This past June was the first time in over two years that I visited family in Philadelphia, having stayed away due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While there, I visited The Clay Studio’s new, purpose-built facility on American Street in the South Kensington section of the city. It is a beautiful building, and artist and staff member Sarah Chenoweth Davis kindly showed us around the facilities from the gallery and shop on the ground floor to the classrooms, resident studios, clay and glaze mixing areas, and kiln rooms on the floors above. All areas are spacious, have great lighting, are designed for their specific uses, and are well equipped. The contrast with the much smaller space on 2nd St. in the Old City neighborhood that The Clay Studio most recently occupied was remarkable, and the energy of possibility in the spaces was palpable.

One of the highlights of the visit was having the opportunity to see the inaugural exhibition, “Making Place Matter,” in the new gallery. Vessels and sculptures by Molly Hatch, Ibrahim Said, and Kukuli Velarde explored the concept of place as it relates to personal experiences, cultural backgrounds, and social justice. Seeing the chosen works—some with artist-built plinths, others on walls and freestanding—situated with ample space around them to allow for both close study and contemplation from afar was a great reminder of the emotional resonance and power of physically being in the same room as works of art. I looked up at the tall, elegantly curving tiles with intricate pierced patterns made by Ibrahim Said (1), leaned in to view the surface details of Molly Hatch’s modular sculpture (2), and crouched down next to Kukuli Velarde’s diminutive, hybrid figures cradled in sleek baby carriages (3). I felt myself simultaneously parsing the stated intentions of the artists; my own response to the physical scale of the work; the emotions I felt (a complex mixture of joy, gratitude, curiosity, apprehension, and deep aching sadness); and the meanings I constructed based on personal experience, knowledge of ceramic art history, and familiarity with these artists’ works. I also found myself reconciling the ways that these disparate expressions in clay were linked by the theme of the exhibition. D Wood will review the exhibition in an upcoming issue of CM. 

1 Ibrahim Said’s On the Bank of the Nile, an installation based on the mashrabiya, a traditional pierced screen used in Islamic architecture. Photo: Sam Rahm.2 Molly Hatch’s Linea Stack reflects her personal and cultural heritage, and her longtime interest in family heirlooms. Photo: Melinda Everetts Rahm.

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to hear Angelik Vizcarrondo-Laboy’s lecture from the Critical Connections in Ceramics and Craft series, which is organized by Elaine Henry. Vizcarrondo-Laboy discussed her experience as a curator, working for institutions like the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York, and now as an independent curator living in Los Angeles. She talked about the projects she worked on, including “Funk You Too! Humor and Irreverence in Modern and Contemporary Ceramic Sculpture,” which will be on view at MAD in 2023, and the 2022 National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) exhibition, “Belonging: 2022 NCECA Annual,” which was on view at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California. While discussing these projects, Vizcarrondo-Laboy elaborated on one of her goals as a curator, to add to the viewer’s encounter with and understanding of art by creating a narrative, a perspective via the grouping of artwork in a space. I envisioned this as weaving together multiple threads, linking the works to extend and expand the individual voices and ideas of the artists. 

While I enjoy viewing artwork on Instagram, blogs, and the websites of both individuals and art venues, I feel a different connection when viewing an exhibition in a space (sometimes via virtual tours of a gallery space, as travel isn’t always an option). I am more fully engaged as I experience the artwork, the spatial elements surrounding it, the sounds, the presence of other people interacting with the work, and the ways the meanings intended by the artists and curator unfold as I move through the space and process what I am seeing.  

3 A detail view of one of the figures in Kukuli Velarde’s A Mi Vida, which is simultaneously a reflection of the artist’s desire to prolong the sensation of holding her baby daughter as well as a critical commentary on the separation of immigrant children from their families at the US/Mexico border.

In this issue, we focus on people who curate, study, and collect ceramics and the many types of venues that showcase ceramics. Once you’ve read the articles, pay a virtual or real visit to some of the venues listed in the Gallery Guide Resource Listing. I’d be curious to hear about your experiences.   

-Jessica Knapp, Editor







* Snapshots from the “Making Place Matter” exhibition at The Clay Studio ( in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which runs through October 2, 2022. 

Topics: Ceramic Artists