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  • 20 Jun 2022 11:51 AM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

    This is one of the strongest COC shows that I have seen in my time with this group.  The set up by owner Jules Epstein is superb!

    The work in this show is varied and strong.  The strength of a member show is that the artist chooses what will be seen.  This offers an insight into the creator’s thought process.  Following an artist over time allows a glimpse of their growth process, or none.   This sort of appreciation and apprehension is not for those in a rush. 

    These are the impressions of one person viewing the exhibition at the opening and then relying on the Peoples’ Choice list, to fill in names and other detail.  Sara D’Alessandro admits her many biases and preferences.   Michael Thornton says he will write a review of the show as well giving a couple of opinions to compare.  But, you know, go see for yourself. Don’t take our paltry words for it. 

    By SL, eNews Editor (aka Sara D'Alessandro)

    Work by Artist alphabetically

    Lee Akins’s seemingly effortless surfaces always are impressive and worthy of study.  He has two hand built works in this show, fairly large.  One, a gorgeous globe shaped jar, a form for which he is known; the other is an open form called “Lobed Bowl”, an apparent new direction formally.  Both pieces have rich texture intrinsic to the forms with subtle colorations.  I hope to own one someday.

    Melissa Alexander’s “Golden Bull” is a rapid study of a bull full of motion, (something clay does so well).  It is a reflection of the large Morgan Stanley bull sculpture in lower Manhattan but, as a sketch it has more animation.   Kintsugi would be a perfect solution for the breaks in the tail.

    Leonard Baca’s “Turquoise Flared Bowl” is simply thrown and graceful.  It is turquoise glazed with the rim the color of the clay body.  Four light finger flares in the rim give accent.  It is lovely and to the point.  It will never will overstay its welcome.

    Luisa and Frank Willett’s covered jar.  It is my understanding (I hope this is correct) that in these collaborations Frank did the throwing and Luisa did the glaze or surface treatment.  If you have managed to acquire one of these works consider yourself very lucky.  This is lovely in every way.

    Luisa Baldinger’s “Basins” I had only seen pictures of this series of Luisa’s.  Pictures, almost always do not convey what an in-person experience provides.  That certainly is the case here.  These are not new works but they inspire!  The two basin snuggle together on one side encrusted with the past.  They are forms which hold, which keep.   They are a prayer.

    Kathy Bartlett’s “Mudcrack” is a work I can look at again and again.  The crackle surface, frequently over used, is here expertly applied over and ancient mottled coloration, a mysterious combination.  But the real draw for me is the almost liquid globule form itself.  I am guessing a closed form was paddled to the absolute extreme of its cohesiveness, then pierced by a finger pull.  A sipapu. Extremely sensual.

    Kathy Bartlett’s “Raku 1” is the same sensibility of form as “Mudcrack”, sensual, swelling from within with two “openings”.  The black and white raku surface is intrinsic to the form.  It is a voice of eternity.

    Jorge Luis Bernal has six cups, small mugs, decorated with what I assume are personal motifs of his.  He is a new member and I have no past reference to relate.  It will be interesting to watch this work going forward.

    Jorge Luis Bernal’s “Columna 4” looks like a doumbeck.

    Elaine Biery’s two works are jars lidded with birds atop.  Jars with an animal lid.  Here they are done to perfection.  Metallic pastels are the luscious finish of the jars.  One with an interesting cut foot detail which gives a dark accent to the pale color.

    Steve Blakely has two small (circa 10-12”) vases one glazed in solid turquois with red accents, the other is more green.  They present themselves as much larger than they actually are.  They could be enlarged to a monumental scale and would still hold their impact.    

    Joe Bova has two animal heads. One is an owl mug, “Night Commander” quite hilarious.  The other is a very serious rabbit, with a mottled dark glazed surface.

    Sharon Brush, a juror from last year’s COC 2021exhibition, offers us “Acclimation”.  This is a meticulously considered profile.  The surface is not the usual black but rather an uplifting grained white.  The variation from the profile is a widening of the left (as you face it) foot which enables it to free stand.  A symbolic birthing figure.

    Sheena Cameron’s “Sea Horse” is a clever and well done variation of her Horses.  One side , is a clear rendition of the title.  The other side has her signature door in the side of the horse which contains some eccentricities. You may want to ask the gallery to turn the piece to be able to see the other side.

    Sheena Cameron’s “Our Deb Haaland” is a portrait, a sincere and effective rendition of appreciation.  I hope Deb Haaland gets to see this one.

    Anna Bush Crews, “Snow Flurry” is a small form, well developed to obscure the columnar core.   It wants to be larger. (Or, I want it to be larger).  A fine marriage of surface treatment with the form.

    Sara D’Alessandro “River Styx” is a bozetto and as yet I have not been able to enlarge the idea to the scale that I would like.   This work is not in narrative form rather it skirts the narrative.

    Caroline Dechert “Yellow Vase” is off center and organic without trying to overwhelm the flowers that would be put in it.

    Jan Doris has two works: “Black Ball”, a sphere with a small hemisphere cup at the top.  The interest is the surface treatment of the sphere which is like the reading of a planetary object.  Her second work utilizes the sphere in a bead like formation, a figure reduced to its basic three elements, a satisfying arrangement of three forms which many of us have come to as stations in our own work.  This is the clay deciding. 

    Adam Emery’s “The Tower” is an absolute joy to see.  The picture does not convey the exuberance of the Keep.  Adam makes monsters and now he has the castle for them to dwell.

    Christine Evans, “Flying Dreams” is an exalted portrait of a mortal/ goddess, in the tradition of Roman portraiture. Her very accomplished, refined and serene work make me think of the Della Robbia terra cottas of the fourteen hundreds, Europe.  Google Lucca Della Robbia and see.

    Gail Goodwin “Untitled” Just beautiful, that’s all, just beautiful.

    Patty Mara Bourley “Three Ravens Running” is a black drawing over a cylindrical form in black.  Three ravens fitting on a slender terracotta vase.  And, she did it!  Very clever.

    Christopher Hosbach “Scalloped Platter” This work seen in the gallery orange room is wall mounted.  A forceful dynamic pattern executed with extreme control and skill.  Impressive and intimidating; deserving of the award it received.

    Svetlana Kirillova “Pitcher and Mug” Black shiny glazed top and handles with off-setting fluidly added flowers on the bottom, a pleasing contrast between the black and bright. A nice functioning pair.

    Serit Kotowski “Three Tiers” This is a signature texture for Serit a texture she does so well. The proportions of the three are just right and her presentation of antiquity defying function continues.  I am loving watching this journey of hers.

    Alex Kurtz “New Mexico Pollinators” and “New Mexico Plants”  are two sets of six three dimensional tiles, extremely well crafted, an interesting project and a very different interpretation of the tile form.   Tilers take notice!

    Jennifer Lowell “Alegría” a small box with a golden bird flying over the waters.

    Jennifer Lowell “Freedom”  Three nesting tiers each with birds flying around the sides and topped with a bird handled lid.  Birds are her iconology and they seem to be symbols for lots of people.    There are many in this show.

    Dianne MacInnes “Becoming” is a small figurine, a trans figure, with a somewhat naturalistic head atop an amorphous form.

    Catherine McClain “Amber Bloom” A cactus, such a clay friendly form, with blossoms on the top.

    Sheila Miller “Sunset Jar” thrown form modified, fan shaped decorated lid, a fine looking jar.

    Sheila Miller “Shades of Blue Leaf Jar” She embraces utility with beauty.  This piece is fun to look at because you can see the flow and joy of her throwing experience in the fluid finger marks, enhanced by the liquid blue color.

    Vincent Morales “Round Wood” I would also say “round jar”.  The sphere is round and solid.  The cut of the lid provides interesting counterpoint.  The fetishized bound wood lid makes this a special stash.

    Judy Nelson Moore “Back Seat Driver” is an assemblage that is self-explanatory and amusing, unless you are the driver under command.  Judy never shrinks from combining and exploring different media. She is always pushing new boundaries.  Here she has used metal and paper clay.  This is shown on a pedestal in the gallery it would be good wall mounted work, as well.  I like this 3D collage.

    Richard Orlando “Hummingbird Bowl”    The hummingbirds are incised around the insides of the bowl.  You cannot see them in this photograph.  It is a shame there is not a better photo. This fine work will miss out in the Peoples’ Choice because of a poor photo.

    Charlotte Ownby “Sunrise Uplifting”  I have seen other tiles of Charlotte’s and they have been of trees, birches, leaves and landscapes.  This is the first I have seen where she has introduced humans.  She worked within this year’s theme Up Lifted and has begun a narrative.

    Adam Padilla “Lilies” A pleasant understated dish with three flower symbols of differing colors.  

    Casey Pendergast “Turtle Chalice” is a visually interesting assemblage.  Probably not practical for function.  I couldn’t find a turtle.  I like it, never the less.

    Andrea Pichaida  “I’ll Hold You” is a gorgeous pierced bowl form, glazed with her bright optimistic colors.  The bowl is very large, swelling and absolutely flawless, a result of paddling against air. 

    Sabrina Pratt “Moving Forward” This work has solved a vexing problem of clay’s nature is to be “earth bound”.  Sabrina has broken through the pyramid solid to which clay is inclined, giving an open space at the bottom.  Bravo! (Also, see Sharon Brush).  The work balances on its two points.

    Alma Quillian  “Big Horn Sheep” is a straight forward clear rendering of a big horned sheep.

    Alma Quillian  “Pierre”  Here she has taken a serious portrait and turned this black bird into a pitcher with a red lid!  

    Marianna Rabinowitz “A Series of Unnecessary Objects”  I was unable to see this more closely at the opening.  The picture tells little being too dark to make out.  Seems interesting.  I will watch for her future works.

    Barbara Raulston “Celebrating Charlie” with your morning coffee and a warm hand grip.  Charlie probably would be pleased.

    Jenna Ritter “Sky Bowl” is a lovely proportioned bowl with a smoked surface.

    Greta Ruiz “Multi Pod” becomes even more interesting when you look down inside the pods. The lighting in the gallery encourages this view.  The photo doesn’t show this aspect.  A very different work to consider.  It garnered a deserved award.

    Jill Schulman “Hanging by a Thread” A powerful portrait that doesn’t feel the need to be cute.  Seems as if I know her, or, have seen her.  Maybe I have.  I am curious about the four holes in the neck.  Makes me think of a cloth body might get attached, like the old cloth dolls with the ceramic head and hands.  I must ask her if we ever come into contact.  I found this a powerful work.   I kept coming back to it.

    Joey Serim “Rising” is made up of two joined, thrown pieces.  A pathway to grow larger.

    Cirrelda Snider-Bryan “10’ Above Our Roof” Here is another tile maker who considered the theme for this year. This is an interesting narrative with subtle twists by an abstract thinker.  The center is an insert with screws at the corners.

    Darla Graff Thompson “When I fly” These heads of Darla’s continue to grow on me.  After the Sunport show was taken down I hosted two of these heads at home for a couple of weeks.  They have divergent attitudes depending on which side you look.  Then there is the melding in the front view.  With two heads I would make changing dialogues by moving them around. People visiting me would stop in their tracks when spying them. 

    Michael Thornton “Chi Meets Epsilon” are two small columnar abstractions with openings at the top.  I am ignorant of the title reference. 

    Atom Vigil “Dragon Runes” and “Runes” are two small cups about shot glass size, white with runic marks around the outside lips. 

    Susan Voss “Raven Dreams” Head with Raven wrapping the head and neck, romantic, nice face.  I love the crackle most of all.

    Susan Voss “My Raven Muse” Standard portrait bust configuration, pretty face, bird on shoulder, romantic.

    Sheryl Zacharia “Ventanas” is a medium size, designed sculpture.  Her work is always satisfying.

    The juror work:

    Abby Salsbury is a juror and also has work in the show. Her work is not up to receive awards, but is included because they show a jurors point of view.  She has tiles which are an extension of her designed work.  These are tiles which advance into the space much as some children’s books which open and pop forward.  The projections offer shadow play between the levels presenting a lot to contemplate.

    Hebe Garcia is a juror for this show and she has a work in the show as well.  I do not have the title of this work on hand.  It is a figure of a child holding a doll.  Hebe’s work reminds me of the writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, particularly his novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude”.

    Jules Epstein, owner of the TCC, is also a juror.  His skill is apparent in this clearly structured presentation.

    To view the show, visit the Taos Ceramics Center, 114 Este Es Road, Taos, NM. Gallery hours Wed Noon-5, Thu-Sat 10-5, Sunday Noon-4. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Closing date: Saturday, July 23, 2022. If unable to attend in person, here is the online gallery:

  • 25 Apr 2022 2:42 PM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

    Every year Celebration of Clay allows members to enter their own selection of work, and features awards to highlight exceptional works, selected by a juror. This year we have three: Abby Salsbury, Hebé García, and Jules Epstein. They will be selecting Best in Show Award of $150, the UNM Arita Porcelain Award for Beauty, Quality and Functionality of $100, and three Merit Awards of $50 each. Read on to learn more about them.  

    Abby Salsbury       

    I am a visual artist working primarily in clay. Although I've concentrated on ceramics throughout my life, in recent years I've taken an interest in printmaking and I now practice both mediums. My current ceramic work is a combination of the two with highly detailed surfaces and narrative scenes depicting natural forms and their relationships within a unique landscape. My printmaking imagery is transferred using a ceramic decal process, offering many more possibilities for the creation of themes, story lines and characters; as well as pure texture, varying line-weight and depth. 

    I grew up in western Massachusetts and studied ceramics with William Daley at the Philadelphia College of Art and Betty Woodman at the University of Colorado. For the last twenty-two years I've been making a living as a studio artist, working on the mesa of Taos, New Mexico. This desert and Rocky Mountain view offer a vast array of inspiration from its changing light and atmosphere to its plant life and varied creatures. The worlds within my artwork come from this view and I'm motivated by it every day.

    Hebé García

    Hebé García and her husband visited Abiquiu, NM, for the first time in 2013, and it took just a week for them to fall in love with the town and its surroundings. By 2015 they were ready to move from Puerto Rico to New Mexico. After a long search, they found the perfect spot for their home and García s Artist Studio on top of a Mesa with 360 views, including Georgia O Keeffe s iconic Pedernal.

    The move has inspired and influenced García s work —a diverse range of painting, sculpture, and installation — to explore more the intersections of feminism, mythology, and cultural roots. Her clay and oil figurative works often reflect Jungian archetypes and are firmly ensconced in magical realism. Her figures are hauntingly beautiful, mysterious, and sometimes macabre.* She hopes that her work acts as a point of departure, encouraging the viewer to connect, interact, and ultimately create their own narrative. Hebé García graduated from the University of Southwestern Louisiana with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in 1986. She has participated in numerous collective and individual shows within Puerto Rico and the USA, including the prestigious Muestra Nacional de Arte of 2013 de PR; La Entrada del Espejo 2016, San Antonio TX; Celebration of Clay 2018, Taos NM; A Certain Sense of Her 2019, Beeville, TX; Ceramic Wall Works, Roseville, CA; and From the Ground UP XXIX at the Museum of Art Las Cruces, Las Cruces, NM amongst others. Presently, García is a member of the New Mexico Potters and Clay Artists (NMPCA), the Abiquiu Studio Tour, and the Gentileschi Aegis Group Association (GAGA). Her work is held in collections in Puerto Rico, England and the USA. * Sylvia Benitez, Director of the Gentileschi Aegis Group Association

    Jules Epstein

    Just two years after receiving his BFA degree in graphic design from Penn State University, Mr. Epstein founded a brand design firm just north of Boston that grew to be a nationally recognized business with more than 25 employees. Thirty-three years later, in 2013, he sold the business and retired full-time to Taos, NM, with his wife and two daughters. In 2019, along with his wife Georgia, he laid the foundation for the formation of the Taos Ceramics Center (TCC), a community ceramics studio, supply store, and respected interdisciplinary gallery. Mr. Epstein continues to be the curator for the TCC Gallery and Operations Manager of the business. He has been an active board member on the Taos Arts Council since 2018 and is treasurer of his local acequia in Arroyo Hondo.    


  • 13 Mar 2022 10:00 AM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

    How did you first get interested in clay?

    My mother was a potter and artist, so I began playing with clay at a very early age. I recall making crude ashtrays and sculptures of animals when I was four or five years old. My first serious work was inspired by pre-Columbian and Native American pottery that I saw in Guatemala in 1964 and in 1967. I began experimenting with pit-fire black firing after I moved to Colorado in 1967. I met and talked with Popovi Da in 1968. An accident during a firing n 1968 or 1969 led to innovative firing methods for unglazed burnished pottery that included the first horsehair firing which I first did in 1971. 


    Describe your studio.

    My studio a room in my home in Pilar which is a small village on the Rio Grande in Taos County. The studio is generally a mess.

    Describe your work.

    I have made a living with my work for more than a half century. I seem to be too much of an oddball for anyone to hire me for a real job. I hand-build pottery and occasionally make clay or stone sculpture. I am largely self-taught and have developed a new coil building technique. I almost never use glaze but add color by using colored slip. I burnish the surface with a smooth stone or with my fingers or with a plastic bag. Firing adds smoke stains from various organic materials: coffee grounds, hair, feathers, flowers, leaves, and other things. I also work with micaceous clay which I dig from deposits in the Tusas and Sangre de Cristo mountains. I work with Taos Pueblo potter Bernadette Track offering native clay workshops using traditional hand-building and firing techniques. 


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

    I draw with pencil and charcoal. I dabble in photography. I write.


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

    I sometimes listen to classical music while working with clay, sometimes to blues or gritty rock. One day recently I binge-listened to over a dozen versions of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" while building a pot.

    What other pottery do you have in your home? 

    Years ago, my first wife, Mary Blake Witkop, and I would participate in many art and craft fair shows. We would trade pots with other potters. I have quite a few pueblo pots from that time, and pots by several Anglo and Hispanic potters. I much prized an effigy pot by Fred Wilson but lost it to a divorce.

    What caused you to join NMPCA?

    Joining NMPCA was, of course, a no-brainer. I'm a potter and I live in New Mexico.

    By Carl Gray Witkop. Hand-built burnished vessel, smoke-fired with hemp leaves, 2021. 7” diameter.

    By Carl Gray Witkop. Hand-built native micaceous clay pot. Pit-fired.  2019, 61/2”. The clay is from Pot Creek area.

    Places to view Carl’s pieces:

    From the editor:

    Carl Gray Witkop is one of 38 new members who joined NMPCA in 2021. Thank you, Carl, for taking time to answer these questions and share your intriguing clay journey with all of us. 

  • 24 Feb 2022 3:27 PM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

      “Brushing” off my notes from the very memorable Ghost  Ranch workshop August 19-21, 2021, here at last is a story  of the time with Sharon Brush.

    Ahead of the seminar, in July, I was so elated to get Sharon’s email to participants with its lengthy questionnaire - it became a very effective tool for me. From her questionnaire: “It’s my belief that new work most easily develops after periods of deep reflection. With that belief in mind, it is my intention to spend the three days helping you to realize some fundamental truths about yourself and your work.” I ended up referring to my questionnaire notes a lot during the 3-day workshop.


    But as I remember, that time seemed a lot longer than 3 days. With folks all around me working up a storm of pieces - from Michael Thornton to my left with his slab free-form cylinder evolving tall, to Shelly Jackson’s prolific expressions catching my eye across the room, there was a hum of harmonious creation. With more than half a dozen out under the porches, I chose indoors table spot. Everyone with masks on, there was the lovely intentional atmosphere of folks pouring their focus into sculpture, with Sharon Brush appearing at our sides, to engage every single one of us, again and again. Her mode of presentation honored our few short days, as she encouraged us to start our own pieces early on, meanwhile she built and commented on her own emerging form. 


    Sharon showed us how to make a “maquette” - a miniature version of our concept - first. You can see hers next to her water bottle on table in the photo. I loved making maquettes!! She used multiple forms for her multi-faceted piece, the handcrafted styrofoam one covered with old t-shirt. Spray bottle and blow torch alternated in her hands. Later the first evening we saw the entire journey of her exploration with “vessel as sculpture” forms laid out in slide show. "Vessel as sculpture" describes her oeuvre well. 


    At the top of my notes is scrawled: “1200 folks coming mañana.” Yes, there was a brand new type of event occurring during our weekend - the “Ghost Ranch Music Weekend” that we potters were invited to join with tickets half-price. But we were having too much fun with our participant slide show that second night! The Ranch had been transformed and the staff were scurrying! Dinner was in a box, and Saturday night we all were able to eat under the Pinon Pottery Studio porch together, sharing stories around the table, true to our NMPCA camaraderie. Music drifted over, the full moon rose, and a whole new batch of Ranch fans were oo-ing and ah-ing at the edge of the alfalfa field while we oo-ed and ah-ed at the slides of our member pieces.


    Sunday, our sculptures lined up on tables outside. Sharon our leader expressed her happiness in the success of the workshop, that each person in our group took the challenge in as many wonderful directions as there were participants. For her, that brought joy.

    Article and photos by Cirrelda Snider-Bryan, Editor of the Slip Trail 

  • 08 Jan 2022 8:34 AM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

     Gary and Valerie Tibbetts of Weyrich Gallery are retiring, and will be closing the gallery January 30,  2022 after almost 40 years enriching the community with their array of fine art. Their support of  potters and ceramic artists has been unparalleled. Grateful for the time given by Valerie and Gary for  this interview --- this is “Part One,” --- “Part Two” will be published at a later date. 


    From their website: 

    Weyrich Gallery, owned by Valerie and Gary Tibbetts, is a special place. Intuition is the determining factor in the harmony the Tibbetts have orchestrated in their small space whose inspiration is on a grand scale. The thoughtful visitor will soon realize the high level of craftsmanship reflected in the work on display and also the sense that gallery artists seem to have an affinity with each other.

    The Weyrich Gallery is full of educational and artistic products and services that bring harmony into one’s hectic life. We offer a creative environment featuring exquisite jewelry, paintings, acrylic, pastels, and prints. Also mixed media, glass, metal, wood, clay, fiber, wood block prints, hand colored photography, monotypes, and limited-edition prints.


    In a follow-up conversation after the November 15th interview, Valerie told the story of how she became enthralled by a place they visited in Latin America (their mode of transport was hitchhiking). The vision she gained there would give fruit to starting the gallery, and lead them to name it a “Rare Vision” gallery. A vision they have been dedicated to ever since.



    The Slip Trail: What do you think of this warm weather? 

    Valerie: Ha! We should be out hiking!

    Gary: It’s scary. What’s the summer going to be like?

    PHOTO CREDIT: Leonard Baca, November 2021


    TST:  Here is that first question I sent. You have shown ceramists/potters from New Mexico as well as potters from across the country in your gallery. Talk about the importance of ceramics and clay to your gallery.

    Valerie: Well, I’m just going to start from the beginning. In 1982-83, we opened a “rare vision” type of gallery, our focus on fine craft and fine art, mixed media, ceramics, paintings, and prints. My background is in fine art and metal work design. In 1973 my study of art and metal work began. I studied fine art at the University of New Mexico, and lived and studied arts and metals work at the Art Institute in Córdoba, Spain for 9 months, in 1974-75. Gary graduated from UNM with a degree in anthropology, and had studied ceramics in Sydney, Australia in 1966. And he will give you a little bit of a connection leading up to that answer about his experience with clay. In 1989, Jim Srubek, a professor at the university in the College of Education, came to our gallery and asked to do a show, I think it was called “Legacy in Porcelain,” with his work and the students of the Arita Method of Porcelain program. We had a very successful show, and continued to exhibit ceramics from University of New Mexico. The gallery continued to feature works by UNM students and faculty after Prof. Srubek retired in 2001, until 2021.

    Gary: The first show was 1989 although we are not certain of the date. 

    Valerie: We had been exhibiting tea bowls, and really didn’t have much knowledge about Chado / Japanese Tea Ceremony, so, when Kathy Cyman came on board in 2001, I asked her if there was ever a teacher, I would love to know more about tea bowls, and to start studying about Chado. And that led me and Gary to a teacher and to many other accredited teachers in the U.S.A., many would come and speak/tour to ABQ and Santa Fe. The school of Japanese Tea Ceremony is called Urasenke. We started in 2006. Chado New Mexico group connected us to many different ceramic artists in N.M. and nationwide. And so, Gary and I would go out to the west coast to San Francisco and stay there, cause that’s where the North American headquarters for Urasenke is, at Green Gulch Farm north of San Francisco. And there’s a tea house there, there was one also here in Santa Fe that we were lucky enough to drink tea in also. This was the catalyst that changed our outlook in ceramics and clay, and to present it at the gallery as fine art, not fine craft. Because in the East, ceramics back in Japan, it’s considered a fine art. I’d been to Japan twice, and was exposed to ceramics, Raku, Hagi, in the different prefectures in Japan, Bizen and Karatsu, and how again ceramics in the East is considered a fine art. The study of Tea is a very deep and moving meditation that opens the senses of the physical body and also really connects with the present moment. It is very sensual: smells, touch, sound, seeing, listening, taste. And again, the Japanese Tea ceremony has the 4 principles: wa - harmony, kei - respect, sei - purity, jaku- tranquility. So, this really started Gary and I to understand more about clay and ceramics by holding tea bowls. Then we had to start learning more about glazes, the rim of the bowl, the foot rims, the clays, the shapes of the tea bowl. Again, Raku - considered the crème de la crème, Hagi, and Karatsu ware. This really changes our eye. The subtleties of holding the tea bowl in our hands and mixing tea in the vessel with the whisk and preparing tea, but also during the ceremony, before drinking, you make an offering, called kanche, honoring the tea, the potter, the people that made all of the utensils, past and present, was important. The shape of the bowl, the front, maybe where the glaze has hit the bowl. I think what really happened is we were taught, not just us, we were taught the pure essence of the bowl. And again, really moving into the present moment, I think that’s why we were willing to sit you know in these strange positions sometimes [both chuckle]. In my mind, the Tea connects with the kokaro, which is the Japanese term for heart-mind connection. So here we started opening the heart area, not really intellectualizing about the glaze or the form, but we were moving into learning about the essence of what you were holding in your hand. So that’s what I feel was my story of how we began, the answer to your question. 


    TST: Describe a potter your gallery has represented, sharing an anecdote. 

    Valerie: One time at my tea class, which is called a tamae in Japanese, I was using a water container with the form called mizusachi, that a potter Willi Singleton had made. I was moved by the form, the glaze, the design. I didn’t know he had studied in Japan 6 years. And dug his own clay and made his own glazes. I was then introduced to anagama, the wood-firing kiln by Willi, the potter from Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania, and he taught us about his process of “Slow Clay,” like “Slow Food.” He was a teaching potter at Lama Foundation in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, which was started by Millie Johnstone. She’s an important figure because she’s the one that brought Urasenke to Lama Foundation in 1970. That’s where a lot of our teachers were coming from. Then we were introduced to different conferences, one was called Tea Beyond Japan, where there were new teachers, new ceramics, and artists, a circle of artists, not only we were exposed to local potters like Kathy Cyman, Michael Thornton, Michael Prokos, or some of our Native American potters that we had, we were also then introduced to people like Rob Barnard, Judith Duff, Jack Troy. And that also broadened our awareness. I continued to see that it really happened, even though I had been to Japan twice, and introduced to it while I was there, I think it was the actualization of holding the vessel, and really being taught how you look at them. And that too, as I said, the intellectual mind, that really kind of heart-felt … what was the essence of the vessel that you were holding. We’re such a throw-away society, and we’re moving at such a fast rate, that even I know for artists, they’re not being able to center, you know, so that they can quiet themselves and kind of get grounded. 

    PHOTO CREDIT: Leonard Baca, November 2021


    TST:  Didn’t you also hold seminars and workshops there at the gallery?

    Gary: Yes, we had the classes in tea ceremony, but of course we also had openings throughout that whole period, that went along with it. 

    Valerie: Oh yes, many different times, yes. We did classes, as Gary was saying, in the loft, for I think two years, where our teachers would teach the pottery, and offered the tea room, but yes, we have done different exhibits with having our potters from NM come, and see the work of four students as well as other visiting ceramicists. Sometimes if we had an exhibit opening before that, what we would do was to bring the tatami mat out, then upstairs, we would create as a tea room, maybe we could only sit six people at a time. Then some of the members of the NM Potters group would come down because some of them lived in Santa Fe or Taos. Then they would talk about how you would move the bowl, and how you look at the subtleties of it. And sometimes the “Slow Clay” potter Willi Singleton, I think we had 10 shows with him, would always do a lecture about his process and a lot of potters would come to that. And sometimes he would go and do a teaching at UNM with Kathy Cyman’s class. When you know about glazes, when you know about shapes, and then developing that eye that you’re talking about, being exposed to shows and the things people do during the ceremonies --- when one starts developing that, one starts seeing things differently. 


    TST:  Describe a learning experience you had with clay, and share about pottery you have made yourself. 

    Valerie: Part of Chado New Mexico arranged for people to visit different clay artists. Betsy Williams was a member of that. Betsy offered to do a class and she showed me how to throw a tea bowl. For me it was most humbling to get on a wheel and center, to knead the clay and all that. I left thinking, “This is hard work these people are doing!” I know a lot of the artists they say the clay, what they are doing, is valuable. Betsy says this helps her stay focused and centered. But Gary’s the one who has experience doing clay. more than I have. Gary, he’s a potter. When he looks at a potter’s cup, he immediately goes to the handle to see how the hand fits it, and also, he’ll put that cup to his lips.

    Gary: The cup and the feel is so important, and the same with the Chawan [tea ware], which of course started out to be a Korean rice bowl, that were incorporated by the early people of Tea, when they got away from Chinese objects. The thought of it was being the epitome of what they were using, given to more wabi and more fundamental pieces of the tea- of more Japanese pieces. I was lucky enough to be introduced to pottery work in Sydney, Australia. I had a great teacher whose name was Ivan McMeekin, and he worked with Bernard Leach in St. Ives in his early days. And he was a friend of Hamada who came to the University of New South Wales and lectured and looked at what he was doing there. I was just very fortunate to be introduced to clay by using a kick wheel, and of course trying to make a cylinder out of a pound of clay, or tea bowl. I was just a beginner, just enough to give me a feel for what’s involved in pottery, in clay, in the work, and an appreciation of the work. 

    TST: Gary, your teacher had direct connections with Shoji Hamada and Bernard Leach. Did you meet either of them?

    Gary: No. Ivan McMeekin was a great teacher and I was very fortunate to have some time with him. Some of his pottery was inspired by the Song Dynasty China stoneware that was made for the common people 1000 AD.

    Valerie: with the celadon glaze --- 

    Gary: Celadon glaze, Ivan McMeekin loved that. 

    TST: Was there a museum there, a collection of Song Dynasty pottery?

    Gary: Not there, but in the Philippines, we saw a great collection. In the Song Dynasty time, the Chinese and the Filipinos were trading with each other so you find lots of good Song Dynasty work in the Philippines. 

    TST: Very good to hear your teacher Ivan loved that. Not the ornate, painted with gold, that you’re saying the Japanese got away from and started to appreciate wabi, the style of their own pottery.

    Gary: Yeah, they were using things in tea ceremony that were not only ceramics, but metal as I recall, and the Japanese in their early tea ceremony were using lots of Chinese stuff, but then they got to their own stuff. 

    Valerie: and Rikyu.

    Gary: Yeah, Rikyu, the founder of that school.

    Valerie: Rikyu, the founder of Urasenke. He was the one then that really brough nature into the tea room. It was more austere, not decorative, just like Gary was saying. 


    TST: Any more to add about experiences with clay?

    Gary: A memory of Australia years ago, from when I was in New Guinea … Under a house on poles was a woman with her thumb up in the air and a lump of clay on the top of it. She was opening that lump of clay on her thumb, she was centering and opening it up to make something, I assume a bowl. But I will never forget that image of that lady, and God, there are so many ways to do clay!

    Valerie: We aren’t as in touch with our bodies to know what we can really do with them that was the thing I thought about, oh my God, look at that! I think we underestimate the potential. 

    Gary: That is just something that has been in my mind for many years.


    End of Part 1 --- to be continued …

    PHOTO CREDIT: Leonard Baca, November 2021 

  • 29 Nov 2021 11:05 AM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

    The Healing Wings Project in Las Cruces is the proud recipient of this year’s Armstrong Grant. This public art sculpture is a creative remembrance to all that has been lost to Covid 19. Nestled in the peaceful courtyard of Josephina’s Old Gate in Mesilla, New Mexico, the art piece is composed of two metal sculptures: a metal tree with barren branches that is quickly filling with ceramic wings and a collection of metal boxes where notes can be left to lost loved ones.

    When the idea of the project was born in March of 2021, our communities had been rocked with the traumatic losses of the pandemic. It became evident that few of us had escaped the innumerable losses of Covid.

    Every community has its stories. In Las Cruces, families gathered outside throughout the long days and nights keeping watch through the hospital windows as loved ones remained in the isolation of the Covid Unit.  Just down the road in El Paso, unable to honor traditional rituals of grief, family members huddled in the stair wells, across from refrigerated trucks serving as temporary morgues, to mourn.    

    Nine months later, we continue to hear stories of complicated and often isolated bereavement in our communities. Several weeks ago, a teacher visited the sculpture, sharing that the students and faculty had lost a beloved teacher to the virus. The school struggles with the loss, having created a mural in honor of their lost faculty member. The teacher expressed a hope that engagement with the Healing Wings Project might provide another outlet to heal.

    The Healing Wings Project is a collaborative venture between the Potters’ Guild of Las Cruces and The Agave Art Coop, to provide a venue and opportunities to groups and individuals to acknowledge their losses by painting individual angel wings and leave messages about their experiences. The Potters’ Guild of Las Cruces has taken on this project as a tribute to its forty-year anniversary.

    The idea for the tree and the memory boxes came from a conversation between myself, the owner of the Agave Art Gallery Wendy Weir, and fellow Potter's Guild member and Agave Artist, Vickie Morrow. The concept was presented to metal artist Josh Switzer, who came up with the designs. 

    Free workshops are offered to community organizations and individuals where they are supported in their bereavement and healing process through artistic expression. Members of the Potters Guild hand make bisque wings which are then fired, and hung on the tree as a memorial. Interestingly, people are much more willing to jump in and paint wings as a group activity. Writing notes for the memory boxes almost always happens privately.  Notes have only been placed in the locked boxes while the open boxes remain empty. 

    The Project’s Dedication on August 26th of 2021 featured traditional prayers and blessings by the Tortugas Pueblo. Pueblo members, like many in New Mexico, have been hard hit by the pandemic. In the ceremony the journey of those who have been lost as well as the paths of those of us left behind were honored.  At the Dedication, members of the Pueblo, civic leaders, health care providers, and residents took part in the first of many wings painting workshops.

    Through the generosity of New Mexico Potters and Clay Artists’ Armstrong Grant, we will be able to expand our community outreach. Free community workshops are scheduled twice a month.  Beginning in January we are resuming on-site workshops with activities scheduled at area healthcare facilities, and senior programs. We are committed to a year of programming that would bring us to September 1, 2022. At that time, we will reevaluate the project.

    Individuals frequently visit the courtyard looking for “the tree.”   This provides an opportunity to provide a brief education on the healing nature of ceramics and encouragement to attend a workshop to create a wing of their own. Education about the project and use of ceramics as emotional expression has been one-on-one conversations initiated by the brochure and word of mouth in the community.  The brochures are distributed by Potters Guild members at art shows and in the gallery.  We have also had articles in many local media.

    We are working on the design for tiles for those donating $200 or above.  We hope to have a dedication of the tiles in the Spring, if Covid cooperates.  Other projects that are being discussed are a writing workshop in the courtyard in the spring, a photo book, and a public exhibit in July of 2022 in collaboration with the Potters' Guild Fire and Fiber Show. 

    As the public art piece evolves with the addition of new wings, in a parallel process our project also expands. We have wings representing participants from Las Cruces, El Paso, Juarez (Mexico), Miami and Albuquerque, including NMPCA. We look forward to providing members of NMPCA future updates as your support has enabled

    this to happen.

    “To hold you must first open your hand to let go.” -Tao

    Kathy Baker

    The Healing Wings Project

    Las Cruces, New Mexico

    Agave Artists Cooperative Gallery is located at 2250 Calle de San Albino, in Mesilla, New Mexico.


  • 19 Dec 2020 11:43 AM | Judy Nelson-Moore (Administrator)

    The NMPCA has had a blog newsletter since 2010.  There are various subjects authored by a variety of authors, coordinated by webmaster and slip trail editors.  There are a lot of really interesting articles on old blog posts.  We are hoping to have a way to display archived blog posts.  

    In the meantime, please enjoy this new blog.  If you are looking for some specific topic, put a word or two about the topic in the search above and you will find all the blog posts that contain the word(s) you entered in the search.  

  • 17 Dec 2020 5:53 PM | Jacquita Beddo

    Late August 2020 saw a contingent of NMPCA members among ceramics enthusiasts convening for a weekend of workshops at the historic Ghost Ranch, near Abiquiu.

    This small group of potters braved the pandemic’s relative lull to venture out to the remote and rustic Ghost Ranch. The natural charms of the ranch’s landscape, along with the promise of exploring new ceramics methods, and the desire to be in community among other ceramists, were irresistible.

    The NM Connections workshop is sponsored by NMPCA every 2 years, and features presentations by local NMPCA ceramic artists. This year, the presenters were members Judy Nelson-Moore, Andrea Pichaida, Joe Bova and Michael Thornton.

    Being mindful of Covid19 protocols, NMPCA kept enrollment for this year’s workshop to a bare minimum, in compliance with social distancing requirements. Face masks were de rigueur.

    Since Ghost Ranch has had to severely curtail it’s programming this year, we were among their few guests at that time. Those familiar with the ranch observed a radical departure from the norm. The ranch’s protocols included: temperature checks on entry, and segregated rooms.  Its dining hall featured hands-off service, and disposable dishes.

    In the hands-on workshops, Judy Nelson-Moore and Andrea Pichaida teamed up for an informative presentation on Paperclay Sculpture. Andrea shared her perspective as an immigrant from Chile, along with her unique approach to sculpture.  Judy shared her vast knowledge of paper clay techniques, and followed up with an illuminating evening slide show of international paperclay artists.

    Joe Bova presented a workshop on altering wheel-thrown forms in a zoomorphic fashion, producing forms he calls Potimals. Joe shared lore from his extensive experience as he demonstrated the techniques he uses in his signature anthropomorphic approach to pottery.

    Michael Thornton presented Naked Raku 2 Ways. Participants prepped the bisque ware they had brought with them for the raku firing, using either of the One-step or Two-step techniques. 

    Michael demonstrated. Dramatic results ensued, as expected from the post-firing reduction!

    Despite intermittent wind and rain, it was a worthwhile and enjoyable weekend of ceramic exploration and community!

  • 19 Oct 2020 5:44 PM | Judy Nelson-Moore (Administrator)

    Frank, our much loved founding member of NMPCA and mentor, model to many clay people in New Mexico has passed away.

    Frank’s ready wit and gentle ways have inspired and guided many of us over the years. His fabulous skill in throwing, including thoughtful consideration of the true function of his pots, is unmatched. He and his wife and fellow clay artist, Luisa Baldinger, glazed the pots to perfection, for beauty and functionality.

    Frank died at home, surrounded by his family, on October 15, 2020.  He was 91 years old.  Here is some information about Frank and his career: 

    Frank held an MA in Fine Art from CSU Los Angeles and taught high school art in California before moving to Santa Fe in 1971, where he established Santa Fe Pottery on historic Guadalupe Street.  Through the years he produced pottery continuously, all with an unerring sense of beautiful form, good design and superb craftsmanship.  He and Luisa collaborated in many ceramic adventures. Together they produced Sunridge Pottery, a line of functional wheel-thrown and slab-made pottery for both the wholesale and retail markets, designed and produced “Santa Fe Lights”, ceramic architectural lighting fixtures, and continued to sell their work in their shop Santa Fe Pottery.  In 2003 they sold the shop.  In his “retirement” Frank continued to spend several hours in the studio each day making his more one-of-a-kind pieces on the wheel and collaborating with Luisa on the glazing and firing. Frank continued to throw work through August 2020. 

    Awarded the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2013, Frank Willett’s work in high fired porcelain and stoneware was recognized in that award as being widely known and respected in the ceramic art community in New Mexico. 

    In addition to the Governor’s Award, he was honored by the City of Santa Fe Arts Commission Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2002, was featured in the December 2005 issue of Ceramics Monthly, and was included in the Ceramic Arts Yearbooks 2015.  His work has been shown in numerous invitational and juried shows, including an invitational show in the New Mexico Governor’s Gallery, an invitational show of New Mexico potters at Santa Fe Clay, and, most recently, an exhibit of ceramics, “Critical Chaos”, in conjunction with an NCECA conference, “Critical Santa Fe, a Symposium” in the Gallery at Santa Fe Community College. 

    He has taught wheel throwing classes and has given workshops at several colleges and ceramic educational institutions in the region. He was an active member of the New Mexico Potters and Clay Artists (NMPCA) lending his expertise as judge of the Clay Olympics, juror for the Celebration of Clay, lecturing and demonstrating at NMPCA Ghost Ranch workshops,  and showing his pieces in the annual Celebration of Clay Exhibitions.  See a video of Frank’s demonstration of trimming a bowl at Ghost Ranch on the NMPCA YouTube channel.

    Frank’s Personal Statement
    My pottery has always been functional for use in the kitchen, dining room and household.  Lately I’ve been experimenting with forms.  Staying within the constraint of functionality, the forms are stretched, bent, imprinted with varied textures, enhanced by glazes that break and run over the treated surfaces, and fired either in gas reduction to cone 11 or in soda to cone 11.

    Making new forms is still a driving force; there’s excitement in it.   I enjoy working with clay and have had a pleasant and successful lifetime of playing in the medium.

    The melancholy of post maturity is upon me but I try my best to turn it into humor.

    You can see and purchase Frank’s work as well as the work of his wife, Luisa Baldinger, on their website at Work can be purchased through the website to be shipped or picked up at their Santa Fe Studio. Instructions are on the website to make appointment in advance to pick up work and wear mask.

    Please add a comment to this post to share your memories of Frank.

    7 Replies to “In Memory of Frank Willett, 1929-2020”

    1. jnelsonmoore 10/20/2020 at 5:36 pm

      Frank is one of the finest human beings I have ever known. He is greatly missed, but I feel so fortunate to have known him.

    2. Layne Vickers Smith 10/20/2020 at 6:51 pm

      Such a fantastic man, but I can never think of Frank without also thinking of Luisa, his soulmate. Always a pleasure to see one or the other—but to see them together, still flirting with each other, was sizzling.!

    3. amber archer 10/21/2020 at 8:22 am

      my heart goes out to Luisa and blessings to Frank on his journey

    4. Maggie Beyeler 10/21/2020 at 9:14 am

      I first met Frank in 1999 when he and Luisa hired me to work at Santa Fe Pottery. They told me I could bring my dog Ed to work with me and that clinched the deal for me. I spent a couple of great years working for them and I got to know them and their families.
      More recently, Frank and Luisa have joined me and other potters twice a year as participants of the Contemporary Clay Fair. Frank not only brought his wonderful work to the show, but also himself and his friendly humor. I will very much miss seeing him every April and November, for he was also a mentor to me as a potter, and I dare say to most of the potters I know. We love you Frank!

    5. Barbara Harnack 10/21/2020 at 9:37 am

      I have always appreciated the joy and happiness Frank brought to the world with his clay work and kindness. His work along with Luisa, is one of the reasons we wanted to have our Gallery. To show what seasoned and visionary artist can create. He was a delightful human being, who will be greatly missed.

    6. jnelsonmoore 10/26/2020 at 4:04 pm
    7. Barbara Hadley 11/21/2020 at 3:49 pm

      I didn’t really know Frank, but I knew and admired his pottery, and purchased a bowl some years ago that I really loved. Unfortunately, that bowel got broken, but I still have the pieces. For some reason, I can’t bear to throw them away. They are still beautiful, with the wonderful glaze that Luisa does. I keep thinking maybe I can do something with them. I am so sad to know that he is no longer with us, and my thoughts go out to Luisa, his soul mate.

  • 02 Oct 2020 4:34 PM | Jacquita Beddo

    NMPCA’s 2018 Armstrong grant was awarded to The Potters Guild of Los Cruces to assist them in purchasing Chinese porcelain works of art for the ultimate goal of developing a presentation on Chinese ceramics to enhance its understanding and appreciation by students of ceramics art, community art galleries and ceramic art organizations throughout New Mexico. NMPCA’s grant enabled The Potters Guild to purchase representative works of old and new porcelain art pieces while on an educational tour of the porcelain productions regions of China.


    This tour was led by Professor Glen Schwaiger a Chinese porcelain scholar of Dona Anna Community College. In May 2018 a group of Guild members and DACC students toured the porcelain production regions of China. The NMPCA grant enabled the group to purchase representative works of old and new porcelain art pieces and ship the works of art back to New Mexico. Educational presentations and exhibitions on Chinese porcelain were consequently made throughout New Mexico. In addition to the porcelain ceramics, the travel group took photographs during the trip to tell the story of the porcelain history from ancient times to the present. A grant from New Mexico State University’s Confucius Institute provided funds for matting of images taken during the tour. Both purchased pieces and matted photos enhanced the story and gave more meaning to exhibits and the concomitant presentations.

    Throughout 2019 multiple sized exhibits of the Guild’s China photos and acquired porcelain pieces were exhibited and presented throughout New Mexico especially at the Clovis Community College Art Museum; Dona Ana Community College’s Foyer Gallery; Matrix Fine Art Gallery in Albuquerque and ended the year in Las Cruces at the Tombaugh Gallery in the Unitarian Universalist Church.

    An excellent investment of Armstrong Grant funds!

    By Lee Liggett

We call ourselves the NMPCA!