Tag Archives: Ceramic

Meet the Artist in Residence: Maliya Travers-Crumb

Maliya Travers-Crumb, artist in residence at Main Street Arts, during the month of August 2018, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Maliya some questions about her work and studio practice:


Q: Tell us about your background. I grew up in Avon, NY outside of Rochester. My mother is a quilter so our house was full of fabric and craft supplies for me to experiment with.  I was always making something or other, attempting to make my own clothes or scribbling in my sketch book. I currently work as an administrator for the University of Rochester Urgent Care system. I spend most of my free time making pottery.

 Q: What was your experience like at art school? I’ve always been a big reader and literature is an integral aspect of my practice. I studied English and studio art at Oberlin College as an undergrad and did a lot of conceptual work. I went back to school and got a second bachelor’s degree in illustration from RIT where I specialized in digital techniques. It was at RIT that I rediscovered ceramics and it was sort of the missing piece in rounding out the way that I think about and approach my art.


Q: How would you describe your work?
I mostly make pottery, but my work is very informed by my background in illustration. I like to think of clay as a different kind of canvas, and I really enjoy pairing flat  drawings with more dimensional forms. I work primarily with graphic black and white painting which helps to create a sense of continuity between my work. My illustrative style gives me the freedom to go in a lot of different directions with the pottery I create. I gravitate toward simpler forms which I paint in a whimsical style with a lot of cats and other creatures.


Q: What is your process for creating art? I had hand surgery about 6 months ago, which has significantly impacted my process and how I make art. I had a repetitive strain injury to the sagittal band on my dominant hand, which was very painful and made it almost impossible to hold a pen. I couldn’t make art for a year and a half and I refer to it as my personal dark ages. Making art is very tied into my sense of self.  When I wasn’t able to throw or draw, I thought about art constantly. What I would make, what I would change when I was able to get back into the studio. I thought more intellectually about form, about making intentional art rather than just working intuitively. Although the process was inarguably terrible, the shift in my art since being able to make again has definitely been a positive one. In a time where throwing on the wheel is something that has come more into vogue, it’s interesting for me to focus on something different and how I can approach a fresh type of making. How does creating multiples affect the preciousness of an object? How does this change if you add in more of the decorative arts? What does a piece from a mold need in order to be its own unique work of art? 


Q: Do you collect anything?
 I’m really into strange natural bits of detritus and decay. I have a collection of pinned beetles, shells, little animal bones, pressed flowers, and rocks. There is something very satisfying about tiny things.
Q: Who is your favorite artist and why?
I have always loved fairy tales, and am particularly drawn to the work of Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac. I also love the graphic style of Aubrey Beardsley, his drawings for Le Morte d’Arthur are strongly influential to my own work.

Q: Who inspires you and why?
Reading has always been something that I go to when I need inspiration or comfort. Audiobooks have been the perfect tie in to how I create art. I love fantasy and storytelling, and something about listening to stories when I work helps me to create narratives within my own pieces. Anything by Neil Gaiman is on the list, but particularly Neverwhere which he narrates himself. I also love the Series of Unfortunate Events, which I didn’t originally like as much until I started listening to them narrated by Tim Curry who is over the top hilarious and amazing. My all time favorite will always be the Harry Potter audiobooks, which were an enormous part of my childhood and my development as a person.
Q: What are your goals for this residency? My goal for this residency is to create a new practice of mold making with a focus on form and function. I’m looking forward to having the chance to spread out a little in this space and maybe create some larger pieces. I didn’t study ceramics in school, so I’m excited to learn more of the technical aspects of the process. I will be firing a kiln for the first time during my residency!  (With a little help from previous artist in  residence  Zoey Murphy Houser so I don’t melt anything J).

Q: Where else can we find you?
Instragram: @mtcpottery

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Rick Monikowski

My work is inspired by the sky and the mountains, the traditional pottery makers of the American Southwest, and the basket makers of my own Mi’kmaq people of New Brunswick Canada. My heritage is mixed – half Polish and half Mi’kmaq (Micmac) Indian of the Eel Ground First Nation of New Brunswick, Canada. I am originally from Hartford, Connecticut and now live in Rochester, NY.


My trivets and baskets, for example, incorporate both the traditional and contemporary because the Mi’kmaq were traditionally basket makers. Weaving each piece of clay is time-consuming but these are some of my favorite pieces to create.


Prior to moving to the Rochester area, I attended the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. While pursuing my JD and PhD, I had the opportunity to study and admire Pueblo pottery. In much of my pottery, my designs combine traditional shapes and forms with contemporary methods (wheel throwing and hand building).


I began making pottery in 2001 at the Flower City Arts Center (formerly Genesee Center for the Arts and Education). I’ve also taken classes at Rochester Institute of Technology’s School of American Crafts. In the summer of 2007 I took a month-long course at the NY State School of Ceramics at Alfred University. My primary focus was studying glaze calculations while interacting with over 40 artists from across the country and a number of internationally recognized faculty. My work continues to evolve and expand as I experiment with different types of clays, glazes, and glaze applications. I create many of my own glazes. I work out of “Art Hill” near Honeoye Falls, NY (just south of Rochester).

I produce two different kinds of pottery – functional ware and art pieces. All my functional pieces are handmade and unique and are food-safe as well as microwavable and oven-safe.  I make a variety of smaller pieces such as mugs, bud vases, pie plates – again with glazes I developed myself.  And as I prepare for the show season, I spend a lot of time re-stocking my inventory shelves because once the nice weather comes, there’s less time for the studio!

mugs studio

pieplates in progress

 I have also started producing dinnerware sets. This is my own green glaze on brown speckled clay – brand new!


My art pieces, as I said, are inspired by the traditions of the American Southwest. In this plate, for example, I take an ancient design and put a contemporary spin on it. First I apply layers of colored slip, then using a sgraffito technique I scratch away the slip to reveal the Native design. In order to made it more contemporary, I often use a ruler, compass, and/or a protractor to sharpen the edges of the design.  After the piece dries, I finish it by applying a clear glaze and then I fire it .

indianplate 12in dkblue

One last thing…It is very important to me – as an artist, an attorney, and a Native American – that the general public understands the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-644). It is a truth-in-advertising law that prohibits misrepresentations in marketing of Indian arts and crafts products within the United States. It is illegal to offer or display for sale, or sell any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian,  Indian Tribe, or Indian arts and crafts organization. This covers all Indian and Indian-style traditional and contemporary arts and crafts produced after 1935. Every piece I make carries my RAM mark (my initials) and those pieces that reflect my Native American heritage come with a Certificate of Authenticity with my signature.


Stop by Main Street Arts to see RAM Stoneware in our gallery shop! Visit Rick’s website at http://ramstoneware.com (new website in progress) and email him at rick@ramstoneware.com.

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by jewelry artist Brittany Rea.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Jessie Marianacci Valone: jmv ceramics

My name is Jessie Marianacci Valone and I am a potter and owner of jmv ceramics.  I grew up in the Finger Lakes area and currently live in Bristol, NY with my husband and two labradors, Lola and Buxton.

IMG_2832 IMG_0387_2

With a focus on utilitarian pottery forms, I strive to create beautiful, well crafted, functional forms that people will enjoy and use for display and engagement in the home and day to day life.

I began my artistic career in graphic design but have been working in clay for about 5 years now.  I became hooked when I took an elective class at school and wound up spending the majority of my time in the clay studio.  I switched my major the next semester and have been working in clay ever since.  I enjoy working with my hands and have an appreciation for the handmade. 


I completed a year apprenticeship at the Rochester Folk Art Guild in Middlesex, NY as well as three summer internships with Kate Symmonds at Coach Street Clay in Canandaigua, NY.  I recently graduated from Alfred University with my BFA and have been working as a studio potter ever since.

I create my functional pottery forms with the potters wheel and  hand alterations, using a cone 6 porcelaneous clay body.

When I am creating a new piece I begin by sketching out forms
and surface designs ideas.


I then make paper cut outs to further investigate the form before moving to the wheel and creating it in 3D.


I use simple glazes to accentuate the generous and sturdy form and quiet the surface, allowing for a focus on form without distraction.

I also use a variety of colored slips and tools to create different surface designs.  This allows for the surface to be painterly yet still influenced by my graphic design background.

IMG_1040 jmv1

The surfaces are pleasant, calm, stable, sturdy, generous, and clean. The work gives off a cool, refreshing feeling through the color palette I have chosen.


The colors are these of natural elements; skyline, beautiful clouds, reflections in the lake, smooth river-stones in the creek-bed, waves crashing on the shoreline, reflections on the water or the inside of
a seashell. These are all places I pull inspiration from.

 IMG_9698outerbanks 060

The forms are sturdy, strong, generous and made for use. They are designed to be pleasant to look at and to function well. I hope that even the smallest of details such as the way the handle fits in your hand or the angle of the lip are pleasant areas for use.



Craftsmanship and handwork are important aspects of my work.
I find tremendous value working with my hands along with the physical demands and intellectual choices I make in my practice
keep my work exciting and keep me continuing to work. I strive
to advance my skills as a potter through the process of research, planning and repetition.

I work in a production based practice while still maintaining a
high level of quality, thought/context and energy in the work.


Bringing something new and thoughtful into the world generates sense of meaning and fulfillment.  There are so many avenues you can take with clay and the opportunities are endless, this keeps me striving to create.

Stop by Main Street Arts to see work by jmv ceramics in the gallery shop! Visit Jessie’s website at www.jmvceramics.com. Like her Facebook Page and follow her on Instagram @jmvceramics.

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by Brooklyn artist Anne Muntges.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Jillian Cooper

I spent my early childhood growing up in Manchester, New Hampshire and then moved to Lubbock, Texas where I remained for 20 years.  I earned my MFA with concentrations in Ceramics and Metalsmithing/Jewelry from Texas Tech University in 2015.  Currently, I am living in Plano, Texas where I work at Collin College as the Ceramics Lab Coordinator.


I enjoy using lace in my work because it can be found embellishing everything from tablecloths to underwear.  It can be innocent, seductive, outrageous, delicate, timeless and trendy. It appears on babies, brides, entertainers and grandmothers.  The incorporation of lace allows me to simultaneously represent a variety of associations.


I have only recently began using plaid in my work.  It started as a suggestion from a friend and I ran with it.  The more I research it, the more I enjoy using it much for the same reason I use lace. Its broad spectrum of use and associations from historic family tartans, to the lumberjack, to the school girl leave so much room for interpretation


“Plaid Mug” featured in The Cup, The Mug exhibition

I use Laguna Dark Brown boxed clay. I start out with a simple slab built cylinder.  I slip and score the seam and use the overlap as part of my design instead of smoothing it out.


When the cylinder is formed I use it as a template to cut out a rough circle for the bottom.


Thick slip is painted over lace on the slab that is going to be the inside bottom of the mug.


When the slip is no longer tacky, I peel away the lace.


The bottom of the cylinder is slipped and scored and carefully attached to the bottom.


The excess slip around the edges is wiped away and the remaining clay is pushed up against the cylinder creating a lip around the bottom.  The basic cylinder shape is gently formed into a softer edged form.


I use a rubber tipped tool to divide the surface into an area that will have lace added to it.  The area without the lace is pushed out slightly more from the inside.


Again, thick slip is painted over lace and allowed to sit until it is no longer tacky.


The lace is peeled away and any excess slip is wiped away with a rubber tipped tool.  I use a drill bit to remove clay so that the stitches are recessed into the clay and not just sitting on top.


Small coils are rolled out and pressed into the holes to create the stitches.


When the clay dry, I sketch out a (very) rough plaid pattern.


Three coats of underglaze are applied, then it is bisque fired to cone 08.


After bisque firing, a clear or celadon glaze is applied on the interior.  The lace and stitches are waxed and a clear glaze is applied over the outside.  I then fire to cone 10 in reduction.

My plaid cups are still in their early stages of experimentation and development, but I am excited to see what they grow into from here.  You can find me and my work on Instagram @toberninejilly or on my website at www.jilliancooper.com

Stop by Main Street Arts to see the mug shown above by Jillian Cooper in our current exhibition “The Cup, The Mug: A National Juried Exhibition of Drinking Vessels” (juried by ceramic artist Peter Pincus, exhibition runs through January 6th). 

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Renee LoPresti

Renee’s cups are on view in our juried exhibition “The Cup, The Mug: A National Juried Exhibition of Drinking Vessels”. Her cups are available for purchase in our Online Gallery Shop: store.mainstreetartsgallery.com

“I was born and raised in rural Northwestern New Jersey and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the New York State School of Ceramics at Alfred University. Currently, I live in San Marcos, Texas as a resident artist at Eye of the Dog Art Center. My focus is making functional ceramics consisting of simple forms and graphic surfaces with underlying narratives.”


All pieces are thrown using a locally mixed, mid-range stoneware clay with a high-iron content (Armadillo’s Cinco Rojo from Austin, TX). The claybody becomes a rich, rusty color when fired and provides a dark base layer for the brightly colored underglazes, which are layered upon it. I prefer to create relatively simple forms designed for comfort and functionality. The smooth thrown surface and simplicity in shape  creates the perfect  ‘blank canvas’ for the graphic surfaces.

thrown mug prepared for surface decoration

thrown mug prepared for surface decoration

Overlapping blocks of punchy colors and repetitious dots patterns are layered beneath images of paper airplanes, crashing into one another and sometimes ascending into the clouds. The paper airplane has become my most commonly used image lately, and I have come to fall in love with the range of scenarios and interpretations it offers. To me, the paper plane is delicate, fleeting, and hopeful, with the ability to be easily picked up by a gust of wind and soar freely. Of course, the planes can eventually fall and are often crashed into a large pile. I love to play with notions of hope and cheerfulness, backed by underlying tones of loss or despair.

finished mugs with crashing and ascending paper airplanes

finished mugs with crashing and ascending paper airplanes

First, I begin by throwing multiples of the same form in small batches that can be finished in approximately one week. Each piece is trimmed, each handle is pulled and shaped before attaching. After the ends are cut to fit, both sides of the handle are slipped, scored and firmly pressed to the cup. Coils are added near each connection for strength, but mostly for visual continuity and ergonomics. All mugs are stored in a damp box (an air-tight plastic box with a 2” plaster sub-floor to regulate and maintain moisture) until they are decorated.

damp box storage

damp box storage

thrown and trimmed cups awaiting handles to be attached

thrown and trimmed cups awaiting handles to be attached

slipping and scoring for handle attachment

slipping and scoring for handle attachment

The layering begins by incising equally spaced vertical lines using a blade and a circle divider, thereby creating a general framework for each subsequent layer.

using a circle divider and xacto to incise vertical lines

using a circle divider and xacto to incise vertical lines

Next, the imagery with highest contrast and focus are affixed to the leatherhard clay using thin gauge die-cut vinyl. The paper airplanes are cut using a Silhouette Cameo, which can cut many identical images with intricate lines. The vinyl is the perfect material because it sticks well to the bare clay and when removed from under many layers it will create crisp lines without tearing (and its reusable).

applying die-cut vinyl paper airplane cutouts

applying die-cut vinyl paper airplane cutouts

After all the vinyl images are in place, the first color of underglaze is applied to the entire piece.


Once dry to the touch, I will begin blocking out sections using the blade to incise defined areas. These areas are then filled with the second color of underglaze.

grey underglaze applied to blocked areas with 1" hake brush

grey underglaze applied to blocked areas with 1″ hake brush

Often, I will use the rule of thirds when deciding where to place the horizontal lines for each layer of color blocking. It is important that the blocks continue to become smaller in size, as to not cover too much of the preceding layers.

mint underglaze being applied to smaller blocked areas

mint underglaze being applied to smaller blocked areas

Now, I begin to apply glaze to certain areas, particularly to the areas where one’s mouth will come in contact with the rim.  I use Mayco’s Stroke and Coat glaze because it is formulated to be applied to greenware. The clouds are also cut using the die-cutting machine, but are cut from construction paper. Paper is preferred for this stage because it can quickly be soaked in water and gently applied to previous layers without marring the surface.

paper cloud cutouts ready for use after being cut from silhouette cameo die-cutting machine

paper cloud cutouts ready for use after being cut from silhouette cameo die-cutting machine

After three coats, the paper clouds and vinyl airplanes are quickly removed  (this helps to keep the edges clean and crisp).

removing paper cutouts while glaze is still wet

removing paper clouds

removing vinyl paper airplanes from cloud section while glaze is still wet

removing vinyl paper airplanes from cloud section

An applicator squeeze bulb is used to apply glaze dots of a complementary color. The dots are applied to all open areas that were painted with the first base color. This allows the dot pattern to move all around the piece, even inside and outside of the handle.

using squeeze bulb to apply  dots inside the handle

using squeeze bulb to apply dots inside the handle

The final touch is to use a tracing wheel to create the dashed lines trailing behind each airplane. These lines create an additional line quality, one that is organic and momentous and helps to carry one’s eye around the piece.

the tracing wheel being used to create trails behind each paper plane

the tracing wheel being used to create trails behind each paper plane

finished and ready to dry before being bisque to cone 06

finished and ready to dry before being bisque fired

The mugs are then bisque to cone 06, each piece is gently sanded using fine grit sandpaper. An opaque, cream colored liner glaze is poured into the interiors, and they fired in an electric kiln to cone 5. All the feet are then sanded again to ensure a smooth bottom surface.

bisqued mugs sanded and ready for liner glaze

bisqued mugs sanded and ready for liner glaze

finished mugs after being gaze fired to cone 5

finished mugs after being gaze fired to cone 5

finished mug in demonstrated color palette

finished mug in demonstrated color palette

In the upcoming  year I plan to continue to explore new color palettes and narrative-based imagery. I have a few workshops I will be teaching in 2017 on surface techniques. For the most up-to-date information on my studio practice you can find me on Instagram @renee_lopresti. You can also find me on the web at  http://www.reneelopresti.com

Stop by Main Street Arts to see two cups by Renee LoPresti in our current exhibition “The Cup, The Mug: A National Juried Exhibition of Drinking Vessels” (juried by ceramic artist Peter Pincus, exhibition runs through January 6th). Renee’s work is available in our Online Gallery Shop (available cup pictured below): store.mainstreetartsgallery.com

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Renee LoPresti, "Pink, Blue and Green Planes Crashing Teabowl", stoneware, 3.25" x 3.5", 2016.

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Renee LoPresti, “Pink, Blue and Green Planes Crashing Teabowl”, stoneware, 3.25″ x 3.5″, 2016.

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by sculptor Muhammad Aslam.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Ryan Caldwell

Ryan’s cups are on view in our juried exhibition “The Cup, The Mug: A National Juried Exhibition of Drinking Vessels”. His cups are available for purchase in our Online Gallery Shop: store.mainstreetartsgallery.com

“Ryan Caldwell received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with emphasis in Ceramics and Sculpture from Washburn University. Ryan was awarded the Charles A. and Margaret Pollak Art Purchase Award in 2015 from Washburn University Art Department. He has been juried into shows at Mulvane Museum of Art for five consecutive years, and multiple  national shows around the country. He has received awards for his work such as second place in a juried show at the Topeka art guild, the “out of the box” purchase award, and a honorable mention equipment award at the KC clay guild tea bowl national. His work is in art collections small and large. Including The Mulvane Art Museums permeant collection. He currently lives and works in Topeka, Kansas.”


Throughout the past 5 years of making utilitarian work alongside sculptural ceramics my process has evolved and incorporated new elements and techniques. I would like to guide you through the creation of my tea bowls and other drinking vessels.


I use Aardvark’s Cone 10 porcelain in conjunction with a fine white casting slip from Crane Yard Clay in Kansas City. The techniques I use are pinch/coil within plaster molds to create uniformity in size and shape. This video shows me using this technique for a larger mug form.

After I create the body of the form, it is set aside to set up. Then, I hand carve a foot using one of my favorite tools, an old cheese cutter. Once these have reached the leather hard stage I use Amaco Velvet Underglazes to paint the bottoms with bright eye catching color. Doing so brings interest to a part of the piece that is most of the time ignored.


When the underglaze is fully dry I coat the inside and outside with a super white casting slip.

After they are fired to a cone 08 bisque I use a stencil to draw on circle patterns with a pencil.

These circles are then glazed with a brush and waxed overtop. This allows me to dip the pieces into  glaze without destroying the pattern created.

The glazing of these forms can range from simplistic to very gestural and loose. I combine store bought Amaco celadons with my own formulated glazes. These are then fired in a Skutt kiln to cone 6 oxidation. For a final bit of elegance I apply Duncan bright gold luster to the rim. This is done with a heavy application so that it flows over the edges created beautiful golden drips.

goldapplyThese are fired to cone 018. Then cleaned, photographed and packed away for shows or storage.stacked-cups-2016

This has been a glimpse into my studio practice. Thank you for letting me share my passion in life with you. If you would like to see more, please visit my website www.caldwellceramics.com. My main form of social media is Instagram. You can follow me and my work @caldwellceramics. For more information or any question please feel free to contact me. Don’t forget to always keep making, keep experimenting, and keep having fun.

Stop by Main Street Arts to see two cups by Ryan Caldwell in our current exhibition “The Cup, The Mug: A National Juried Exhibition of Drinking Vessels” (juried by ceramic artist Peter Pincus, exhibition runs through January 6th). Ryan’s work is available in our Online Gallery Shop (available cups pictured below): store.mainstreetartsgallery.com

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by printmaker Katherine Baca-Bielinis.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Rachel Donner

Rachel’s cups are on view in our juried exhibition “The Cup, The Mug: A National Juried Exhibition of Drinking Vessels”. Her cups are available for purchase in our Online Gallery Shop: store.mainstreetartsgallery.com

I grew up in Taos, New Mexico and attended college at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado. Santa Fe, New Mexico has been my home for just one and a half years. I moved here from Cincinnati, Ohio where I had just done a yearlong artist residency at Core Clay. I was ready to get back to the southwest and move closer to family and friends. Though I took a job as an assistant to a local clay artist, I set up a studio and worked diligently in all of my spare time. By the end of December 2015 I was ready to take the leap and quit my job. As I write this, it is just about my one-year anniversary with “Rachel A. Donner Ceramics”.

Rachel Donner Ceramics

Rachel at work in her Santa Fe Studio.

The following is a brief description of my process:

Functional pottery is the primary art form I indulge in. Sketching, repetition, trial and error, and real world observation fuel my design choices for form, surface, and function of the pots I make. I use the potters wheel to form the pots and then decorate them during the leather hard stage. One of my favorite forms to make is cups. There is something infinitely satisfying about making cups. With every cup I make, despite the simplicity of a cup, I find new details, subtlety, and exploration within each one.

Rachel Donner Ceramics

tools for inlay

After throwing and trimming, the first layer of decoration is inlay. I use an xacto blade to make lines or hole punching tools in varied shapes (square, triangle, circle, or flower). Using Amaco Velvet Underglaze, I inlay color into the thin lines and wipe away the excess with a sponge.

Rachel Donner Ceramics

ready for color inlay

Rachel Donner Ceramics

inlay before the excess is wiped off

Rachel Donner Ceramics

craft punches for making paper stencils

Next comes the paper stencils. I cut out different basic geometric shapes with craft punches (made for scrapbookers) using plain, cheap printer paper. Dip these stencils in water and they adhere perfectly to leather hard clay. Then, I paint on the main color of underglaze over the stencils and after three coats, peel off the stencils and clean up the lines and foot of the piece. This completes the green stage. After bisque, each piece is coated in a translucent glaze and then fired in an electric kiln to cone 5.

Rachel Donner Ceramics

part way through the stencil removal

Rachel Donner Ceramics

a nearly finished bowl next to a pile of used paper stencils

I love clay because it is alive. Every step of the way you have to be there to take it through the process. To quote my artist statement, “Creating something out of clay is like healing a wound.” There is never ending mystery and growth when working with clay.

Rachel Donner Ceramics

cups by Rachel Donner

Rachel Donner Ceramics

cups by Rachel Donner

Rachel Donner Ceramics

detail of cups by Rachel Donner

Instagram is one of my favorite social media platforms and I use it regularly to show all parts of my process, even the failures (follow me @666_tinka). From beginning to end and everything in between, it’s really fun to share what is happening with your fellow makers in the sweet online clay community. I also have a website at www.racheladonner.com.

Stop by Main Street Arts to see two cups by Rachel Donner in our current exhibition “The Cup, The Mug: A National Juried Exhibition of Drinking Vessels” (juried by ceramic artist Peter Pincus, exhibition runs through January 6th). Rachel’s work is available in our Online Gallery Shop: store.mainstreetartsgallery.com.

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by furniture maker Patrick Kana.

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Andrea Scofield Olmstead

Andrea Olmstead Turtle 24” x 16” x 16” earthenware milk paint, wax

Andrea Olmstead, “Turtle”, 24” x 16” x 16”, earthenware, milk paint, wax

I grew up in the Florida Panhandle and remain influenced by the color and texture of the natural landscape. Rusty iron fences, brick sidewalks, tin roofs, and giant oak trees overwhelm the senses. Lush foliage is always on the verge of taking over, and everything quickly decays. I used imagery from the Florida Gulf Coast Box Turtle to carve the turtle pattern in the pants of my sculpture.

I sculpt with clay because it reminds me of the red earth from the South. It feels humble in my hands and it in turn makes me feel humble. It accepts textures either pressed, carved, or added to and allows me to sculpt the human figure. It connects me to civilizations past and present and unites me with people who are obsessed with this demanding and exacting material.

Thirteen of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s delicate terra cotta sketches can be seen at the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, MA. These  quick sculptural models, complete with fingerprints, remind me how powerful clay is in its gestural form .

Bernini, 1598-1680, “Angel with the Superscription”, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA

I look to Jean Antoine Houdon  for guidance in anatomy, especially the eyes, which are full of life.

Jean Antoine Houdon  Louise Brongniart 1779, marble

Jean Antoine Houdon, “Louise Brongniart”, 1779, marble

Kathe Kollwitz’s powerfully dark and emotionally tender drawings and sculptures guide me  empathetically, technically, and conceptually. The layered textures in her work are permanently etched in my mind.

Kathe Kollwitz,  Mother with Dead Son Neue Wache Museum, Berlin

Kathe Kollwitz, “Mother with Dead Son”, Neue Wache Museum, Berlin 

The contemporary sculptor Louise Bourgeois’s conceptually driven work causes me to  address my own childhood experiences.

Louise Bourgeois, 1911-2010

Louise Bourgeois, 1911-2010

“Turtle” is a portrait of a boy as he sits down to play, equally strong and vulnerable. I work from photos and have the model sit for brief periods.


leather hard stage

leather hard stage

I use charcoal because the medium is humble and simple but able to produce a wide variety of marks. It allows me to be aggressive or delicately whimsical. I often draw to work out the textures on paper before the labor of sculpting them. In the drawing below, the turtle pattern is worked out in the shirt.

Andrea Olmstead  Turtle charcoal 24" x 18" 2016

Andrea Olmstead, “Turtle”, charcoal, 24″ x 18″, 2016

I work with large rectangular coils that allow me to press, carve, and pound into shape. I use a metal serrated rib tool for scoring and smoothing, a fettling knife for cutting and shaping, and calipers for measuring.

large rectangular coils

large rectangular coils

I start by building a structural base that can withstand the weight of the sculpture. I continue to add interior struts where I know the clay might cave in on itself, and I give the clay time to set up in order to hold the next couple of layers. Laguna EM 10 G is an earthenware that fires white and has strength. The grog particles are fine and don’t get in the way when I carve textures, but give the clay the strength it needs.

structural base

structural base, legs and hips

I sculpted the head separately and used the knee to help support the weight. It was important for me to work out this structural detail  through sketches and photos before I began the sculpture.


head using the knee as a support

I smooth areas with a rib tool and carve textures with a pin tool.


A clear wax protects the finish, and milk paint highlights the texture  in the pants.

Andrea Olmstead Turtle 24” x 16” x 16” earthenware milk paint, wax

Andrea Olmstead, “Turtle”, 24” x 16” x 16”,  earthenware, milk paint, wax

Stop by Main Street Arts to see Andrea’s sculpture “Turtle” in our current exhibition The Human Figure (runs through July 1). View her work online at www.andreascofieldolmstead.com

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by artist Kate Fisher.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with John Brien

John Brien (1)

Applying slips before the first firing

I am originally from Rochester, NY and grew up in Dayton, OH. I moved back to the Rochester area after high school and currently live in Victor, NY. I studied art and art education at Monroe Community College and Nazareth College, and I currently teach art at Fairport High School.


“Fleeting” early rough in of the sculpture

I was not able to concentrate on clay in college as much as I wanted to, so a lot of what I do has been learned in the studio, through practice, or from the wonderful, sharing clay community on the internet. I am an avid reader of ceramic blogs, books , and magazines and I have watched hundreds of hours of demos on YouTube. So, even though my ceramics education was not traditional, I did learn from the best.


First layer of colored slips applied

As an educator, I believe it is important to teach by example. Early in my teaching career I read an article about ceramic artist and educator Paul Soldner. He talked about the importance of teacher as maker in the classroom. I believe it is important for my students to see me work. The pieces that I work on in the classroom are used for demonstrations and discussions on technique and craftsmanship. I find that it raises the level of understanding about what it is to make art and be creative.


work in progress faceted yunomi

Mishima skull yunomi

Mishima skull yunomi

I have two very different bodies of work. I make figurative sculptures, and I also make functional ceramic work with my wife as J&K Clayworks. Because I chose to (and love to) make functional pieces I only have time to make 2 to 3 sculptures a year.

Fleeting 2015

Fleeting 2015

The figurative work I do is often related to personal reflections and can be an interpretation of my experiences and people in my life. I start each sculpture with a general direction and I enjoy finding the face and form in the clay. I let my ideas evolve as the work develops though a process of trial and error. There is always a lot of experimentation in what I do: If something works, it works. If it doesn’t work, then I find another way.

Flora 2016

Flora 2016

I have always been drawn to figurative works where the subject connects with the viewer through a gesture or through eye contact. Art is an interaction between the maker and the viewer. Most of us have seen work that “speaks” to us. It gives us pause and allows us to reflect on what the artist is saying or to connect with a narrative in the work. This is my goal. This is what keeps me making. Whether it is a sculpture or a cup, the interaction with the audience allows my art to achieve its purpose.

Stop by Main Street Arts to see John’s ceramic sculpture “Fleeting” in our current exhibition The Human Figure (runs through July 1). View his work on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jandkclayworks. You can also follow John on Instagram @jbrien145.

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by painter Paul Garland.

Q & A with Virginia Torrence

The Upstate New York Ceramics Invitational at Main Street Arts will feature functional and sculptural ceramic work by 13 artists from the region. This invitational represents some of the most exciting contemporary ceramic work being made in upstate New York.

The exhibition will be held July 11–August 29, 2015.
Online purchasing will begin in mid-July.

Virginia Torrence

Alfred ceramic artist Virginia Torrence

Virginia Torrence

Q: Where are you from originally and where are you now?
A: I am originally from Midland Michigan and spent four years in Detroit Michigan attaining my BFA. I am now living in Alfred New York attending graduate school.

Q: When did you realize you wanted to be a ceramic artist?
A: I started focusing on ceramics during my senior year of High school and then went on to major in ceramics/crafts in undergrad at the College for Creative Studies.  Although I used many other materials during that time I always preferred working with clay.

Q: Did you make other types of artwork before finding ceramics? Do you currently make other work?
A: I have found that I have a knack for drawing as well and I definitely find myself incorporating that into my current practice. I also dabble in using fiber at times and have recently been using paper pulp in a verity of ways within my sculptures.

Q: Do you have an artistic hero or an artist you look up to?
A: Eva Hesse

Q: What is your largest source of inspiration?
A: I would say that my largest sources of inspiration are literature, music, and my own writing. I read a lot of poetry, philosophy, and surrealist texts.

Q: Do you look forward to opening the kiln? Or do you wince at the thought of something going wrong in there?
A: Most of my current work is only fired once. I found that I want to bring the piece as close as I can to what I want using terra sigillata which is applied when the works are bone dry. When I open the kiln, of course I wince at the thought of disasters, but for the most part I can learn to cope with what I find using other materials. I try to view things that don’t come out exactly right as an opportunity to do something else to them.

Q: What is it like being a ceramic artist in Upstate NY?
A: I am really enjoying my time in Alfred. My classmates are really wonderful and I am learning so much from this experience. Upstate New York is stunning and I enjoy hiking and swimming in the warmer months.

Q: Where else are you showing your work this summer or fall?
A: Hmmm, I am not sure… I am not really actively searching for opportunities to show my work right now while I am getting my degree, but I will be having my thesis exhibition in the summer of 2016 in Alfred. I have nothing else lined up at this point, but would love to.

Sculpture by Virginia Torrence

Sculpture by Virginia Torrence

Sculpture by Virginia Torrence

Sculpture by Virginia Torrence

Sculpture by Virginia Torrence

Sculpture by Virginia Torrence

Sculpture by Virginia Torrence

Sculpture by Virginia Torrence

Sculpture by Virginia Torrence

Sculpture by Virginia Torrence

Sculpture by Virginia Torrence

Sculpture by Virginia Torrence

Where can people see more of your work/follow you?
Website: www.virginiatorrence.com 
Instagram: @virginiaroset

Check out the previous Q & A with ceramic artist Hannah Thompsett.