Studio Visit: Robbie Heidinger, Westhampton, Massachusetts

robbie heidinger studio

Just the Facts

Cone 6-8 stoneware

Primary forming method

Favorite surface treatment
Layering slips and incising the clay

Primary firing method
Cone 9 in a propane fueled, 45-cubic-foot soda kiln

Favorite tool
My 15-year-old Dolan knife

Most-used piece of equipment
I use my windows like an enormous lightbox to transfer
drawings and patterns onto multiple pieces of paper.

Ceramics Monthly



the studio

robbie heidinger-studio 2My studio is a converted horse stable, located in the
Pioneer Valley at the foot of the Berkshire Mountains. My space is surrounded
by gardens, chicken coops, and bee hives.

It’s small with big windows. The tightness forces me to be
efficient with everything I do, and I’m not allowed to have anything but a bare
bones outlook. I have to turn off my water in the wintertime and carry buckets
of warm water into the studio. The windows, on the other hand, allow my
imagination to expand beyond the constrictions and absorb the beauty of the
passing seasons. These qualities seem to inspire the minimalist abstract
organic aesthetic you can see in my work.

paying dues (and bills)

Ceramic training: MFA, Rhode Island School of Design. I spend about 35 hours per week in the studio. The rest of
my time is spent raising my children and gardening.


I am very lucky to have a terrific yoga teacher in town and
a husband who gives me nightly hand massages. I also exchange ice cream for
massages from my girls.


robbieheidingerplateThis has been the year of “End of the World” literature. I
have read World Made by Hand, by James Kunstler; The Road, by Cormac McCarthy;
and Into the Forest, by Jean Hegland.

Between firings, which represent about two or three months
of clay work, I draw and paint to regain my energy and spontaneity. The drawing
usually starts in the garden or woods and is focused on plant forms. Once the
drawings come inside, they are developed and altered to convey a feeling or
experience I am after. At this point, I can return to handling the clay and
have the confidence to transfer that abstraction into the material in a lively
and essential way.

This article appeared in the November 2009 issue of Ceramics Monthly.
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I do wholesale, retail, galleries, and online sales, but
studio sales are also very successful and satisfying. During the holidays, I do
a sale with a jeweler, a painter, and pastry chef, which gives customers an
eclectic mix of choices they definitely appreciate. I also have applied for
grants and, this year, I was very lucky to get an Artist Fellowship from the
Massachusetts Cultural Council.

robbie heidinger studio sketchesI have made an effort to develop the “shop locally”
strategy. It’s more than a strategy; it’s a necessity in this day and age where
consumers can make a conscious choice to keep individual artists making and
support their local economy or they can shop at the urban sprawl stores and
support the mallification of America. Shopping locally isn’t instant
gratification; it becomes an experience, a shared history, and a story to tell
that adds richness to the meal and life of the user.

There is a limit to the amount of studio sales you can do in
a year. You always want to attract new customers but don’t want to overburden
returning ones.  

For me, expanding my market comes with the artistic
exploration of form and my cultural interest in bioregionalism, including
locavorianism. Right now, I am making a lot of plate forms and they have gotten
me involved in the Taste of Greenmarket 2009, a Brooklyn, New York, fundraiser
that includes the best chefs in the country using my experimental plates while
promoting open space and community improvement. It sounds corny, but those sort
of opportunities come from following your bliss.

most valuable lesson

Having a clear goal and a feeling for the piece I’m making.
Keeping that focus is the challenge.



I think my website is beautiful,
but I don’t update it enough. I have flirted with getting an Etsy account, but
feel like I would need to create a separate line of work to make that a



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