Interview with Claire Muckian - Artist of the month, September 2011

Interview with ceramic artist Claire Muckian - Artist of the month, September 2011

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Ceramics Now Magazine
: You are a very young and talented ceramic artist. Can you tell us what was your first experience with ceramics?

Claire Muckian: Thank you, but I’m not that young actually. I studied art in school, liked it very much but never considered it as a possible career. After many years training and working in various environmental management roles, I began to realise how much I missed making art. So, I returned to the University of Ulster in Belfast to do the BA Fine and Applied Arts with a view to specialising in drawing. There, I had a brief introduction to clay, which I had never used before and had an instant connection with it as a material. I loved how malleable it was and how you could so easily transfer a quality of touch during making. I viewed it as an extension of my drawing practice. So, I made an impulsive decision to specialise in ceramics for my Degree after that.

Claire Muckian Contemporary Ceramics Magazine - Artist of the month

Turbine, porcelain - View her works

Constructing using hand-building techniques give your works a sense of delicacy and lightness. How do you make your works? Tell us more about the process.

As I mentioned before, I enjoy making where I can transfer a sensitivity of touch to the material. It is important for me that the sculptures maintain a certain immediacy, vibrancy, and vulnerability that can be achieved easily with drawing, but that tends to be lost when making 3-dimensional work.  I think this is the case with ceramics in particular, where so much time and processes are involved. I predominantly choose hand-building techniques such as pinching and coiling so you can build quickly and loosely. I’m not so interested in the perfect surface and I like to achieve an appearance of the handmade. I like the texture of hammered metal and to leave holes and marks like fingerprints. This gives the work an unfinished aesthetic that adds energy and immediacy to what are seemingly primitive works but that still feel fresh and relevant.

I wish to heighten the viewer’s awareness of space, air and silence.  I am interested in the viewer’s experience and response to objects, particularly the handmade object. I believe that the viewer finishes these forms off in their mind and participates in their making to a certain degree.

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Interview with Shamai Gibsh - Ceramic Technique, September 2011

Interview with Israeli ceramic artist Shamai Gibsh - Ceramic Technique, September 2011

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→ The interview with Shamai Gibsh is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One, Winter 2011-2012.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: What was the starting point in your investigation with Saggar firing and Terra Sigillata painting?

Shamai Gibsh: Terra sigillata painting intrigued my imagination when I was a teenager.  At first, I saw Venetian vases decorated with black and white figures and later with color painting, as part of the history and heritage of the eastern Mediterranean board. Years later, when I was already a ceramic artists, I researched terra sigillata and the rediscovery of it in the 20th century, and started to apply it to my work. I tend not to use glazes in my work, except for exterior mural work. Thus, the use of terra sigillata over the last 15 years enabled me to reach a non shiny and a very appealing color palate, and when fired within saggar vessels in the presence of organic materials or smoked firing, appears to have exiting results. I fire within a saggar, which is an enclosed clay vessel that holds the specific organic material, to get the desired results. Over the years I have used many forms of organic materials like saw dust, salt Marché, pine needles, various seeds and fruits. These days, I mainly use pine needles collected from two forests; one in the Carmel mountains and the other one close to my studio.

Installation “Stelae 2011”, 235x213x55 cm. Stoneware, Terra sigillata, Saggar firing.


Tell us more about the process of constructing your works. Does it take much time, do you have to make many preparations?

The manual part of my work: wheel throwing, hand building murals and sculpting occupy a large part of my time. However, these come after an idea has been formed following considerable thoughts, planning and designing. Naturally, I am influenced by my roots, the immediate cultural and social environment and by the exposure to anything that touches us as human beings. Therefore, yes, it is a lengthy process.

My preference of the use of sagaar firing also contributes to the prolonged preparatory phase in my work. Bone-dried vessels, made out of white stoneware clay, are covered with three layers of terra sigillata, occasionally decorated with copper cuttings and bisque fired to cone 06. Metal soluble are also used for decoration, and the objects are inserted into clay vessels (saggars) which are just a bit larger than the fired object, and filled up with organic materials, mostly pine needles, pretreated with different oxides. I fire in reduction to around 1000C.

Preparation of murals varies. At times terra sigilata is applied in different layers on a plaster board in a reverse pattern, followed by a thin layer of liquid clay. When in a leather-hard state, the board is lifted and cut into tiles, bisque fired and only than saggar fired. In other instances, tiles are painted with terra sigiillata, applied with layers of various copper cutting and even painted with oxides and metal solubles, bisque fired and saggar fired.

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Interview with Mark Goudy - New artist, September 2011

Interview with ceramic artist Mark Goudy - New artist, September 2011

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Ceramics Now Magazine
: Your work with ceramics has been active only in the last three years. What did you do before that? Tell us about your first experience with ceramics.

Mark Goudy: Well, my mother was a potter, starting back in the early 70’s, and so when I was a teenager I was exposed to clay through her work. She had a studio in our basement, with a wheel, kiln, glaze mixing area, etc. I tried throwing on the wheel back then, but I didn’t really connect with the craft aesthetic or the making process during that time. I was more interested in playing music and adventuring outdoors than working with mud.

Somehow thirty years went by before getting my hands back in the clay again. I ended up studying engineering and enjoyed a twenty-year career in the computer industry (designing graphics chips for companies such as Pixar, Silicon Graphics, and nVidia). It wasn’t until a little while after my mother passed away that my wife Liza had the idea of paying homage to her creative spirit by taking a raku class at our local adult school. Pull pieces directly out of a red-hot kiln and drop them into burning sawdust? …sign me up! It was fun performance art, but it was the building process that really drew me in. I started hand-building and designing systems to create forms that reflected my own sensibilities. More classes followed, and within a couple years I left the virtual world of computer engineering and was spending a lot of time in the clay studio. It was refreshing to be working with such a physical material and in a process where every piece created embodies its own unique identity.


Three Vessels - clockwise from left: (m70) 7”w x 3”h; (m81) 10.5”w x 4”h; (m71) 8”w x 3.5”h


You usually work with soluble metal salts, that give impressive shapes and patterns. How do you make the pieces?

I may have been influenced by my experience in computer graphics, where you can render all sorts of interesting objects composed from intersecting curved surfaces, but early on I wanted to get away from the radially symmetric forms that come about from working with the wheel. So I learned about slab construction and ended up making a series of special hump molds (by pouring plaster into stretchy fabric suspended through triangular cutouts in plywood) to shape the clay. These molds enabled me to construct forms out of asymmetric parabolic curved surfaces, which had immediate appeal. My basic process is to shape, and then join these surfaces together to make my rounded vessels. The arcs in these pieces are designed to fit the sweep of my hand as I burnish the surface by rubbing with a smooth stone. For now, I enjoy working in a scale that fits easily into the hands, with forms that feel like waterworn stones.

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Mark Goudy

Mark Goudy Contemporary ceramics magazine

Mark Goudy's profile on Ceramics Now Magazine - View his works

"The process of working in clay is a grounding experience that focuses my attention in the present moment, but also is a tangible thread that connects across time with twenty thousand years of ceramists who preceded me.

My work is an exploration in shape and pattern, using the enclosed vessel as the underlying form. These vessels are constructed from asymmetric curved surfaces that project a unique contour with each viewing angle. The interior space is intentionally hidden, leaving the contents to the imagination, metaphorically containing perhaps hopes, dreams, or spirits. These rounded shapes are meant to be held and, when set on a flat surface, gently rock before coming to rest at their own natural balance point.

My approach is to combine ancient methods of stone-burnishing and earthenware firing with computer-aided shape design to produce talismans that fuse traditional and modern aesthetics. Surface markings are created by painting water-soluble metal salts on bisque-fired clay. These watercolors permeate the clay body, and become a permanent part of the surface when fired. I have a strong affinity for intricate abstract patterns, ones that can’t be fully comprehended with a single glance, an invitation to in-depth exploration.

These ceramic forms echo the geometries of nature: waterworn stones, shells, seedpods, expansive desert landscapes, the Milky Way on a moonless night.” Mark Goudy

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