Studio Visit: Erin Furimsky, Bloomington, Illinois

Just the Facts


Commercial mid-range white stoneware. My work is small and
time consuming, so I do not go though a lot of clay. Therefore, I feel it is
not worth the time, effort, and strain on my body to mix my own.

Primary forming method

Handbuilt sculptures

Favorite surface treatment

I stencil underglazes, using detailed stencils cut from
Tyvek. The precise edge quality I get from the stencil is nice in comparison to
the softer edges of glazes. Also, I draw with a slip trailer right on top of
other patterns. This technique gives a dimensional line that helps to create
the layers in the surface.

Primary firing temp

Electric cone 5–6. I also fire to cone 04 and cone 018.
Multiple firings are an integral part of my process.


the studio

Adequate studio space was a huge priority when making the
decision to purchase our home six years ago. The house is a single story
bungalow with a large footprint, providing for a substantial basement studio.

Because my studio is in my home, it allows me to work as
much as I possibly can. Between teaching and having a three-year old son, it
would be very hard to find large blocks of time needed to drive or bike to a
studio at another location—not to mention the motivation. It is much easier to
simply walk downstairs during my son’s nap time to get some work done.

My other favorite aspect is my studio mate/husband Tyler
Lotz. It’s great to have him there to bounce ideas off of, but often we just
work in the quiet company of each other.

Oddly enough, my least favorite aspect of my studio is also
the accessibility. Because my time in the studio is so precious and it is in
such close proximity, I constantly feel that I should be working every chance I
get. Therefore, I have problems just relaxing, getting other necessary things
done, and sometimes feeling a real balance in daily life. However, I feel the
positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

Ultimately, I would prefer my studio space to be above
ground in a separate building, but on my property. More natural light would be

I am surprisingly simple with what I need in the studio. I
do find that my banding wheel allows for me to see my work well and have good
posture when working. Of course, my test kiln is used frequently and is an
essential tool in my studio practice.

This article appeared in Ceramics Monthly magazine’s February 2010 issue. To get great content like this delivered right to your door, subscribe today!


I start with a fairly specific sketch or paper cut into
profiles and patterns. From there I decide what building method would best suit
the construction of that particular form. Typically I use multiple building
methods; coiling, slabs, simple hump or slump molds, and occasionally slip
casting. After the piece is essentially initially built, I spend an equal
amount of time scraping, compressing and honing down the surface of the form. This
way I carefully control the curves, volumes, and create the clean edges that
are important to the form’s design. The edges provide a structure that acts as
a reference point for swelling and defining the form as well as containing the

I enjoy so many different processes when creating my
surfaces. I convey the idea of indulgence by employing rich and ornate floral
designs and abstract patterns. Deeply carved patterns in the clay merge with
the form, and the decoration cannot help but become part of the structure. In
order to create depth and layers to my surfaces, I work the clay at every
stage. A substantial quantity of the work is done on leather-hard clay by
carving, drawing through wax, inlaying color, sgraffito, applying shellac and
wiping away areas that are not protected, and stamping underglazes. I utilize a
number of printing techniques including screen-printing and a photocopy
transfer method.

Glaze testing is crucial to my process. This takes a
tremendous amount of time but allows me to have control over the color and
surface choice. Mostly I work with glazes that I mix, however I am increasingly
using more commercial glazes in order to avoid the toxicity of working with the
dry materials and spraying the glazes I mix. Often I use a thick satin glaze
that refers to flesh or plush fabric; this invites a tactile exploration and
creates a visual softness.

To finish my surfaces I use china paint, luster, and decals.
These sit on the surface of the piece and allow the layering of one image onto
another. I enjoy the familiar aspect of the commercial floral decals. They seem
to be lifted right off of a Grandmother’s teacup or a friendly Hallmark card.
Flowers have traditionally been associated with women because of their
fragility, beauty, and sexual connotations of abundance and fertility.

paying dues (and bills)

I have been teaching adjunct at the college level for the
last six years. I am very dedicated to teaching and find it incredibly
rewarding. I taught full time for the past two years at Illinois State
University, though I am now going back to a smaller course load at Heartland
Community College.

I got a BFA from Penn State University (State College,
Pennsylvania). After that, I was a post-baccalaureate student at the University
of Florida (Gainesville) and took workshops at the Arrowmont School of Crafts
(Gatlinburg, Tennessee) and Haystack Mountain School of Craft (Deer Isle,
Maine). I became a studio assistant for Liz Quackenbush and then for John Gill
before going on to get an MFA from The Ohio State University.

My studio practice is fairly consistent. I work about 20–25
hours a week in the studio, mostly in shorter 2–4 hour blocks of time. I might
work for 4 hours during the day and then a few hours at night. I try to work
five nights a week. Just recently, I’ve had to take a complete break from my
studio practice, because of the birth of our second child, but I’m now back in
the studio.


I am an incredibly active and physical person, and that is
one of the elements that attracted me to working with clay in the first place.
I love running marathons and also do some weight training and yoga. Those
things keep my body strong enough so I rarely get fatigued in the studio. While
working, I focus on good posture and I periodically stretch out my hands and


I am working my way through Breaking the Mould: New
Approaches to Ceramics, by Rob Barnard, Natasha Daintry, and Clare Twomey. The
book is nice, because it is broken up into short sections profiling different
artists from around the world. Also, I just started For Her Own Good: Two
Centuries of the Experts’ Advice to Women, by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre
English Right. The book breaks down the constraints placed on women in the name
of science from a medical, psychological, and social perspective.
Coincidentally, some of the information nicely parallels the reading I have
been doing about natural childbirth.

Artist residencies are a great way to reenergize myself
creatively. In the past few years, I’ve been a resident artist at the Oregon
College of Art and Craft (Portland), the Archie Bray Foundation (Helena,
Montana), and the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts (New Castle, Maine).
Concentrated work time without the distractions of daily life allows me to
focus on my work; something I don’t get to do at home. There are great
stretches of solitude for my studio practice, and then there’s the time I get
to spend with the wonderful and thought-provoking artists also at the
residency. As a result, I find myself very engaged and excited about making my
own work.


I prefer to sell my work through galleries and
not-for-profit venues. I have exhibited work at SOFA Chicago, the Dubhe Carreño
Gallery in Chicago, Santa Fe Clay, Plinth Gallery, and other venues. I find it
very difficult to keep up with a website. I am not very interested in computers
and do not enjoy spending long hours working on them. A friend graciously
created a site for me about five years ago. Unfortunately, it was too
complicated for me to update on my own. I will soon have a new site that
hopefully solves that problem, will be straightforward, and easy to navigate.


most valuable lesson

I have learned to be dedicated and hard working because
being an artist is not easy. Emotionally, it can be incredibly exhilarating and
crushing at other times. It has taught me to be in the present, because if I am
not, the work suffers. If I do this, I will leave the studio after a good day
and feel complete. An exciting day in my studio can be more rewarding than getting
a successful piece out of the kiln or a professional opportunity. In the end,
it has taught me how important it is that I love what I do. If you do not, it
is not worth doing.


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