The Potters’ Guild of New Jersey’s fall exhibit and sale, held at the Community Presbyterian Church Community Center, offered a visual bounty for the residents of Mountainside, potters and pottery aficionados alike on the weekend of November 12 and 13, 2011.
Studio Potter Archive was honored to cover the event and had a ball connecting with the assemblage of gifted potters and fellow enthusiasts.
Where does a person begin describing the variety of works when surrounded by such an abundance of talent? Narrowing down the selections was not an easy job when choosing from the evidence of the blood, sweat and tears (and ultimately, successes) from thirty-seven talented potters, but we rolled up our sleeves and got down to the business of preparing a sampling of fine works from the Potters’ Guild of New Jersey.
Our early morning arrival began with warm introduction by Judy Musicant, the show’s coordinator, who quickly informed us that time was of the essence in the 30 odd minutes prior to the opening of the show. The fact is, she was right. Upon opening the doors, collector activity pulled an astonishing amount of potters’ work off tables and brought it straight onward to the “sold” table. In the time it took for us to travel to the opposite side of the room to collect a work by Judith Taylor, and then make our way back to our impromptu photography station, a bowl by Musicant, one which we planned to use for this article, had disappeared! That’s not to say there wasn’t other amazing work to be found in Judy’s or other potters’ stations. It just meant that we had to work fast!
Our alphabetical lineup of work begins with Linda Aldrich. Surface decoration in ceramics is a world unto itself, and here, Aldrich’s world of flowers and fauna carries a unique boldness in its content and illustrative design; starfish, squirrels, and flowers show a duality in both technical and artistic talent. It is Aldrich’s two-dimensional renderings which allow her ceramic forms to act as a canvas to which she displays her love of nature.
A bowl by Susana Barbetti-Norton gives me the sense of early Roman times. A leafy progression around the edges and verdigris glaze, offer a glimpse of Mother Nature and the changes she brings. Can you imagine this piece adorning a table at a feast of yore? I know I can.
MaLee Bluck’s raku vase with “fire-hot” glaze is successful for a few good reasons. First, I can’t escape that color – love it, especially on raku. Don’t get me wrong, traditional raku surfaces are exceptional, especially when, in absolution, they compliment the form (see Zarbock) but here, this red “pops”; it demands attention. Second and third reasons are form and line. This robust red is tamed by the vessel’s form; dimples gently pushed into a bold bulbous body soothe, while black lines segment and contain the glaze, as if they’re cordoning off a wild fire. Inversely related to the neck and mouth is the foot– if I were talking gymnastics, I’d call this detail the perfect dismount in my evaluation.
There’s something quite special about the forms which Susan Bogen throws. Her visually substantial forms are indeed refined and wonderful to hold. Bowls have a rim that falls gently enough to imply that the walls which holds them up are just as thick. This is the weight I was expecting when I first picked one up, but that was not the case. Her bowls are well-thrown and comfortable in their weight. Of special mention is Boden’s decoration; one small shino glazed vase adorned with iris, in particular.
The world is black and white for this wizened trio by Marguerite Brennan. Marguerite’s work is hand-built microwave oven and dishwasher safe porcelain. Her one-of-a-kind, hand painted decoration simply makes me feel good. And a healthy dose of “feel good” is just what the doctor ordered!
The work of Beth DiCara shows great diversity. Her plates and larger platters/trays exhibit technical expertise in slab construction and an understanding of when “less is more” – simplified leaf graphics tell the most concise story without rambling on. Her covered jars, too, are well imagined. This take on a “barrel full of monkeys” has me laughing. (This guy is doing a good job just being a goof-ball and has me wondering if there are more hiding inside.) The sculptress in DiCara shines, too. “Jersey Girls”, as she calls them, sit atop ceramic bases. Slightly expressive bodily forms conjure up a sense of implied animation while DiCara makes no excuses for the human physique – larger hips, and a little more in the mid-rift area tells us that we’re all just beautiful the way we are.
Back to that ever so vast world of surface decoration. Barbara Fehrs’ decoration is a fine compliment to the forms she produces. Whether a simple rectangle plate adorned with family heirloom crocheted doilies or triangularly ovoid tumblers patterned with wax-resist and glazed hand-decoration, the work exudes ‘texture’; either visual or tactile. The set of tumbles and serving tray shown are just a few pieces to a larger line of forms.
DeBorah Goletz’s creatively plays with a number of elements when creating this wood-fired stoneware bottle. Bold vertical stripes give height to an already tall piece (12”) while playful handles define and contrast arcs of negative space against a balance of horizontal banding around its neck.
Reiteration of shape and form takes center stage in the work of Itsuko Ishiguro. Bowls, miniature lamps, and even mugs are hand-carved, and then inlaid with glaze; a technique that exploits (good) the richness of this chocolate color clay body with a micro-volcanic white glaze. On the sculptural front, beast-like creatures (oil lamps) reaching forward as if to give out a hug– regardless of whether or not spiny thorns running up their back may provide a pinch, are playfully imaginative. I’d love to one day see these forms standing larger in scale, say 16” in height?
Current work by Sue Jamieson includes a selection of vases adorned with abstract elements. Jamieson’s thrown forms act as foundation for abstract assemblages of clay – one might think they’re almost expressionist statements – which are lyrical in their base element. The sweeping form which adorns this vase is accentuated with an amber and gold-flake glaze. It’s the continuous ‘gesture’ in form and line which makes this vase so successful.
Ellen Mulligan spends good thought in creating her cast of characters. Whether ducks, cows, puppets, or even people, her illustrations have an uncanny ability to present themselves as if they are animated. This bowl and cup is a new direction for the artist—3-D representation has this little bird singing on a branch (cup) while geese peer out as each sits next to its egg. A strong understanding of editing the graphics she creates, then transfers to her wares, have us baited. Now, we patiently sit and wait for more!
If there’s a word to describe the glaze found on this bowl by Judy Musicant, I guess it would be “sunburst”. Multiple glazes are fired to this potters preferred choice: Glossy, a result of controlling the cooling conditions in kiln atmosphere once a firing is complete. Fine proportions, coupled with a delicately ruffled edge make this bowl as successful as the one which got away early in the show. A departure from this year’s main theme (in form and glaze) is classical Grecian-style vase from years past which I found tucked back on a bottom shelf. A rich brown glaze with minimal glaze decoration is the perfect coat for this form.
Looking at Donna Nicosia’s work is like seeing both the forest, and the trees. The stately stature of this form is what I mean when I say “forest”, the layering of details, textures, and architectural elements are the trees themselves. Nicosia’s choice of glaze application is yet another element to the mix, and is one which, in its “veil-like” application, gently disguises this urn’s richly patterned surface. I saw more than a few of her works making their way to check out…I can certainly see why.
Kathy Peck’s teapot and mugs came as quite a find. Fine forms and glazing, of course, but we took special notice of the industrial notes assigned to the re-bar consistent handles on these pieces. Believe me; if I were at a construction site, I’d be handling one of Kathy’s mugs…and well, they would also make an ambitious statement while sitting on the desk in my office!
I love this dish by Harold Starvetnick! With soft edges, form sweeping gently upward and an appropriately sturdy feel; this piece seems to embrace a yin and yang of design. The white and turquoise palette is a fine compliment to the well produced graphics and retro urban energy of the work.
A vase by Judith Taylor gracefully moves with detail, color and form. The neck of the vase fans outward in a beckoning motion which has clearly attracted nesters. These delicately painted hummingbirds, nourishing themselves on the nectar I just know is in there, flew to this vase just as quickly as I did. What impresses most about Taylor’s work is that she’s never afraid to dance with form; energetically charged as if Jazz, or gracefully demure as if ballet.
Roz Weinberger brings an electric display (reminding me of the sparklers I loved in childhood) with this raku fired bowl. Passion and imagination are evident in the crackle of raku and complementing crisscross design of this piece. And pssst…Roz offered a coordinating vase at the show too.
Margit Werner-Ergas’ stoneware is simply good to hold. Her wheel-thrown bowls and plates are correct in proportion and are tastefully understated in their glazing; subtle and grace are two words which best describe her wares. Tasteful and elegant are an additional two words which describe the plate shown here. The solitude of a lone-standing tree is rendered moot by the wind which keeps it company; elegant indeed.
Nancy Zarbock is well known for her raku pottery, and while she excels in making wares specific to other types of firings, it is this raku sculpture which we find to be an exceptional highlight of the show. It’s a ghostly form; void of body but eerily present in spirit and standing with an ominous stature. A hooded cloak with extended arms and draped bottom are sculpted in well-thought abstraction. On a more representational side, Zarbock’s sculptures of children also show this artist’s penchant for sculpture in a medium she’s come to master.
Other worthy participants include:
Margret Bonito, Martha Boshart, Barb Donatacci, Carol Harris, Joyce Hayter-Delia, Kate P. Hetman, Carla Hurwitz, Kathie Leonardow, Norma Messing, Melanie Mike-Mayer, Wendy Morris, Theresa Mustafa, Su Nottingham, Nancy Ogan, Eugene Prial, Cynthia Shevelew, Marie Signorile, Jennifer Stein.
SPA applauds not only the potters who displayed their wares, but the efficient running of the show and the unmistakable fellowship of the Guild members as they pitched in and assisted one another from set-up to sales.
When asked how she views the show overall, Show Coordinator, Judy Musicant, stated:
“I think it went very well. We didn’t quite break our record for a November show. (Sales were down slightly from the 2010 event) but considering that the economy is still stagnant, I’m pretty pleased. In fact, our sales have increased every year even in 2008 when the crash occurred and since then, until this November.
As I’ve heard that other craft venues have experienced significantly decreased sales in recent years, we’re amazed and delighted that we continue to do so well. Maybe it’s because we are the only show in the area where people can get such a wide variety of pottery – and just pottery. Quite a few customers I’ve spoken with are potters themselves, and they come to buy from us, which is very flattering. Also, a significant number of people come to every show – April and November. I think that our prices are more than reasonable for the quality of the work– as you probably noticed, and has something to do with our popularity.”
Tremendous job folks!© All Rights Reserved. 2011 Studio Potter Archive Images © Studio Potter Archive, 2011
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