Review by Paul Kowalchuk & Malinda Bender
The 37th annual holiday show and sale (Dec. 2-4, 2011) at the Art School at Old Church in Demarest, New Jersey was a sparkling statement of newness and experimentation. Familiar potters offered departures from their older and equally appealing work and some potters exhibited their work for the first time at TASOC — others returned after years of being away.
The three-day event began with a generous opening reception on Friday evening. On Sunday morning we returned for an introspective docent talk by TASOC co-founder and President of the Board of Directors, Mikhail Zakin. This was a rewarding hour in which Mikhail’s passionate eye and strength as an educator soared as she spoke of the technical aspects and possible direction of each participant’s pottery. So, in no particular order, this is this year’s line up; they’re all talented potters, all of whom are tops in their field.
Matt Kelleher, Marshall, North Carolina, returns this year with new ideas. Whether a tall slab constructed vase (at a guesstimated 24” tall), or large abstract birds, the work is a complete departure from last year’s collection. The birds are impressive in stature and far outsize any bird I’ve seen in nature. Glaze applications suggest wings, and the slightest cracks in the clay body are there to remind us that these birds are of the earth. The magnificent example shown here was mounted on a wall; others sit horizontally with the same commanding presence. Kelleher’s bowls and other utilitarian forms were equally impressive, yet on a much smaller scale. –p.k.
Hayne Bayless of Ivoryton, Connecticut, began his career by extruding and constructing forms. Among the strong components of Bayless’ work are recognizable glaze – theme and variation. Especially wonderful were the hinges made of clay and outfitted with brass bars to offer support. The thinness of Bayless’ work is masterful, and in technique, is working against the resistance of the material – the clay is allowed to get leather hard prior to being worked. Crisp edges are the result of this technique, and an element in Bayless’ work which will endure as a “signature” style. –p.k.
“Scott Goldberg, one of my favorite potters, always”, was how Mikhail Zakin commenced her discussion on Scott Goldberg from Brooksville, Maine. A classical potter who works in reduction firing and whose work is related to generations of functional pottery is very unassuming. Zakin speaks firsthand about having Goldberg’s work in her kitchen: “His work you enjoy visually but I live with it, and I can tell you it’s better to live with it than to look at it. I take a cup of coffee in the morning and say ‘Good morning Scott’; I can feel him in there. The reason we respond to handmade work is because it links us to the maker, and in this case, gratifyingly so.” –p.k.
The ceramics of Autumn Cipala from Thomaston, Maine, softly beckon the viewer to come closer. Gentle and elegant, Autumn’s work embraces a directness of line and form, as well as a regard for sensual surface. The plate featured here is an example of the successful 3-D effect she has achieved with skillful surface carving. –m.b.
When introducing Karen Karnes (Morgan, Vermont) to her audience, Mikhail Zakin warmly refers to her dear friend as “the mother of us all.” Zakin makes this compliment while considering Karnes’ time span as a potter of 60+ years. An offering of a late 1950s large form teapot is exceptional, and quintessential to the artist’s career. While the form is well-thought, it’s the walnut handle, carved by Karnes herself, which makes this pot a one-of-a-kind. Recent work; assemblages of smaller thrown forms, make for small intimate sculptures while colossal covered jars bring a sense of scale to this potter’s enduring career. –p.k.
Swanville Maine’s, Jody Johnstone, once studied in Bizen, Japan, and then came back to the States and set up an anagama kiln in Maine. Johnstone’s surfaces gain much richness from fire and ash; she uses little in the way of glazes. The work is dynamic in its decoration. Kiln fires produce amazing effects, but proficiency in craftsmanship is where this potter’s true success begins. Said Zakin, “Johnstone goes back to a very basic relationship with the clay and the fire…that’s what this work speaks about.” –p.k.
Mikhail Zakin, of Closter, New Jersey has an immense hold on those around her, or rather, it may be most fitting to say that it is those around her who are grateful to have a hold on her. I’ve heard it said more than once, “She’s simply a remarkable person.” And indeed she is. SPA is honored to return to Old Church and see new work from this master potter, teacher, and community leader who has chosen to exhibit in this year’s event for the first time in six years.
An important facet in Zakin’s creative output is her carbonized clay. Zakin’s self-described “box forms” were in perfect company to a pair of twisted clay trays; a technique which pulls from her experiences as a metalsmith back in the 1940s. The carbon coating on each piece gives a voice to the underlying sculpture. Zakin takes center stage with this new body of intimate and personal (in scale) work.
Zakin also included salt-glaze vessels from earlier points in her career. A few of these flew out the door; fast! Additionally, there were small salt cellars which also have the dubious distinction of being sculpture. Tall vases, large and small trays, and other larger sculpture were in perfect company. –p.k.
Robbie Lobell’s (Coupeville, Washington) own sense of form is evident in her flameware pottery. Recipes in both clay and glaze; passed down to Lobell by Karnes and Anne Stannard, are key to the durability of flameware cookware. Remarkable to the process, Zakin mentions Lobell’s attention to finishing; “She was after her own sense of form and line, and has found it.” –p.k.
Sheryl Zacharia hails from Manhattan, New York and by the look of her pottery you would think that you really are located somewhere in the Big Apple; perhaps up by Rockefeller Center, or down in the financial district. Angular vessels seem to define the space “outside” the form, while creating an almost safe haven in its interior. Rich patterned surfaces are as wide awake as this city that never sleeps — energy pervades from each segmented area, and while the forms are certainly not fixed in place, there is an elusive component which makes them seem as anchored as the Empire State Building. –p.k.
David Voll, of Port Republic, New Jersey uses local clay from New Jersey. As a child Mr. Voll discovered an outcropping of red clay along the banks of a shallow cedar creek, and from there, began his journey into the world of potting. Voll is a true production potter whose glazes richly compliment his traditional forms. A marker of his success is the many galleries who exhibt and sell his work. Characterized by rich buttery glazes, Voll’s work is traditional in form, yet each carries on their surface stamps carved by the artist’s hand. –m.b.
Jenny Mendes of Chesterland, Ohio tells her story with precisely detailed narratives on clay. While immersing myself in her illustrative decoration and delicate forms, I am transported back in time to the safety of cradling a favorite storybook while reading in the grass on a summer’s day. The quality and quantity of information Ms. Mendes applies to her small, fine forms is a humbling tribute to her gift as potter and a painter, but more fantastically, a storyteller. –m.b.
Jeffery Kleckner, from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is pushing the boundaries of his work. An earlier conversation between Zakin and Kleckner had Zakin telling us that he’s now “splitting the form…asymmetrical and compound forms which are wonderfully patterned.” Kleckner’s own signature style is borne from the patterned surfaces complete with raised details which engage the fingertips. –p.k.
From Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ryan Greenheck turns heads as he displays his work for the first time at TASOC. Ryan’s glazes create an alliance with form. Shading, hue and luster move in concert with the components and detail of the works, thus creating a support system between glaze and form. For the purest who loves unadulterated form, Greenheck’s teapots; stripped of all glazes, dazzle in all-white porcelain. –m.b.
Scribe, is a title that comes to mind when appreciating the work of Matthew Metz of Alfred Station, New York. A dash of American folk art, a pinch of Rome, a sprinkling of Greece and a splash of Asia are combined with descriptive engraving (nature, cultural, historical) to create a fulfilling recipe for visual and tactile expertise. His attention to detail (in the form of labor intensive decoration) blankets all surfaces and leaves each vessel looking, and feeling impressive. –m.b.
Alison Palmer of Kent, Connecticut enchants with her animal forms. Her wood fired menagerie is imaginative, significant and alive with character. Ms. Palmer states that the animals are brought to life through “eyes and feature”, which accounts for the personality and soul infused into these skillfully executed forms. A small caterpillar covered box with human face has as much character as any of the larger of the gang. –m.b.
There is something clean and honest about the pottery of Williamsburg, Massachusetts’ Michael McCarthy. The work is strong with special attention paid to articulated form. Diversity in glazing, when coupled with form, completes a well rounded picture of both traditional and contemporary approach to potting. In the traditional sense, handles on McCarthy’s mugs are reminiscent of the work of North Carolina potter, A. R. Cole, yet McCarthy’s finely thrown bottles mark this potter’s insight into bringing a fresh view on a centuries old form. Gently askew tops and a pale glaze have these bottles looking well-refined and without pretense. –p.k.
Rob Sieminski of Phillips, Maine brings a message which speaks to his love of geology and his harmonious relationship with the earth’s process. Functional yes, but the intense philosophical presence of this vessel gives it the efficacy of sculpture. When seeking new ideas to work and move through the clay, Mr. Sieminski states that he finds it through “paying attention, listening.” –m.b.
The husband and wife team of Naomi Dalglish and Michael Hunt from Bakersville, North Carolina, once again brings the exhibit a powerful statement made with a clear knowledge of traditional Korean technique. Selections for this year’s event were extraordinary in every way. Intimately balanced forms, glazing and stature yield visible and tactual completeness. I noticed this year’s selection of work to be a step or two larger than last year’s collection, showing that this duo is not restrained by scale in any way. –m.b.
Stacy Snyder of Arlington, Virginia dazzles and intrigues with her architectural and landscape inspired forms. There is a simplicity and comfort connected to her finished decoration, the exquisitely accomplished art of surface transfer, and the connecting of broken lines. Like human beings, the individual pieces come together to create something whole. –m.b.
Poetic, kinetic and intrepid is the work of Norman, Oklahoma’s Dan Harris. Mr. Harris has no fear when it comes to experimenting with clay bodies, glaze chemistry and form. The artistic revenue this bodacious free spirit has created in clay is shiny and eroded, curving, circular and inviting. This is indeed unbridled excellence. –m.b.
Mastery of the wheel is evident in the pottery of Mark Shapiro from Worthington, Massachusetts. Ingenious in design and function, his pure and penetrating lines make Mr. Shapiro’s work desirable from both functional and artistic perspectives. Successful as art and successful in function. –m.b.
Brenda Quinn of Mount Vernon, New York brings new ideas to the show with her love of design and the decorative arts. We questioned on whether there was a noted hint of William Morris in her decoration and Ms. Quinn quickly replied that she is indeed inspired by Morris’ patterns. This potter is a keen observer of patterns found in nature and how “all things are tied together.” Quinn’s work is also labor intensive, and concentrates on putting ”evidence of the hand” into her work. Utilizing her elegant ceramics in a real life environment is to honor the interconnectedness of all that is. –m.b.
“Jack Troy, the master” were Mikhail Zakin’s first words when introducing this living legend to her audience. Of particular interest is Zakin’s acknowledgement of Troy’s unusual use of color — an old Carlton Ball recipe with barium in it (blue). Zakin says Troy (Huntingdon, Pennsylvania) mentioned that he’s always been afraid of color, but he’s going to try more of that now.” Testament to this master, Troy’s display was essentially sold out. For SPA, we decided to place two of these works into our archive collection. The top image shows a striking vessel, one which breaks from Troy’s traditional approach to glaze and form. The other form, an orb, offers another appoach towards glaze decoration. It too is part of this “color mini series” of work. Indeed, both pieces are welcomed additions to the archive. –p.k.
Once again, it was our pleasure to cover the Karen Karnes’ invitational at The Art School at Old Church. Thanks to TASOC’s incredible staff and tireless volunteers for producing yet another wonderful annual. Special thanks to Mikhail Zakin for welcoming us back to this year’s festivities.
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