearance, but also from it’s concept and use. Tell us more about the aesthetic categories embodied by your work, and your motivation in choosing them.

The followers of modernism only repeat a trick, a cheap shock effect - desecrating the beauty. It has been repeated so many times and now it belongs to the popular circuit. An authentic artist is always looking for new styles, new forms to express himself and will not be guided by expectations. The emptiness of existence can contrast strongly with its beauty and vice versa. Beauty, ugliness, two sides of the same coin. It’s the perception of it that counts; something very beautiful can be experienced as ugly when you discover the essence, the inner side of it. Art exists in many layers, for those who want to see it. My work can be considered as superficially aesthetic, but the deeper meaning is of a different order. There isn’t much beauty in the emptiness of an existence as in the Sisyphus series. “L’existence précède l’essence”. Existence precedes essence. (Jean Paul Sartre)


The Human Hybrids series emphasizes a new twist of an old idea. Humans with animal characteristics have been a constant presence in many cultures since thousands of years ago. Compared to their traditional representation, what do you want to express with your works?

Indeed, one of the oldest known is an ivory sculpture, the Lion man of the Hohlenstein Stadel, Germany, a human-shaped figurine with a lion’s head, determined to be about 32,000 years old. Anthropomorphism is assigning human (behavioral) characteristics to animals. After reading an article about genetic engineering, I started on human hybrids. You can make goats, produce cobwebs or grow a human ear on the back of a mouse, etc. These techniques don’t stay within the walls of a laboratory. Since a number of years, you can find genetically manipulated fish in the aquarium trade. A familiar example is the glowfish: a gene of coral polyps was implanted in a zebrafish so that the fish has become luminous. Wherein ancient civilizations, men thought that they could get the spirit of the animal at their sides in the hunt by performing rituals, men now literally attempt to change certain qualities or appearances of people through genetic modification. Currently one is allowed to blend DNA of humans and animals and keep this hybrid alive up to 14 days, and this with the purpose to investigate the study of human bred organs for organ transplantation. There are both positive and negative elements to this evolution, but you can wonder who will eventually be the freak in the future: modified or unmodified humans. I want to start a dialogue about it with the Human Hybrids.

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Virginie Besengez - Spotlight, November 2012

SPOTLIGHT, November 2012: Virginie Besengez

Virginie Besengez Contemporary Ceramics - Featured on Ceramics Now Magazine

Interview by Vasi Hîrdo for Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two

Your body of work consists in reinterpretations in stoneware and porcelain of everyday objects. What sparked your interest for ceramics?

Firstly, an attraction toward the household objects led me to ceramic. I am deeply fascinated by clay and the gesture of the hand cupping the bowl.
Beyond the objects, my interest for this art was aroused by a strong link with the origin of humankind, the ancestral tradition of making household objects out of that universal and natural clay. Finally, meeting with ceramists and contemplating their work was a strong incentive to become part of that story.

The refinement and suaveness of your ceramic pieces are given by your attention to detail. Tell us about your educational background and other related experiences.

I had numerous trainings in France and Belgium with ceramists, during which I learned, observed and appreciated the simplicity of the gesture of the first movement. Permanently, I think of the first gestures man performed in order to create a clay or stoneware object.
I love the primitive aspect of this job whose rules have not changed for thousands of years.

How did the architecture of the North of France and the austere aesthetic of the Flemish still-life affected your work?

I am of Flemish origins, I have always lived in the North of France. I don’t believe in plain inspiration, it comes through our environment and culture. In my region and in the near Belgium country more particularly, the black color is omnipresent: in my ancestors clothes, in the colors of the walls, in Flemish paintings. When I walk around cities like Amsterdam or Gand, or along the enbankment in Anvers Harbor, or wandering in Bruxelles, what strikes me is the simplicity and efficiency of architecture, either XVIth century and ultra-contemporary. Streamlined shapes, huge openings to catch maximum light in spite of often grey skies.
My country is also a landscape of industrial wasteland. Former silos, unused steel factories, traces of a bygone industry in which concrete and rusty steel beams are the ghosts of that prosperous era.

Virginie Besengez Ceramics - Featured on Ceramics Now Magazine
Virginie Besengez, Brimming Over, 2012, Stoneware and porcelain, Diam. 50 cm x H. 40 cm. - View Virginie Besengez’s works

The monochrome compositions that you create give the viewer a subtle remembrance of the object design of the 60’s. Why did you choose not to use color in your works?

Color makes no sense to me, for me it takes too much space and leaves no room for subtlety and details. You need to have a poetic mind to be moved by the grey sea of the North, by the dull skies of Flanders.
Grey and black change according to the light, they are not permanent, thus the object has several lives in one day. I am particularly interested in the numerous shades of grey that light can enhance in a monochrome composition, depending on the clay, its closeness to an immaculate porcelain and the way pieces are laid out.
I have been influenced and inspired by Morandi, but also by urban wastelands, steel compression ready for recycling, odds and ends piled up at the back of an old scottish shop.

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Annie Woodford - Spotlight, October 2012

SPOTLIGHT, October 2012: Annie Woodford

Annie Woodford - Spotlight on Ceramics Now Magazine

Interview by Ileana Surducan and Vasi Hîrdo for Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two

You take your inspiration from nature. You are not just making a superficial observation, but you conduct a research of the things hidden to the naked eye. Tell us more about the universe you have discovered through your explorations.

I am fascinated by the natural world in its widest sense and at all levels. An interest in the nature of time - the past, present and future has led me to investigate multiverse theory and hidden dimensions - concealed worlds. From there I began to examine nature on a microscopic and nano scale. I became fascinated by the concept of the unseen and rendering it seen.

One of the subjects I investigated was that of diatoms, especially fossil diatoms. Invisible to the naked eye, beautiful and structurally complex I discovered them to bevery significanting the field of paleoclimatology - they are an important indicator of climate change.

I like to select various aspects of the natural world and then examine them on both a macroscopic and microscopic level, considering them in terms of their relationship to time and how they relate to other parts of the universe.

[] Read the full interview in Ceramics Now - Issue Two

Intricate but also delicate, your work seems to be obtained through a very meticulous process. What materials and techniques do you use and how much time does it take to complete a new piece?

Porcelain is the clay I favor - I particularly like ‘Southern Ice White’ which was developed by the Australian ceramicist Les Blakebrough. In general, the works are handbuilt; occasionally I use slip in a free but controlled way, sometimes combining it with fine glass fibre. I like to push the material beyond its perceived boundaries. The characteristics of porcelain mean that it requires careful handling throughout the making process and control and accuracy with firing and cooling.

I often incorporate extraneous materials once the piece is fired such as metal, monofilament, fibre or horsehair. These elements add richness to the work.

A new piece can take up to two weeks to make, depending on its complexity and it can take a further week or two to construct and apply other elements. I work intuitively when I am making, drawing on my research and bringing all the experiences together.

[] Read the full interview in Ceramics Now - Issue Two

Annie Woodford Contemporary Ceramics, Ceramics Now Magazine
Annie Woodford, Circlet, 2009, Porcelain, copper, stainless steel, 24 x 24 x 24 cm
View Annie Woodford’s works

Both science and art are a way of looking at the surrounding environment. What do you think is their meeting point? What kind of form of knowledge is art?

I often find myself working with scientists on projects and I think the two disciplines have many aspects in common. They both help us to understand the world around us. They both rely on investigation and imagination – the ‘what if?’ principle.

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Kwok-Pong Bobby Tso - Spotlight, October 2012

SPOTLIGHT, October 2012: Kwok-Pong Bobby Tso

Kwok-Pong Bobby Tso - Spotlight on Ceramics Now Magazine

Interview by Ileana Surducan for Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two

Your work evokes artificial landscapes and strange architectural agglomerations. What is your source of inspiration?

Most of my work inspired by man-made objects; something like a view of building blocks from the sky, transformer boxes out in the field, and strange formations on the roof. Recently I started to add more abstracted objects, like the connection parts of an exhaust fan, pipe or even inside a lock. I am inspired by something that is recognizable but has an uncertain function.

[] Read the full interview in Ceramics Now - Issue Two

What technique do you use in order to achieve the monolithic, geometrical volumes that compose your work? Take us through the process of creating your work.

For most of my work I combine hand building, slip casting, and wheel thrown techniques. In terms of surface, I achieve an ultra-smooth finish by using a range of sandpaper from 200-600 grit. I then use a marble polisher to sand the surface till it is as smooth as butter. For my industrial landscape series, “The View From Above,” I leave the clay surface as it is this emphasizes the unique qualities found within a raw clay body. For my “Industrial landscape series”; I apply glazes, sometimes paint or enamel to achieve the old sanded look.

The Industrial Landscape series are exploring the mysterious relationship between how one object fits unexpectedly into another and becomes a whole new composition. Tell us more about this relationship.

The mysterious relationship between space and curiosity has always influenced my work. I think those space redefine objects and give those objects meaning. For example, when you have a simple form like a cup, the space created by the handle defines the shape of the cup, when you added a saucer to this cup, the composition has changed. It redefines the function of this cup not only by adding more meaning to it, but also increasing the tension. I believe that one object needs another object and the space in between are the main reason why I am interested in this relationship, it is also what peaks my curiosity and motivates my work.

Kwok-Pong Bobby Tso Contemporary Ceramics
Kwok-Pong Bobby Tso, Zeta, Industrial landscape Series, 2011, Porcelain, paint, wood, hobby paper and metal, H 13 1/4” x W 14” x D 6”
View Kwok-Pong Bobby Tso’s works

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Interview with Teresa & Helena Jané - Spotlight, May 2012

SPOTLIGHT, May 2012: Teresa & Helena Jané

/ Read the full interview in Ceramics Now - Issue Two

Ceramics Now Magazine
: You have been working with ceramic jewelry and knobs for over 10 years. How did you discover the passion for beautifully crafted objects?

THJane: I suppose it comes from our childhood. We grew up surrounded by photographs, books, stamps and original objects. Some had been brought up from the place where we’re born, Angola, in Africa.

Our dad was an architect, and mum was a teacher of arts and crafts. They invested strongly in our education for the discovery and exploration of unique artistic sensibilities, and we always felt responsible for giving them a well deserved response. We studied piano for several years and used to go to classical music concerts every weekend.
We also had the opportunity to learn and practice woodwork and woodcut, ceramics and basketry, weaving and dressmaking, bookbinding, painting and engraving, and so many other useful things.

Years later, we set up THJané project and, until today, we still live with the feeling of achievement that comes with creating things of beauty, you say, with our own hands.

Teresa and Helena Jane Ceramics - Interview Ceramics Now Magazine

060710, 2011, Ceramic and soutache, carved and hand-painted, H 4,5 x 2,4 x 2,4” - View their works

Working as a group has plenty of advantages, but sometimes it may be challenging. How do you divide your work? Who is responsible for what part of the constructing process?

After 10 years of intense activity, Teresa usually comes to be responsible by the development of ideas and by the exploration of painting techniques. Also drawing and sculpture. And I (Helena), by the choice of materials and techniques of production, studies of color and by the preparation and application of glazes.
Sure it can bring some comfort. Yet, new works often requires us to change roles and also to work together. Breaking routines and try new things have always encouraged us. Therefore, any of us can accomplish any task at any time.
Besides, it also reduces uncertainty about the capabilities of each other, allowing to have a greater respect for individuality and free expression. This is very important, specially when we seek the necessary consensus in our work.

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Interview with Jenni Ward - Spotlight, April 2012

SPOTLIGHT, April 2012: Jenni Ward

/ Read the full interview in Ceramics Now - Issue Two

Ceramics Now Magazine
: You are presenting yourself as a sculptor even though you have a BFA in Ceramics. What are you currently working on?

Jenni Ward: Although I’ve been educated in all aspects of ceramics; pottery, functional hand-building or sculpture, I’ve chosen to focus on abstract sculptural ceramics. I feel that if I say I’m a ceramicist, people either don’t know what I’m talking about or they assume I throw pots, so I feel that introducing myself as a sculptor who works with clay is a more precise description of the work I create. Right now I’m working with organic forms that have holes cut into them and those forms have other ceramics pieces that are trapped inside. This process of trapping forms has manifested itself into multiple series of work. I’m conceptually playing with the balance between trapping and protecting an object and simultaneously exploring abstract ways to express that in clay.

Jenni Ward Contemporary Ceramics, featured on Ceramics Now Magazine
Nest Series IV, 2010, ceramic & high temperature, wire, 12” x 10” 8” - View her works

What triggered the passion for ceramics in you?

I have always worked with clay, my parents still have the first coil pot I made as a kid and I just never stopped working with clay. I was lucky enough to of had an in depth ceramics program in my high school. That exposure gave me the experience to explore clay and know that it was going to be my focus at the university level. I also really love the process of working with clay; each stage that you go through from a soft malleable material to a fired finished piece offers the chance that everything can go wrong at any step in the process. Having the ability to balance control over the clay and letting what happens happen is always a battle for me that I’m very attracted to. I’m constantly learning new techniques or possibilities with clay whether it’s through taking a workshop or seeing another artist at work. Clay is a very basic, primitive material that can be used in such varied and technological ways; it’s a constant learning process.

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Interview with Cindy Billingsley - Spotlight, April 2012

SPOTLIGHT, April 2012: Cindy Billingsley

/ Read the full interview in Ceramics Now - Issue Two

Ceramics Now Magazine
: You are both a painter and a ceramic artist; is one medium closer to you than another?

Cindy Billingsley: Both mediums have equal places in my heart. It mainly depends on the subject or idea I have, clay is sometimes better at conveying my passion or idea then paint is. There is nothing like the feel of clay in hand. I can say in Ceramics what I can not with paint. Clay is felt with all, the eyes, hands and the heart. No other medium can do this. Clay comes from the earth and has that feeling of being alive if sculptures right. If you look closely at a ceramic sculpture you can see the finger marks, the hand prints — it is made by the hand and touch of the artist.

I love in clay that, as an artist, I can take that lump of clay and make it into something magical, something others can touch and see the passion I had for my idea. This is what drew me to clay as my medium.

[]

Cindy Billingsley Ceramics - featured on Ceramics Now Magazine
Chamber Nautlius
, 2005, 15” x 18” x 9”, raku clay, hand built solid, hollowed for firing, low fired, cold finish acrylic and wax - View her works

There is a visible fascination for the world of animals reflected in your work; where does this interest come from? Tell us more about the subjects you explore.

Since childhood I have had and felt a closeness with animals. I have lived in the company of animals more than in the company of people. So naturally, I would follow that path with my art. In Ceramics I could finally convey the gesture and mood of an animal with the strokes of the clay without a lot of detail.
I have always been more interested in capturing the spirit of an animal or its essence than making an exact model of an animal. Clay freed me up to be able to do this, with quick clay marks here, and strokes of clay there. Clay has that wonderful freedom to it. And Clay sometimes has it’s own ideas about how a piece will come about, that I might not have thought of until I was in the middle of sculpting it. I am drawn to the less familiar animals in my sculptures, like the blue ring octopus, Okapi or fruit bats. These animals fascinate me. Trying to make clay appear like soft fur is the challenge and the fun, like with my Koala sculpture.

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Interview with Deborah Britt - Spotlight, January 2012

Interview with ceramic artist Deborah Britt - Spotlight, January 2012

→ Subscribe to our monthly newsletter if you want to receive news and interviews with ceramic artists.
→ The full interview with Deborah Britt is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: You are in this field for more than ten years now; when exactly did it all start? Tell us how you discovered the passion for ceramics.

Deborah Britt: My passion for ceramics came rather late. Having been born and raised on a farm in Northwest Missouri, far away from big city influences, exposure to the arts was minimal. Art classes in my small-town school were non-existent past grade school—with a student body of 60 students in grades 1 through 12, resources were focused on the practical skills and knowledge essential to a farming community.

My interest in the arts began in college, where I was first exposed to fine arts through an Art Appreciation course. After earning a degree in Business, and subsequently a Masters Degree, I was firmly entrenched in the corporate world. The spark that ignited my interest in art, however, continued to smolder, but it wasn’t until I witnessed a wheel-throwing demonstration at a local art fair that my desire to delve into clay became real. After 13 years in business, I returned to school with a whole-hearted desire to master the art and craft of clay, ultimately earning a BFA degree in Ceramics. I have never looked back.


Deborah Britt Pottery -Ceramics

Blue Pitcher Set, 8” x 13”, Wheel-Thrown and Altered, Salt-Fired Porcelain with Slip and Glaze Decoration, Cone Ten, 2011 - View Deborah Britt’s works

You are mostly creating pottery pieces. How would you explain your attraction for functional ceramics?

I was initially attracted to the wheel. Learning to throw basic utilitarian forms was a joy to me.  The tactile sensation of wet clay is so seductive! However, there are some ideas that cannot be conveyed by functional pots, thus I also do sculptural work. I like the idea of making work that is approachable both on an intimate and intellectual level.
Making functional work appeals to the part of me that wants to connect personally with the user. I love the idea that the work will be handled, and I strive to make work that goes beyond the basic utilitarian form. In other words, I strive to make the work “special” for the user, in an effort to elevate the mundane, e.g., drinking a cup of tea, into the conscious enjoyment of the daily ritual, rather than a routine act.

I love to play with form, so even in my functional work I like to bring in a sculptural sensibility. The functional and sculptural forms play off each other—one idea leads to the next—so for me, the back and forth of sculptural vs. functional is essential.

—- The full interview will be featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two.


There is a remarkable touch of sensibility in your decorations. Tell us more about how you decorate and where do you get inspiration from.

I am intrigued by the fact that we as humans are so connected to the earth, from the food we eat to the ceramic cup we drink from. I am drawn to relatively matte surfaces, perhaps because of their tactile nature or maybe because of their relationship to nature itself.

I want the clay to look like clay, and have been drawn to the salt firing process because of the ability to let the beauty of the clay body speak for itself as it fuses with salt. The element of surprise that arises from firing to firing with the phenomenon of flashing and variation of salt distribution has always held great interest for me.

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Interview with Blaine Avery - Spotlight, November 2011

Interview with ceramic artist Blaine Avery - Spotlight, November 2011

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

Ceramics Now Magazine
: You’ve been working with ceramics for over twenty years now. Do you remember your first works? How did you evolved in time?

Blaine Avery: It has been just over 20 years since I stated in the field of ceramics. I remember my first works very well I know at every point in my career I strived to produce the best possible work I could, going against any business plan and striving to be the best artist I could. I threw away many of my works because in my opinion they just did not meet the mark. I felt it better to show and sell only what I felt was the finest quality I could produce at any point of my development as an artist. My first works were refined shapes as I was trying to get to the root of the form. Most were based on early american folk pottery that of, Edgefield South Carolina, Central North Carolina stonewares and slip trailed earthen wares.

These first works were simply glazed or left unglazed and fired in a wood-fired salt glazing kiln. In my early work I wasn’t ready to decorate the surface, I was only concerned with the root of the form; once I felt that I had achieved mastery of this, only then was I able to begin to think of working with surface design, by adding patterns a zoomorphic imagery. However, some forms still call me to show their true essence.

Blaine Avery Ceramics - Ceramics Now Magazine

Dancing turtle platter (salt glazed, local clay, hand painted slip, glaze) - View Blaine’s works

You work with great delicacy when using patterns and symbols of ancient cultures on your works. How do you choose these patterns?

I first began looking at my surroundings, taking patters and imagery from nature. So much inspiration can be found in nature, if you just pay attention to its rhythm and symmetry. With other designs I do look back on many cultures, taking from them what I feel is relevant to me in this time and place. I first started looking at early American ceramics of the 1600’s forward, than from there I began studying pre-Columbian ceramics and folk art from around the world. There is a common thread that links all ancient cultures, a trueness and simplicity that I feel drawn to. I also study textile patterns for many ideas as in nature there is a rhythm, a symmetry and a repetition that calls to me. Sometimes, I take only one small part of a pattern and cover the pot with it, repeating the process over and over; repetition can be very powerful if done correctly.

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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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Interview with Antonella Cimatti, Spotlight - October 2011

Interview with Italian ceramic artist Antonella Cimatti - Spotlight - Recognized artist, October 2011

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

Ceramics Now Magazine
: You are a very consequent artist, having worked with ceramics all your career. Why did you embark on this journey?

Antonella Cimatti: I was born in Faenza, I studied in Faenza at the “Ballardini” Art Institute and I have been teaching at this same school for over 30 years. It has just been so natural to work with this material in this city, because it’s so well known throughout the world for its ceramics.

The techniques and subjects you are approaching are very different - paperclay, fibre optic installations and low temperature. Working with so many different materials may be difficult, how do you manage to combine them?

Well, I come from Italy, a country where the artists feel the weight of our history and ceramic traditions, but where there are also many new influences from the world of design and fashion!

In fact, in the last few years, in the design and fashion sectors there has been a notable trend regarding lightness and attention to detail, which is so incredibly in line with my way of being and working.

I believe that the greatest undertaking of the artist is that of professional maintenance. As a matter of fact, along with spontaneous creativity, you indissolubly must add an elevated professional competence regarding technique; through reading and observation, the joy of experimentation, of combining, and of moving forward.

Antonella Cimatti Contemporary Ceramics

Trame di luce (Weft of Light), detail, 2008 - View Antonella Cimatti’s works
Installation with translucent porcelain paperclay, fibre optics and handbuilt  flowers in glazed porcelain, temp. 1250°C.
Exhibited at the 54th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennial, in the Italian Pavilion, for the Emilia Romagna Region. Photographed by Bernardo Ricci

Your attention to detail makes your paperclay works unique and pure within their shadows. Tell us about the constructing process.

I’ll tell you how you can, while having an idea in mind, transform and tame my technique. 
My way of working is not traditional. My objective is to create a lightness in ceramics- not only regarding weight but also visually. I need to discover the right combination of materials in order to obtain the results you see.

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Interview with Simcha Even-Chen - Recognized artist, September 2011

Interview with Israeli ceramic artist Simcha Even-Chen - Recognized artist, September 2011

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→ This interview is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One, Winter 2011-2012.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: We know that you are a successful ceramic artist and also a scientist. How do you find time and motivation for both of your jobs?

Simcha Even-Chen: Science is a continuous stimulus for me; it has broadened my creativity thinking; it has pushed me to experiment and taught me that patience and perseverance lead to improved results. Art and science are integral parts of my life; although following both careers involved hard work (nights and weekends are dedicated to ceramics). I’m not preparing to give up one or the other. My analytical mind is well attuned to intuitive and creative possibilities; they successfully combine and complement each other.

Ceramics Now Magazine: Your works are investigating the elements of ambiguity and dynamic of opposites, or in other means, they try to mislead the viewer. Can you tell us more about this?

Simcha Even-Chen contemporary ceramicsI have always been fascinated by the elusive harmonies created when a precise controlled architectural element is brought together with intricate surface designs and colors to generate the complete object and induce an aesthetic as well as intellectual stimulus.  My body of work deals with construction of architectural geometrical shapes, their fragmentation, and the rapport generated when they are combined to form an assemblage. The use of the geometric design on the surface adds another dimension to each object on it own, but also has an impact on the fractures between objects in a group, as the flow of lines and shapes redefines the significance of each shape and gives a visual perception of unity and harmony to the work. The division of the body surface between white and black as well as the use of lines softens the shape. Placing the grid or lines on the edge of the shape, so that the shape flows, completely dissolves the hard lines. Viewed from different angles, surface and volume are blurred, giving an illusion of flatness.
While the black sculptures may seem massive and heavy, their weight is light when actually lifted. Their stance appears fragile when placed on their convex side, but they are full of energy and movement. Once again, the duality of heavy-light, stability versus instability, negative and positive shapes, produce contrast between appearance and reality.
I am starting on a new line of works dealing with balance, flow and motion. A dialogue between the inside and the outside of the object exists in each work creating flow motion in addition to the dialogue between the objects that developed through the way the objects are placed.

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Interview with Liza Riddle - Recognized artist, June-July 2011

Interview with ceramic artist Liza Riddle - Spotlight - Recognized artist, June-July 2011

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Ceramics Now Magazine
: What is your present project, what’s its history and how do you make the pieces?

Liza Riddle: I am exploring using soluble metal salts on low-fired porcelain clay, a project I began two years ago and am just now achieving the effects I desire.  All of my work is hand coiled, then carefully burnished to a smooth finish.  I bisque fire the clay at earthenware temperatures, paint them with water soluble metals – iron, nickel, cobalt and other salts, and fire again at low temperatures.


Three Closed Forms - View Liza Riddle’s works

Ceramics Now Magazine: Where do you get your inspiration for your pieces and what motivates you?

I seek to create work that evokes a sense of wonder and mystery, forms that beckon to be held and admired.  I delight in closely observing and then interpreting natural objects and events – weathered boulders on a mountain slope, wind ripples on a gray blue sea, complex designs on a delicate bird egg – their rhythms, patterns and forces have greatly inspired my work.  I am an avid traveler and hiker.  During my adventures I have discovered the magnificent pottery of ancient cultures in the American Southwest, South America, and Asia, which speak to me in very profound ways.   

In what techniques do you usually work and what materials do you use? Do you find working with soluble salts hard?

I have been experimenting with soluble metal salts for the past two years, a collaboration with my husband, Mark Goudy, which draws on the inspirational work of the master of soluble metals, Arne Åse. Through trial and error, I have developed my own techniques for applying these almost transparent, highly sensitive “watercolors.” The chemicals are toxic and care must be taken while working with them, so my experiences working with photography chemicals and in a scientific laboratory have been extremely helpful. Although metal salts are challenging to work with, I love the sense of anticipation as I wait for a kiln load to finish firing, the joy of seeing their almost magical effects. Some results are disappointing, but I enjoy challenges. Because working with metal salts requires continual testing, inventing and learning, I am certain this project will keep me engaged for quite a long while.

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Interview with Shane Porter - Recognized artist, May 2011

Interview with ceramic artist Shane Porter - Spotlight - Recognized artist, May 2011

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Ceramics Now Magazine
: In what techniques do you usually work and what materials do you use?

Shane Porter: My practice is multi-disciplinary in nature, from the way I draw, plan installations and think about different concepts. These areas intertwine from the research that informs my work- by rough scribbled drawings on scraps of paper, to precise computer aided illustrations. I usually need to see my pieces in three dimensions before going any further so after the initial drawing stage, I will construct rough maquettes (usually made from paper, card etc.) to get a sense of scale and presence. The series Vessels 2010 were first made from turned plaster using a lathe and from that initial investigation I played with scale and proportions before turning to clay to make the finished objects. Vessels 2010 were made in two separate stages. A bowl-like press mould was made and a large mass of white stoneware was pinched into it so to not create any seams. A top was then made from a slab of clay and the rather rough pieces where joined together and then slow dried for 4 days. The pieces were then turned on the wheel to create the desired form and finish. I am interested in clinical forms, which flirt with the idea of mass production, but which disrupt this notion by subtle marks of the maker. 


What is your present project, what’s its history and how do you make the pieces?

“If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”- Matthew 16:24

My work explores the role and function of the Vessel within ritual theory and practice. I am currently developing a new body of Vessels which are inspired by the practice of Corporal Mortification used in Orthodox Christian traditions.  Corporal Mortification is the practice of inflicting pain on the body as a type of spiritual psychology which uses the ‘body to affect the mind’, punishing man for carnal desires and indulgences, therefore becoming closer to the divine.

This work is still in an early stage of development and I am beginning to create a series of porcelain paper clay Vessels which challenge the function and ergonomics of the ritual container. I am interested in juxtaposing materials in unusual ways which enable the viewer to question the various connotations which are deep rooted in society. I manipulate typography, clay and organic materials to create narratives and conversations across the work.

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Interview with Cynthia Lahti - Recognized artist, April 2011

Interview with ceramic artist Cynthia Lahti - Spotlight- Recognized artist, April 2011

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Ceramics Now Magazine
: What is your present project, what’s its history and how do you make the pieces?

Cynthia Lahti: I am working on several ideas right now: people wearing disguises, busts of elegant women, and male/ female couples. These are all subjects that have always interested me but that I have never fully explored.

I am also continuing to use some of the broken piece from my discarded sculptures that I have saved. This idea started in 2010 with he creation of the sculpture Vault Alarm that was composed of broken sculptures. In my current exploration of this idea, I am experimenting with combining the broken pieces together to form a new figure. This idea came from realizing that when I destroying unsuccessful sculptures, body pieces that remained were often extremely interesting to me and I could not discard them. I am finally inspired to see how they look combined together and I have been very excited by the results.


Socks - View her works

In what technique do you usually work and what materials do you use?

I am focusing on hand-built ceramic sculptures of human and animal figure(s). I like to use a wide variety of clay bodies, my favorite being porcelain.  I have used all types of firing techniques to achieve the final surface treatment on the pieces. I am most excited but the results I have been getting from cone 10 soda and salt firings and low fire raku.

What was the starting point in your investigation?

I start by finding images of figures that intrigue me in older books and magazine, I then do drawing of the images and finally sculptures, inspired by these drawings, are create out of clay.

My art is influenced by human artifacts from ancient times to the present, as well as by my personal experiences and emotions. Like the varied objects and images I draw on for inspiration - from 1940s knitting catalogs and outsider art, to Native American cedar carvings and Degas’ sculptures of dancers—my artworks force an explanation of reality and compel viewers to connect to a larger human experience. Currently I am focusing on ceramic sculpture based on expressive images of the figure I find in a variety of source materials.

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