There are many artists working who have made innumerable contributions to our field and are considered masters in clay. Ceramic artists are a generous group, and the technical nature of our material fosters the importance of sharing knowledge, and a sense of indebtedness to both those who came before us, as well as our current community.
These artists research, invent, improvise, build on techniques, and view the objects they make with clarity. Aside from their disciplined and aesthetically influential studio practice, they have a long-lasting impact on others in the field, in no small part due to their overwhelming generosity and ability to spark creativity in others. These artists share what they learn; they inspire others to make great work; and they help students, apprentices, workshop participants, colleagues, and many other artists they meet on an informal basis to develop top-notch skills, both in the studio and in terms of their perceptions and analysis of their own functional, sculptural, and architectural pieces.
I can still remember being in the presence of some of the luminaries in our field. While attending a workshop at Anderson Ranch Arts Center, I had the opportunity to go to Paul Soldner’s house in Aspen along with all of the other students and faculty who were at the Ranch during that session. I remember listening to him talk to the other artists and students in the room, and his amused expression at how starstruck I was. I learned about Soldner’s friendship with Jerry Rothman as I admired one of Rothman’s Sky Pots from the 1960s that was displayed on his sideboard. I got to walk around his circular gallery showroom that housed a number of his large smoky gray low-fire salt pedestal pieces made with raw, roughly geometric slabs of clay that cantilevered out at impossible angles. The experience was energizing.
I was also energized by Malcolm Davis’ lecture, “How did I end up here?” at the 2010 National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in which he gave us all permission to be artists. He included everyone, no matter their experience level or background, in a way that was both a gift and an empowering challenge. I would encourage you to listen to Davis’ lecture, which NCECA has made available as a podcast (http://blog.nceca.net/podcast12) to experience it for yourself.
When I first met Linda Arbuckle, I was immediately impressed by her enthusiasm for research, her generosity, her support of both current and former students and colleagues, and her amazing memory for details, on top of already admiring her skill as an artist.
These individuals, and many others like them are masters not only due to their skills and physical artwork, but their ability to connect with others and help them to develop a sense of curiosity, creativity, and drive.
Through my work at Ceramics Monthly, I also have the privilege of talking to and corresponding with a number of artists who have built significant legacies in the field of studio ceramics. We started covering some of these artists in a deliberate way in our March 2014 issue, and have included several articles on masters in the field in subsequent issues over the past year. In this issue we continue that focus as we talk to Robert Briscoe about life as a potter in our Spotlight department, and feature the work of Cary Esser, Cathi Jefferson, and Linda Sikora. Each of these artists have impressive careers as studio artists, teachers, and mentors, and share practical studio tips, recipes, and techniques with us.
In addition to this focus, we have a feature on the quietly powerful functional work of UK artists James and Tilla Waters, along with Liz Zlot Summerfield’s in-depth article on handbuilding techniques. We also visit the studio of Leslie-Ann Hoets from Sedgefield, South Africa, who has built a long career making both one of a kind raku vessels and large fireplaces.
—Jessica Knapp, editor.
featured: The floral and striped pail by Liz Zlot Summerfield I’m holding in this photo was a Ceramic Arts Daily purchase award we received from an exhibition earlier this year at the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio. Summerfield discusses her handbuilding and decorating processes. She also discusses the importance of scale in her work, and how different the scale can look in images versus real life. Compare the image above with the image in Liz’s article to see for yourself.