Just the Facts 

Clay 
mid-fire, iron-rich stoneware 

Primary forming method 
wheel thrown or slab built and altered 

Primary firing temperature 
cone-6 oxidation 

Favorite surface treatment 
hand carving, piercing, and stamping with small razor-sharp thin pieces of metal 

Favorite tools 
MudTools yellow ribs and metal ribs 

Playlist 
When listening to music, I have too many favorites to list and choose based on my mood. Podcasts I listen to are Tales of a Red Clay Rambler and This American Life. Sometimes I like to binge watch a series on Netflix. 

Wishlist 
more time

Studio(s) 

My work is split between a few different studio areas: the basement of my home that houses a studio space and the community studio and retail shop that I own and run called Mud Queen Pottery in Linglestown, Pennsylvania. 

In my work, I enjoy a lot of contrast in feel and color. I really love the way a pot feels with smooth, glossy surfaces surrounded by natural, unglazed surfaces. I also love creating brightly colored glazed motifs in repeating patterns that contrast with dark clay backgrounds. In the basement of my home, I have a small studio set up with a test kiln and a larger kiln to fire my work. Both are electric. This home studio is where I throw forms, trim, layout patterns, and plan the color application of each pot. There is a large table workspace, a slab roller, lots of lighting, and a sink area in the storage room for cleanup. I also keep all of the colored slips and underglazes that I use to color the patterns on the surfaces of my pots on a small shelf above the work table. There is a large, old comfy chair beside my wheel, and I usually share this space with the sweetest little dog ever. She’s a Boston Terrier named Ruthie and often lets me know when I need to take a break and spend a few minutes in the squishy chair with her. 

I founded Mud Queen Pottery in May 2014 and today run it with my daughter, Maggie Doughty, who is also a potter. It is only about a mile and a half away from my home, so the commute is easy and nice, even through the winter months. In this community studio, we have four instructors, along with me and Maggie, who teach wheel and handbuilding classes, and we also offer studio memberships. It is located in a historic barn that was built in the late 1800s. We renovated this barn in 2017 to be able to use it as a potters’ studio. I wanted to work within and maintain most of the structure of the barn while making it a functional space, so many of the walls and pieces of the studio are made from materials we found inside the barn. It’s approximately 1000 square feet and houses 10 wheels, 4 kilns, a glaze mixing area, a pugmill, a slab table and slab roller, student shelves, and a glazing area. We store and manage our clay inventory in the kiln room, and recently became a dealer for Standard Clay Co. We’re looking forward to providing clay as well as supplies for the many potters in the Central Pennsylvania area. 

Mud Queen is usually where I throw forms on the wheel while teaching class. I’ll choose a form that I know I need for an upcoming exhibition or an online sale and at the same time I’ll teach that form to my class. We’ll all also explore new forms and talk about the challenges of that form. This is when I think through how my particular surface decoration might relate to this new form. I have found that this process with my students is educational to them as well as to me. I am always striving to be a better instructor and really engage with my students. In the community studio’s retail space, I have set up a potter’s wheel in an out-of-the-way corner. There, I can continue to throw my forms, keep an eye on the shop, and interact with customers. 

The best thing about the several studio spaces where I create my pots is the change of scenery. There are days when the creative energy of being in the community studio is really beautiful and energizing. So many wonderful people make use of our studio and I love connecting with them and sharing knowledge. Other times, though, I really need the peace and quiet of a more private space to think through color application. That’s when I relish my basement studio’s privacy. I can get the best of both worlds in my shop space, where I have a single wheel and a very small workspace. It’s quiet so I can focus, but still get to interact with our lovely customers who come to shop or just enjoy the space for a few moments. While there are so many positives to popping between three different spaces, it’s definitely a challenge to keep track of all my tools! 

I am definitely not the kind of creative that can work in a disorganized or messy space. I enjoy a space that is clean and cozy; one that I can step into fresh and work efficiently. My work is very detailed and focusing on such little bits and bobs is difficult to do in a messy space. Having seen many studios over the years, I try to keep mine in line with those that inspire me: filled with plants, beautiful lighting, and well organized. 

In each of my small spaces, there is always room for improvement. A window or privacy door would be nice in the home studio. For Mud Queen, we work on a big project every summer. Given that the barn is over 100 years old, there is always something that needs to be repaired or rebuilt. Before we moved in, the barn had been vacant for many years and previously had been used as an actual functioning barn with animals. Our renovation made the majority of the space usable, but we have big plans for the rest. The most recent project was adding the back porch to make our student entrance more accessible. Next, we’re planning to revamp the space where part of the barn collapsed to house raku kilns and hopefully a gas kiln. 

Paying Dues (and Bills) 

Although my first experience with ceramics was tagging along with my grandmother to ceramics classes in the 1970s and early 80s, learning to pour slip and make a variety of different figurines, I didn’t seek out wheel throwing and working with clay until January 2011, when I took a beginner wheel class. I did not intend to open my own studio, but when a friend approached me about possibly renting and renovating her building to fit a studio, I took the opportunity and opened Mud Queen Pottery in May 2014. I started teaching basic classes and selling my pots. In 2017, when we started to outgrow the small but beloved building, my daughter and I took the opportunity to visit the auction of a property just down the alleyway. We purchased the property, and that is the barn and building that houses Mud Queen Pottery to this day. Throughout owning and operating my studio and honing my own work, I have continued to further my education by seeking out the work of ceramic artists and potters that I have long admired and registering for their workshops and classes. Along with many hours practicing techniques that develop what I want to see in my own work. I am always eager to keep learning and growing my practice through continued education and workshops. 

Between the community studio and my home studio, I probably work about 60 hours a week. And while I truly love it, I have recently decided that I need to figure out a better work/life balance, so I am currently trying to make some changes to find that balance. 

Marketing 

The people who buy my work are people who value using functional art in their everyday life, the way that I do. Using functional art for simple pleasures like that first morning cup of coffee or tea is really special to me. I mainly sell through galleries and have been very fortunate to be able to work with some really wonderful galleries that are geniuses at marketing my work. The galleries’ reach has done a lot to get my work shown to more people. I’ve garnered a nice following on social media as well, and the combination of the galleries’ social media and mine has made a very positive impact on the movement of my work. 

I also sell from my website a couple of times per year. For the few times that I sell on my own website, I mostly use social media, announcing upcoming sales on Instagram or Facebook. I am lucky to have a few very dedicated collectors of my work who are willing to find the galleries where I sell and/or wait for me to list my work on my website. 

Photo: Clay Akar Gallery. Photo: Charlie Cummings Gallery.

Mind 

When my creative energy gets low, I recognize that as probably needing some rest from clay. During these periods, I usually spend time cooking. Lately, I have been exploring and learning about gardening, medicinal herbs, and making sourdough bread. In the winter months, I’ll spend time quilting or sewing. And of course, I will seek out a clay workshop in order to continue learning and also to spend time with other clay artists. Maggie and I will hit the road for a great road trip wrapped around some great clay experiences. Anytime I change what I am doing creatively, it re-energizes my love for working with clay. 

Photo: Charlie Cummings Gallery.

Most Important Lesson 

In pursuing an artistic career, try to understand that, like any career pursuit, it will be hard work. Whether your path is through academia or relentlessly following, seeking out, and working with other artists to learn from, it will be hard work. And when you use what you learn, keep testing and practicing to find your own voice and make work that means something to you. And always, trust your gut. 

Studio photos: Maggie Doughty. 

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