Ceramics Monthly: What criteria and factors do you consider when evaluating an artist’s work for representation?
Jill Oberman: At Red Lodge Clay Center (RLCC) Gallery, we are invested in creating relationships with our artists and with our customers. We demonstrate our commitment by professionally exhibiting the work, sharing detailed photographs online, carefully packing and shipping sold work, and diligently communicating the vision of our artists on our website and through social media. In return, we expect our artists to express their commitment to us by sending their best work. Our artists take the time to pack their work well, update their bios and statements, and send work on a consistent, timely schedule.
Our collection is curated to offer a diverse selection of work from artists who demonstrate technical expertise, a unique personal voice, and an accomplished investigation into their own influences and processes. We are committed to including artists that reflect a wide array of backgrounds and experiences.
When searching for new work for our gallery, we ask ourselves the following questions:
Is the work well made? Is the work priced in a comfortable range for our customers? Does the artist create a cohesive assortment of forms, offer a range of pricing, and/or utilize a variety of surfaces and glaze palettes? Is this collection distinct (in form, palette, or conceptual content) from work that we already stock in our gallery? Is this artist prepared for a professional relationship? Do they reply to emails and communicate with us in a friendly, timely manner?
CM: How do you approach curating the exhibition calendar over a year with regard to theme and mission?
JO: Our mission is to share the importance of art in everyday life. Our physical and online galleries provide handmade utilitarian and sculptural objects to local and national communities, connecting users to makers in direct, immediate, and meaningful ways.
RLCC Gallery maintains two distinct spaces. Our sales gallery hosts approximately 120 artists year round, sharing a small body of work from each artist. Our Loft Gallery exhibition space provides an opportunity to bring work together based on a common theme or technique. Some exhibitions are selected for their conceptual or visual interest, and others are targeted to generate a higher volume of sales. Both spaces work together, demonstrating the wide range of possibilities and differences in contemporary ceramics, as well as the commonalities. Emerging artists’ work is displayed alongside that of more established artists.
The original vision of the Red Lodge Clay Center was conceived by executive director David Hiltner and his artist wife, Maggy. It was simple: to build a community for professionally minded ceramic artists to create work. Our residency program and gallery space operate in support of each other to achieve this mission. Residents assist with daily gallery operations, developing the skills working artists need to market and promote their own work. Our consistent attention to photography, display, and actively communicating with our customers directly increases sales. The more work that we sell the more it helps our gallery artists, our residents, and the center. This also serves to encourage our artists to continue to send us their best new work, repeating the cycle.
We view the role of our gallery as an educational space, and have found that sharing the importance of art in everyday life brings a lot of joy to our artists and our customers.
David Hiltner processing Justin Lambert’s bowl. Photo: Nathan Goddard.