Meet a Potter

There are so many potters working at CAW, we’re never able to meet them all !  Some are only day potters, some only “throw” after dark. Some only do clay on weekdays, some only weekends. It’s little wonder we don’t get to know one another. We do see everyone’s work on the shelves, coming out of the kilns, and in the ware cage…..and can only wonder, “Who made that piece ?“,  and  “What glaze is that ?

This page hopes to change all that. We’re going to interview a CAW potter every so often, and post it here so that we can start developing connections, and all get to know one another better. If you’d like to take part, email us at cawstudiopotters@gmail.com OR post a comment at the bottom of this page, and we’ll contact you.

If you prefer to navigate directly, you can click on one of the names below and jump right to that interview, or you can just scroll down through !

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First, let’s meet Julius Rubin.

Julius Rubin now works exclusively in porcelain.

People have been seeing Julius around the studio for a long time. He’s actually been potting at CAW since 1981, that’s 30 years and counting !  Early on, he began study with Adele Firshein and Ellen Jacobson, while more recently he continued with Stephen Rodriguez, who he considers a master of porcelain. These days Julius generally just registers for one of the Open Studio courses because they offer him more schedule flexibility along with lower tuition.

Here’s Julius just finishing a perfect 15 inch diameter porcelain bowl. He prefers porcelain because many of our glazes work so well over the pure white background. He specifically pointed out good results with our blues, reds, and Ben’s Amber, which he considers gorgeous on porcelain.  You may notice his large porcelain platters in the kiln room now and then; they’re the one’s glazed with a dynamic, randomized brushing/dripping effect reminiscent of Jackson Pollock (more on that below). His ware often is donated to charities, such as bowl-a-thon; used at home; or offered as gifts within a circle of close friends, associates, and relatives.

Julius prefers using the studio’s Brent wheels for their slightly larger head and more sensitive speed control. He believes they’re also easier to clean. He likes to throw all his work on a bat for stability, actually he uses his own wooden bats treated with a marine polyurethane so they don’t warp. Another benefit is that he avoids contamination with other studio clays. 

With this recent eleven inch dia porcelain bowl, Julius displays our studio Copper Red glaze in combination with Opalescense, which can yeild  stunning blue/white highlights over a brilliant red background. Copper Red glazes (developed by the Chinese about 1000 years ago) have been treasured over the centuries for their rarity and beauty. Where thin, Julius points out they can also break to pink (when used over a white clay body). He also cautions that they are runny, so users should be very careful about applications on an outside surface. For instance, notice how much the color has run (or flowed away) from the rim, exposing the porcelain white body beneath. You’ll notice the same effect on the rims of most modern and ancient copper red ware.

Julius makes a greenware slip for his splatter designs by beginning with pure porcelain slurry (the clay and water mixture that is a byproduct of throwing on the wheel) and then forcing it through a sieve to eliminate lumps. His resulting mixture has the consistency of heavy cream. Next, he adds 4 tablespoons of dry Mason Stain as a colorant to each 8 ounces of the slurry, and mixes well. Mason designs a wide color range of reliable stains for high fire (cone 10) use; chick to view their palette here.

IMG_1007 IMG_1009Julius uses the stained slip to splatter onto a porcelain plate or bowl that serves as a canvas a la mode Jackson Pollock as mentioned earlier. All the decorative effects shown here are results of his splatter techniques, just different amounts of slip are loaded on different size brushes to get various effects. He splatters onto greenware, bisque fires the piece, and then covers in either transparent or our studio blue celadon glaze.

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August Warhall

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If you happen to stop by the studio during Teen Clay  ( Thursday’s, 5 to 7 pm )  you’ll quite probably see August Warhall. August was attracted to clay from an early age, starting with summer camps taught by Bob Parrott (former CAW pottery director) and Anita Griffith six years ago. She has continued study through the YP programs with Aleeza Nussbaum and Violet Harlow, and now regularly enrolls in Teen Clay .

August works in stoneware with forms influenced by her teachers, her family’s collection of ceramics, and her general observation of shape. She selects her glazes based on their surface effects and color mix, and likes to branch out into unusual combinations, lately including – glaze blends. While she’s developed dipping techniques that give her reliable contol over glaze results, she also likes to glaze ”outside the box”, accepting risks of the unknown, and embracing a wabi-sabi sort of approach to seek out chance possibilities.

She likes Shimpo wheels the best because of their precise control over speed and acceleration, factors critical for centering and throwing. As a tip for newer students, August was happy to recommend the rib tool, which is a favorite for shaping and smoothing thrown ware. It’s helped her create a body of functional work that includes bowls, mugs, and planters thrown over a range of scale, shape, and proportion. August also handbuilds, and the platter below nicely illustrates the sensitivity she brings to that aspect of the craft.

Platter, Stoneware, 13” l x 6 “ w x 2” h, Cone 10 , Reduction

Platter, Stoneware, 13” l x 6 “ w x 2” h, Cone 10 , Reduction

Multiple levels of balance, repetition of theme, and duality all play a role in how the viewer reacts to this piece. It’s formed from two equally-sized rectangular slabs – made with our studio Brent SR20 roller, set for a 3/16 inch wet thickness. One slab was slotted near the middle so that the two pieces could be progressively merged, curved, and overlaped during assembly, forming a slightly oval shape, the archetypal form of Baroque art. The short ends  sharply truncate, though, and with the irregular edges and rim, give the piece a contrasting modern counterpoint. Dualities in the shape continue into the glazing, with the left side dipped at a shallow angle in Randy’s Green over ¾ length; and then a symetrical dip from the other direction to create a partially overlapping layer of Audubon White.  This approach created a gently curving red oval juxtaposed with the shape oval; and blended the opposite light and dark zones of the platter onto a separate axis from the join line. Thus, the glazing reinforces themes created in the form, and unifies the piece with further levels of balance, duality, and shape. It’s an inspired piece, reserved to the most practical elements: without handles, rim mass, or adornment; its simplicity reflects a decidely asian – even Mingei – feel to her work.

August currently studies at the Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden, where she is considering a career in either graghic design or architecture. She has lived in the New Haven area for her entire life. 
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. . .Next, meet Rosemary McClain; Rosemary has been working at CAW for about three years now. She regularly enrolls in the Thursday morning terra cotta session taught by Anita Griffith. This is the only adult class at CAW that focuses on low-fire earthenware clay, although students are also welcome to use any of the studio clays available. Rosemary prefers terra cotta for hand-building and sculpture, some of which is pictured below.

The first piece is a mythical Aztec female, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAknown as a Protector of Animals. (Click on any figure to enlarge.)  She is tall, slender, and sensuous, sculpted in a skin-tight leopard dress with a long open front.  Her docile, seated leopard personifies the natural world, apparently both protected by and a protector of the goddess, loosely tethered with a chain. The piece is an impressive 16 inches tall, with a 10 inch base, and the chain has functionally independent terra cotta links. Rosemary finishes her pieces with terra sigillatas stained with a wide pallet of oxides, giving her an interesting range of color, and a satin finish without the use of glazes.  Rosemary begins her sculptures by making a scale drawing of the intended piece. This is used to refine the size, details, and proportions, and is later cut for use as a template. Then the clay is rolled out and cut to form front and rear halves for the piece, rough formed, and assembled leather hard.  

The pieces are hollow, newspaper being used for support where necessary to maintain geometry. Then the piece is detail sculpted to completion, brushed with the terra sigillatas, and fired to cone 05.

A second sculpture (shown adjacent) is of a serenely confident woman, a early 20th century dilettante, standing here in a peacock dress. Fourteen inches tall with a five inch base, she holds her head high with grace and attitude. The dress was inspired by Erte, the Russian-born fashion and stage designer.
She stands next to a small container making the piece functional in a number of different ways. 

A third piece is equally compelling in size and detail.
She is an Egyptian queen, composed in a dynamic graceful gesture, wearing a thin flowing gown embellished with gold. The piece stands 16 inches tall and 7 inches at the base, partially opening up for use as a container or possibly the spout of a fountain.These are three of a continuing sculpture series Rosemary intends to create, featuring strong, independent, feminine forms. Hopefully they’ll be displayed for all to appreciate in our pottery department shows for years to come. It’s an exotic, romantic body of work, showcasing Rosemary’s sculpting skills as well as her sensitivity for the lyrical in the human figure.
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..NR1 Another CAW potter is Nancy Restivo; Nancy’s life in clay began in the early ‘90s, when she first enrolled in classes at the Guilford Handcraft (Art) Center taught by Alice Chittenden. After moving to New Haven a short time later, she began working at the CAW pottery; and as time went on, she eventually decided to join the pottery coop in Erector Square with Heather Sancomb. Nancy is a graduate of Ball State University, receiving a Bachelors in Architecture; and from SCSU in New Haven, receiving her Art Education certificate in 2001. She’s also completed coursework toward an MFA at the University of Kentucky. Currently, Nancy’s back throwing clay at CAW, and also now teaches pottery in Guilford. She’s shown here (above right) throwing a wide-shouldered vase, one of a wide collection of shapes in her oeuvre. …..

Nancy RIn the adjacent scene, she’s applying a low-fire glaze to a set of bisqueware cups being made for her children.Nancy likes to work mostly in stoneware, but has explored earthenware forms earlier in her career. In particular, she studied ancient puebloan techniques using low-fire glazes to embellish her ware with anasazi animal forms. These were inspired by a pit-fire workshop she once took in Colorado.You’d run into Nancy at the Friday night Open Studio where she likes to work independently, her focus being to create simple functional pottery for the home. She finds the CAW house stoneware and reduction firings adequate for the forms she makes. Nancy likes using our Brent and Pacifica wheels best because they have an integral workbench and are easy to clean. .

Some of her current work is featured below: 

 .mail For instance, this is a 14 inch dia serving dish, which was designed with raised walls to allow alternate use as a bowl. It’s glazed in Turquoise, a modern high-fire, copper oxide glaze with origins dating back to primitive types used ~ 600 BCE for the bricks to the city of Babylon’s Ishtar gate. In our blend, thinner areas turn to browns and yellows while thicker areas shade to blue, creating beautiful overall effects.

mail-1  In another example of Nancy’s work, this eight inch closed form floral container is thrown with two principal profiles: one convex – raising from the relatively narrow foot to the mid-line; then one concave – proceeding from the mid-line to the mouth. Slight flares at both the rim and the foot give the piece a pleasing double “S” curvature.  It is glazed in our house Shino, a traditional Japanese glaze (originally developed circa 1600 CE),  to which Nancy has sprinkled wood ash highlights. .

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.Get to know Sarah Green !   ………………………… (Click on any photo to enlarge)

Sarah recently finishing an ovoid vase.

You could run into Sarah at the Wednesday night Pottery – All Levels session taught by Louise Harter, which she’s taken for a couple semesters now. It’s designed to be a flexible class focused on developing personal tableware. Pottery is a natural for Sarah, building on coursework she took at Southern Connecticut State University as a studio art major. She received her Bachelor’s in Studio Art in 2011. As a member of SCSU’s Honor College, she completed a thesis that included oil paintings focused on eating disorders, which received favorable reviews in the NH Register.

Breakfast Bowl; 4.5″ dia x 2″ height

Sarah believes pottery benefits from being a practical art you can use, as opposed to painting, for example, which is more visual and decorative. Pictured to the right are some impressive examples of what she means, starting with this perfectly balanced, tapered stoneware bowl – sized just right for her yogurt & granola breakfast. It’s glazed in Bernard Leach’s renowned Celedon, the warm traditional “iron green” published in his 1940 classic: A Potter’s Book, applied over porcelain slip – except at the rim. 

Concave Form; 2.5″ dia x 4″ h

Sarah’s passion for functionally driven art has also led to the concave vertical form shown here. Having asian influences in its irregular rim, celedon body, and blushes of “copper red”, it shows an ability to merge elements of both eastern and western cultures.  Notice her pieces sit very low; that’s because Sarah strictly limits her foot ring depth – to the point of essentially flat bottoms. In continuing to celebrate the asymetric, we next see one of her abstract pieces, a modelled assembly glazed in our cobalt LP Matt

Crashing Wave; Stoneware; 5″dia rim x 6″ h

Actually, Crashing Wave is about as good an outcome for LP Matt as you’ll ever see. The predominantly blue field with pink/violet highlights are considered the ideal for this glaze. From the base, this form rises with a concave profile, six inches in height, to a rim that builds still higher to reach turbulence created by assembled trimmings, which then peak (as a crashing wave) and overflow the right side of the form. Sarah considers using single glazes as well as glaze combinations when deciding how a finish design will enhance each piece. LP Matt was a great choice here !  All the pieces presented were fired to cone 10 in reduction following our standard studio practices. Since SCSU only fires in oxidation, CAW offers Sarah a wider range of possibilities than were available during her academic career.

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Margaret Ulecka-Wilson

After its founding in 1961, CAW quickly became a crafts milieu to gather, share, and excel. And through the years, the studio has benefited from many life-dedicated potters; that is, people with a special focus on the craft, who respect its traditions, focus on its potentials, and seem to have “clay in their blood.” One such person is Margaret Ulecka-Wilson.

Margaret recently trimming on a Brent.

Margaret started clayworking at CAW in the early 90’s learning from Charles Jones and Anita Griffith; and eventually studied with Stephen Rodriguez, who helped her sense the mystery and beauty to be found in irregularity. This awakened emotions she had felt earlier in her career while undersea diving for the National Marine Fishery, exploring hidden landscapes of flowing, modulating forms, colors, and textures. These influences were supported by an artistic heritage that reaches back to childhood, her dad having been a landscape artist in her homeland of Warsaw, Poland.

In America, Margaret studied biology and chemistry at the University of Bridgeport, receiving a Master’s degree in 1982; and has spent her professional life working locally as a scientist, paying critical attention to detail and in following controlled, precise lab procedures.

The perspectives of her childhood, education, profession, CAW, and workshops (particularly Malcolm Wright) eventually blended into her current artistic focus: to capture in clay the depth and freedom of the natural world, to interpret its asymetry, and to model the irregular effects of wind and water. She developed these insights while a CAW studio potter, and now as an independent artist working at Erector Square.

Margaret lives in Orange with her husband and pets; her two children having graduated and moved from home. She likes the Brent wheels best because of the splash pan design and the convenience of the attached table. Her sculptural pieces have been juried into two exhibitions of the New Haven Paint and Clay Club, which are shown just a block away at the John Slade Ely House, 51 Trumbull Street. Also, as a member of Elm City Artists, her work is regularly on display at their gallery on Whitney Avenue, just around the corner from CAW. Margaret serves as a committee member for the Art in the Library program in Orange, and would like to help any CAW artists interested in exhibiting there.

Seaform; 7” dia x 7” h; Stoneware; Cone 10 . Click to Enlarge

Recent work includes this wheelthrown ovoid vase designed to capture the spirit of delicate organic life waving in the sea currents. A similiar work won the 2012 Jafferis Prize awarded by the New Haven Paint & Clay Club. While leather hard, the piece was altered with hand rolled, pinched, and deformed spiral forms, which endow it with a sense of both peace and flow. Our studio Turquoise Matt glaze, with its shading of blues, greens, and tan help interpret the natural undersea environment perfectly. The blues (thickest) are somewhat runny, while the tans (thinest) can sometimes be a little coarse.

Windblown; 5” dia x 8” h; Stoneware; C’ 10 Click to Enlarge

Margaret’s control over clay & glazes is evident in this nicely profiled, classical vase, in which we are taken to a coastal marsh, or – possibly – to the southwest desert. The shape grows gradually, alluding to the human torso, from foot to its rounded shoulder; both rim and foot diameters kept equal. In the decorative zone, a thin stand of plantlife rises from sandy ground, but then yeilds slightly to warm breezes. Taken together, the form and composition invite the viewer to consider this piece a metaphor of man and nature as joined, or “one.”

Margaret dipped the vase in Shino with the foot down to develop color variations ranging from cream (thickest) to orange (thinest) proceeding up the vase. Then, she brush applied Blue-Black Slip for the sharply contrasting reeds. A sense of depth is achieved through her use of both vanishing point and glazing technique. Wood ash, sprinkled from above by sieve, modifies the rim and upper shoulder glazes to form a darkened sky.

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John Hedden

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If a studio can have a memory, or if a building can have spirit, then the souls of more than a few longtime potters will be forever home at CAW. You know who I’m talking about: they’re the people you think of whenever CAW comes up; they’re linked to the pottery like clay….and one of the biggest names is John Hedden.

John at work, feathering a slip design recently at a Friday night ‘Open Studio’.

It was back in the mid 70’s when John first walked down the hall toward metal sculpture and happened to glance into the pottery. “Oh, Oh…. that looks interesting !” In a change of plan, he skipped sculpture, and signed up for summer pottery with Adele Firshein; although in later terms, he studied mostly with then pottery director, Rob Parrott. He joined the Studio Potters, and for about 10 years people will remember he monitored the Sunday morning practices, where you could count on the door being open on time, the relaxing music of NPR’s Sunday Classical, and unique Quasimodo sculptured mugs.

A three day workshop with Makoto Yabe (now deceased) was to become an important influence in John’s pottery. (Some of Makoto’s work can still be spotted on the high shelf over the left side of the studio.) Makoto inspired John to change the whole way he approached clay; to set a definite plan for each piece; and to meld the creative process, treating preparing and creating as continuous rather than individual steps. Wedging integrated with centering and centering became part of throwing.

Bowl ; 14 in dia; Contrasting feathered slip bands White slip central spiral

The results are evident in this large, feathered-slip bowl. Four contrasting slip bands circle the perimeter, applied by brush as thickly as possible while the clay was still damp (white & blue, then rutile & blue). Advancing the wheel in small steps, the slips were sliced radially with the edge of a feather, producing a circular theme with linear counterpoints suggestive of light rays shooting out from the middle. After bisque, John plans to overglaze with Leach’s Celedon, a glossy and translucent iron green that will allow the slips to shine through.

John grew up in New Haven, which explains his familiarity with real estate here, and is a graduate of Hopkins. He holds a Batchlor’s of Arts degree from Yale University, class of ’58; and began his career as an international banker in Manhattan before spending about a year on travel in Japan. Currently, he’s a full time real estate agent with Weichert. John credits his ceramic education entirely to CAW. At the studio, he prefers the Shimpo and Brent wheels about equally, and throws exclusively on a bat; either plaster, or one held with pins .

Classical Goblet; 5″ h x 3″ dia ; Stoneware Dunham’s Blue Glaze

Some of his recent recent work includes this visually intriguing Dunham’s Blue wine goblet, formed from two thrown pieces joined leather hard, and whose height-diameter dimensions are scaled to the artistic Golden Ratio. The height & diameter of the individual pieces are also in proportion to each other, giving the profile yet a deeper level of symmetry. Functionally, note that the rim is just slightly flared for a better fit to the mouth. If you find yourself staring at this piece, those may be some of the reasons why.
John tries to keep his glazing simple, often using just one glaze to avoid excessive color effects. He even used dipping tongs to avoid overlap lines in this case. John finds that most of our glazes have enough natural variation to create interesting surfaces on their own:. “Glaze combinations quickly become unmanagable with all the individual and overlap colors; unless the piece is large enough, it tends to get really busy.” . The goblet has just the variation you’d want, going from a rusty spotted blue at the rim, to a thicker blue, to a white cloudy blue where thickest at the base. In recent years, Dunham’s Blue has been unreliable for reasons not understood. This piece is an excellent reminder of how nice the glaze has been, and still can be.

Shallow Bowl, Wall Hung; 16″dia x 4″h ; Stoneware

This large bowl, from John’s personal collection, is one of those “treasures of the kiln” so valued in a potter’s career. The piece was sprayed (to control thickness and variation) first with red underglaze, and then with a careful overcoating of opalescense. Done correctly, the glazes gradually merge, then slightly flow during the firing to create the blending seen here. A thin gray rim – where the red has pulled away – frames the piece, and merges into the red body, which is then overtaken by a deep blue altering to light blue, then green and finally to the crystally white center. A large classic shape with stunning glazes: it really doesn’t get much better !

Toad Abode; 8″dia x 6″h; Birdhouse; 7″w x 8.5″h

On the whimiscal side, John has designed garden ornaments that bring a smile, as well as practical homes for small wildlife. The birdhouse (right) is formed from two wheel thrown pieces. Its conical roof is pin-combed to give a rough thatched look, and left unglazed. The main house is the reverse conical shape, fitted with a 1.375″ entry hole and non-skid landing platform. It’s glazed inside and out with copper red; John recommends one long (~ 2 second) dip to achieve the best color. He’s included a window to let in air and light, and allow spray cleaning with the hose. It hangs from a rope extended from the roof peak and held with a small ball.
The Toad Abode (above left) is designed to allow entry by, and protection for small toads. It lays directly on the ground under shrubbery, and has a window and chimney to promote air flow. This piece is a must for anyone aspiring to join FrogwatchUSA, the national organization that tracks local frog and toad populations as indicators of environmental health. New Haven’s chapter is associated with the Peabody Museum.

Casserole for Chili ; 8.25″dia x 4.75″h; Stoneware LP Matt with Gloss White interior

Anybody for Tex/Mex ? This two-quart casserole showing John’s mastery of the covered container is just what you’re looking for. Its boldly stamped Hedden’s Chili name tag erases any doubt about what’s inside. The design of the base may remind you of Makoto’s work. John then formed handles by cutting a small thrown cup in half, and hand tapering them onto to piece. The cover was thrown right side up and trimmed with a smooth rounded rim that allows it to self-center onto the base, which has the matching profile at about twice the width of the container wall.
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Jane Crossman

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Some potters at CAW have been doing clay for a really long time. You can see it in their work, and in their approach to clay. They’re confident and laid back; yet at the same time, you see passion. Jane Crossman is one of those potters.

jane-pots-kilnJane’s relationship with clay goes back to crafts courses in high school. Just before graduating, she remembers taking a big hunk of clay home – just to make sure she’d still be able to get into some clay down the road !

When she started at CAW (’91-’92) – with former instructor Tina Menchetti – it was a welcome return to a familiar world… “CAW was exciting right from the start, there’s such an influx of people from all over the world here because of the colleges; it’s such a diverse, interesting environment.”

Jane has studied both here and at other craft centers. At CAW, she focused on hand-building and wheel throwing with Heather Sancomb, Gabrielle Verbovski, and our department head, Stephen Rodriguez. She also benefited from numerous workshops by contemporary potters like Mark Shapiro, Susan Beecher and Kyla Toomey, to name a few.To Jane “It’s important to learn new techniques, try different things, stretch one’s mind”... (To check some of these artists out, see our Visiting Artist Collection).  Based on her skills and reputation, she was elected to the Studio Potters in 1995, and is fondly remembered over the years as the most reliable and friendly Friday Night Open Studio monitor the school ever had.

In her non-clay life, Jane is Resident Services Coordinator at the Silverbrook Estates senior housing community, and also serves at the Agency on Aging as a CHOICES Volunteer, assisting senior citizens in health insurance counseling and assistance programs.

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Left : Apple, Stneware, 3.5 dia x 3″ tall, Randy’s Green.
Middle: Pear, 2″ dia x 4″ tall, unglazed, wood/salt fired.
Right: Pear, 2″ dia x 4.5″ tall, Miller 850 clay, unglazed, wood/salt fired, c 10

Versatile in both-wheel throwing (likes the Shimpo best) and hand building, you may have noticed some of her work in the Studio Potter themed display case. For instance, the modeled fruit pictured here (Click on any photo to enlarge) are pinched, hollow closed forms in stoneware, pin-holed to allow air escape, and each fitted with a short naturalistic stem. These pieces have the same gentle asymetry and surface found in nature; the apple’s shine, and the pear’s dry, ripened skin are as familiar here as they would be hanging on the tree.

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Bowl; Stoneware; 8.5″ dia x 3.5″ tall; Shino glaze with interior woodash highlights; 4.5″ trimmed base; Stamped signature.

Jane’s special focus, though, has been in that archetype of ceramic forms: the Bowl. Its types, proportions, curvatures, scale, and surface finish make fertile ground for artistic study. Ask yourself, why does this bowl appear so right….ie; so solid, so ready to grasp, so ready to sip, so ready for the spoon or chopstick to enter, so warm and inviting to see and use ?  Many among us arn’t going to know, the answers are down too deep – unspoken, at an intuitive level. This bowl, though, tells us that Jane has those answers, and brings them to the level of craft.  For her, making bowls is a kind of therapy, a getting to understand oneself, a merging of the tactile and visually pleasing, a knowing of something about human impulses.

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Left: Vase; Wheel-thrown; Terra Cotta; 3.5″ dia x 5.5″ tall; Untrimmed base, wire sawed; c 05, oxidation.
Right: Vase; Wheel-thrown & altered; Stoneware; Masculine form; 3″ dia x 6″ tall; c 10 , reduction

She prefers stoneware, but Jane also uses porcelain and terra cotta on occasion, and likes to make things on the lighter side – things that are fun and have some life – like these vases suggesting the human torso. The terra cotta “Aunt Jemima” on the left has blue underglaze waist band & blouse buttons, and a low-fire transparent glaze over all. Her arms serve as handles; they’re pulled forms, one inch long.
The other, is a stately robed male figure glazed thinly in “Old Yellow”, with “Turquoise Matt” buttons, collar and interior. He’s wheel-thrown, in a slightly concave profile with the rim cut and opened for the collar. Those sturdy arms are rolled coils, hand pressed into a three lobe pattern 2″ long x 2.25″ wide.

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Dragon; Stoneware; hand-built; 5″ l x 3″ w x 4″ tall;
Brushed Shino & black slip; Fired : c 10 in reduction.

Yikes, jumping back to the Jurassic, let’s check out this friendly Komodo dragon ! His hollow body was hand-formed around a wooden dowel; then stretched, twisted, and curled into this serpentine form with raised, sculpted head and tail. He’s fierce and reptilian; but at the same time, Jane has given him such a friendly puppy-dog expression. So, instead of fearing him as a man-eater….he kind-of looks like man’s best friend ready to get you the newspaper.

A Few Tips for the Road:
Glazes – TryMalcolm’s Shino(Jane once met Malcolm Davis at a workshop  ……………….in Guilford)highlighted with wood ash sprinkled from the top.
Combinations – Jasper Tan over Audubon White.
Slips/Oxides – Red Iron and cobalt oxides. Applied over shino, RIO becomes a ………………………nice orange/brown
Firing method – Wood and Salt
Forming – Pots should be substantial, have a robust feel; not too light and delicate.

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Annie Mui-De Graaf

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One enriching aspect of life in New Haven is the diversity of our residents. You meet people from all over the world here; for instance, our own CAW regular: Annie Mui – de Graaf. Originally from Macau, China, she moved at a young age to the big melting pot, New York CIty,  and grew up there. She now lives in Hamden, and is a full time mom.

Annie surrounds herself with clay. In the home, where we gather our most cherished, intimate, and personal objects, Annie blends her ceramics into the interior design of each room. She organizes her floral containers in neat arrangements near the windows, displays her favorite collected pieces where she can see them, feel them, marvel at them. Her sculptures, planters, serving trays, cups and containers are all a part of her everyday life, always there for her, as she moves from room to room. It’s no exaggeration to say that pottery shapes Annie’s life.

It started in Junior High, where she began to pinch form and hand build. Then in High School, after noticing a pottery display case, she returned to clay and hand building during her senior year. At some point soon after, an affection for clay burst into passion.

She majored in cultural anthropology at SUNY, College at Oneonta; with an undeclared, but very special minor in studio ceramics. With the trust of her professor, she enjoyed full access to the university studio, and began serious wheel throwing. In the beginning, centering was a big challenge; but with the help of professor Dan Young, she mastered it by her 2nd semester. Then her pieces began to flow. ..(Click on any photo to enlarge)

Vase; Cone 6, Oxidation; 4.5

Vase; Cone 6, Oxidation;
4.5″ h x 7″w x 5″ d

Look at this wheelthrown and ovalized, folk art vase in white stoneware. It’s brush-glazed in warm shades of  browns and yellows that break and pool to enhance the throwing lines. The profile is classically concave, like a tea bowl, but with the irregular rim of a country potter and vanishing trimmed foot.

Annie learned to bisque and high-fire electric kilns at SUNY Oneonta, too; and routinely fired her own work from cone 6 to 10 depending on the glazes used. They had earthenware, white stoneware, a dark (purplish) stoneware, and porcelain as standard clays. She spent so much time in the studio that when the janitor came by to lock up at night, he used to joke that “she should bring in her bed and sleep over !”
Her course of study culminated after three years with solo show at the SUCO’s fine art gallery. The show was a chronicle of her progress and achievement in the craft, and included pieces representing every major type of clay and forming technique in modern pottery, a range of scale and shape, and even examples of floral and organic arrangements influenced by Japanese Ikebana ware.

SUNY Ovalized Vase; Purple Stoneware; Cone 6, Oxidation

SUNY Ovalized Vase; Purple Stoneware; Cone 6, Oxidation

A notable piece from the collection is this tall, ovalized vase thrown in purple stoneware. It’s glazed in a dry, matt brown that varies to off-white where thick or overlapped during the pour, which was done upright on a diagonal to produce dramatic glaze lines and run patterns. The profile transitions slowly from a circular two inch base to a six inch by four inch oval at the rim.

The cylindrical vase shown below right, also from the SUNY Oneonta period, demonstrates her control over combination glazes to modify, highlight, and create surface effects. 

SUNY Vase; Cone 6, Oxidation, 8”h x 5”dia

SUNY Vase; Cone 6, Oxidation, 8”h x 5”dia

It’s thrown in white stoneware with a central bulge, rim diameter slightly larger than the foot; and fitted with two symmetrical pulled handles attached just below the rim. Then sprayed with a semi matt tan glaze, now visible only on underside of the form, and sprinkled from above with a coarse ash. Ash coated the inside and upper surfaces with a mottled, glassy and variable brown/blue/grey overglaze punctuated with random mineral grains – nostalgic effects associated with ancient woodfire ceramics.

After graduation, Annie moved back to NYC and continued pottery at Greenwich House, later moving to the 52nd Street YWCA, which she found much more spacious. At the Y, she became a studio assistant; helping out in classes, and loading/unloading kilns. She told me: “It’s a very comparable studio to CAW ….many glazes….. large and spacious.”

YWCA Raku Workshop

YWCA Raku Workshop

The Y periodically held raku workshops near West Point, New York where the following pieces were fired to about 1800 F before removal from the kiln and immersion in various reducing materials. A 3.5 inch vase with a light crackle glaze is displayed on the left, and a bright glossy turquoise glaze covers the ovoid 5 inch vase on the right. Both have the heavily reduced, black body color typical of raku pottery, and are considered strictly decorative.

Sky Blue & Peacock GreenExamples of Annie’s functional ware made while at the Y include these two wheel thrown bowls. The piece on the left has a peacock green glaze, and the one on the right is a dark blue-green pedestal bowl with an unusual pierced foot.

About ten years ago, Annie came to CAW and New Haven as an already skilled potter. Starting classes with Anita, who helped her with slip decoration, new hand-building techniques, and flower carvings; then she studied in Stephen’s Advanced Pottery for several years, and from there enrolled in our Friday night Open Studio.

CAW Porcelain, C10, Reduction Lt: 5”w x 2” d x 4” h Ctr: 2.5” dia x 3” h Rt: 3.5” dia x 4” h

CAW Porcelain, C10, Reduction
Lt: 5”w x 2” d x 4” h
Ctr: 2.5” dia x 3” h
Rt: 3.5” dia x 4” h

The three porcelains grouped here were done in Anita’s Thursday morning sessions. They represent both Asian and native American (southwest) forms. The pieces on each end have deformations and rim carvings. The left one is inspired by native pottery; while the central teacup is a more classic Asian shape, glazed in Blue Celadon with a wax resist design crossing its mid section horizontally. These pieces were influenced by the delicate, elegant glazes and carvings of the Song of China, Celadon being a mystical color to the Chinese. Check out the Yale art gallery’s Asian exhibit (2nd floor) to see some really nice examples. Understandably, Annie prefers CAW’s Blue Celadon and Apple Celadon for use with porcelain and slips. She also likes to use LP Matt and Old Yellow due to their beautiful colors and stability. Further, they both are viscous enough to resist running.

Wall-mount Sculpture;  Porcelain; C 10, Reduction; 8”h x 5”w

Wall-mount Sculpture; C 10
Porcelain; Reduction; 8”h x 5”w

Annie combined wheel thrown and handbuilt elements in this sculpted porcelain tray, also glazed in her favorite – Blue Celadon. Its rim was cut from a circular, wheel thrown bowl; then attached to an oval slab in a wavy pattern to create the impression of flowing hair surrounding the face. Facial features were brush glazed in LP Matt. Annie recommends that we all look at our previous work periodically. Reviewing our old ideas helps us improve and move in new directions. Doing so, she has been returning lately toward more hand-building (also influenced by friend Robin Johnson) “since it opens so many possibilities.”

One of the things Annie particularly likes about CAW is that everyone is so friendly here; she’s “made lot’s of friends at CAW !” She likes our Brent wheels best, since they’re like the one’s she used in college and the tray is easy to remove for cleaning. But, she was quick to point out that “there’s benefits to a kick wheel”, which she also trained on at SUNY, Oneonta, “..they have very good control for trimming… very nice….steady .. don’t go as fast…and kicking is good exercise ! ”

Asked if she could give us a throwing tip, she mentioned “Avoid clay that’s too wet; and don’t add a lot of water while throwing, it can cause the clay to collapse easily. Also, less water allows you to work cleaner; you don’t get splattered all over, especially when making taller pieces !”

ET Vases, C 10 , Stoneware, Lt: 3.5”dia x 4.5 h Rt: 2” dia x 6” h

ET Vases, Stoneware,
C 10 , Reduction
Left: 3.5”dia x 4.5 h
Right: 2” dia x 6” h

Other favorite glazes include Chuck’s and Malcolm’s Shino, with and without wood ash lightly sprinkled over. Similar glazes are very popular throughout the US, with the current focus on Mingei, folk art, and wood fire in American ceramics. While living in Holland two years ago, though, Annie noticed modernism is more prevalent there…that is: much less emphasis on organic shapes than here in America. This helped shape her towards a more abstract and modern approach to her work. These “ET” vases combine both themes: shapes are non-organic, or even “alien (E.T.)” inspired, and shino glazes. Notice the dark 
protruding eyes at the top of each head, and the use of our Chuck’s Shino glaze.

Chalice; Stoneware; Cone 10, Reduction; 5”dia rim x 9” h

Chalice; Stoneware; Cone 10, Reduction; 5”dia rim x 9” h

A number of influences have shaped Annie’s work. For example, this “Beatrice Wood” style chalice is one of her CAW wheel thrown, stoneware assemblies. The base glaze is Tenmoku, but with Old Yellow added as an overglaze. Its three inch diameter foot only slightly tapers as the pedestal rises, nicely accommodating a manly grasp. The separately thrown bowl holds over 12 ounces.

Another influence on Annie’s work is the porcelain and celadon of Cliff Lee. Lee’s work is included in the permanent collections of several museums, including the White House and Yale University Art Gallery (Click Here) . A large collection of forms can be found easily online using a google “image” search.

Bowl; C 10, Reduction; 3” h

Bowl; C 10, Reduction; 3” h

One of Annie’s open-forms, titled Lonely Bird in a Snowy Lake, is a low circular bowl with a 3.5 inch dia trimmed foot. The profile, which is wheel thrown in stoneware, then grows concavely up to a 9 inch dia flared rim with faintly visible finger grooves. A single sculpted bird, also stoneware, sits alone on the rim looking inward, and is the only decorative element. The entire piece is appropriately glazed in CAW’s Opalescense. Annie notes that it can be runny and should be used with caution.

Bowl; C10, Reduction

Bowl; C10, Reduction

Another example of her open-forms is this stoneware flower bowl, which began life as a wheel thrown, circular shape. However, the rim was then modified, that is: immediately after throwing, by hand pinching inward at four equally-spaced positions along the edge. It’s glazed with Tenmoku and Geoff’s Copper Red both inside and out, supporting the metaphor of an opening flower.
The foot is trimmed to a three inch diameter;
the rim is 7.5 inches in diameter, and the height is 3.5 inches. 

Vase; C10 Reduction; 4.5”h x 4.5”dia

Closed Form; C10, Reduction

Annie is also skilled with closed-forms, as this inward-tapered, zoomorphic vase, titled Happy Frog, shows. It’s thrown in stoneware, and glazed on the exterior in Apple Green. The handle is a pulled form, added when both pieces were leather hard, set in a circular profile protruding from the body by about one inch. The rim is 2.5 inches in diameter, the central diameter is 4.5 inches, and it stands 4.5 inches tall. 

In some of her more recent work, Annie is in the process of forming these two slab-built and sculpted, stoneware decorative pieces.  The surfaces were textured with a variety of tools from the hand building cabinet, then rolled around cardboard tubes (stored adjacent to the cabinet) to create tall cylindrical forms. Join lines are barely visible, being smoothed to the surface and melded with the texture.  Both were then brushed with thick porcelain slip to accent the texture and bisque fired. The piece on the left suggests a European fortress, or a castle spire. Notice the triangular window just below the peak. Neither piece is intended to be functional.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Vase, Decorative, Stoneware 14″h x 3.5″ dia

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fortress; Stoneware;
12.5″ h x 4.5″ dia

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s Annie working at her Brent at CAW recently, getting ready to center a mug. Thursday afternoon practices are a good time to catch her in the studio if you’d like to say ” Hi “, have a chat, and learn more about her ware !

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Ulla Kasten
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.img_1112Many potters have distinctive styles; but at CAW, it’s Ulla Kasten’s work that really stands out. She’s shown here rolling out a slab on a recent Tuesday night to begin one of her signature flatware forms. Her flatware in various clay types have long brought smiles to the faces of all the potters who see them.

I asked Ulla to help us understand what motivates her work; to tell us what sources inspire her. It was fascinating to learn that bowlshe spends most her day amongst some of the oldest pottery in the world: that’s cuneiform artifacts from the ancient city of Babylon. They’re part of the Yale Babylonian Collection, located inside of Sterling Library, where Ulla is an Associate Curator. As a quick aside, take a look at this terra cotta bowl from the collection; it shows inked Aramaic writing from about 500 BCE, while the Sargonic accounting tablet below from 2500 BCE is incised with cuneiform signs. Treaties and letters to the gods were done with the best clays, but ordinary documents like Client Nameinventories and accounts were made with more earthy materials, like the tablet shown, and thus may have lime pops, stones, etc.  They were all slow fired to about 1350-1400F (Orton cone 017)

Ulla’s native country is Denmark. She studied archaeology and ancient History at universities in Greece and Turkey. Then, after moving to America (1971), she married and settled in New Haven, and has been with the Babylonian Collection since 1974.

So, you might say that Ulla’s entire career has been about pottery, and it both influences and is influenced by her love and understanding of clay.  Generally, archaeologists only find broken pottery, and have to glue shards together like a jig-saw puzzle to restore an artifact. Being a modern potter really helps her understand the ancient pottery she unearths on a dig, the forming techniques and materials used, bringing her closer to the ceramics she has devoted her career to.

Ulla’s modern pottery life began in 2000 when she joined a young house guest to “try out” a CAW course. Her guest didn’t take to it; but Ulla did. After a dig in Syria was cancelled due to 9/11, she registered for a pottery class on her own and has been here ever since. Paradoxically, she’s attracted to modern ceramic styles just as much as the ancient. People say her work has a Scandinavian feel to it – meaning they’re more modest, simple forms nicely suited to modern-day life.

She’s settled into Tuesday evening sessions with Charles Jones, even though it means she often misses the Sprague concert series she loves. “Charles has a free-for-all teaching style,” she explains, everyone works on their own projects at their own pace. He circulates through the group helping each student, and always conducts a demo at some point during the evening.

Ulla finds pottery “therapeutic”; by which she means it’s good for a person’s mental health…. “it’s really a pleasure…..relaxing” she told me… “a chance to get away from it all, use the other half of your brain, and feel a release from the cares of life.”

Putting these diverse motivations together, Ulla seems influenced both by the very ancient and the ultra-modern, a desire to understand the work of both, by clay’s calming influence, and just plain enjoyment. Her goal is to make “forms that are functional and make you happy.”

She generally hand-builds, and likes both our white stoneware (Miller 510) and our dark Miller 75 because they produce unique glaze effects. As an archaeologist and conservator, glazing is the most fascinating part of the process for her. She has used terra cotta, but is generally unimpressed with low-fire glazes, so she focuses most of her attention on cone 10 reduction effects and glaze combinations.

A few tips: Ulla likes to use a rolling pin to create slabs rather than using our studio slab roller. The thickness is critical for flexibility while maintaining strength, and the slab roller only adjusts in fixed amounts. She rolls out wide slabs, and has developed a sense for when the thickness is just right without actually measuring. “It’s the same skill I use in baking!” she told me.

img_0854One fun clay form found in her apartment is a door holder actually made from slab-rolling scraps. Ulla models them into a duck with its head turned backward, which is a stereotypical Babylonian form. The underside is hollowed-out to save weight and help avoid cracking. The example here is 6.5”w x 4”d x 4”h. After bisque, the piece was inverted and dipped into LP Matt, and then overglazed with Peter’s Black. The Peter’s Black has cobalt as a component, which often promotes blue tints in combination.

Audubon White bowl
img_0855Ulla often lays slabs into a shallow form to create platters and small dishes. But for the bowl shown here, she used a bisque slump-mold found in the studio. It’s 10” x 9” x 3.5” high.  Small wine bottle shards (from an end-of-semester party) were layered in the bottom before glazing. She quickly added: “The glass has to be inside the bowl or it will run right off the pot.”  There’s no foot: she considers them unnecessary. Often, Ulla’s daughter is the beneficiary of her bowls.
A recommended glaze combination:  Peter’s Black with Turquoise over. “The turquoise turns to a really interesting blue!”

Fish Platter
img_0860Here Ulla rolled out a white stoneware slab, and finished it using a textured roller during the final roll. She’s tried porcelain, but found it difficult to form in her opinion (probably due to its lower plasticity). She likes the fish theme, her Scandinavian heritage coming through; and has a shallow mold in the studio she uses for shaping.

Leaf Plate

img_0861Living close to East Rock Park gives Ulla a chance to find some large beautiful leaves, almost year around. She used one of them for this plate, which is slab built and 13” x 9.5” x 0.75” h. She rolled the leaf into the clay to make an impression, and bisqued it with the leaf in place, leaving traces penetrated into the surface. Then she glazed the piece with our translucent Blue Celadon, which tends to shade more to the green.

Hotplate

img_0863This square hotplate, 6½” x 6½”, is a thickly rolled form of Miller 75 dark stoneware, with deep impressions. It’s glazed with one dip of Purple Haze, which brightens on lighter clays. In this case, the single dip runs off the ridges of the pattern enough to dramatically change color in the deeper impressions.

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img_0864This final piece is a 10 inch diameter plate made from white stoneware. It’s glazed in celadon, and carefully stenciled (off center) with Peter’s Black. As usual, the Peter’s Black shifted toward a deep blue during the glaze firing due to the influence of cobalt oxide in its recipe.

Much of Ulla’s ware is on display in her kitchen, which could only be described as a “potter’s paradise”, filled with old functional Spanish pots, Majolica, Iznik, and even Armenian pottery. These reflect the worldly and varied interests that enrich her pottery and our studio. It’s great to get to know a little more about another CAW Potter, especially one who has devoted so much energy and time to our little clay community !
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17 Responses to Meet a Potter

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