Meet Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Ceramics

Today, I’m sharing the work of Jamie Kelly. I’m a huge fan of his work and I first met him a few years ago when he became a member of the Colorado Potters Guild. This spring, I finally snagged one of his gorgeous soda fired bud vases.

Jamie Kelly Red Beard Ceramics
Jamie Kelly Red Beard Ceramics

Meet Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Ceramics:

I’m James Kelly and I’m a potter living in Denver CO. I’ve had a love for ceramics since I took my first class in high school in Michigan. Working with clay is a like working with no other medium, there are endless possibilities. I moved to Colorado after college with a friend looking for a new adventure. The reality of life set in and I ended working all sorts of jobs and clay took a back seat to life for about 10 years.

Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Studio - Mod Mugs
Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Ceramics – Mod Mugs

I finally got my nerve up to apply to the Potter’s Guild and was accepted in 2010. Shortly after that I met my beautiful wife and we were married in 2013. We then bought a house and converted the garage into my studio. Since then I have been working to create work that I feel is good enough to share with the world.

Jamie Kelly Red Beard Studio Space
Jamie Kelly Red Beard Ceramics’ Studio Space

We are both members of the Colorado Potters Guild. How many years have you been a member of the guild and what does it mean to you to be part of a local clay community.

I’ve been a member for 7 years. For me being a member means being part of a community of like-minded individuals. We all share the same desire to create, and the guild provides us that opportunity.  It’s gratifying being a part of a group of peers that all have a passion for clay.

Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Studio - Soda Fired Bud Vases
Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Ceramics – Soda Fired Bud Vases

How many years have your been working with clay and do you have a formal education in clay/art or how did you acquire your skills?

I’ve been working with clay off and on since 1991 and have a BFA in Ceramics from Northern Michigan University. Though, I first fell in love with clay in high school where we had a fully functional ceramics studio. 

 

Meet Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Studio
Meet Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Ceramics

Your ceramic business is “Red Beard Ceramics” – I get the obvious correlation. 🙂 How did you name your business?

 
Choosing a name was something I hemmed and hawed over. I wanted to have something that identified myself without having to use my name. Ultimately, it came down to REDBEARDceramics or REDBEARDstudio. I like them both and am still using them interchangeably at the moment. The only problem with my name is that my beard is turning grey at an alarming rate so a change down the line may be in order.
 
Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Studio - Soda Fired Bottles
Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Ceramics – Soda Fired Bottles

How do you work (techniques/glazing/firing methods)?

Most of my work is either wheel thrown, hand built, or a combination of those two processes. I primarily work with porcelain and fire my work in the soda kiln. I spray my work with various combinations of slips and glazes to create flowing surfaces that are enhanced by the soda firing process. Soda firing is a process where soda ash is dissolved in water and sprayed through ports in the kiln near the hottest point of the firing and the soda ash is vaporized and swirls throughout the kiln reacting with the glazes, slips, and raw clay to create unique surfaces that capture the essence of the firing. 

Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Studio - Tea Pot
Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Ceramics – Tea Pot

Who or what inspires you?

I draw inspiration from all sorts of places. Certainly my college professor Sam Chung has had a lasting impression on me. I am inspired by the simple clean lines of mid century modern architecture and furniture, as well as the random organic shapes found in nature. 

Jamie Kelly's Cliff May Mid Century Modern Home
Jamie Kelly’s Cliff May Mid Century Modern Home

You live in an neighborhood enclave of mid century modern homes in Denver (Harvey Park). How has renovating your home and living in such a mod space influenced your current work?

 
Moving into our Cliff May home in 2014 was a turning point in my ceramics pursuits. We moved from a 600 sq. ft. condo downtown and this was my first opportunity to have a home studio. The simple clean lines of the mid century modern architecture drew us in after seeing so many brick boxes that lacked much visual interest. The space has a one car garage that I gutted and insulated, ran a gas line, and upgraded the electrical with a sub panel for an electric kiln. While the space is rather small it functions great for my needs.
 
Jamie Kelly's Living Room in His Mid Century Modern Home
Jamie Kelly’s Living Room in His Mid Century Modern Home

The house in itself is a piece of art and is a inspiring space to work and live in. Through learning about this architecture, furniture and decor of the 50’s I’ve drawn all sorts of inspiration. I love simple, minimal forms with little embellishment in this space. Seeing my work on display in my house has driven at least some of my work to try and be simple, modern, and aesthetically pleasing in the space.

 
I’d like to incorporate some of the color schemes going on in my house into my work. Subtle shades of grey and white contrasted with bright lime green. I gutted and redid the bathroom and that process really made me think about how important finishes and color choices matter in architecture, the same is true with ceramics. Living in this house is a joy and a wonderful space to create art.
Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Studio - Bud Vases
Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Ceramics – Bud Vases

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you or your work? 

 
I’m still trying to figure out my niche as far as where my work is going. I tried an art fair last december and had a positive experience. While I’ve yet to sign up for any this year, I intend to pursue that avenue more in the future.
 
Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Studio - Booth Display
Jamie Kelly of Red Beard Ceramics – Booth Display

Currently, I’m selling work through my Etsy Shop at and have been trying to develop a website. I can be found on Instagram @redbeardceramics and that’s where I post most of my current happenings. Going forward I hope to keep honing my craft and develop lines of work that I can reproduce consistently at a high level of quality. I enjoy experimenting, but perfecting certain ideas along the way is something I need to spend more time focusing on. I love working with clay and the endless possibilities it holds. 

Where else can people find your work?

  • Facebook
  • Other than the two annual shows put on by the Colorado Potters Guild I try to participate in a few local craft fairs throughout the year as well as trying to get into a few gallery shows. 

I publish interviews with artists whose primary medium is clay once a week, every Friday. This regular segment is named “Feature Fridays”. Find past interviews on the Ceramicscapes Blog using the category search function on the right hand sidebar. Interested in being featured? Visit the Apply for Feature Fridays page for more information.

Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters + Thoughts on Consignment

CeramicScapes - Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters for River North Workshop
CeramicScapes – Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters for River North Workshop (photo credit: River North Workshop)

Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters

I make private label stoneware planters for a local Colorado business, River North Workshop. What is private label? After making these planters, I stamp RNW on the bottom instead of my name. I also worked with the owner to develop a style and aesthetic, that is frankly very dissimilar to my more graphic work. The shape of the planter is one that I make for my own work, but the more minimal glaze and effect is something that I agreed to do just for RNW.

River North Workshop

River North Workshop is located in the RiNo, or River North Art District in Denver, CO. For those of you that may be unfamiliar with Denver, it’s an industrial area that is undergoing massive redevelopment north of downtown.

If you’re in Denver, check out the shop – it is a really thoughtfully curated, independently owned homewares shop. River North Workshop also hosts fun one day classes – check out Dabble Denver for offerings.

I recently received a purchase order for more planters and decided to bust these out this week so that I can deliver them this Saturday before summer really kicks off.

How I Make Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters

When working on a wholesale order, I know that I need to make sure that all my deliverables are the same or similar size. Basically, I need to make sure that they’re consistent. I’ve worked out a system, where I know how much clay I need and then use calipers and a ruler to ensure that they’re similar. Obviously with handmade objects, there will be variation. I also always make a few extra just in case something happens during the firing process.

The following is a pictorial synopsis of my process.

CeramicScapes - Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Brown Stoneware Clay
CeramicScapes – Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Brown Stoneware Clay

I measure out 1.75 pound balls of clay which I then wedge and form into balls.

CeramicScapes - Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Clay on the Wheel
CeramicScapes – Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Clay on the Wheel

I have found that it helps to use bats with inserts to throw and remove the planters once thrown.

CeramicScapes - Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Opening the Clay
CeramicScapes – Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Opening the Clay

After I “cone” the clay, I start opening the center.

CeramicScapes - Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Measuring the Base
CeramicScapes – Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Measuring the Base

After compressing the bottom of the planter, I use a caliper to make sure that I have the same size for the base of each planter.

CeramicScapes - Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Measuring the Opening
CeramicScapes – Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Measuring the Opening

I also use the calipers to measure the rim of the planter once I’ve pulled up the walls.

CeramicScapes - Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Measuring the Height
CeramicScapes – Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Measuring the Height

Finally, I check to make sure that the height of each planter is the same as the others. 

eramicScapes - Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Drying
eramicScapes – Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Drying

After removing the bat inserts with the planters, I let them dry until I can safely remove them with a wire cut off tool. I can typically remove the planters after about 4 hours or so.

CeramicScapes - Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Private Label for RNW
CeramicScapes – Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters Private Label for RNW

I clean up the bottoms and the edges and stamp RNW on the bottom of each planter.

CeramicScapes - Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters in the Kiln
CeramicScapes – Wheel Thrown Stoneware Planters in the Kiln

Once they’re bone dry, I bisque fire them in my kiln to cone 05. 

Tomorrow, after the kiln cools, I’ll glaze and fire the planters again. 

Thoughts on Consignment

Over the past year or so, I’ve slowly started to decline gallery invitations and am smarter about accepting new wholesale agreements. (Though…if it is a super star gallery, I might reconsider.) I want to remain true to my work and also not over promise what I can deliver. There is also a monetary consideration. Most galleries operate on a 50/50 split and do not pay the artist until the work is sold. What this means for many artists is that inventory is tied up with the potential for compensation at a later calendar date. 

I want to make it clear that I don’t begrudge galleries the commission split because I know that the owners have expenses such as rent, insurance, staff salaries, utilities, marketing and more. I do have a problem with consignment though. 

Consignment Conundrum

What other business model operates on consignment where a shop owner has free inventory (until sold)…besides an art gallery or consignment shop? I would wager that consignment shops don’t have consigners who are attempting to make a living. I do understand this model for higher end art work such as paintings and sculpture. It would be prohibitively expensive for a gallery to wholesale art work. But, for items like pottery, jewelry and similar fine crafts, I think that consignment is tricky.

I have worked with some really terrific gallery owners who are very conscientious and thoughtful. Again, I don’t have a problem with the commission split. At the same time, I understand why many artists agree to do consignment. Having a venue to sell one’s creative work is important, especially when first starting out. Also, having work in a number of galleries across a larger geographic area can expose one’s work to a larger audience.

Over the course of the last few years, I have made the decision to only wholesale or to sell my work myself in person or online. I just can’t make enough work to have it tied up somewhere where it isn’t earning an income for my family. 

Enter wholesale – which has a similar split as consignment agreements. I gladly agree to wholesale my work now because I get paid up front for work that I deliver to a shop or gallery. Once the work is in their hands, it’s theirs to do with it as the shop owner sees fit. This said, I’m very thankful for my relationship with River North Workshop and enjoy switching up the clay type in my studio for a few days.

 

100 Days of Patterns Late May Update

It’s been a busy month getting ready for two shows, doing the shows and then allowing myself to decompress. Through it all though, I’ve been keeping up with my 100 Days Project that I started on April 4, 2017.

Cindy Guajardo - 100 Days of Patterns Late May Update
Cindy Guajardo – 100 Days of Patterns Late May Update

100 Days of Patterns Late May Update

If you’re just finding this post, I’ll recap my project. For 100 days, I am basically making marks in black and white that I plan to translate to paper clay tiles. I decided to break up the 100 days into 20 day increments. Each 20 days, I concentrate on a different shape or mark. So far, I have done circles, lines and now I’m working on triangles.

Some of the shapes definitely cross over – especially lines. When I was working on lines, it became apparent that lines can make shapes too. See below.

Cindy Guajardo - 100 Days of Pattern 38
Cindy Guajardo – 100 Days of Pattern 38

Here are a few of my favorite triangle drawings

Cindy Guajardo - 100 Days of Pattern 50
Cindy Guajardo – 100 Days of Pattern 50
Cindy Guajardo - 100 Days of Pattern 49
Cindy Guajardo – 100 Days of Pattern 49
Cindy Guajardo - 100 Days of Pattern 48
Cindy Guajardo – 100 Days of Pattern 48
Cindy Guajardo - 100 Days of Pattern 46
Cindy Guajardo – 100 Days of Pattern 46
Cindy Guajardo - 100 Days of Pattern 44
Cindy Guajardo – 100 Days of Pattern 44

It seems like a really simple exercise, and at the same time, it’s challenging to draw the same thing differently for 20 days straight. Some drawings definitely inform new ones. For example, the chevron pattern (drawing 49) evolved from the small triangles (drawing 44). And then the line work in drawing 50 is a direct result of mapping out the chevron pattern.

I’m not quite sure what my next 20 days should be, but I am hoping that inspiration strikes in the next week. 🙂


Next Event

On June 17th, I’ll be doing an in store pop up shop at the West Elm in Cherry Creek.

Where & When: 
West Elm Cherry Creek
2955 E 1st Ave #101
Denver, CO 80206

June 17, 2017 – 12:00 – 4:00 PM 

Meet Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery

Today, I introduce the beautiful garden and fantasy themed pottery of Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery. Karrita lives and works in tropical Florida and is inspired by her love of gardening and literature.

Queen Bee PotteryMeet Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery

Hi, I’m Karrita Renzelmann, the maker behind Queen Bee Pottery.

Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery in her studio
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery in her studio

We have something in common. We both previously worked for United Airlines as flight attendants. My own clay journey is full of starts and pivots. How did you find clay and make the transition?

Cindy, I think that this is such an interesting coincidence that we both had long careers flying with United Airlines and both ended up working in pottery. I often miss flying to some unknown international city for a day or two of exploration, but probably wouldn’t have discovered clay if I were still flying.

Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery - Fairy House 2
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery – Fairy House 2

I found clay when my husband surprised me with a pottery wheel for my birthday in 2006. I had recently resigned from flying and now had the ability to be home consistently and take a weekly class in ceramics & pottery at the local community college. It was love at first touch!

Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery - Mug
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery – Mug

I’m always interested in how people name their creative businesses and I love the name of your’s, Queen Bee Pottery! How did you settle on a name for your pottery?

I have a deep connection to nature, gardening and femininity. I thought that the name ‘Queen Bee Pottery’ combined those pieces of me well and also had a memorable ring to it. Although, I did question the common connotation of what a ‘Queen Bee’ can be thought of in our society. I chose to go with it and let my work convey what Queen Bee Pottery means to me.

Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery - Bird Houses
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery – Bird Houses

Your work has a really strong theme – everything to do with the garden. This must really help you organize the items that you make. Can you explain how your garden and love of plants influences your work?

Plants, nature and blooming flowers are what visually bring me the most comfort and wonder in life, and I somehow hope to convey a bit of those feelings in what I create with clay. We have the toads in the garden, so we need a toad abode, then we have the flower fairy spirits in the blossoms, so of course, we need a few fairy houses and then there’s the birds, and the lizards, and it goes on and on with all the inspiration to be found in a garden.

Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery - Toad Abode
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery – Toad Abode
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery - Fairy House
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery – Fairy House

When my daughter was younger, we loved making fairy houses in our garden after reading several books about garden fairies at our local library. We would also construct them at nearby parks out of found materials. You make delightful ceramic fairy houses that are becoming collector items for your fans. How and why did you start delving into fantasy?

I think my curiosity and imagination were piqued by fantasy as a child, starting with classic fairy tales, flower fairy images for the alphabet created by Cicely M Barker, and continuing with books in the science fiction and magical realism genres…I’m still a sucker to this day for anything by Alice Hoffman or Marion Zimmer Bradley. The love of magical realism meets the love of nature when I see flowers blooming and imagine Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words “Earth Laughs in Flowers.” Sounds a bit saccharine, but really is true for me.

Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery - Fairy House Detail
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery – Fairy House Detail

I bet you remember the excitement your daughter had about fairies and creating spaces for them…there’s something magical about a child’s unquestioning belief. I recently made a fairy house for my 4 nieces and threw them a fairy garden making party…their glee, curiosity and belief were priceless to witness and be a part of!

Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery - Clay Sprigs
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery – Clay Sprigs

You have a second successful Etsy Shop where you sell bisque clay sprig molds, clay texture rollers and press molds. Why did you decide to dip your toes into the ceramic supply realm?

I took a bas-relief tile making workshop given by an amazing potter named, Jan Kolenda. I used the skills learned from that workshop to start making ceramic sprigs for my own work and then realized that I had a product to offer to the clay community that no one else was offering at the time. The bonus part for me is that sales of the bisque sprigs can support purchasing all the clay and glaze I needed for the Queen Bee Pottery business.

Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery - Berry Bowl Colander
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery – Berry Bowl Colander

Do you sell any of the sprigs that you use in your own work in your supply shop? If so, are you worried that others will try to replicate your style?

I don’t offer sprig molds in the ClayStamps.etsy.com shop that I use in my own work. They say, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. Sometimes I have wondered with mild irritation why someone would copy, but now I try to look at it as just sharing inspiration.

People have reached out from across the world to show me photos of their work, modeled from mine, who were just plain excited to have been inspired from my work and share that with me. There’s something special about that kind of invisible interchange. We have no control over what others will do and in the end, the feeling and vibe in one’s work really can’t be replicated.

Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery - Berry Bowl
Karrita Renzelmann of Queen Bee Pottery – Berry Bowl

What do you do for fun outside of pottery?

I love to garden, be in nature, eat incredible food, play games (Scrabble & Backgammon) and spend time with my closest friends. Also, I travel occasionally…I’ve recently fallen in love with the hot springs found in Costa Rica near the Arenal Volcano. Hot springs in the middle of a lush, tropical setting…pure bliss for me! I’m going back in a few months to celebrate a milestone birthday!

Where can people find you? 

Etsy Shop: QueenBeePottery.com
Instagram: instagram.com/QueenBeePottery @queenbeepottery
Facebook: facebook.com/QueenBeePottery
Pinterest: pinterest.com/QueenBeePottery
Etsy Supply Shop: ClayStamps.etsy.com


I publish interviews with artists whose primary medium is clay once a week, every Friday. This regular segment is named “Feature Fridays”. Find past interviews on the Ceramicscapes Blog using the category search function on the right hand sidebar. Interested in being featured? Visit the Apply for Feature Fridays page for more information.

Solving Glaze Settling with Epsom Salt Solution

Last week, I decided to make some of my tried and true ceramic glazes for a firing that I had planned. I typically add about a 1/4 cup of a dissolved epsom salt solution to a 5,000 gram bucket of new glaze to flocculate it. 

This keeps the glaze in suspension and also aids problem settling or “hard panning” of glaze chemicals which makes it easier to stir and use again at a later date. After I made my glaze, I realized that I had used up my dissolved epsom salt solution and needed to make more. 

Solving Glaze Settling with Epsom Salt Solution
Solving Glaze Settling with Epsom Salt Solution

The only problem is that I couldn’t quite remember the recipe or ratio of epsom salts to water. Google to the rescue!

Solving Glaze Settling with Epsom Salt Solution Recipe

The container that keep my epsom salt solution in holds 32 ounces of water. You would need to adjust your recipe depending on how much you need or the size of container that you will be using to store it.

  • Heat 32 ounces of water and add to mixing bowl.
  • Add 1/4 cup of epsom salts at a time to the water and stir to dissolve. 
  • When the epsom salts do not dissolve anymore, you will have your solution.

In my case, it worked out to about 2 cups of epsom salts to 32 ounces of water. 

Although, after watching John Britt’s YouTube video, I should probably be adding a bentonite solution first  before deciding whether I need epsom salt as well. His bentonite recipe is 2 tbsp bentonite to 1 cup of water which can then be added to the glaze at 1 tbsp increments.

Here is another great video where John Britt describes the difference between flocculated and deflocculated glazes, why it happens and what to do about it.


Spring Horseshoe Market Wrap-up

On Saturday, I participated in the Spring Horseshoe Market in Denver. My friend Sarah and I shared a booth because we had both just finished the Colorado Potters Guild Show the weekend prior. Needless to say, individually, we had low inventory thanks to the back to back sales. But, by sharing a booth, we were able to fill up the space nicely. Also, we saved a little bit of money sharing a booth – the cost to share a booth as a vendor is $100 each as of spring 2017. The price to reserve an single booth is $150.

Spring Horseshoe Market Wrap-up

Spring Horseshoe Market Wrap-Up - Me (on left) and Sarah Christensen
Spring Horseshoe Market Wrap-Up – Me (on left) and Sarah Christensen

Unlike the Colorado Potters Guild Sale where everyone’s work is all mixed up, we decided to split the booth in half. In the photo above, I took the left hand side, Sarah took the right hand side. While our work is different from each other’s, it complemented and did not compete the other’s. Our booth was sandwiched between an active wear clothier and a personal care product business.

The organizers of the Horseshoe Market do an amazing job curating the event to make sure that there is not too much of any one kind of product and that the indie artisans are interesting for shoppers. Load in and out is very well organized which takes a lot of the guess work and chaos out of set up and break down.

Crowds and Sales

I had really low expectations sales wise at the Spring Horseshoe Market since I had just participated in the Colorado Potters Guild Sale and didn’t have a ton of inventory. 

CeramicScapes - Wall Pods and New Ceramic Wall Hangings
CeramicScapes – Wall Pods and New Ceramic Wall Hangings

I suppose it’s always good to exceed expectations, because that is exactly what happened. There were steady crowds throughout the day which tapered around 2:30/3:00 pm or so. The crowd was very diverse in age, gender and family status. As a vendor, I always love people watching and also interacting with everyone who wanders into my booth. 

Of course there were lots of dogs in attendance. As a side note, I wish I had taken some photos of all the 4 and in some cases, 3 legged creatures who found refuge from the sun in our booth. I recently started following Dogspotting on Facebook and scroll through the photos when I need a pick me up. I could have contributed so many photos of doggos and puppers this weekend. 🙂

The Weather

Unlike the past couple of Spring Horseshoe Markets where the weather has been iffy, we enjoyed beautiful sunny skies and warm temps this weekend. In fact, it was almost too hot, but I’ll take that over the rain and hail that Denver experienced earlier in the week. Note to self – don’t forget hat, spf 60 and more water than you think you can drink. The market is in the parking lot of a funeral home. Asphalt gets really warm as soon as the sun starts beating down. 

CeramicScapes - Spring Horseshoe Market Booth Set Up
CeramicScapes – Spring Horseshoe Market Booth Set Up

Booth Set Up

I used my new collapsible shelves that my father in law made for me at this show. All I can say, is thank you best FIL in the world! The shelves work well and when they’re broken down, take up very little space in my car. Since I shared space this time, I had to fit all of my work on one side. I’ll be participating in the Summer Horseshoe Market on July 8th, so I will be able to spread out my work.  I plan on making an L with my two 6′ long tables on the right, leaving the lattice on a dedicated wall for my hanging work. I might also debut some of my sketches at the next market.  

That’s it for today…I took yesterday (Mother’s Day) off and today, this blog post is my big task. I’m going to the movies this afternoon with my daughter who is home from college for the summer.

 

Meet Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery

Jackson Gray is the creative force behind her business she has cleverly named Jackpots Pottery. While Jackson utilizes a variety of techniques to decorate her ceramic work, I just love her sgraffito tiles and I think you will too.

Jackson Gray - JackPots Pottery
Jackson Gray – Jackpots Pottery

Please Introduce Yourself:

Hi, I’m Jackson Gray, a studio potter from San Diego, CA. My pottery business is called Jackpots Pottery.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery Working in Her Studio
Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery Working in Her Studio

How did your clay journey begin?

I came to clay after years of thinking I had no artistic talent (thanks to a high school art teacher’s advice to stick with math). While hiking one day, I fell into step with an acquaintance who asked me what I would do if I didn’t have to work for a living. I told him I had always wanted to throw clay on a pottery wheel. I swear I didn’t know that he manufactured potters wheels for a living. Long story short, I have been working with clay since that day in 1992. I learned mostly from community college classes and by taking workshops in San Diego and around the U.S.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - Sgraffito Platter Based on a Photo of a Heron Rookery Jackson's Husband Took
Jackson Gray of Jackpots Pottery – Sgraffito Platter Based on a Photo of a Heron Rookery Jackson’s Husband Took

You employ a number of surface decoration techniques including adding texture using printmaking techniques, slip inlay and sgraffito. I am particularly drawn to your sgraffito work – your tiles are fabulous! Why not concentrate on one technique or style?

Thank you, I love the sgraffito too, but it is really hard on my body. I have carpel tunnel, but have the issue under control by using a wrist brace and taking frequent breaks. This is not to say that I would do only sgraffito if my wrist would allow it.

I’m a bit crazy when it comes to texture and am always looking for something new. One thing I do is carve lino mats to use as a template. I realize having one cohesive look would be more “professional” looking, but when I have just shown the sgraffito work at craft fairs, I couldn’t cover my expenses. My booth was gorgeous but people weren’t spending their money there.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - Booth at Craneway Winter Crafts Show 2016
Jackson Gray of Jackpots Pottery – Booth at Craneway Winter Crafts Show 2016

Your sgraffito tiles have a narrative quality to them. What is your inspiration or where do you find your subject matter for your tiles?

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - Surfer Girl Sgraffito Tile
Jackson Gray of Jackpots Pottery – Surfer Girl Sgraffito Tile

My first tiles were surfers or flowers. My son surfs and I live by the beach. Also,  I love tropical flowers, but inspiration can come from anywhere. I attended a lecture by Hawaiian bird photographer, Jack Jeffrey and was inspired to carve one of his photos of an I’iwi, which is where I started adding a bit of color to my sgraffito. It seemed necessary on that bird.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - I'iwi Sgraffito Tile
Jackson Gray of Jackpots Pottery – I’iwi Sgraffito Tile

Another time, a friend got a new dog and I had to carve it – which has led to an interesting custom option, I’ll make a tile of your pet from a photo. I recently sent tiles to a gallery that is having an exhibit entitled “Homage to the Ranches” – the night I saw the title, I lay in bed, pre-sleep with a busy mind – and an old 1950- something pick-up truck popped into my head as a “ranch truck”, which then led me to the internet to see what those lines actually look like.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - '50's Pickup Truck Tile
Jackson Gray of Jackpots Pottery – ’50’s Pickup Truck Tile

I personally love hand-building with slabs of clay, though I throw occasionally. Are you primarily a hand-builder? Why? 

I am primarily a hand-builder. I have a wheel and am an OK thrower, but I never became really good at throwing. When I try to make a set of something the same size, I just have much more luck if I start with a template – and then there’s that texture thing. It can be so crisp when put on a slab.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - Carving a Linoleum Mat
Jackson Gray of Jackpots Pottery – Carving a Linoleum Mat

Can we talk about your wholesale business? I noticed that you are a member of indieMe.com which is formerly wholesalecrafts.com. How do you balance the retail and wholesale side of your pottery business? 

I only have the framed tiles on IndieMe.com right now. Quite frankly, I haven’t done much there, so balancing isn’t difficult. I probably should do more to promote that side of business. I spend a lot of time with my Etsy site.

You will be teaching a weeklong workshop this summer at the Mendocino Art Center in Northern California called, “Patterns, Seams and Darts: Sewing Up Pots With Personality. Did you apply to teach, did the art center reach out to you, or how did you find the opportunity to teach at such a wonderful place?

I applied to and was fortunate to be accepted to sell at the American Craft Council Show in San Francisco in 2016. Evan Hobart, the program director from the Mendocino Art Center, was in attendance promoting their summer workshops. He saw my work and asked if I would like to teach a sgraffito workshop – which I did last summer.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - Darted Tripod Textured Mugs
Jackson Gray of Jackpots Pottery – Darted Tripod Textured Mugs

A few days into the sgraffito workshop, I showed the class how to make a tri-foot mug. Evan loved it and asked if I’d like to come back this summer for a longer class and teach hand-building. It feels pretty special to me since the first workshop I ever travelled to attend was in Mendocino, so I’ve circled back to the beginning.

Where do you primarily show and sell your work? Craft Shows, galleries, online?

Before this year, I would say most of my sales were at weekend craft shows, I did quite a lot of them. In 2015 I think I did 15 or 16, which feels like a lot to me. But, my Etsy shop has started doing better which makes the idea of all that packing & unpacking, schlepping and setting up the booth seem like so much more work…I am at retirement age, after all.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - Water Color of Husband Taking Photographs
Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery – Jackson’s Husband Taking Photographs

Who or what inspires you? 

Nature…birds, rocks, trees, the clay itself, other potters and their enthusiasm, my husband and his love for the outdoors – which motivates me to get out and experience nature.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - Big Horn Sheep Inspiration
Jackson Gray of Jackpots Pottery – Big Horn Sheep Inspiration
Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - Big Horn Sheep Sgraffito Tile
Jackson Gray of Jackpots Pottery – Big Horn Sheep Sgraffito Tile

What do you do for fun outside of pottery?

Hahaha, see the previous question. We’ve always camped – roll out a pad and a sleeping bag on the ground. If the weather permits, we skip the tent. But as I mentioned earlier, we are getting older and bought a camper last summer. We are planning several trips this summer. After the Mendocino workshop, we’ll continue on to Oregon for the solar eclipse and a gathering of muddy friends from the EtsyMudTeam.

We also like to hike and cross-country ski. Although a shoulder injury has kept me away, but I’ve been repaired and look forward to next season.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - Manta Ray Inspiration
Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery – Manta Ray Inspiration

Snorkeling – In September I had a blast swimming with manta rays on a night snorkel in Hawaii and a few days later, dolphins joined us

We also love to travel and have been lucky enough to visit several countries.

I’m pretty involved with 2 of my grandkids who live nearby – unfortunately the others (we have 8 total) are not close.

Jackson Gray of JackPots Pottery - Ava Makes a Mug
Jackson Gray of Jackpots Pottery – Ava Makes a Mug

I read mysteries, watch way too much television, listen to music and NPR, and humor my cats

Where can people find you? 

Online:

Wholesale:

  • indieMe.com – I’m artist #26526 and if a visitor password is needed, use JaxPots

In Person:

Upcoming events:

The workshop that I am teaching at Mendocino on August 14–18, 2017 is all I have scheduled this year since my husband will be retiring soon. We plan to explore this country a bit, but here is the link to register for the workshop: http://www.mendocinoartcenter.org/Summer17/Gray.html


I publish interviews with artists whose primary medium is clay once a week, every Friday. This regular segment is named “Feature Fridays”. Find past interviews on the Ceramicscapes Blog using the category search function on the right hand sidebar. Interested in being featured? Visit the Apply for Feature Fridays page for more information.

CeramicScapes Will Be At The Spring Horseshoe Market

I’m still recovering from last weekend’s three day spring Colorado Potter’s Guild Sale. It’s like having a hangover, if one can actually over indulge in pottery. But, there is no rest for me this week because I’ve been getting ready for this weekend’s Spring Horseshoe Market which takes place on Saturday, May 13, 2017 from 9am – 4pm. This event is outdoors and luckily, good weather is in the forecast.

ceramicscapes Will Be At The Spring Horseshoe Market

Spring Horseshoe Market 2017
Spring Horseshoe Market 2017 Poster

I really enjoy participating in one day market events and I especially like the way Horseshoe is curated and organized. There will be over 120 vendors including me and my booth mate, Sarah Christensen Ceramics. Sarah is also a member of the Colorado Potter’s Guild

CeramicScapes - Ceramic Macrame Wall Hanging Test
CeramicScapes – Ceramic Macrame Wall Hanging Prototype

What am I bringing?

In some ways, I will have completely different work than what I brought to sell at the Colorado Potters Sale last weekend. I’m going to have new ceramic/macrame hanging wall art work, 6 hanging planters, wall planter pods, a handful of mugs, and various sizes of dishes (ring – platter sized).

The finished ceramic macrame wall hanging above is the first one that I made and it sold at the Colorado Potters Guild. I just fired my kiln yesterday and have 5 more. (see above) My kiln is still just a little too hot to unload right now, but fingers crossed, they all survived. 

CeramicScapes - Large Wall Planter
CeramicScapes – Large Wall Planter

Larger Wall Planters

Also, I made three larger wall planters as a prototype for a client who is interested in replacing some that she purchased elsewhere that cracked over the winter. In the end, the ones I made are not large enough. Mine are approximately 9″ wide. I took a photo of a standard wall pod next to it for scale comparison.

Horseshoe Market Swag Bags

At every market, the organizers of the Horseshoe Market give away “swag bags” to the first 50 customers in line to get into the market. The bag itself is screen printed with the market logo and can be reused as a market or grocery bag. The bags are filled with goodies that vendors donate. I am donating 50 ceramic heart gift tags. 

CeramicScapes - Ceramic Gift Tags For Swag Bags
CeramicScapes – Ceramic Gift Tags For Swag Bags

They’re easy to make and it takes an extra couple of hours out of my making cycle to finish. I do it for the good will and the hope that at least 50 people will be curious enough to check my booth out. 🙂

That’s it for today. On Friday, I will be sharing the ceramic work of Jackson Gray who hails from San Diego, CA.

Ceramic Bird Totems + Thank you for coming out to the Colorado Potter’s Sale!

First, I want to thank everyone who visited the Colorado Potters Guild Show this past weekend! I am so humbled and honored at how well my new ceramic bird totem sculptures were received and am pleased that all but 1 of my sculptures sold.

Thank you for coming out to the Colorado Potter's Sale!

Ceramic Bird Totems

As prototypes, I made 2 larger stacked ceramic totems that featured a bird on the very top. Unfortunately, I only have a photograph of one of them. I do have some rough photos of the work in progress that I can use for future iterations.

CeramicScapes Large Ceramic Bird Totem
CeramicScapes Large Ceramic Bird Totem – Roughly 2 Feet High

My thought in making these stacked sculptures is two fold. I am interested in sculptural art work and other than the ceramic wall pod installations that I have made in the past, I’ve never made sculpture. I didn’t know if I have the capacity, interest or even the market for the work.

CeramicScapes Ceramic Bird Totems
CeramicScapes Ceramic Bird Totems – The Smaller Ones Are About 8″ High

Amazingly, I have the interest and the market! I am pleasantly surprised at people’s reception. It’s affirming and wonderful to know that people really like the new work. I’m happy to say that I had one of my best shows ever in terms of comments and sales. It’s enough to keep me going! 

CeramicScapes Small Ceramic Bird Totem
CeramicScapes Small Ceramic Bird Totem

Ceramic Garden Stakes

8 ceramic birds that I envisioned as garden stakes also made their appearance at the potters guild show. I will be making more sculptural work for the garden in the near future, including totem stacks. I sold all 8 garden stakes by the morning of the second day of the Colorado Potter’s Guild show. Displaying them required a bit of on the fly thinking. I lugged a terra-cotta pot filled with Mexican beach pebbles to Denver that I picked up at a local hardware store to use for the display.

Ceramic Bird Garden Stakes - Display
Ceramic Bird Garden Stakes – Display

My rigged display is pretty heavy, but it works to hold the garden stakes in place.

Spring Horseshoe Market

In the meantime, I need to finish decorating some greenware today that I plan on bisque firing tomorrow. I’m participating in a one day craft market this Saturday, May 13, 2017 in Denver, CO at 46th and Tennyson. If you’re in the metro area, please stop by and say hello!

I’ll be sharing a booth at the Horseshoe Market in Denver with Sarah Christensen Ceramics.

Olinger Moore Chapel
4345 West 46th Ave
Denver, CO 80212

9:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Meet Noelle Horsfield of Full Circle Ceramic

Noelle Horsfield owns and operates Full Circle Ceramic, a handmade ceramic studio and shop located in Huntington, WV.  Full Circle Ceramic is a community clay studio where Noelle teaches classes and produces a full line of functional ceramic wares and gift items. Noelle decorates her work with distinct illustrations with a refreshing edginess that amuse and delight customers from across the country.

Noelle Horsfield - Full Circle Ceramic
Noelle Horsfield – Full Circle Ceramic

Please Introduce Yourself:

Hi there, everyone! My name is Noelle Horsfield and I own and operate Full Circle Ceramic in Huntington, WV.

Noelle Horsfield of Full Circle Ceramic
Noelle Horsfield of Full Circle Ceramic

How did your clay journey begin?

I was a painting major in college. I’m actually still just a few credits shy of a degree. Imagery, language, form and the different processes of creating art has always interested me and I played around with a bunch of different mediums until I finally found my way to ceramics.

I think this period of exploration was necessary in order for me to develop a studio practice that is uniquely my own; it was a gathering up of skills that I then turned into my own way of working. As soon as I put my hands in clay, I knew I had finally found the right medium for me…there is no getting bored with ceramics as there is always a new challenge or problem to solve.

""</a

I “met” you back in the blogging heydays around 2008. If I remember correctly, you were living in Maine at the time and were a resident artist at Watershed. At the time, your work was so different than its current incarnation. Can you pin point the stylistic shift?

I don’t know and I go back and forth on how different the work actually is at the core. Back then I was working in earthenware and making big chunky forms that had a lot of sculptural additions with all the color in my work coming from slips that I mixed myself. It was very sweet, and, for lack of a better word, whimsical in nature.

Noelle Horsfield - Earthenware Work
Noelle Horsfield – Earthenware Work circa Watershed days

The technical aspects of my work have definitely changed drastically as I have been working in cone 6 porcelain and white stoneware for the past 4 years. Mishima and sgraffito processes form the decorative and illustrative aspects of the work. However, I feel like the playfulness and sweetness is still present in the work. It’s balanced with a dose of profanity or maybe some of the darker parts of my nature. Maybe the earlier work just seemed a bit too one sided and I needed to inject the work with some reality…bringing a little weird to the party never hurt anyone.

Noelle Horsfield - Stay Weird Plate
Noelle Horsfield – Stay Weird Plate

Speaking of blogging, do you still have your old blog and website? I can’t find it anywhere on the interwebs. Do you think blogging is still relevant?

I wish I still had the old blog if only to go back and read my thoughts from my time at Watershed! I’m not sure how interested anyone was in my day to day blog posts back then but I felt like I was offering a unique look inside, spending time at an artistic residency retreat like Watershed.  That other artists seemed to gain some insight into that experience through my posts made me happy.

The decision to stop blogging is really just due to time constraints as well as the idea that Instagram and Facebook allow for a fast and easy way to connect with my customers and audience in a very visual way. I do think longer form blogging still has a place in the online community but I think the writing needs to be really smart and thoughtful. Posts should be heavy on photographs, and be regular and dependable. These are all things that I feel like I just don’t have time to commit to right now.

Noelle Horsfield - Cut Paper Art
Noelle Horsfield – Cut Paper Art

For a time, it appeared that you stopped creating with clay and had switched to the art of paper cutting. As someone who is interested in many art forms myself, it’s a direction I understand well. Can you elaborate on your creative detour?

After living in Maine where I had freedom to create ceramic work in my home studio, at Watershed, or in the studios at Portland Pottery, my husband and I moved to Massachusetts where I found myself without access to a ceramic studio at all. While I love ceramics and the process of working in clay, I am a maker at heart and I needed to have the ability to make something. Cut paper collage is a medium that I worked with a bit in college so I returned to this art form as a way to fulfill myself artistically. 

I feel like I made a lot of nice work and even had a couple of solo shows in Northampton, MA. Greeting cards made from my original collages are available in my shop in Huntington. It is interesting to see people enjoying this work alongside my current ceramic pieces.

Noelle Horsfield - Carpe Diem Platter
Noelle Horsfield – Carpe Diem Platter

In my opinion, the art of swearing isn’t appreciated enough. For this reason, I love how you’ve embraced adding a well placed curse word in your current clay work. It’s just the sort of levity that is desperately needed today. I also love the irony of using profanity on ceramics, an art that has a history of being a “keepsake” or special occasion item. Having one of your platters reveal itself on a holiday table would have been so interesting when I was younger…. Can you speak to your use of salty language in your clay work?

My first sentence as a baby was “I’m a damn fine baby!” My grandfather taught me to say this as a kind of parlor trick…it was a hit and I think it just stuck with me. I began putting profanity on ceramics about 3 or 4 years ago now and people just really seem to have fun with it and appreciate the honesty and humor that goes into the work. Sometimes the work might get a little bit confrontational but I mostly try to stick with what I like to call “positive profanity.”

Noelle Horsfield - Don't Be A Dick Plate
Noelle Horsfield – Don’t Be A Dick Plate

I don’t normally make things that say “fuck you” and even my biggest seller, which is “fuck that shit” is intended to mean “fuck all that shit that brings you down or makes you feel less than enough or feels like too much for you to bear.” Balancing the profanity with sweet animals, some floral designs or anything that helps to lighten the tone of the piece is important. It makes the profanity a little easier to take. Everything has a particular role to play.

Noelle Horsfield - Weird and Wonderful West Virginia Platter
Noelle Horsfield – Weird and Wonderful West Virginia Platter

I’m curious about your new business, Full Circle Ceramic in Huntington, WV. It appears that you’ve moved your studio into a retail space and now offer classes as well as other types of products outside of ceramic work. To be honest, I’m a little jealous. What prompted this move and how is it working out for you?

Well, having a retail shop and a working studio in the same place is definitely a balancing act but it seems to be working for me thus far! Like most ceramic artists, I spent years working in a home studio and sending things out to galleries and shops with some online sales here and there. This is a fine business  model and it works great for some people but I was left feeling very alone and isolated in my studio.

I craved interaction with my customers and I really needed to be able to have more of a work/life balance. If I  stepped out of the studio to let the dogs out, before I knew it I would be caught up in household chores and hours had passed away from the studio. The idea of a shop where I could both create and sell my work has been on mind for a long time. When the opportunity to lease a space in an old train station complex in Huntington presented itself last spring and I jumped on it.

Full Circle Ceramic Studio and Gallery
Full Circle Ceramic Studio and Gallery

Full Circle Ceramic Studio and Gallery

We opened in June 2016 and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I sell my finished work, t-shirts and stickers with my own designs, some jewelry, my Dad’s original stained glass art, and the work of a few other local ceramic artists as well as taking custom orders in the shop. The floor space is about 1/3 retail selling space and 2/3 work space. So, I am able to work in the studio and talk to customers at the same time, stopping when necessary to run the cash register or meet with customers for more in depth consultations.

I was a little concerned about the local reaction to the profanity and edgy nature of my work but people have been really kind and welcoming and most people just really get a kick out of it. It’s so fun seeing customers come in and interact with the pieces in the shop. You don’t get this experience when you just box things up and shop them off to a gallery. And, let’s be honest, it’s fucking awesome to get full price for a piece rather than giving half of it to a gallery right off the top!

Can we talk about your tattoos? I love yours! I understand that tattoos are often very personal. From the outside looking in, yours remind me of your ceramic work. Is there a correlation?

Noelle Horsfield - In the Studio Carving a Plate
Noelle Horsfield – In the Studio Carving a Plate

Thank you so much! I think my tattoos bring to mind my ceramic work because both my tattoos and my pottery reflect my personal design aesthetic. There isn’t much difference between my life and my work so everything tends to swirl around and it just becomes a way of life. My tattoos are both a form of self expression and a way of collecting artwork.

The tattoo artist has a general idea of what I would like for a particular tattoo and where I would like to see it on my body and then I allow them the freedom to create something beautiful for me. I have never been disappointed with what they come up with and I know that I do my best custom work when I am afforded this same freedom by my own customers.

Noelle Horsfield - Love Trumps Hate Platter
Noelle Horsfield – Love Trumps Hate Platter

Who or what inspires you?

My inspiration sources are pretty varied and I try to always stay open to new patterns, colors, thoughts and ideas. I have always been a big reader and I listen to audiobooks as much as possible when I’m working in the studio so I get a ton of inspiration from words and stories that find their way into my head. I also collect little snippets of quotes and ideas from NPR and the podcasts I listen to. Some health problems have plagued me and Frida Kahlo has become a sort of personal inspiration and patron saint of mine as well. I also LOVE folk art and outsider art from Appalachia and around the world.

Noelle Horsfield - Sometimes You Need Some Crazy Platter
Noelle Horsfield – Sometimes You Need Some Crazy Platter

What do you do for fun outside of pottery?

My husband and I have 4 dogs and 2 cats and taking care of these guys is a big part of our lives. We live near a beautiful park and walk our greyhound Betty there every evening. However, since opening the shop last summer, the line between work and play for me is pretty blurry. This is fine because I would rather be in the studio with my hands in clay than almost anywhere else in the world.

Where can people find you?

Upcoming events:

I mostly stick to the smaller local festivals and events. The shop takes so much time and I often have trouble making enough work to keep up with stocking the shelves, custom orders and wholesale accounts. If you’re in the Huntington, WV area you can find me at:

I would also like to give a shout out to a few shops that carry my work:


I publish interviews with artists whose primary medium is clay once a week, every Friday. This regular segment is named “Feature Fridays”. Find past interviews on the Ceramicscapes Blog using the category search function on the right hand sidebar. Interested in being featured? Visit the Apply for Feature Fridays page for more information.