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  • 05 Dec 2023 7:52 PM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

    By Judy Nelson-Moore

    With an interview by Slip Trail editor Cirrelda Snider-Bryan on October 11, 2023 

    Judy Nelson-Moore:  It is difficult to decide where to start my story about my involvement in the NMPCA. Should I start with attending the New Mexico Potters Ghost Ranch workshops in the late 1980s while living in Denver?  Should I start with when I became a member of the NMPCA board after moving to Santa Fe about 32 years ago?  …

    Wherever I start, this story about me is also about the NMPCA and its growth, expansion, and success over the last 25 years.  I have been a player in this success, having served on the board for 20 years and in various capacities on committees.  I am proud of what we have accomplished and extremely grateful for the friendships I have gained from long-standing and recent introductions.  If I were to mention the names of all the friends I have made it would nearly make for a roster of members.   These friendships have enriched my life immeasurably, and I can’t imagine my life without them now.   

    The greatest observation I can make about the NMPCA, if I take a long view, is the increased quality and variety of ceramic art expression exhibited by members.  If you come to each of the exhibitions put on by the NMPCA for 20 years, as I did, this fact becomes very apparent.  New members have brought in new forms of expression, workshops have encouraged ideas and excellence, and individual members have put forth their best efforts to improve their work. 

     The Slip Trail: You talk about the greatest observation you can make about the NMPCA being “increased quality and variety of ceramic art.” Within that context, please discuss your history with the Celebration of Clay, the annual exhibition.

    Judy Nelson-Moore: NM Potters, for a time, held their annual member shows at the Harwood Art Center in Albuquerque, with the name “Celebration of Clay.” Here is the flyer for the 2003 show, for which I was an award juror. Elaine Biery won Best of Show that year, and you can see the pictures of other awards. There was never an overt jurying process in those early Celebrations of Clay. Members were notified of the show, and if any pieces were ever rejected, I didn’t know about it. It was mainly organized in Albuquerque with Kathy Cyman and others. 


    Celebration of Clay 2003 flyer. 

    Not too long after, the annual exhibition moved to the Albuquerque Arts Alliance Gallery, where Cricket Appel, then president of the NMPCA, was also the director of the Albuquerque Arts Alliance.  The Arts Alliance had a gallery with their office, and we started showing there. And at that time, we overtly discussed it would not be a juried show. I was mainly in favor of that because I had had two previous experiences with craft organizations where juried exhibitions created a poisonous bitterness.  In one case, the organization died because the acrimony devolved into disinterest. I felt the NMPCA should not have the same fate!  NMPCA should be very inclusive. The whole purpose of our organization was to build up the ceramic arts and encourage artists. From my previous experience, I felt a juried show was contrary to that purpose. Fortunately, many of the other members agreed.  Several years later, I was validated by learning that renowned artist and teacher Robert Henri, who worked with Edgar Hewitt in 1917 during the founding of the Museum of New Mexico, implemented an open-door policy for the exhibitions without jurying because he felt judgments were the antithesis of creativity and artist’s development.  

    From Robert Henri, The Art Spirit, published in 1923:

    “…To struggle for an open forum for exhibition without the control of juries, and for greater opportunity all, for self-education…. there will grow new and wonderful things”

    I’ve long fought for what I called “the self-juried show.” I said each artist should submit their work to the Celebration of Clay, where they can imagine themselves standing at the opening, having their picture taken, and feeling proud of their submittal. I call that “self-jurying.”  Over the years, the NMPCA’s conduct of their annual exhibition has proven the success of the “self-juried” show concept ... We had some difficulty finding venues who would accept the idea early on, but the venues realized a quality show could still be staged because we had demonstrated it for many years. You can look at specific artist’s work from years ago and then look at their work now, and you can see a fabulous progression. 

    The Slip Trail: How was the Clay Community back in 1992 here in New Mexico, especially Santa Fe when you moved there. Was it more fragmented? The reason I ask that is because in your outline you state there was a Santa Fe Potters Guild and at one point it merged with NM Potters and Clay Artists (at that time it was just called New Mexico Potters). What’s the story about Santa Fe Potters Guild merging with NM Potters? 

    Judy Nelson-Moore: When I first came to Santa Fe in 1992, I was really very busy with my computer software consulting business, I was doing a lot of travel.  My husband, Jim, and I were also building a house.  Of course, the house has a wonderful clay art studio!  At this time, I also continued working with paper clay.  This is adding paper pulp to the clay body to increase the dry strength.  I have been exploring this concept ever since with my own work and conducting workshops. 

    However, I was struggling with integrating into the community in Santa Fe, partly because I was traveling a lot and missed the ceramic art community in Denver.  There, we had a very active community of ceramic artists; I was a member of the Colorado Potters Guild, a very close group.  I found in Santa Fe there was a Santa Fe Potters Guild which held meetings and sales.  I joined and since I was a computer software specialist, I did their email list.  However, I found the atmosphere in Santa Fe at the time was kind of standoffish.  Artists were protective of their techniques and opportunities because of the great competition.  There were so many artists. It seems there’s much space in Santa Fe for art, but there was a lot of competition for the opportunities. It still is that way. At Denver galleries, you could do better as a Santa Fe artist than you could in Santa Fe as a Santa Fe artist. Something about an out-of-town artist has a draw for galleries.

    A fellow Santa Fe Potters Guild member and I, Jay Dirago, decided we would like a more open, sharing atmosphere.   So, we started an informal group called The Clay Salon. We would invite clay artists into a studio, his studio, my studio, and other studios followed.  We would gather around in a circle, and we would exchange ideas. We shared glaze recipes, inspiration, tools, working methods, and gallery contacts: the idea was to share ceramic art experiences.  

    I also continued to be a member of the New Mexico Potters.  (I had been a member for years from Colorado.) Gary Carlson (NM Potters president at the time) talked me into doing the email list for the NM Potters.  So, I was doing the email list for the Santa Fe Potters Guild, our Clay Salon, and the New Mexico Potters.  The Santa Fe Clay Guild folded, and I told everyone I was not going to maintain overlapping lists anymore, so I told people they should just join the New Mexico Potters.  Most people did, and we continued to hold the Clay Salon in Santa Fe, even having some people join us from Albuquerque.  I see the Zoom Clay Connections which we started during COVID-19 as a continuation of the impetus to share ceramic art experiences, expanded to the whole membership around the state.  

    So, you could say my software consultant career let me make major contributions to the New Mexico Potters and Clay Artists over the years.  First with the email lists and sending emails, then with website creation and maintenance, leading to my idea to have an online “studio tour” of artists on the website, then online membership records, online event registrations, online donation campaigns, exhibition displays, people’s choice voting for exhibition works, and conversion of the paper/email “Slip Trail” to the current blog.  I think these initiatives have helped to keep the organization vital and growing.  I am grateful to the active participation of the membership, especially fellow board members, past and present for their support.  I am very thankful for Sara D’Alessandro for taking over the newsletter. Michael Thornton for taking over the Ghost Ranch Coordination, and Leonard Baca for taking over the website.   

    The Slip Trail: Ghost Ranch became an important place for you to connect with other potters and learn from them. Please talk about the ways you remember having the NMPCA organization help the Ranch be a place for Clay Community. You had brought up in your outline the Armstrong Grant, Clay Forward, any other projects to support the ceramic arts at Ghost Ranch.  

    Judy Nelson-Moore:  Ghost Ranch was and is my first and best love in New Mexico.  From the time I attended the first ceramic art workshop at the ranch, I was caught.  I went to Ghost Ranch for a Jim Kempes and Willard Spence workshop.  Some of the most memorable NMPCA workshops were Rudy Autio (1985), Akio Takamori (1986), Jim Romberg (1992), Kathy Triplett (1998), Joe Bova (2007) and many in between including New Mexico connections  (workshops with multiple presenters) I attended as a participant and a presenter.  

    When my mother died, I went to Ghost Ranch and I climbed up to Chimney Rock where I was in tears and sitting on the ground, feeling like I was home. So, when my husband and I decided we wanted to retire to Santa Fe, I was still working as a consultant at the time. We suddenly realized we didn’t have to live in Denver because I was always flying anyway, so why don’t we move to New Mexico, and of course we had to move to Santa Fe. 

    I became good friends with Barbara Campbell when she took over the Ghost Ranch ceramic program coordination, and she and I partnered on many years of workshop planning and presenting, donation campaigns and fundraising projects, volunteer camp coordination, and thinking about the future of the ceramic art program at the ranch.  Our partnership continues to this day.  One of our ideas to better utilize the ceramic art facilities was to promote “Edge” workshops.  These were workshops scheduled on the calendar before or after the regular Ghost Ranch programming when the studio was not in use.  The weather at the Ranch is good for most of the year, so we were successful with several of these, including Jim Romberg, Joe Bova, and Sheryl Zacharia.  Luisa Baldinger and I did one of the workshops together:  I was doing paper clay, and she was doing soft slab construction.  

    “Edge” workshop at Ghost Ranch: Paper Clay led by Judy Nelson-Moore, Soft Slab Construction led by Luisa Baldinger. Photos by Marta Rodeheffer

    The experience of planning, presenting, taking, and talking to clay people over the years about Ghost Ranch experiences, led me to see that Ghost Ranch is a significant place for the ceramic arts, not just for me but for a lot of other people, and it had a potential I needed to help become fully realized.  Barbara and I had this idea where we applied for the Armstrong Grant in 2008 to put in a cement floor.  The Armstrong Grant gave us a $1000. We worked with the grant and put a cement floor over the dirt in Pot Hollow. In conjunction, I raised a donation campaign among the members where we collected a sum of money for other projects. Then the Ranch put in the Raku pavilion about a year later. We really were able to make several improvements down in Pot Hollow. 

    Judy and Barbara Campbell at Ghost Ranch. Photo by by Marta Rodeheffer

    When the flood occurred in 2015, and we moved up to Piñon, we had a campaign to get money for the sun awning over the portal, so it wasn’t so difficult to work on the portal because the sun was really quite difficult in that location. So that was a significant expense. When Covid came along, and I saw the Ranch was struggling, I had this idea. First of all, Andrea Pichaida’s daughter, a graphic designer, developed these logos for the Celebration of Clay for about three years. They were beautiful logos, I felt. We hadn’t had any T-shirts or aprons for several years, and I thought we needed something to remember these logos by, if not the shows and workshops themselves. And then I got this idea: let’s use them as collateral to collect money for the Ranch. So, you know, I’m always coming up with ideas. I’m never short of ideas. Other people probably feel that’s unfortunate. (haha!) I always believe you cannot put forth an idea and then step back and say, okay, everybody else, you do that idea. That’s not fair; that’s not right. So, I started pitching the idea and dedicated myself to making it happen. That’s how the Clay Forward campaign started. I had a wonderful group of artists on the committee (Cirrelda Snider-Bryan, Luisa Baldinger, and Merlene Walker). I thought we had a brilliant idea to call it Clay Forward, and we met our goal, plus more.  Everyone now wears their shirts and aprons happily. Well, strangely, when Barbara Campbell was investigating how were going to use that money, she found out that the Ranch had been holding on to some money designated for the ceramic art studio for quite some time. So, there’s more money there than we even thought there was. 

    Another program I am supportive of for the NMPCA is the Armstrong Grant.  I knew Bill Armstrong, and he was a great guy.  He was selfless in his contributions to the New Mexico Potters. 

    The Armstrong Grant was initially set up for $500. And we later increased it to $1000. We need to increase the amount.  When we receive an application for more than $1000 or applications we want to award, and it’s more than $1000, the board does award them. Because we have some money in our savings, we can do increase the award for good reason. At an annual meeting several years ago, when we were giving the treasurer report, some members asked what we were doing with all that money. Let’s do something with it, they said. I’ve been conscious of discussio for several years. In the past, we didn’t always get applications for the Grant, and I think part of the reason is it’s such a paltry amount nobody wants to go to the trouble to apply for it. 

    The Slip Trail: You lent the organization your computer savvy in many ways. Wasn’t the motivation always to bring people together more easily? Can you reminisce on that process of converting to an online presence?

    Judy Nelson-Moore: First, I want to say, after the Annual Meeting this year, Kathy Cyman came to me and said something wonderful.  I think it reflects where we’ve come as an organization. She said, “Judy, I think the NMPCA would not be where it is now without you and your computer skills and putting us online and all the communication that has occurred.”  I felt like this was a good reason for all the hours of work I had spent on developing the technical side of the organization. I started because it seemed I was the only person in the organization who could. The initial motivation was to get the word out about who we were and our activities, the workshops, and grants.  I felt like people didn’t know what was going on. The motivation was also to raise what we now call the “profile” of the NMPCA, the public side, that was the website side, and the member side, all the communications, the emails, the newsletter, to get the word out among the members, to give the members some value, to make them know this is a happening organization, it’s well worth your participation. And I think this value has come to pass. 

    Bringing people together more easily was really the goal of the Zoom calls, with the Clay Connections, starting during COVID lockdown when we couldn’t meet in person. Being a statewide organization, it was always difficult for us to meet in person anyway. Clay Connections became an ongoing activity because it filled a need to connect beyond local areas.  I think it’s a great way for people to connect. And people are more interested in connecting now than they were before.  

    In those early “transition-to-online” years, we also evolved to have several websites. In the early days of WordPress, it didn’t seem possible to do more than one function on a WordPress site. I started one for the main website to publicize who we are and what we are about. Then, I started another website for the Studio Tour. I think the Studio Tour is one of my most significant contributions. It was another one of my brainchild ideas (chuckles). I felt like this was to be of significant value to members. It was when internet searching was increasing, and it enabled the artist, for a very low cost, to have their presence on the internet to show their work. I think this was very helpful. So the studio tour was the second site. Then there was The Slip Trail, the blog. The Slip Trail has had so many generations. It was initially a mailed mimeographed paper publication. Penne Roberts was the editor for many years, as well as other editors. The postage was getting very expensive.  The newsletter editors had trouble getting anybody to give them any input. We changed it to every other month, then to quarterly. And one meeting, the board was at my house, actually right here in this room where we are talking, and the board said, “Why don’t we have an online blog?” Then they all turned to me (big smile). And so, I implemented another WordPress site for the blog. The fourth one was for show applications. When you have even a non-juried show, you need some way of determining how many people to accept and collect their entries for tracking and labeling. 

    Then the WordPress sites became too unwieldy, and I began to realize, although they were nice sites and a credit to our organization, WordPress was not a tool just anybody could work with. It’s a difficult tool, and you need to be technically minded, especially with all the functionality we use.  You almost need to have a full-time person. And the board kept saying, “Well, Judy, we’ll just hire you to be the person.” I finally decided we needed to convert to something else. In the meantime, we decided to utilize Wild Apricot for membership records, dues tracking, and payments. The credit goes to Cricket Appel. She’s the one who identified the “content management system” (the official word for it). We converted all our membership records. It’s a great system to maintain membership records; it sends notifications when it’s time to renew membership, plus it enables us to register events, so we put the show applications on there, along with workshops. Wild Apricot accepts online payments. It is also a fairly adequate website and email tool. But I said to the board: we must have something people can manage easily. Multiple WordPress sites did not work for easy maintenance.  We decided to consolidate everything into Wild Apricot.  So, we went into a big project. It took us about six months, and people helped me. We converted all our functionality into Wild Apricot. And it works reasonably well. We had to convert all of the Studio Tours; we had galleries of previous shows we converted, and we had the Slip Trail articles; it was a big effort.

    Judy during the interview. Photo credit: Judy Nelson-Moore

    The Slip Trail:  Almost our last question: You were involved on an administrative level with NMPCA for twenty years. You took on many roles. You took your required year off, but then you joined back on after six years, three times. Are there any anecdotes you wish to share about the various roles you took on the board over the years? Treasurer, President, Vice President? Webmaster, all the different roles.

    Judy Nelson-Moore:  I have worked in a business for many years. I was a manager in a computer software business. I worked as a consultant, I worked with clients. That experience was invaluable in all the roles I later took on the NMPCA. However, I quickly discovered the differences between working with business clients and clay artist volunteers in the NMPCA.  My best role in the business environment was as a consultant, helping people. I’d let them make the decisions, and I could just help them implement them. This skill came into play in leadership roles within the NMPCA. When I was NMPCA president, we had some difficult decisions and times when communication within the board was difficult. But there’s one very important action we took: we made an operations’ manual. Sara D'Alessandro, Barbara Campbell, and I attended a Santa Fe Business Institute workshop. They gave a workshop on non-profits and how they should operate. After the workshop, we created the operations’ manual. It’s on the website.  Unfortunately, many people have forgotten about it. So, my final advice is to pay attention to the manual.  It can be updated and changed to meet current circumstances, but it can give guidance if questions arise and communications get confused.  

    The Slip Trail: Brava, good. Looking into the future, do you have an idea for the future of the NMPCA and your own direction in creativity?

    Judy Nelson-Moore:  I hope for the NMPCA to expand its role in the Arts Community, emerging as a key organization to advocate for creativity in ceramic arts. Creativity, a vital tool for personal and organizational growth, finds unique expression through clay. The tactile experience of molding clay connects artists intimately with their creations, fostering a powerful, restorative, and exciting process. The NMPCA can attract a diverse community, solidifying its position as a driving force in the intersection of art and craftsmanship and inspiring a new generation of clay artists dedicated to increasing creativity in our world.

    In my personal exploration with clay, I've entered a phase where commercial motivations no longer drive my creative pursuits. This direction stems from a transformative shift in my creative journey. My focus has evolved towards a profound love for experimentation and exploration in the realm of ceramics:  alternative firing methods, alternative surfaces, unfettered shapes, unfired and mixed media combinations.  Experimenting with effects, and methods has become an intrinsic goal in itself. The works that emerge are a genuine manifestation, either flowing intuitively from my hands or taking shape from the canvas of my dreams ... My desire is to persist in crafting with energy, unbridled freedom, and share my love of clay with others.  

    The Slip Trail: What a completely successful interview. I applaud your words and your thinking. Thank you so much, Judy. 

    Judy Nelson-Moore: You’re very welcome. I am so thankful to you for helping me with this process. I’ve wanted to get something in the Slip Trail to make these stories known.

    -       This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.   

    To see Judy’s ceramic work, go to  her studio tour page at and her website at

  • 09 Aug 2023 12:08 PM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

      Part Two: Interview with Barbara Campbell

      Barbara Campbell: Then a 27-foot flood came [July 7, 2015], and took out a lot of our equipment. It took the slab roller and dumped it upside down about 300 feet away. We found it 'cause its legs were sticking up out of the mud. All of the wood parts in the middle were pretty nasty and it was really rusted so I cleaned it all up. Somebody helped me build some struts for inside of it. It still could use one more piece of particle board in there right now. I usually put 2 or 3 pieces of canvas just to roll it a little thinner. So we managed to rescue that and it more or less works. 

      We moved up to Pinon #1. The Potters Association was fabulous. Dean Schroeder built all those indoor shelves and a counter around the sink. Joe Bova, Leonard Baca, and a few other people, I can’t remember who all else, built shelves along the side of the patio. First of all, I told the Ranch we needed more outdoor space. They moved all the kids’ equipment out of the way so we would have room for the kiln yard.  The Ranch built us a patio that went out back from the smaller old patio, but it was a little too narrow. The Potters Association, again, raised $6000 for the retractable shades to come down so the afternoon sun doesn’t come across and fry people that are working on the patio. So, we have this nice shady area to make that patio very workable. The lattice work gives us some privacy without blocking people’s view or the much-needed air flow. 


      June 2016 “V” Camp: Dean Schroeder, Barbara Campbell, Tomas Wolff, Leonard Baca, Monika Kaden, Jack and Penne Roberts showing Raku kiln moved into "new" kiln yard. Photo credit: NMPCA.                           

       May 2019 “V” Camp: Penne Roberts, David Canfield, Barbara Campbell, Michael Thornton review the Studio Manual. Photo credit: Cirrelda Snider-B.

      Katie Sheridan donated the electric Bailey kiln that goes up to cone 10. It’s a lovely kiln. Because of the flood we no longer had a computer kiln. It’s really nice to have a computer kiln because if I can’t be there, that’s 4 or 5 hours I have to wait while I’m turning the kiln up before I can leave. One of our Jan Term teachers melted a batch of micaceous clay all over the inside of the Bailey kiln which totally ruined it, so we were down to one small funky kiln. It was then someone in Albuquerque, I can't remember who, had a computer for sale for $1,500. I asked our Program Director if the Ranch would buy it for us and they did.

      Then, a year or two ago, Daniel Lauer from Albuquerque who works on kilns came up. Michael Thornton started cleaning all the melted micaceous clay out of the Bailey kiln. We kept one of the shelves that was completely destroyed. That shelf had the mica melted onto it like lava. There was one little space that was left bare and I found a lizard painted there, and a poem written by way of an apology. Michael started cleaning up the inside of the kiln. I asked the Ranch for the money to repair it. Buying a new kiln would be $3 or $4000 but we could probably repair it for under a thousand. Daniel Lauer came up and did an evaluation. I ordered all the parts he recommended. He later came up and rewired the whole kiln and put 2 courses of new bricks that were needed. He was the one who said you don’t want to be pulling a plug out and putting another plug in, on these other two kilns, he said, because it damages the metal, and eventually will start arching and you will burn up your sockets. They are really hard to get in and out and apparently it does damage each time you take it out. I had that happen to one of my kilns. My plugs are up high, under the eaves, because I have my kilns outdoors. Just the weight of the cord hanging, it eventually burned whole the whole plug and socket up when I wasn’t looking. Fortunately, it didn’t start a fire in my house, but it was all blackened. So, when I reinstalled it, I put a brace up there to hold the plug up so the weight wasn’t pulling. I understood the whole concept of that. We now just leave the computer kiln plugged in and we don't use the old small kiln that was so instrumental right after the flood. The small kiln was donated to the Ranch by Cricket Appel. I think it is time to pass that kiln along to the next person in need.

      The Bailey kiln is hard-wired now. Everything is now working again. We also got the big gas kiln working. It turned out it was the sludge in the pipes leftover from the flood.

      That’s the story of the maintenance. Everything is working now. Unfortunately, at the editing of this piece, we are having trouble with the gas lines again, and both the Raku kiln and the big gas kiln need some detective work on the pipes or basovalves or both. I will hopefully be working on these issues in the next few weeks as I have a throwing class starting on the 17th of September and would very much like to use the large gas kiln.

      The Slip Trail: What a story. You also served on the board of NM Potters and Clay Artists. 

      Barbara Campbell:  I did, I think I did a six-year stint and a year off and then another six-year stint. From the mid 90s until 2016 or 17 I can’t remember exactly when I went off the board.

      The Slip Trail: So much interacting with Potters. If you hadn’t been chosen to replace Kempes, there might not have been such a great relationship. NM Potters had so much collaboration, gave so much hard work and time, and so much money was donated by them. And you were involved with NM Potters before the Ranch asked you to be coordinator.

      Barbara Campbell: Part of it is that, and part of it was Judy, saying let’s get this going, and she was like the inspiration on a lot of the ideas.  I can’t remember whose idea it was to have a volunteer camp. We were going to call it Work Camp, but Linda Kastner said, “Oh no, that sounds like Auschwitz. Call it Volunteer Camp.” That happened during that period of time. Early 2000s. Now we call it V-camp. I hope we will be able to do it again next spring. I think it is time. 

      It was Jim Kempes who needed to go back to work, as a teacher. He had been at the Ranch, he had taken care of Pot Hollow, all of the Festival of the Arts classes and all for more for many, many years before I came along. He had always been onsite when NM Potters did our workshops. We did a Spring one and a Fall one back then. He and Willard Spence. You know, Willard Spence was an older man who was part of the Bauhaus group from Taos, the two of them put Pot Hollow together to begin with. I would love to get Jim Kempes to tell his story. [see the interview in The Slip Trail here.]

      The Slip Trail: Can you tell about the “TruGreen Pottery” course?

      Barbara Campbell: Judy Nelson-Moore had done a couple of paper clay classes. You know with paper clay you can fire it/not fire it – deal with it how you want. She started talking about cold finishes and encaustic and she was always talking about this, that, and the other thing. And I thought, you know, wouldn’t it be fun to offer a class and call it TruGreen Clay partly because of the low carbon footprint because it is not going to be fired. But with Taxidermy clay you’re not supposed to fire it. That’s what I have been using. It’s very, very fibrous. And I don’t know what the fiber in it is. I should probably ask at NM Clay.

      The Slip Trail: Sheep Dog?

      Barbara Campbell: No, it’s called Taxidermy clay. It’s not to be fired. I think Sheepdog you can still fire it. 

      The Slip Trail: I’ve never done any of Judy’s paper clay workshops unfortunately.

      Barbara Campbell: I did several of Judy’s workshops – and I helped her do one at Santa Fe Clay as her assistant. Then she did one up here at the Northern NM College before we actually got a space at the Ranch after the flood. She had four or five students. I got into it that way. I was thinking, wouldn’t it be nice to have a class where we didn’t have to fire. We were also talking about a class that was one day shorter. Because one of the things the Ranch wants to do is take advantage of the weeklong classes, but also accommodate the weekend people that come up. If the class goes until Saturday morning, that means people can only come up for Saturday night. Cleaning crew has a massive amount of stuff to do, so with everybody gone by Friday they can do it. They were looking for classes that could be one day shorter. I thought, it’s taken me ten years to figure out how to get it into this five-and-a-half-day period. Turning it into four-and-a-half-days was just not going to work for me, with the time firing entails. They are very happy to have a class that could be done in four days with no firing. 

      The Slip Trail: I love hearing about that. And it’s true, we need to learn how to not have to fire. I’m going to take it. Tell about the other classes you teach. Do you have a favorite?

      Barbara Campbell: This year I’m going to be teaching Micaceous clay for one week, then Raku for the second week, then I’ll be teaching TruGreen for the third week. I think my favorite of course is the Raku always. I also like the Micaceous. What I’m going to do for that this summer is fire in the round brick kiln we brought up from Pot Hollow. And I will be using cedar for the firing. That will be fun.

      You know, I like all of it. 

      A few months ago, I had a workshop in April with the TruGreen. The next week they called me and said there would be two groups of 20 ten-year-olds, and would I come give them a taste of pottery. They were going to go to Tony Roller’s down in Santa Clara, but he canceled. "Can you do something?" So, I said, "Sure." I only had them for three hours. Tomas Wolff, at one of our Potters Association workshops with 30 or 40 people, did this one drill where he had us take a piece of paper, write our name on it, write favorite color, favorite animal, something else, and something else - I can’t remember exactly what. Also, if you were introvert or extrovert.  He then divided us into groups, and told us to build a village as a team using the information on our cards as a starting point. So, I did this with the kids. First of all, I asked these ten-year-olds if they knew the difference between an introvert and an extrovert. They were right on. First day it was word perfect, the second day it was just a little off, but it was close enough to be fine. Anyway, they divided up into groups of 4 and 5 and received a circle of clay or a square base slab of clay. I had them build animals while I was talking to them. They divided into the aquatic ones, four-legged, etc. They had a great time. They got finished about 45 minutes before the end of the period. Each group had a spokesperson and everybody crowded around and the spokesperson said what the village was all about, whether it was Romanesque or an under-seascape or a farmyard, or whatever. Everybody asked questions. First of all, we talked about how it was conceptual art. So, once they were done, they were done. They could use rocks and sticks, anything they wanted to incorporate into their environment. Then after they were done … I said, “Okay I’m going to give you a different kind of clay.” They were looking like, OMG. Aren’t we done yet? I handed them this Taxidermy clay and the minute they touched it, each and every one of them was totally back into it. It was kinda sticky, it was a way different texture than the clay they had been working with. Just to watch that transformation really delighted me. I told them once the pieces are dry, they’re finished. You don’t want to leave them outside, but you can take them home, you can paint them. They got to take something home. That was one of the most fun classes I have taught in a long time. 

      The Slip Trail: I think it’s brilliant that you gave them clay again. These are stories that needed to be told, Barbara. You are really there for the Ranch and ceramics education. I say, brava, Barbara, excellent job! I just want to say thank you. You are fabulous and we are lucky. 

      First two questions were presented by Barbara in written form. Interview for the rest of the questions took place on June 22, 2023 via Zoom, online. 

      -       This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.    -

      -Cirrelda Snider-Bryan, Slip Trail Editor

      • 09 Aug 2023 10:36 AM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

        Barbara Campbell currently serves as the Ceramic Arts Coordinator at Ghost Ranch Conference Center north of Abiquiu, NM. Here is the story of her life in clay and her work with it at Ghost Ranch. 

        Told in two parts, here is Part One:

        • The Slip Trail: Tell the story of how you came to be a clay artist. Along with that, tell how you became a production potter living in El Rito, NM.

          Barbara Campbell: Between high school and college, I took a year long trip to Europe. At the time I spoke passable Spanish and enough French to get into trouble, but I really liked languages so off I went. While living in Paris I honed my French and started learning a bit of German. When I returned to attend college, I thought I would like to be a foreign diplomat, so I started taking Russian and going after my Bachelors, still fooling around with this direction. In my third quarter of college, I took a pottery class and got totally snagged.

          I think part of my decision to transfer to an art school was that my mother went to an art school in the Bay Area, and I had a boyfriend in the Bay Area so it was an easy decision to transfer. My education became very non-traditional very quickly. The boyfriend disappeared and I was sent by my college to a rural village in Mexico to help set up a branch campus there. It was an amazing experience and I learned to be more of a self-starter. We had to do everything without much mature adult supervision. It was a fabulous experience. I had to return for my final semester to the Oakland campus and there I worked with Viola Frey. Once out of school, I headed off to NYC and got a job teaching pottery at the Cooper Square Art Center. I only lasted about eight months in NYC before I felt I was completely losing myself. I took a three-day train ride back to San Francisco and joined the Berkeley Potters Guild and from there went full into production pottery. 

          About this time the powers that be were demolishing all the old Victorian homes in Oakland and I started making little houses out of clay. This sort of took off and I got into all sorts of different styles of house replicas and fantasy castles and planters and it became very popular to the point I was supplying shops all over the country. I had patterns for certain styles so just started cranking out the work.

          Berkeley decided it needed the area where our guild was located for a redevelopment project. It never actually happened, but they gave us all about $2,000 to move. I used mine to invest in all the equipment I would need to set up my own studio. I had a friend who got the same and we moved into a caretaking position up in Jenner, and he helped me build a downdraft gas kiln before moving on to his own place up near Fort Bragg. I saved up my money that year and found a property I could afford in Sebastopol, CA.

          I lasted there for four and a half years when I was missing the mountains and blue skies of the Rockies where I had grown up. I sold my house and moved everything except my huge kiln to Boulder, Colorado where I had grown up. I couldn’t find what I was looking for anywhere in Colorado, but I had an opportunity to drive a friend to New Mexico. I did a search when I got here in early 1978. I found and house in El Rito and made an offer on it that was accepted. I moved from Boulder on Easter weekend of that year. About a week after setting up my studio, I met a guy right here in El Rito and we were married about a year later. 

          His property and my house were really inconveniently located so after a big show, I had enough money for us to go together and buy a property in the middle of town. We had this town property and the property up the Potrero canyon. I built a studio up there and had the one in town so we were able to come back and forth while raising our son. The town property was crucial for when he started going to school. 

          Meanwhile when my son was about three years old, I can remember hating making these stupid little cookie cutter houses and one morning I woke up and decided I would never make another little #%$* house. I got my wheel out and started honing my throwing skills. I had been fascinated with the Mimbres culture from the moment I got to NM. I wasn’t able to find a lot of information about them and the two or three books that were out there all seemed to contradict one another. I started collecting their very graphic wonderful designs. About this time, I had to paint my window frames and doors on the house we had bought in town and my neighbors said I had to use this certain color of teal as it was what would keep the brujos away. 

          So here I am an Anglo living in a Hispanic community thinking about using Native American designs on my pottery. As I was designing this line of work, I needed to get the Hispanic element into the dinnerware I was preparing to make. I worked on the blue slip recipe from Daniel Rhode’s book until I got a really deep lovely teal. Now I had the tri-cultural intention working for me.

          The Slip Trail: I remember you selling your pottery at Ghost Ranch in the 1990s at the local craft market held on Friday evenings. What was that like? 

          Barbara Campbell: Somewhere around the mid 80’s I started selling my work at the Mercado on Friday evenings at the Ghost Ranch. It was a captive audience and very lucrative. That is what I spent my summers doing every Friday evening for about ten weeks per summer.
          I did American Craft Council shows as well as small local shows and managed to make a reasonable living.

          Barbara at her home during the online Zoom interview on June 22, 2023. Photo credit: Cirrelda Snider-B.

          The Slip Trail: You were hired for the Ghost Ranch ceramics education coordinator position in the early 2000’s, was that first year a full schedule? As you come close to teaching there 20 years, what has changed?

          Barbara Campbell:  I wasn’t hired, I was asked to volunteer. Around 2004, Jim Kempes, who was the Arts Coordinator and main ceramic artist running Pot Hollow at the Ranch, decided to go into grade school teaching and left the Ranch. I had been on the board that runs the Mercado at the Ranch and I was asked to take over the Ceramic Arts department. By that summer or the next, I started teaching several classes during Festival of the Arts. Soon I was teaching Jan Term as well.

          When asked if I would be coordinator for the ceramic arts program, I wanted to know what it involved. They said, “A lot of work and no money.” I said, “Sure, why not.”

          There was an Interim director named Mary Ann Lundy. Judy Nelson-Moore and I actually initiated doing some renovations with Pot Hollow.  We went to Mary Ann Lundy and made a proposal that we have a volunteer camp. And so we did. That was the beginning of V-camps. First of all, all the wheels were on tiny pads of cement that were sticking up and one would trip over them all the time. If you dropped a tool it went into the dirt or the sand and if you didn’t pick it up right away it got stepped on or lost. It was pretty funky down there in Pot Hollow. So, the Potters Association raised enough money to pour a slab and that was the beginning.  Then, there was this program coordinator named Jim Baird. I had been told the best way to approach him if you wanted anything was to kind of come in from the side, so he felt like it was his idea in the end. So, I kinda got good at that. There was no cover over the two raku kilns and trolley kiln. You know the tubes that ran the gas were in the sun. In the winter they were in the snow. We suggested that the Ranch put up a pavilion roof. And they did, that was the result – the Ranch paid for that. The Potters Association raised enough money to do the cement. Then Potters raised enough money for half of the big gas kiln, the West Coast 24 cubic foot gas kiln.

          The Slip Trail: The one that’s there today?

          Barbara Campbell: Yeah, just got repaired this year. It’s now functioning perfectly well with one glitch, that’s just a get-it-going glitch, the electronic ignition doesn’t actually work because the striker doesn’t work, so somebody has to be there to do the switches while somebody’s under the kiln with a torch. There are eight burners. You just have to keep working at getting it going. The gas doesn’t seem to flow well at first. But once it gets lit it works, it goes up to cone 10, in 6-8 hours. 

          Almost every year after that, we did a volunteer camp where the potters would come and renovate, repair and take inventory. One year we had this woman named Judith Baker who took the class and really loved it. Her husband was quite wealthy and he made a nice donation to us. I asked him if he would buy these Advancer shelves for us because I was getting to the point where lifting heavy things into the back of the kiln was becoming too hard for me. There was a potter in El Rito who was going out of business. He had 16 of these shelves, and he sold them to us for $1200, which is a third of what they would cost new. We now have all these lovely Advancer shelves compliments of the Baker’s. 

          So, it turned out, somewhere in the 90s, somebody else made a donation. It could have been the Bakers. I can’t remember. But anyway, I didn’t know about it until this year. Apparently, what the Ranch did in the meantime was to invest it, earmarked for the ceramic arts program. It has now earned to around $28,000.

          Then Debra Hepler came along and she was there ten years. Tom Nichols who ran the welding department wanted to put together a Peace Garden in honor of Barbara Schmidtzinsky, Archivist and Assistant Program Director, who had recently lost her battle with cancer, and Ed Delair, Program Director, who had died suddenly of a heart attack. From the patio at Headquarters, you can’t really see the Peace Garden down at Lower Pavilion, so we had the idea that if we put a mural that reflected those Fibonacci spirals in the Peace Garden, it would draw people down to the Peace Garden. Dean Schroeder, Tomas Wolff, Judy Nelson-Moore, and I got together to plan it out. Judy and I did the design and decal work -- Judy, Dean and I did the tile work. Then Tomas and Dean installed it with the help of Tom Nichols and some help from me and Judy. 

          April 2014 Peace Mural: Tom Nichols, Dean Schroeder, Barbara Campbell, Eddie Kay Nichols, Judy Nelson-Moore, Tomás Wolff. Photo credit: NMPCA. 

          We had this tiny little 12 by 18” slab roller and it was not big enough. Michael Walsh who lives in Santa Fe had a 4' by 24" Brent Roller and he was willing to sell it to the ranch for $800.  It was in new like condition and Debra gave me permission to have the Ranch buy it for us. We sold the little one to Mountainair for 100 bucks which went back to the Ranch. 

          The Slip Trail: I would say 800 for a huge slab roller, that’s a great price. 

          Barbara Campbell: That’s what I told her. Debra got to the point where I would start walking up to her and she would kinda go like this [hands up] and go, “How much is this gonna cost me?” I would say, “Well, not too much!” Anyway, she was very helpful for getting equipment we needed for pulling things together. 

          I had this big wood fire kiln up in Potrero. The reason I built it up there was because we always had these piles of brush that needed to be burned. It was oak, it was the wrong fuel for a kiln. I could never get up to cone 10 -- it was just like really, really difficult. The oak would make clinkers, you know it would make coals, then it would stall the kiln and I would have to rake the clinkers out and get the fire going. So, I just quit firing it. And at one point, after Terry died, Colin said, “Mom, what do you want to do with this kiln?” I said, “I want to move it to Ghost Ranch.” So, we got several people together, there were 6 or 7 of us. We took that kiln apart. Loaded it onto the Low Boy trailer, and made two trips over to the Ranch. It was way too heavy for one trip. 

          January 2013 Wood fire kiln firing, Barbara Campbell and Leonard Baca. Photo credit: NMPCA.

          I offered a course on “How To Build a Wood Fired Kiln.” We had four students - two of them were not pulling their weight, the other two were really into it. I had to keep taking stuff apart and rebuilding it. It was somewhat frustrating; however, in a week’s class we rebuilt that kiln.

          So, I decided it needed four feet more stack. One of the reasons it wasn’t firing correctly was because the stack wasn’t high enough. I went down to Santa Fe Steel (the Potters Association raised the money for this, I think it was 400 or 800 – I can’t remember --somewhere under $1000). Then my son rented a cherry picker, and my brother-in-law and my son brought the cherry picker and installed it on top of the other piece that we already had in place. We now had 11 feet of stack. I had previously fired it once or twice with a few people and we were just stoking and stoking it, it was insane and it was hard. It was also very aerobic. I still wasn’t happy with the way the temperature was so uneven. So, I called Betsy Williams and she said, “I will come over and help you.” We were getting mill ends from Moore’s Lumber Company, so when the guys from the Ranch would take the recycle into Espanola, they would stop at Moore’s and pick a couple of these huge bundles for 30 bucks, deliver them to the Ranch. Potters Association people would come saw it up into two-foot pieces. There was lots and lots of firewood. Well, for two-fifths of a cord of wood, cut into two-foot pieces, Betsy showed me how to fire the kiln gently. When the pyrometer started to go back down, you throw two pieces in and it will keep going down, and then it will start going up a little higher. The minute it would start to come down again, throw two more pieces in. It was so civilized and it was so easy, and could easily be done with just two people. We didn’t need four teams of people to take turns, we just needed a couple people in an easy chair or two out there, and some lemonade or cold water. It worked beautifully. We got to cone 10 in 8 hours and it was fabulous. With this technique, we did two or three workshops. We could go from clay to wood-fired, finished pieces in less than a week. It was amazing.

          The Slip Trail: I am so glad this story is being told. 

          April 2013 Barbara’s wood fired kiln with its new stack. Photo credit: NMPCA.

          To be continued ... see Part Two here.

      • 10 Jun 2023 1:06 PM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

        How did you first get interested in clay?

        While my husband was stationed at naval base in San Francisco, I enrolled in pottery classes at Letterman Army Base craft studio. I started out slip casting with molds, I then began to do wheel work in 1972. Later I took classes at the DeYoung Museum’s Art School with David Fukiyama, their pottery teacher. While on a bike trip around San Francisco, I discovered a studio whose owner, Tom Burdette, had been the production manager of Heath Stoneware in Sausalito. I took classes with him and later rented studio space from him. He was a great inspiration to me. 


        Describe your studio. 

        I live in the mountains east of Albuquerque. My studio includes a beautiful corner window where my wheel is nestled and I view land to the north. I use a gas kiln. There is also a place where I have shelves that display my work. Complete sets of glaze test tiles are displayed in both the work space and in the kiln room. 


        Describe your work.

        I do both stoneware and porcelain – functional ware. At my previous studio in ABQ, I had a gas kiln that I had made, and fired to cone 10. When I moved to the east mountains, I gave my gas kiln to Kathy Cyman, and while I saved to purchase a new gas kiln, I began using a cone 10 electric kiln.  I created a brand-new palette of cone 6 oxidation glazes which took forever. When I was finally able to purchase my gas kiln, I first fired to cone 6 with propane, then when natural gas finally came to our area, I had to learn again the process of firing with natural gas. Propane fires much hotter than natural gas! However, I didn’t throw out any of the cone 6 glazes I had developed, and I did add in a number of Coyote Clay cone 6 glazes. I had created a following with my cone 6 oxidation glazes and have only just begun to work again at cone 10 where I fire in reduction. I recently attended a glaze development class with Theo Helmstadter at his studio Green River Pottery in Santa Fe. I was particularly interested in testing Cone 10 shino glazes in his workshop. I still use a Shino glaze developed by Jenny Lind, the potter from La Cienega. While working with cone 6 clay and glazes I did a lot of tile work, a self-created method, using different clay bodies for colors – Marilyn’s, Ochre, Anasazi 5X, Laguna Red. I use tile in architectural ways both indoors and outside on walls. 



        When you are not working in your studio, what do you enjoy? 

        A lot of gardening. I am the secretary of the NM Orchid Guild. I am also the president of Tecolote Auxiliary, a community group that supports our local volunteer fire department, in the rural area where we live. 

        Do you play music in your studio? If yes, what do you listen to?

        I listen to CDs of 70s music and classical. 

        What other pottery do you have in your home? 

        Theo Helmstadter’s thrown lidded jars, Waltraud Weber a potter in Berkeley, Frank Willett, Steven Hill, Tom Coleman, Gary Parker, Kathy Cyman, Leonard Baca, Brianna Richter and Pueblo pottery from Acoma, Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, and Jemez. 

        What caused you to join NMPCA? Describe involvement with NMPCA.

        I have been a member since 1977. I originally studied pottery in San Francisco, though I had been living in New Mexico before that. My husband was stationed on an aircraft carrier out of San Francisco and later went to dental school there. We moved back to New Mexico in 1976. While listening to KUNM radio, I heard Penne Roberts talking about NMPA, and she was inviting people to come to a lecture at UNM by Franz Kriwanek from Silverton Mountain Pottery, Silverton CO. My first introduction to NMPA was attending this lecture. It was a time before internet. At one time I did the newsletter which was printed and mailed out to members, and then I became the treasurer for about 18 years. There was a period when our membership was dwindling, and we were working to try to find ways to get potters to join us and participate in workshops and go to the Ghost Ranch. A number of people kept it running. Penne at the Heights Community Center worked very, very hard. She has amazing photographic records of what happened at Ghost Ranch. When our member communication depended on mailed-out newsletters, no electronic, I tried to keep people going. I managed the data base for dues renewals and developed a membership card. At the time, the art shop Langell’s was on Carlisle, and they gave a 10% discount to NMPA members who presented their membership cards when making a purchase. You could buy brushes and all kinds of art supplies from Langell’s. Giving out that card to every member as dues were renewed, was something we did. I’m very proud of the logo I created - the kiln logo. I’m very proud of that - used on stationary that I produced on my computer and on the membership cards. That was my gift to NMPA. These days, I participate in Celebration of Clay shows, and I attend some of the Clay Connections zooms. 


        Photos taken at studio visit by editor Cirrelda Snider-Bryan on May 22, 2023. 


      • 15 Apr 2023 8:35 PM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

        By Susan Voss

        Within the Land of Enchantment there is an abundance of gifted ceramic artists who develop their craft across the state. One of the great gifts of clay and surface design is that almost any expression of art and form is possible. This is the gift of the current show at the Albuquerque Sunport, a broad array of ceramic form and color brightens the showcases and provides a swatch of the talent within New Mexico. The show is organized by the New Mexico Potters and Clay Artists (NMPCA) that promotes excellence and creativity in the clay arts. The Sunport Ceramics Showcase is currently on display and will be available to see until April 30th, 2023 in the bottom floor of the airport in the passageway to the vehicle parking. A link to the display can be found at and a link to an image of each piece in the display, price and the artist name and contact information is found at

        Each of the three showcases provides a range of ceramic expressions from large vessels and platters, abstract sculpture, to sculptures representing fish, animals and the human form. The beautiful variation in form, surface design and color immediately catches the viewer’s eyes and beckons them to take a closer look. The range in expression will entice different viewers and hold them intrigued and enchanted.

        Coming off of the elevator from the baggage area upstairs, one is met with the first set of ceramic expressions. The overall sense of horizontal flow as seen in Karin Bergh “School of Fish” and stability of place expressed in Robert Kings vase with flowers ("Untitled"). Within the overall arrangement there is an expression of rising up as in the central piece “Nest” by Judy Nelson-Moore and of holding place as seen in the abstract piece “Wrinkles in Nature” by Catherine McClain. Several of the vessels demonstrate the beauty and variability of alternative firing processes including Gail Goodwin’s “Ceremonial Vessel,” Sjoran Fitzpatrick’s “Remembering,” and Serit Kotowski’s “Seed Jar.” The three female sculptures show how varied the female figure can be modeled to express a sense of joy, knowing and being.

        First set off the escalator. Photo by Susan Voss.

        The central showcase provides a feast of colors and forms. From the two solemn central figures in the sculpture “Afghanistan” by Lois Olcott Price, the colorful and widely expressive gargoyles by Darla Graff Thompson, to the rabbit topped “Listening Desert” by Jacquito Beddo, the many human and animal figures within the display invite the viewer to pause and consider each piece. The gathering of forms “The Seven Sisters” by Luisa Baldinger, the abstract and symbolic forms including Ann Trott’s “Pod / Emerging” and Sharon Brush’s “Acclimation” contrast beautifully with the functional art of the “Cosmos Vase” by Adam Padilla, “Earthscape” vessel by Jenna Ritter and “Lizard Plate” by Richard Orlando. The simple and the complex come together to demonstrate the range of expression possible with clay.

        The central showcase. Photo by Susan Voss.

        The last of the three showcases before exiting the Sunport provides a broad display of ceramic expressions. The central piece by Sheena Cameron entitled “Our Deb Haaland” is a sculpture of the current US Secretary of the Interior from the Laguna Pueblo Tribe, NM. Several abstract pieces within the showcase capture a range of movement and colors unique to each artist’s vision. The three large platters and bowls demonstrate the beauty that can be achieved through the simplicity of a white shino surface, or through the vibrant colors of an expansive red poppy (Okjoo Lee’s “Hot Summer”or through the use of intricate pattern and color (Charlotte Ownby's "Vibrancy I"). The lovely range of vessels and forms demonstrate the ability of the artist to express their visions in many different forms including “Ceremonial Vessel I by Gail Goodwin, “Shoulder Jar” by Lee Akins, images of cranes in a sea of blue (“Cranes Rendezvous”) by Tomas Wolff, and the “Fish Rising” by Sjoran Fitzpatrick. The vibrant colors of Andrea Pichaida's “Moonrise Over the Sandias” contrast with the cool form of the “Gem cup” by Casey Pendergast. 

        Last of the three showcases before exiting. Photo by Susan Voss. 

        The collection of ceramic expression from across New Mexico is greater and deeper than could be captured in a few short paragraphs and images. Only a handful of pieces and artists have been highlighted and yet, there are many more! A visit to the Sunport Airport is encouraged during the short time this show is open for viewing. A full listing of each item, the artist and cost is provided online along with an email address to the artist. It is impossible to express how interesting and varied the NMPCA show is and the best advice is to visit the show for yourself. Take a moment and enjoy!

      • 02 Apr 2023 5:05 PM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

        By Sheena Cameron

        Great job again to the organizers and artists that have made the 2023 Sunport Ceramics Showcase an outstanding display. It shows 48 pieces representing 35 artists.  The diversity is astounding, as is the (thoughtfully-preplanned) arrangement.

        Standing back and taking the show in as a whole, shows that the group’s goal, of demonstrating the amazing talent and diversity of clay artists in our state, has been accomplished.

         Lois Olcott Price’s show-stopping “Afghanistan 1984." Photo by Sheena Cameron

        It also shows that there are a lot of artists using the natural colors of clay as an integral part of the message of their piece. It looks like these artists love clay and understand clay. One of the most outstanding examples of this is Lois Olcott Price’s show-stopping “Afghanistan 1984." It would have lost much of its impact had it been in color or smaller. Other pieces that so honored natural clay are: Hebe Garcia’s "Thoughts and Memories," both of Serit’s pieces, Catherine McClain’s creative "Wrinkles in Nature," Debi Smith’s “Contemplative," and my own use of natural clay color in the skin tone for “Our Deb Haaland."

         Andrea Pichaida’s “Moonrise over the Sandias” and Sjoran Fitzpatrick's “Fish Rising." Photo by Sheena Cameron

        Another thing that is apparent is some masterful use of color. Andrea Pichaida’s “Moonrise over the Sandias” astounded me with its unique use of color until I remembered she used to be a painter. But few painters seem to use color that masterfully. It seems it would not have worked as well in a painting medium as the textures, piercings, and the play of the inside and outside of the vessel would have been lost. The other standout color piece was Ann Trott’s lime green “Pod/Emerging." It was not nearly as striking in its photograph. We needed to see the flocking glaze technique in person to get the feeling of the magic of a green, growing, living being from the plant realm.

        To prove black and white can also be powerful, Sjoran Fitzpatrick brings us “Fish Rising." It was one of the most commented-on pieces, looking ancient and ceremonial.

        We have all seen, over the years, many amazing animal sculptures from Kari Rives. She did not disappoint this year, bringing us “Marshall the Musk Ox.” With his massive body yet soulful eyes, he is definitely a guy you can love.

        Usually we can count on Leonard Baca to bring us a beautiful piece of functional pottery with clean lines and masterful glazing. But this time he brings us “Secret Dreams Giddy-up” which evokes the enchantment of many of the rock faces of New Mexico, with its secret passages and contrasting  glazes on the various planes.

        Fortunately, this did not leave the show without beautiful functional pottery. Richard Orlando’s “Dogwood Plate” and “Lizard Bowl,” and Adam Padilla”s “Cosmos Vase” are sublime.

        NMPCA has definitely done a great service to the Clay Artists of NewMexico with this show.                    

        --Sheena Cameron

      • 11 Mar 2023 1:12 PM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

        Part 2. For more than 30 years, Jim Kempes taught multiple annual seminars, and was listed in Ghost Ranch seminar brochures as “Potter and Sculptor, Abiquiu, NM,” and as “Ghost Ranch Ceramics Program Coordinator.” In 1983, I took Raku with Jim. Later, with spouse JB, we attended more clay seminars over the years with Jim – our last in 2004, Raku Kiln-building. The legacy of the first 30 years of ceramics programming at the Ranch, as well as Jim’s effectiveness as a teacher are what prompted me to conduct this interview. Enthusiastic listening, equanimity, wide knowledge base, use of questions, and great verbal directions --- that’s how I remember his teaching style. Thanks to Lesley Poling-Kempes for the bio info. -Cirrelda Snider-Bryan, Editor. 

        TST: Tell us more about the artist/teachers you taught with. Who were the other ceramics teachers that presented seminars too?

        Jim Kempes: Willard (Spence) was just great. He used to always divide people up: well, are you a fireman, or are you a mud worker? He was both. I felt I was both. You love the science of kiln firing, and mixing glazes and experimenting, and the making of the clay was always pretty neat. He spans both of those. I was just out with somebody hiking and their spouse was taking pottery at Baca Street Pottery in Santa Fe. He said he went in and tried to learn kiln firing and help the guy fire. And he said it was just way beyond his awareness. He would be looking at the color of the flame and the back structure, the cones. That meant stuff to him. That’s the way Willard taught. Willard fired the kiln and he taught me to fire the kiln. Very hands-on, very much you paying attention. He would keep a kiln log that was pretty detailed. Very involved, hands-on firing. 

        And Joe Mann, he knew Willard’s wife, Louise, who was a potter. Because of that, Joe would come up and help with Crystalline Glazes all the time. That was his thing. Great guy. Helped everybody, including me. 

        Marie Tapp, remember Marie? She was a potter from the Northwest very talented wheel worker, big platters. She came down and would help Festival of the Arts for a few years. 

        [Alice Bunch, Kathy Gavin, Dick McCarty, Marie Tapp, unknown -- at Raku, 1983. Photo by Cirrelda Snider-Bryan]

        Camilla Trujillo, she stepped in to do Pit Fire, though she renamed it “Micaceous Pottery.” She took Pot Hollow totally her own direction, so that was pretty neat. She would be there and I would be on the other side doing Stone Carving or something like that.

        Earl and Sylvia Deaver. Did you ever work with them? They were from Texas and they were production potters and crafts people. They were just down-to-earth, they would do service corps, and Earl came in and said, you know I built these ceramic fiber raku kilns, is there any interest in doing a seminar in raku kiln-building? I ran it by it would have been Dean Lewis back then I think, we came up with a cheap price, and had that seminar going for maybe 4 or 5 years, I think. They were great. And they were good friends with the Mackey’s who led Service Corps. That’s Ghost Ranch, it’s these connections that were pretty neat. 

        It was sort of a relief to get those fiber kilns, we had two of them that we built for the Ranch. So along with that giant trolley kiln, we could use those fiber kilns. And we did a lot of really crazy stuff with that. We would take some of the cone 10 porcelain crystals from a previous seminar and put those in and reduce them and turn a copper green into a copper red, which was pretty cool. 

        [Earl Deaver, JB Bryan, unknown, with raku fiber kilns at 2004 Raku Kiln Building workshop. Photo by Cirrelda Snider-Bryan.]

        And we had Clint Swink come in. Clint is from Bayfield, CO. He was meticulous. He was an ex-military helicopter pilot, and he did ceramics that way. You did it a specific way, you did not put a Kokopelli on a Mesa Verde black and white pot. You had to find that in the book, and make sure you were doing a replica. 

        TST:  Didn’t you and Bill Armstrong and Willard do Adventures in Clay Materials, at least twice?

        Jim Kempes: I think that was about it. The people who came to Ghost Ranch, you know sometimes it was a vacation. They had sort of a set need, and the Ceramic Materials, it was a little more esoteric.

        But that was always a passion of Willard’s. Many a clay trip with Willard, driving around northern NM and hunting for kaolin, or some kind of clay. And we would go up to Canjillon, and find and test high fire clays, glaze materials, and it was always fun to do. Our Pit Firing seminars, we would always go out to one of the red hills at Ghost Ranch and dig the clay there. The first day would be screening and weighing and mixing up that clay.

        Jim Kempes: Felipe Ortega is one that certainly needs to be mentioned. Felipe, you know, great, micaceous, Jicarilla Apache style potter who came over from La Madera. He came in and taught some of the Folk Arts, before Camilla. Accomplished master potter in micaceous work. Workshops at his place in La Madera -- that’s what he will be remembered for. His willingness to share that with people. His neck of the woods, where those clay deposits were. His pit firings with micaceous were just awesome. His humor and flamboyant personality made his teaching one-of-a-kind. And Dennis and Ofelia Jaramillo, they were Felipe’s aunt and uncle -- they lived in La Madera too, and they would come over and we would teach Elder Hostels together, with Dennis and Ofelia. And they were just so wonderful. And they would bring the micaceous clay. We would work with some of the Ghost Ranch clays, the red and black, and they would have the micaceous. We were always of the opinion that it was better to teach too much than too little. We packed it in. 

        [Molly Bryan, Robin Keck near Pole Barn, Jim Kempes upper right corner, Stone Carving 1999. Photo by Cirrelda Snider-Bryan.]

        You have to remember that Stone Carving then got passed off to Robin Keck. She used to take the classes. She does program now at Ghost Ranch. She was one of the students who would come every year. She taught it after I left. That’s sort of the same thing with Barbara Campbell. Barbara hadn’t taught there before. You know she would come in with the Potters Association. And when I left, Barbara stepped in to that position. And that was very successful. 

        One thing I was laughing about was Willard’s electric kiln, which was custom built, I think it had 12 switches, plus two bottom, plus two elements per switch. And it was an on/off switch there was no re-istat. And all the way up the drying phases. I had a nice little truck that I could put my sleeping bag in the back. I would just sleep down there in Pot Hollow in the back of my truck. One student, once I was telling him I was amazed at my brain I could just say I should get up at two o’clock to check the kiln and do other stuff. And sure enough, I’d wake up at 2 o’clock all the time. And this guy said, “I can do the same thing. If I want to get up at two, I drink one glass of water, if I want to get up earlier, I’d drink two glasses of water.” I thought that was pretty funny.

        Willard’s kiln – that electric - was such a thing to fire. My last year there we finally ordered a computerized kiln. And it came in just as I left, so I do not think I ever fired the computerized kiln.

        TST: You experienced lots of flooding over the years in Pot Hollow, right? Do you remember the annual monsoon seasons and the arroyo raging out beyond the kilns there?

        Jim Kempes: There were couple times, maybe two or three over a summer, where a storm would park in the right place, and that arroyo would just rip. And there were times when it came very close. The raku kiln was the lowest one, and it came close to it. But it never did come over that bank, though it came close to coming over. We went down and looked at it. Actually, there was a time a hiker was on the other side and came back down through Pot Hollow. And the arroyo was still pretty high, and we said you’re gonna have to wait, just wait a half hour or so, you’ll be fine.

        TST: I have memories – it would be raging. If you would have a kayak on it, it would be ranked a number 5 or 6 rapid.

        Jim Kempes: The memories of Pot Hollow. Pot Hollow was such a delightful place. I mean, we would have Coopers Hawks that would set up their nests down there when there was nobody there in the spring. And then all of a sudden there would be these seminars and we would watch these fledgling Coopers Hawks. It was nice. 

        TST: Coopers are Accipiter hawks, they have shorter wings, longer tails to maneuver in forests like down in the arroyo. What about swallows? 

        Jim Kempes: Only on rest of Ranch, not down in Pot Hollow. 

        TST: I remember Tiger Swallowtail butterflies, too. Something else, do you remember that piece of wood that was carved like a whale, that was at the end of the roof over Pot Hollow?

        Jim Kempes: Was that Ed Kraus or was that Jim Connor? We were in that stage of building that, we would build out a little farther, then out a little farther, a couple more years, so there was that one rafter that was sticking out there. Maybe it was Jim Connor. Said, “That looks like a whale.” So, all of a sudden somebody cut a tail and put it up there, and it was with us for a while.

        TST: “The” Jim Connor huh. Wow. I’ve heard about him, a lot of people know him, but I don’t. I guess we’ve covered how a lot of new approaches got adopted.

        Jim Kempes: Except for two very important things: Mountain Biking seminar, and Cross-Country Skiing seminar. 

        TST: Let’s hear about those! 

        Jim Kempes: Isn’t that fun? Yeah. You know this is what I do. So, Chip Meneley was a College Staffer and he went to bike shops in Albuquerque, so he got me into mountain biking. And Geoff Mather, who’s now on the board, was an avid mountain biker and bicyclist from Chicago. We started a seminar and Robin Keck was in that seminar. We would have maybe 10 people, and we would go all over northern New Mexico and do wonderful mountain biking rides. And then usually go and eat somewhere, nice restaurant, to replenish the calories we had burned off. We did that, five years or so, in the fall just as the colors were turning. Real fun. Cross-Country Ski seminars a couple of years, with Paul Graham from Los Alamos. We would do the same thing, same format, we would go out, ski (snow shoes weren’t really catching on yet), we would cross-country ski. I just had to throw that in. 

        TST: Glad you threw that in, important for us to have that on our radar. Looking back, did you have one course that you looked forward to teaching more than the others?

        Jim Kempes: Favorite classes, the ones I looked forward to. You know, Cirrelda, I just have that kind of personality where what I’m doing is what I like doing, ‘til I’m done. So, every class had its real fun, positive aspect, so I mean when you were doing that, it was great. Raku was so dynamic, and people are doing things that are pushing their limits a whole lot. That was just a blast. You know, the unpredictability. You’re asking people to do things that they’ve never done before and they did just great. Over and over and over again, we had successful classes. It was a lot of work. Raku, it would kill me, man, I would finish that thing and I’d go home and leave my clothes out on the porch. Just crashed, ‘cause it was so much. Stoneware, stoneware was delightful. People would have to stay until Monday morning to unload the kiln, and if you were ever around right after breakfast, before breakfast, as we opened the door, and cracked the kiln, started looking in, it was just this beehive of activity and comments as people brought these pieces out. So, that was always a real treat to do, Stoneware. And Crystalline, same thing. That sort of alchemy.

        TST: I actually remember loading the kiln. I remember the straight edge with kiln posts, you had it out on the table so that people would pass their piece under it to make sure it would fit on that shelf.

        Jim Kempes: “Do the limbo.” All these people, just working together, organizing, doing things so well as a group was one of the strengths of Pot Hollow. Always delightful. And, you would have those students who came back year after year, and they became the teachers, helping others, figuring out, explaining what we were doing and why. That’s why it was so successful. Everybody pitched in. 

        TST: So, you had no real favorite. I remember you during those Crystalline days, you had a really great knack for talking people through throwing. Somewhere in some journal I took notes of all of your words. You were a great “throwing teacher.” You had really good words. You maybe didn’t realize it when you were a youth, looking at careers, but you were a natural teacher. 

        Jim Kempes: Well, you want somebody to be successful, right? We laugh about Raku-every-year, Stoneware-every-year -- same thing every year, but every class is different. If you’re on the ball, you have to be looking at what that student needs, and what they’re doing right, and what they need to be corrected and that’s the challenge, that’s what made it fun for so many years. The newness of it. 

        TST: The newness of each group made each year, each different program enjoyable, so that you can’t really say a favorite. 

        Jim Kempes: Yeah, and then you would have, tied in with that, those Monday nights you would see who of the old-timers was coming back. And they were going to be the support staff and help everybody. Alice Bunch. You remember Alice? 

        TST: I sure do! She was my roommate, in the Casitas, and it was 1983. And Alice, did she come for more than Raku?

        Jim Kempes: I think it was always Raku. She was so talented. So willing to share, all her information. Yeah, she was great.

        [Jim during the Zoom interview – 12/8/22. Photo by Cirrelda Snider-Bryan.]

        TST: Please tell about your current practice. Now that you’re retired, are you in your studio? 

        Jim Kempes: I am. It’s got its own rhythm, it’s real nice. Winter, you know January, February, I will do wheel work. Nice time to be inside with a wood stove, solar adobe studio. I throw myself into a couple months of wheel work and then that takes its rhythm of glazing, a part of my personality that really gets answered by doing that. And I do a lot of small, functional bowls and things like that. At the Ranch, I had the big stoneware kiln, it was 44” high. My sculptures were pretty large. And Nature has a way, ‘cause I try to move those now, and it’s like, man, how did I ever get that in the kiln? So now I just have a little electric that’s 24” tall, and I didn’t think I wanted to do my sculpture shapes in that range. But my son came up and Christopher said, “Dad, why don’t you teach me how to coil.” So, I took him through a couple of coil pots to show him how to do that and did a couple myself. You know, this is okay, this is going to work. So, I’ve been doing coil pots on that smaller range, and a lot of them are still the abstractions of “manos,” and “metates,” chips, axe heads, Corn Mothers, and different shapes that you see around this area. Some are real smooth finish. I’ve got a nice stamp that I made off of a “mano,” that I can press in as I’m making the pot and it gives me a perfect basalt texture. So, I spray glaze on it. I am having a great time with that. I do stone work. I do little alabaster pieces. I still work with that. I do some larger pieces (you know this [showing 18-20”] to me is large! [chuckles] Larger pieces of marble and flagstone from out at Blackie’s 2 ft by 2 ft or so. Stone gets heavy fast. And so yeah, I will do that, with grinders and work on that. Through the pandemic I started taking my wheelbarrow up into the arroyo and finding nice basalt boulders, and wheel them back, and then using grinders and diamond bits, pneumatic hammer drills, turning those into “tinajas,” basins. That’s been fun to work with these abstract shapes. And then that went vertical and started doing the holes all the way through, and sort of doing a “window” rock. So those are the areas that I’ve done. Then I do one for a month or two, move on to another area. And then I have to mix my adventure things with that. 

        TST: After the cold months. This has been really wonderful Jim. I can tell you’ve really been thinking about this. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and your details. 

        [Catching the pottery teacher having a solitary moment in Pot Hollow, summer 2003. Photo by Cirrelda Snider-Bryan.] 

      • 11 Mar 2023 12:41 PM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

        Part 1. Jim Kempes came to Ghost Ranch after graduating from Penn State University in 1972. He was granted Conscientious Objector (C.O.) status by the Philly draft board and sent to Ghost Ranch to do two years of 'alternate service.' There were 3 or 4 other C.O.’s at the ranch at that time. They worked every job on the ranch, wherever needed. After Jim completed his draft service, he remained in Abiquiu, helping to build the ranch ceramics program. By 1982, Ranch Director Jim Hall invited Jim to join the permanent staff and Jim worked as the Ghost Ranch ceramics coordinator until 2005. With wife Lesley (whom he met at Ghost Ranch) he raised two children and built a home near Abiquiu where they still live. 

        The Slip Trail (TST): Tell the story of how ceramics education programs started at Ghost Ranch and how you were involved. 

        Jim Kempes: Willard Spence, who had a passion for stoneware, raku, hand-building, crystalline glazes (a lifelong potter), moved to Taos from Indian Hills, Colorado around 1970. He got in touch with Ghost Ranch Director Jim Hall and made the connection to teach ceramics seminars. And somehow, the location below the parking area behind Dining Hall was chosen as the ceramics studio, Ray McCall and Willard put it down there. Because of my Conscientious Objector (C.O.) status during the Vietnam War, in January, 1973 I began a two-year work period at the Ranch. Then Jim Hall asked me to help Willard as part of my C.O. work commitment. I had taken ceramics in college. One of the first tasks Willard asked Jim Hall to do was build a structure to cover the kiln. Ray McCall, Director of Ranch Maintenance, was there to help build the structures around the kiln, as well as transport equipment. Ray was interested in that stuff, showed up to weld, lay bricks, help, and give support. Ray was very involved in those early years. 

        So, Willard came in, and decided to start it, and he had this idea of making these two trolley raku kilns. One over in Taos and one at Ghost Ranch. And the idea would be that we would move the trolley, [chuckling] it’s so heavy, from one site to the other site. And we did that! It was the big, heavy, weird thing with all the brick front, and it just leads into this chamber of the kiln. So, we took that over to his place in Taos. I went along with Ray. We watched the first firing. Then Willard taught a Raku seminar in Creative Arts, so I helped with that. (Creative Arts was one of the umbrella seminars.) And after having done that, I think it was Carl Soderberg wanted to include a Raku seminar in “Festival of Crafts.” I was just curious. Having done it just once, they put me teaching that. So that was pretty exciting. And we just slowly started building down there.

        [Jim Kempes opening door of Raku trolley kiln circa 1970s. Photo from Poling-Kempes collection.]

        [Jim Kempes and Willard Spence in front of cone 10 gas kiln circa 1980s. Photo from Poling-Kempes collection.]

        That’s how it started, pretty much Willard, a lot of people were willing to help, you know, Jim Hall gave his support. To the point where we were going to build a high-fired stoneware kiln over there. We had the flat-bed truck up in Pueblo, CO, ready to load up hard fire brick to build this kiln. At the last second, we found out that an Office of Economic Opportunity program (Nixon canceled those programs) in Taos, had a high fire gas kiln they were willing to donate to the Ranch. So, the truck came back and went to Taos and we loaded up that kiln, brought it over. That was the start of that. Willard also donated an old electric kiln that he had had custom built, oh man it had 24 elements I think, and elements in the floor. It was a beast to fire, but it was running, free, a wonderful electric kiln. That’s how we started out. And then every year, Ray McCall would sort of extend the covering over the roof end, and we built the little shed to store materials in. 

        I think that’s about it. There’s a lot of names there. Carl Soderberg is the one who was in charge of Festival of Crafts. Jim Hall was supportive. You know, Creative Arts was the first seminar. Did you ever meet Ray Woods? 

        TST: Yeah! Would he have been from Philadelphia? 

        Jim Kempes: He was with the National Church in Philadelphia. David Brashear is the other guy. They were in charge of Creative Arts. And Carolyn Barford was an instructor, you know Carolyn.  

        TST: I remember first meeting Carolyn in the Dining Hall when I was a teenager still, in the early 70s. She was doing her illustration designs on t-shirts and would take whatever pen it was and draw it out, and fill it in with color on the shirt. It was a desired item that people were buying. Then she did paper prints and cards -- I bought a few! Later of course she transferred those prints to tiles. And then she taught Tile Painting, later, which I took one year.

        Jim Kempes: I think she was on College Staff back in ‘68. She was one of the main art teachers in Creative Arts. When they put me helping Willard with that, I was just in over my head [chuckling]. But it was wonderful. 

        TST: Did the scope of the ceramics program follow a schedule? Please list and elaborate the courses.

        Jim Kempes: Yes, there was a set schedule every summer. Creative Arts was usually the first one that would start.  In the early days we did Raku in Creative Arts. Maybe somewhere in the 80s or 90s we switched and did Pit Fire with Creative Arts. And then after Creative Arts we would have Festival of Crafts, which was one week. And we did Raku with that. And then Festival of Crafts morphed into Festival of the Arts. And instead of one week it became two weeks. And the first week was Raku, and the second week was High-Fired, Cone 10 Stoneware. And then we added Folk Arts Festival to that, and we always did a Pit Fire with Folk Arts. Let’s see, that was the core at the beginning. In Folk Arts at some point, I switched over and I started doing Stone Carving in the Pole Barn, and I think we brought in Camilla Trujillo to do Pit Fire. So, there was still a clay element but I got to do stone a little bit instead of clay. Which again was inspired by Carolyn. I think Carolyn taught Stone Carving one of those first years during Creative Arts. I would be over doing pottery and would look over there and go, “You can carve stone?” And, just picked up a little scrap and started, yeah, just jumped into that. Those were the “Creative Arts.” 

        We added a lot of different things, we added Crystalline Glazes at the end of the summer. That was Willard’s thing, his passion, to work with crystalline glazes and his old electric kiln was perfect for that. At another point, we added Clint Swink / Mesa Verde Black on White. That’s that story of me seeing that he was giving a talk at the Forest Service in Santa Fe. So, I scooted in just to hear that talk, because you are surrounded by potsherds here, you know it was pretty cool to hear him talk about that.  And we contacted him to see if he would be willing to teach. Yeah, we would end the summer with the Mesa Verde Black on White.

        Also, if you remember, that every spring we would start off with the Potters Association. The Potters group would come in and do a workshop with nationally and internationally known potters and it was always a treat for me. I would hang around and fire things and do some grunt labor, but I got to learn a whole lot. And that started with, I think it was, Juan Quezada. Did you see that news that he just passed away? Akio Takamori, you remember that workshop? Did great slab work, figurative lines. Jim Romberg, Raku. The Potters brought him in. Another one was Rudy Autio. Betty Colbert who taught tile-making. I can’t remember half of the potters that they brought in. Every year from tiles to sculpture to crazy, big wheel work. That was always the treat, start off the summer, to get Pot Hollow ready for the summer with that NM Potters course. Eddie Dominguez had a great one there. He lived in the area for a while. There was good ceramics – you could really learn a lot. And, Potters would always show their slide shows, and so you’d see other peoples’ work. Very supportive, very nice group. 

        [NMPCA workshop early 2000s. Front Row: unknown, unknown, Pat Stalgren, unknown, Penne Roberts. Middle Row: Lynn Eby, Gary Carlson, unknown, unknown, unknown, Elaine Biery. Back Row: Jim Kempes, Jack Roberts, Phil Green. Photo from Gary Carlson.]

        And then the rest of the year still had a rhythm too. We had Elder Hostel. Elder Hostels came in with Chuck and Ginny Graham, and Aubrey Owen. They sort of set that up. Then that morphed on to Bill and Carol Mackey running those. And we would do Pit Fire in May and education about some of the Native American Potters in the area. That was always great. We would be up in Piñon for that. And then there was the “Jan Term” college course. You know some colleges have 3 weeks in January off, and they have an interim course that you could go and take, and Aubrey was the one who set that up. We had DePauw, and Austin College in Sherman TX, and a few that I’m not remembering. We would get 40-60 college students for that period. They would do Black and White Photography, and Enza Quardanelli started out with Batik, another friend of Willard’s. Cordelia Coronado came in and taught weaving with her daughter, Teresa. So that was total immersion, for three weeks. We would have a couple weeks of wheel work and hand-building inside. Then we would switch to firing and we did raku, we did stoneware, and while those pots were all being fired, we did Pit Fire. Those kids, we worked them hard. Students would go their separate ways in the morning, to their separate studios. Jan Term was a great offer. Florence Hawley Ellis came up and taught Archaeology, too. There was also Solar Energy. 

        TST: Yeah, I hear that. What a year. My gosh so you ended up having February and March was that the only time you had off?

        Jim Kempes: Fall and spring were good times. Elder Hostel would fit in here and there Fall and Spring pretty wide open for me to do my own work, which just worked great for me. 

        We did have a bronze casting class too that was in Festival. We would use that Raku kiln to burn off the wax out of the “investments” (another word for "mold”). I believe that was Ed Vega who came up from Albuquerque. We did that, one or two years. And it was a blast. So, Pot Hollow was always used. 

        -- Interview continues in "Part 2."

      • 01 Mar 2023 5:58 PM | Judy Nelson-Moore (Administrator)

        By Judy Nelson-Moore

        A review of the Santa Fe Community College Exhibition, Immortal, A Memorial Show of Ceramic Artists, showing in the college Visual Arts Gallery, January 26 to March 9, 2023.

        This exhibit honors eight ceramic artists who worked in clay at the Community College and died within the last three years.  It will be taken down on March 10, 2023.

        The artists who are memorialized are Frank Willett, Eddie Hironaka, Juliet Calabi, Maia Simpson Michael, Michelle Ann Goodman, Carolyn Stupin, Donna Thompson, and Kevin Hart.  The main organizer of the exhibit is Suzanne Vilmain, with assistance from others, including Linda Cassel and Luisa Baldinger.  Three of the memorialized artists were members of the NMPCA and I was privileged to know them, as I know Suzanne and Luisa, who are also members.

        This is an exhibit of great humanity.  There is a short bio about each artist and a good representation of their work, spanning several years of their careers.  Little is said about how the artists died, so the focus is on their lives and their creativity. Little is said about the techniques, materials, or firing methods, and some of the works would not have attracted my attention in another setting.  But, I found myself going around the exhibit repeatedly studying the bios and the works intently because it made me feel a connection with these people, more poignant because I could never see them again.  

        After seeing this exhibit, I feel I know all the artists personally, even better than I did before.  The overall effect of the exhibition is an honoring of creativity and humanity that leaves a lasting impression.  Looking at individual works of art allows the artist’s creative expression to seep into your mind and bring peace and joy.  The written words about the exhibit  by John Boyce speak volumes about the exhibition and its lasting impression on the viewers.  

        Immortal by John Boyce

        Life is short, but art is long, not forever, but long enough.  Art becomes a part of that which endures beyond our last breath.  Art carries us on beyond our singular selves and connects us to the greater self.  Art gives meaning to our brief lives and gives that meaning to all who touch what we have made, who experience us through what we have left behind.

        When speaking of an artist’s work we say “I own an Andy Warhol”  This odd use of language which seems to confuse the artist with their art is not an error, far from it; it signifies a deep truth, that these inanimate objects are a living part of the artist who made them.

        This show looks at the work of seven artists who for a time made their art at the Santa Fe Community College, and who all passed away over the last three years.  These years have seen us pay a great deal more attention to our mortality than we have been accustomed to in recent times, and yet death was never far from any of us, we had just gotten good at ignoring her.

        An odd point that should not be ignored in this age of COVID is that none of these artists passed away from that great plague, but rather from the normal variety of ailments and maladies that end our lives.

        I live with and use the work of several of the artists we show today. I use their art every day along with the work of artists who lived hundreds of years ago, artists whose names I will never know, but whom I know through my experience of the art they made.

        Art is said to be either high or low, ceramics often being thought of as a low form of art, a craft,  utilitarian.  This class differentiation has its uses, but I ask you today to look at art another way, that art is either shallow or deep.  Some art though touching millions will last only a moment and be forgotten, it is shallow art.  Another piece of art will touch only a few yet it will resonate through a thousand years, it is deep art. 

        I believe the art we see here today is deep art, it contributes to a conversation that has been going on for at least 8,000 years and will continue for as long as there are people to see and touch the works of artists.

        Here is a selection of images showing a portrait, bio, and one or two works by each artist.  Click the images to view larger size.  

        Carolyn Stupin


        Donna Spearman-Thompson


        Eddie Hironaka


        Click the images to view larger size.

        Frank Willett


        Juliet Callabri


        Kevin Hart


        Maia Sampson Michael


        Click the images to view larger size.

        Michelle Goodman


        Thank you Suzanne Vilmain and John Boyce!  

      • 22 Feb 2023 2:44 PM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

        NMPCA is lucky to have a sister organization in our state, The Potters Guild of Las Cruces (PGLC). We keep each other in mind; as examples, they recently donated to NMPCA Clay Forward fundraiser, and in 2021, a program run by some of their members, “Healing Wings,” received NMPCA’s Armstrong Grant. In addition to their biennial exhibit “Fire and Fiber,” and juried regional show, “From the Ground Up,” the Potters Guild’s program also includes an annual “Empty Bowl Fundraiser” which only partially got interrupted by the Covid Pandemic quarantines. 

        After a tip from Leonard Baca, I reached out to Jan Archey, PGLC member, for more info about their very successful Empty Bowls' fundraising in 2022, which was their 30th year! In addition to answering some of my questions, she shared the report she wrote to her fellow PGLC members.

        From Jan Archey to PGLC: "Empty Bowls XXX again was a great event with over $32,000 raised to support El Caldito, our local soup kitchen. As always, our event would not be successful if we did not have the support of El Caldito to handle the soup donations, kitchen, tickets and publicity for the event. We are thankful for St. Paul’s hosting Empty Bowls these past 30 years. Their generosity of space is truly a gift. For workdays, we thank Joshua Clark at NMSU for hosting workdays and firings, Peter Paulos of Las Cruces Clay & Studio for hosting workdays and bisque firings, and the DACC Ceramics Studio for the use of their studio for workdays, firing and glazing. Special thanks to Melissa Renfro overseeing the glazing and firing of the ^6 bowls. Bertha, the Guild’s monster electric kiln, performed perfectly. Certainly not last on the list are YOU the members who give so much! Your bowl donations, silent auction items, working the event…You all are AMAZING! We had 1650 beautiful bowls, maybe our most ever!!! We had an abundance of special priced items which brought in over $1000. This year we were gifted a collection of pottery items, some by nationally known ceramicists. These donations gave new energy to the Silent Auction. Having the auction online drew bids from out-of-town buyers and they were happy to be able to participate and support Empty Bowls. Through Cally Williams and Suzanne Kane’s expertise, the Silent Auction brought in an all-time high total of $6124.64, about $1000 more than the previous year. Mesilla Valley Estate Sales again donated their time and resources to the Silent Auction. This year, I called together a Steering Committee meeting to include key leads from the Guild as well as El Caldito. Empty Bowls has grown way too large to have just a few people in charge. Sadly, the need to feed the hungry has not lessened so we will march forward with new ideas for Empty Bowls 2023 and will implement a few changes in organization and add a few new fundraising events."

        The Slip Trail had a few questions for Jan.

        The Slip Trail (TST): Did the covid pandemic stop you all from conducting Empty Bowls fundraisers?  

        Jan Archey: In 2020, we actually kept on making bowls. It was amazing how we gave people clay and they made bowls in their own studios and other members glazed and fired the bowls. (We extend our thanks to New Mexico Clay for donating clay for our event.  They have donated clay/supplies almost from the very beginning.) Some of us who have larger personal kilns fired many more firings than we usually do because the public studios were not open in 2020. When it came time for our event in Oct 2020, the governor changed the public restriction and we didn't know if we could even put on our event. Her mandate was to go into effect the Saturday after Empty Bowls. We were in a quandary about what to do. I actually called the Chief of Police, and after he quizzed me on our procedure, he said the police were too busy during the time of our three hour event and he doubted they would respond if there was a complaint!!! Empty Bowls continued even during the pandemic! Our plans were to set up tables outside, everyone had to be masked and gloved, and the tables with the bowls were spread out. People registered their name and contact info so if we had to get in touch with them regarding some exposure issue we could contact them.  

        Sadly, hunger doesn't take a break and El Caldito was dependent on the funds we brought in. 

        TST: How many years have you all topped $30K?

        Jan Archey: In 2020 - no soup, just bowl sales - $18,756; 2021 - $34,400; 2022 - $32,540.

        TST: How many folks spearhead the effort? Does the group change much? This past year we discovered we need to change our organizational plan to group leadership with different members in charge of the various aspects...bowl making days, glaze days, sorting bowls, silent auction, Guild ticket sales, t-shirt sales, day of the event set-up, new events at Empty Bowls to bring more interest and income, etc. etc.

        Our leadership of Empty Bowls had some personal conflicts and many of us had to jump in at the last minute to make it successful. With some of our previous chairs, very little was left in the way of 'how to's' so we are in the process of making a procedure book on the how's, when's and who's. Cally Williams brought the concept of Empty Bowls back from an NCECA conference where she met John Hartom who introduced Empty Bowls in 1990 to his high school students in Bloomfield Hills, MI. (For more info: .)  Cally came back with the idea and it took us several years until we first pulled it off in 1993.

        Below is the list of leads we had between the Guild and El Caldito for a Steering Committee that met several times before the event.  From all evals on this, it was good the people had a face to face and we will continue a steering committee for 2023.  The Guild will also have our own steering committee for our part of the Empty Bowls.

        DAY OF EVENT POTTERS' GUILD CHAIR - changing this to several leads





        GUILD TREASURER in charge of Guild ticket sales


        GUILD MEMBER - FUNDRAISING EXPERTISE a new Guild member who will help spearhead some innovation new events for EB

        GUILD MEMBER - EDUCATION OF NEED retired social worker who is passionate about food insecurities and education about




        TST: El Caldito Soup Kitchen - how long have they been the recipients of the earnings? 

        Jan Archey: Since the beginning. The success of our Empty Bowls over the last 30 years has been in my opinion

        1) the size of Las Cruces. People can get to St. Paul's United Methodist Church in under 20 minutes.

        2) we have not changed sites in the 30 years and we always have it on a Friday in October. St. Paul's is proud to host the event and people have come to expect it.

        3) we expect El Caldito to participate in putting Empty Bowls on. They get the soups, do the food serving part and clean-up, do the publicity and handle the tickets. We are only in charge of providing bowls and working that part of the event and the Silent Auction. The Guild also promotes the event and sells tickets. In our opinion, if they are going to be the benefactors of the proceeds, they need to be a vital part of the event. Some years they are better than others and on one occasion we had to remind them that we could choose another organization to receive the proceeds. 

        Because the three agencies work together on Empty Bowls, I truly think that is what makes Empty Bowls the successful event it is.

        The piece that is probably lacking is education on why we have to do Empty Bowls every year. We are working on that to bring facts to our patrons, to help them understand it isn't just a cool event, but their participation may be the act between someone having a meal or going to bed hungry. El Caldito does a bang-up job in using surplus food from different stores and from farmers. There is a team of gleaners who make weekly rounds picking up food.  Even the waste is picked up by farmers to feed livestock.  I'm really proud to be a part of this organization as well.

        ---end of interview--- 

        You can read more info on the PGLC website:

        Empty Bowls elsewhere in New Mexico

        From around 2017 through 2020, Vicki Bolen, Albuquerque artist, held an Empty Bowls-type event, called “Soup is Love,” with proceeds going to Offcenter Community Arts Project, making and donating from her studio “Little Bird de Papel” at Mountain Road and 12th street. According to sponsor Brant Palley / New Mexico Clay, Albuquerque had a very successful run from 1999-2017, with NMPCA members Elaine Biery and Michael Thornton taking leadership roles for a good amount of those years, along with Claire Lissance and others. 

        Now in 2023, here in the middle and northern parts of our state, a student of pottery at CNM’s westside campus, Fay Chazin-Seidelman, has taken the baton to raise interest in holding the fundraiser again. If you are interested in helping revive Empty Bowls in Central NM, email her at or text her at 914-439-5778. 

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