Louisville Clay Members Gather for an Evening with Kristian Stephens

Kristian Stephens, as a ceramic artist and floral designer in Louisville, creates compositions that are sensitive gestures of calmness, space, balance and love of nature.

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The basis of Kristian’s floral arrangement is the practice of Ikebana, a refined expression of an artist’s personal philosophy. Add to this the unique sculpted vases she makes to interact sublimely with leaves and flowers, and we have one art form influencing another.

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Kristian explained that Ikebana is a form of flower arranging developed in Japan; was prominent in the 14th century; and is popular today, with over 3000 schools teaching the art form.

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Ikebana is a three-pronged process based on: simplistic design; a minimal number of flowers; and meditating while designing. The designer’s state of mind is actually more important than the flowers. As Kristian said; “Ikebana is all about the love and need of the artist.”

Using a highly systematic method of floral arrangement, the mind is freed to become integrated with nature and self. Only 2 or 3 flowers are used in which each flower occupies a specific space. The tallest flower represents the sky; the middle sized flower represents the human; the lowest plant, the earth.

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Integral to this meditative approach are the beautiful unglazed clays of Kristian’s vases. Here’s how she creates the natural forms that hold her floral arrangements.

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Begin with two pounds of wedged stoneware clay, formed into a pyramid or other geometric shape. Let the clay rest for two hours.

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In order to lighten the lower portion of the form, press a hole in the bottom of the clay that only reaches a few inches into the clay.

Take time to press the clay walls out to widen the opening and smooth out any air bubbles, leaving thick walls.

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When the clay form has dried to the “just right” consistency, begin shaving the outside walls. Kristian exclaimed that this is real fun and relaxing for the artist.

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The top is the last part to shave off. Holes are then poked into the clay to accommodate flower and leaf stems.

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The vases are bisque fired then fired to cone six with no glaze. For a vase to hold water, a clear glaze is added to the opening where the stems reside.

“It’s all about the way that the space is used. Every flower placement, every slice of clay, has a huge meaning and presence.” We all felt the importance of Kristian’s words.

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Following Kristian’s demonstration, the group’s energy level exploded. Our exuberance came from our understanding that our own art can be a successful expression of appreciation for nature, space, and raw clay. Thanks Kristian for creating vases that express Ikebana so well.

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And to make our evening more wonderful we joined Elmer Lucile Allen in celebration of her 88th birthday. She is a great friend to many of us at Louisville Clay.

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The work of Kristian Stephens can be seen at:
Lady Made Pottery
ladymadepottery@gmail.com

Shop Etsy at https://www.etsy.com/shop/ladymadepattery

Kristian Meade

Floral Design and Event Styling
Kristian Meade Florisrty@gmail.com

J. D. Schall; from clean design to narration

Artist Profile by Suzanne Adams, Editor

On a mid-November day I walked into a remarkable artist’s life, J. D. Schall. Creative studio and artistic home were shown to me, the fortunate blogger, by one of Louisville’s premier potters.

J. D. had just returned from a trip to Mexico and observed that; “Mexicans have symbols from their culture that have been given to them and used for centuries. I’m currently pursuing symbols that have meaning in our culture.” J. D. has spent the previous two years developing work that incorporates his unique interpretations of symbols, such as fleeing rabbits, onto his boldly formed functional works.

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Rabbit-Bowls

How did Schall get to this point in his career? In telling his story, J. D. revealed that his creative processes coincided with his choices of place and work. As a college student at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, he majored in English literature and minored in anthropology and religious studies. Imagine seeking knowledge from great minds and times while living in the rolling, isolated landscape of mid-Wisconsin. In his last semester, 1994, J. D. took a ceramics course and continued to make ceramics for three years thereafter; trading ceramic classes for job hours worked.

In 1997, J. D. moved to Baton Rouge, LA and formed Studio 801, a 15-member artists’ cooperative. He also became the head potter for Burts Cason Inc., a pottery design firm specializing in interior design. It was in Baton Rouge that J. D. began throwing large pots, sometimes handling 18 pounds on the wheel. His palette changed from the browns of Wisconsin to the intense colors of southern Louisiana. He learned the ceramics trade while working alongside American merchandisers and ceramic painters from Vietnam.

In 2002 J. D. moved to Louisville and founded Schall Studio and Design. At this point he began to specialize in clean modern design, influenced by 1950’s modernism and the Arts and Crafts movement. Ancient Asian and Greek ceramic influences are also present in his work. J. D. has been successful in building his career through representation at numerous wholesale and retail ceramic shows. He currently sells in galleries and interior design firms nationwide and takes private commissions.

Schall-Design
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In 2009 Schall had a very impressive exhibition in which he showed large pieces which displayed his love of color, painted surface treatments, and the use of tarnished gold and silver leaf. Simply beautiful.

J. D. describes himself as a builder on the wheel. In his modern design series we see that this process suits the creation of works that confidently handle daily aspects of living, such as dining, gardening, lighting, bird watching. As a builder, Schall pays close attention to each component of each form: base/foot; body; and lip/rim. As a designer he delivers his art through sprayed and brushed color. By placing one deliriously exciting color next to another, often on a bold pottery rim, J. D. brings life and meaning to the sculptural pottery form.

During the past two years Schall has been developing another way to bring meaning to form. He is currently creating expressive narrative symbols and stories derived from nature and fables, such as birds, leaves and flowers, The Tortoise and The Hare and The Three Blind Mice.

We can glimpse the reasoning behind the symbols in Schall’s painting of the Three Blind Mice by viewing a vintage card in his studio where the mice are in danger of loosing their tails. J. D.’s mice have tails intact and are sporting halos.

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J. D. uses fine brushes and slip-trailing to create gestural marks with black and white slips and underglazes. He draws free-hand on fired clay or he uses tracing paper to repeat images, often dancing around clay forms.

It’s a pleasure to witness an artist as he uses seminal experiences from his past (college studies, wheel building, Asian painting techniques, cultural symbols) to structure a new process for his current works. J. D. explains his motivation: “Just as I have to justify selling modern design by pushing my works beyond the ordinary, I have to work out the reason behind my symbols.”

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J. D. Schall’s work is for sale on Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 23 and 24, at the Pigment Gallery, Mellwood Art Center.  He is represented at AA Clay Studio and Gallery in Louisville. He is also participating in the $20.00 sale at Copper and Kings on December 8th.

A Day at The Office, Or Not

This entry is posted by Norman Adams. I wish to address the uniqueness of AA Clay and the wonderful asset of the gallery in this, none-too-subtle, plea to shoppers. Louisville has many treasures and I think this one is worth knowing about, especially if you are interested in ceramics.

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While most people would consider a day spent making clay pots not a normal day at the office, those who do are not just fiddling around.

AA Clay Studio & Gallery offers a space where the art created by the studio artists is available for purchase.

Conveniently located near Churchill Downs at 2829 South Fourth Street the AA Clay Gallery is the best place to shop for unique locally handmade ceramic articles. The active working studio artists and other selected artists at AA Clay Studio & Gallery  present handmade objects for your pleasure. Gallery hours are the same as open studio hours listed with this blog.

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The “visitable” AA Clay Gallery at 2829 South Fourth Street

Christmas shopping was never easier. Shop now before the holidays and you’ll be glad you did. The gallery offers new items regularly so shop often.

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AA Clay Gallery Opening

The gallery now offers an online site where the purchase and shipping can be easily invoiced to your card.

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Some recent items available at AA Clay Studio & Gallery online

The joy of gifting is always special but think how more special the sentiment when the item is locally hand made! AA Clay can ship any of the gallery items to any destination you wish so make your choice and ask them to ship it to your far-flung relatives and friends pining for a special touch of Louisville.

Thanks for listening to my plea to patronize this truly unique Gallery/Gift Shop. I think anyone who visits will find their time well spent. And happy holiday shopping!

Now AA Clay Studio & Gallery offers an app for your phone to make shopping for beautiful handmade ceramics even easier. The app is for Apple and Android. Click on your system icon below for your FREE download.

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Follow: to watch steadily.

Follow

Merriam Webster explains one meaning of follow as : to watch steadily.

ClayElements.blog is easy to follow. Click the “follow” button to receive a notification every time we publish. Our schedule is, generally, a new post every other Friday.

Our blog will explore all things ceramic, such as how Raku got started and how mosaics developed over time. We take you into the studios of local potters such as Wayne Ferguson and Amy Elswick. We blog to magnify our ceramics culture. As you follow us through the blog we hope you comment on what you like and what you think we could do better. The comment link is located at the end of each blog. It is a pleasure to make this blog happen and we hope you enjoy it.

Whether your definition of follow be “steady” or not, rest assured that our notifications will keep you in line. Quack.

 

 

 

 

 

Wayne Ferguson, Ceramic Humorist

A Profile, by Suzanne Adams, Clay Elements

Wayne Ferguson does not sign his works anymore and does no marketing. Yet he is most likely the best known potter in our region.

Wayne calls himself a potter. Nearly all of his works are functional: bowls, pitchers, bottles, ocarinas, platters, and teapots. He roots himself in timeless traditions of ceramic technique and design.

 

When asked whether or not he is a folk artist, Wayne replied that early on he questioned that too and was advised by educators that, no, he was not, since he had taken some ceramic college courses. Wayne is so uniquely and presently in touch with his surroundings, and presents his ideas so illustratively, that I have to question this judgement about folk art.

 

How can it be that our own stories are told by works that are overflowing with details of Wayne’s own life and culture? I believe that it is because he puts us in places and times of fascinating peculiarity, and, by presenting just the right details, comes to the point of a grand idea.

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Stories from American life.

 

Wayne’s earliest memories of working with clay are the times when his mother made clay of flour and salt so that he and his brother, Lemuel, could play with little soldiers. He went on to play with clay from the creek near his house in northern Kentucky.

Middle and high school years were tough for Wayne who matched adversity with youthful wildness. He and his brother did things that would have led to reform school were it not for the interjection of his high school art teacher, Eva Hinkle. She was able to convince Wayne that his future was with clay and art. He graduated with straight A’s and, as is well known by his friends today, with a generous heart.

A major turning point in Wayne’s life occurred when he witnessed Ladi Kwali at Berea, c. 1970. She made huge, symmetrical pots with clay coils. It was then that he decided that he would become a professional potter.

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Wayne holding pictures of Ladi Kwali at Berea.

How does he make his pottery? Wayne is a hand builder who makes “hollow-work vessels”. He pinches, coils, and presses clay to make forms that he can combine with other clay forms and finish with carving and letter stamping. Words, stamped into pots are a centuries old form of communication.

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Wayne in Louisville, Kentucky studio.
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Wayne using letter stamps.
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Pottery with stamped letters.

Over fired white clays, Wayne applies colorful glaze washes, making sure that detailed texture is apparent. Colors are representative of the world around him. Glazes are low-fired in oxidation.

Wayne makes commemorative objects and effigies to remember personal, environmental, social, and political events.

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James Meredith, civil rights activist.
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War Canisters

He draws from other cultures and times. For example, he combines semblances of pre-Columbian stirrup-vessels with playful criticisms of political figures.

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He places B-52 bombers atop delightful clouds and palm trees amid the skeletons of war.

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He uses the timeless art of individually designed whiskey bottles to express his views on Mitch McConnell, for example. Many of Wayne’s most grueling commentaries appear to be toys. The irony captivates viewers and keeps them looking. And thinking.

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Old Turtle Boubon bottle
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Donald Trump effigy

Some of Waynes commemorative sculptures can be disturbing or highly politicized. Yet, he notes that the Mayans made pots depicting the beheading of captives. Wayne does not hold back on his views either: his views have lead to censorship of his works from some national exhibitions.

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You can see Wayne Ferguson’s work, uncensored, in Frankfort this fall. Visit his upcoming show at Capital Gallery of Contemporary Art; 314 Lewis Street; Frankfort, KY 40601. Opening date: Oct. 26, 2018.

LEO’s Latest Podcast Reveals AA Clay’s Mission

Ceramicist Suzanne Adams and AA Clay Studio & Gallery owner Alex Adams talked with contributing arts editor Jo Anne Triplett about their new blog and newly introduced online ceramics gallery.
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Podcast #68: released on September 28 found at LEOweekly.com
This podcast will remain in LEO archives.

In this interesting talk Alex Adams describes the mission and highlights of AA Clay: aaclay.com. “Our mission is to create a community studio with access to ceramic equipment and working space for the pursuit of ceramics.”

One highlight worth noting is the Online Gallery, recently added to sales gallery which features local artists’ work.

Suzanne Adams describes the mission and highlights of AAClay’s new bi-monthly blog: clayelements.blog. “The blog’s mission is to magnify our ceramic culture in Louisville and southern Indiana.

Our new blog directs the readers’ attention across interests such as history, technique, and all things ceramics.

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The obligatory selfie taken at the LEO offices.
We enjoyed our interview with Jo Anne Triplett at LEO Weekly and appreciate LEO’s support of the arts.

AA Clay Joins The Ages by Making a Ceramic Mosaic

Ancient Greek mosaics are believed to be the earliest form of the mosaic technique. Greek methods began with the use of pebbles to form designs, binding the pebbles with compacted earth or a mixture of sand and lime. Artifacts, where pebbles were used to make patterned floors and pavements, have been found from the 8th century BCE.

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Pebble mosaics persisted until approximately the 3rd century BCE, when they began to be replaced with mosaics of cut stone, glass, and ceramic cubes, or tesserae, which were adhered with mortar.

Tessera, (Latin: “cube,” or “die”) plural Tesserae, in mosaic work, a small piece of stone, glass, ceramic, or other hard material cut in a cubical or some other regular shape. (Britannica, 2018)

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Ancient Greek mosaic showing tessera pattern.

Mosaic art became the leading form of pictorial art, culminating in the extraordinary Byzantine period. The Renaissance movement, c. 1400, initiated the painted fresco technique through which artists were able to produce more realistic representations.

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Mosaic dome of the Hagia Sophia 450 BCE

Use of the tesserae technique has ebbed and flowed over the centuries and has led to a wider skill set of varying techniques used by contemporary artists.

 

Enter AA Clay Studio and Gallery.

The Process:

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Step One: Collect ceramic pieces.

 

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Step Two: Layout design on cement board.

 

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Step Three: Apply pieces with mastic adhesive.

 

 

Step Four: Apply colored grout to each panel.

 

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Step Five: Installed Ceramic Mosaic.

 

Still interested in mosaics?
Check out contemporary mosaic street art below.

The city of Prague, Checkoslovakia funds artists to enliven outdoor culture through ceramic mosaics.

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Space Invader, influenced by popular arcade videos of the 70’s and 80’s, creates “invasion waves” in cities where he and his crew install 30-40 mosaics in various street locations. His goal is to bring art outside museum walls.

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Jim Bachor uses contemporary subjects of pop imagery, like Starbucks and Twinkies, to fill potholes. He mixes cut glass tesserae with the gritty asphalt of Chicago streets. His art strangely refers back to ancient street pavements. Who would have thought?

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AA Clay members are proud to be a part of the long history of mosaic art making. We offer our outdoor mosaic wall art to all who are a part of our ceramic and neighborhood communities.

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The completed AAClay members Ceramic Mosaic, August, 2018

Suggested reading can be found at the Ceramic Arts Network site under free downloads, bottom of page two: https://ceramicartsnetwork.org/freebies/free-guides/page/2/

Marie-Elena Ottman, Ceramic Sculpture

Artist Talk Hosted by Louisville Clay at AA Clay Studio & Gallery September 11, 2018

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Louisville Clay members gathered at AA Clay for Artist Talk and Potluck
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President of Louisville Clay, Alex Adams introduces Marie-Elena Ottman

Marie-Elena Ottman is a Louisville based artist with a story worth telling. Louisville Clay members enjoyed seeing images of Marie-Elena’s fantastical ceramic art, while hearing her compelling personal story.

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Having grown up in Panama with an American father and Panamanian mother, Marie-Elena makes art about the symbiosis and the tension that can exist between two cultures. At age 21 she broke with tradition in Panama, where women stay at home until married, by emigrating to the United States to attend college in Montana. What followed was an art journey in which she has represented the integration of two cultures through visual metaphor.

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Marie-Elena’s ceramic process is achieved through coil building and the use of extraordinary color. She also artfully combines glass with ceramics in her sculpture.

Her current images are derived from her homeland and include coconuts, cashews, iguanas, monkeys, coatimundis, exotic birds,Panamanian dress and vibrant color. The following images are metaphors about pregnancy, split personality, and greediness, among other life stories.

 

“I’ve learned to not forget culture, to embrace the past while also moving forward” said Marie-Elena as she closed her presentation. Ottman currently teaches Intro to Ceramics and Advanced Handbuilding at the University of Louisville. She and her husband have two children, ages 12 and 10, who are learning about their heritage by speaking Spanish as well as English.

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Robbie Merrick, Pottery Collector

 –  by Suzanne Adams, Clay Elements

Collecting is a process of selecting items which tell a story. Robbie Merrick, is fascinated by the beauty and functionality of ceramic art made at the turn of the 20th century and beyond. When asked: What motivates you more; the object or the search, he pauses to think and replies: “The search; it’s like peeling an onion. You learn about a potter’s life and culture which leads to the potters that influenced him or her. You learn people’s stories, their histories and their connections.”

Robbie kindly invited Alex Adams and me to see his ceramics collection where he lives with his wife Margaret on Kenwood Hill.

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Robbie Merrick and Margaret Merrick, August, 2018

Robbie’s interest in ceramics began when he took a ceramics class in college. What followed was a career in education, along with a 40 year passion for motorcycles. At Margaret’s suggestion to “find a new hobby”, he began collecting turn of the century pottery and eventually relearning the art of ‘throwing’ a pot at AA Clay.

As our tour of the collection began, Robbie enthusiastically presented the book which began his collecting career; Clear as Mud, Early 20th Century Kentucky Art Pottery edited by Warren Payne.

Time spent with Kentucky pottery led Robbie to an interest in the Arts and Crafts movement in England and the U.S. (1880 – 1920). If you are a ceramic artist today, your roots are in the Arts and Crafts movement which espoused the artful, handmade creation of crafts as a needed cultural reaction to industrial production.

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Arts and Crafts, Pottery and Ceramics, by Joanna Wissinger

Using the many reference books which give detailed histories of potters, pottery factories and the developing art pottery market of the turn of the century, he began collecting pieces of Clewel, Weller, Roseville, Paul Revere, Fulper, Marblehead, TECO, Clifton, Owen, Hampshire and many others. He made his finds at auctions, on ebay, and antique stores throughout his and Margaret’s travels.

Robbie had realized early on that women were influential in ceramic artistic development throughout the turn of the 20th century. Some women established or managed pottery businesses, while many others were employed as producers of greenware, glaze painters, and designers. For example, the four Overbeck sisters began Overbeck Pottery in 1911 in Cambridge City, IN. They were known for imaginative figurines, matte glazes, and painted plants and animals. Their pottery business operated until 1955 when the last of the sisters passed away.

Other female potters of note in Robbie’s collection are Clarice Cliff, Charlotte Rhead, Beatrice Wood, the founders of Rookwood, Mary Chase Stratton of Pewabic Pottery, the women trained at Newcomb Pottery and Polia Pillin.

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North Carolina pottery

As a finale to our visit, Robbie led us to his North Carolina collection of traditional folk potters who focused on practical shapes and function. His finds include Jugtown, BB Craig, Pisgah Forrest, pottery of the Owens and Coles and a pot turned by Oscar Louis Bachelder at his Omar Khayyam Pottery in the early 1900’s.

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Charles Counts  (1952 – 2000)   Rising Fawn, Georgia

And then our conversation turned to a pot by Charles Counts at Berea College. Charles Counts was one of those names only ‘mentioned’ in the Clear as Mud book. His books Common Clay and Pottery Workshop  became constant reminders of what it meant to become a ‘craftsman.’  We had come ‘full circle.’

Robbie’s philosophy of collecting: “I try to collect one piece from each artist who fascinates me”. For example, work made at the Grueby Pottery (1897-1920 Boston, MA) is difficult to afford; however, I was happy to buy a small piece of tile that represents everything wonderful about Grueby Pottery.

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Grueby Faience / Grueby Pottery  1897-1920  Boston, MA

To sum up, the best thing about Robbie Merrick is that he spends many working hours in the studio at AA Clay throwing pots on the wheel and applying glazes.

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Robbie Merrick at AA Clay Studio

Why does Robbie devote time to learning the craft? He wisely states that he studies pottery so that: “I can engage in knowledgeable conversations with collectors and potters who know more than I do”. This is a devoted collector.

 

Experience Thermal Shock and Oxygen Reduction at AA Clay Studio & Gallery

April 14; 5 – 8 pm  ——  AA Clay Studio and Gallery, 2829 South 4th St, Louisville, will present a rarely seen clay firing process, called raku. The event is free and the public is invited. Enjoy watching the artists as they remove their clay objects from the open, roaring hot, outdoor kiln.

The AA Clay raku workshop raku workshop & kiln firing includes an evening of raku firing on April 21 in which ceramic objects, previously made by workshop participants, are fired in an outdoor kiln. This is an exciting event for artists and viewers alike, as the firing process, from loading the kiln chamber to removing objects from the hot kiln, takes only 45 minutes.

Artists and art lovers at AA Clay want to share their enthusiasm for ceramic art with other art enthusiasts in the community. They say: “Bring a lawn chair and experience the drama of clay heated to 1600 F.”