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November Letter from our Executive Director

Here’s a cute photo of my kid taken at an open studio event at Clayworks in February. Wes Brown, one of our Resident Artists at the time, demonstrated his unique sculptural process, and my son Luke was so moved by it that he had to get involved and collaborate. Wes was generous and let Luke help texture a slab for one of his monumental sculptures. Luke talked about it for weeks. “I like Wes. I like clay. I want to go to Mommy’s work again.”

It’s the holiday season, also known as “year-end” for people who fundraise for a living. You’re being asked to give a lot right now. “Philanthropy” technically means “love of humanity”, and that can be overwhelming. There are a lot of great causes out there – a lot of humanity to love. Supporting the arts is generally low on peoples’ lists for giving. Even though the arts are integral to literally every aspect of humanity, it is a challenge to tell a linear story about how art changes lives.

I entered public school in first grade reading at a fifth grade level. (My dad was an English teacher.) There were all these words I could comprehend, but they were communicating things I didn’t have the emotional maturity to absorb. Very confusing for a five year-old. The only place I felt remotely safe or normal was the art room. I hid-out in the art-room the whole way through public school, and then college, and then throughout my career. I guess I’m still “hiding-out” in the art room.

When I interviewed for my job at Clayworks, my husband asked how it went. I told him it was like a Thanksgiving dinner. Some really weird, awkward moments, good food. I felt simultaneously judged and accepted. You know, like being at home. Like being in the art room. I’ve only been at Clayworks a year and I don’t want to make assumptions about this huge community, but I hope it feels like home to you too. If it does, great! And if it doesn’t, please tell me what I can do to help.

It’s year-end. We’re fundraising. Profits never meet expenses, that’s why we do this work. I can’t land this letter gracefully without making a blatant ask. If you can, please donate here: Keep Clayworks going strong. Baltimore Clayworks really is #touchinglives. Clayworks has made a safe, creative, wonderful space for me. It’s made the same for my son. Together, let’s make sure it does the same for others.

Sappy Thanksgiving,

Cyndi Wish, Baltimore Clayworks Executive Director

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We are proud to be a newly certified member of the Made In Baltimore program!

As both a makerspace and retailer, we offer support to ceramic artists of Baltimore in the form of studio space, and retail and exhibition opportunities. Many of the artists featured in our retail Shop make their work right here in Baltimore, and some even have their studios here on our campus. We currently have 46 artists making work out of our studios through our Residency, Mezzanine, Springboard, and Open Studio programs.

Made In Baltimore is a branding program for locally made products. They aim to spur re-investment in Baltimore City by growing the market for locally-produced goods and supporting the people who make them. They support local makers and manufacturers through a local-brand certification program, promotional and sales opportunities, print and media campaigns, special events and business development services, and advocacy for industrial use spaces. They seek to offer a unique and confident narrative of Baltimore City, illustrated by the diverse array of wonderful products being made here. As businesses in the manufacturing sector grow, and remain in Baltimore, surrounding neighborhoods flourish and thrive, offering living-wage employment and economic opportunities. They envision a Baltimore City that attracts and retains a diverse and unified community of makers and manufacturers, with equitable opportunities for growth and success.

We are excited to partner with Made in Baltimore to continue supporting Baltimore makers, and hope that you will visit our new profile and keep an eye out for future Made In Baltimore news.

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Artist Spotlight: Vicki Lynn Wilson

Our November Artist Spotlight feature is with Vicki Lynn Wilson. Wilson was born in District Heights, MD and moved to Oregon in 1995 after an Art Foundation year at VCU. She holds a BFA from Pacific Northwest College of Art and an MFA from Portland State University, both in Sculpture.  Wilson has been collaborating on public and private commissions with her husband, John Larsen, for over a decade. The team has completed several permanent installations including the Oregon Zoo and Main Street Oregon City. The pair was awarded multiple Presidential Volunteer Service awards for their unique neighborhood community garden. Wilson has taught Sculpture, Ceramics, Drawing and Design for Oregon colleges since 2005 and was a 2017 artist in residence at Cub Creek Foundation in Appomattox, Va. Most recently, Wilson was a Resident Artist at District Clay Center in Washington DC, and, our Fall 2019 Short Term Resident here at Baltimore Clayworks.

Question #1: What is your earliest memory of clay?

My earliest memory of clay was when my father dug post holes for a fence. The Virginia red earth was so pliable that I sat all afternoon by the pile of dirt making a duck the size of my hand.

Question #2: Who inspires you and who do you hope to inspire?

I’m inspired by the lives of my family and friends. Their struggles and victories are at the heart of my metaphors. My husband, John, is sometimes my collaborator and other times my motivator. We have a pretty special thing that inspires and motivates me. There is always a special inspiration in my heart that comes from my mentor, Retha Walden-Gambaro. I was her apprentice of Sculpture from 1990-1993. She gave me my first and most important navigational tools for being an artist.

Being an inspiration to others is a bigger thing than the art I make. I want to be part of the sea change for women. I want to inspire men and women to see us as stronger, wiser and more equal than they have been conditioned to think. I am aware of this in the figures I make and the stories they tell… but  I am, also, aware of how I can inspire a new perception of women with the materials and scale that I choose. How I represent my gender in places like the hardware store, the welding supply store and the classroom can be part of the change. 

Question #3: What is your fondest or funniest memory associated with clay?

A few years ago, at a residency in Virginia (Cub Creek Foundation in Appomattox, Va), my mother, older brother and sister and two nephews visited my studio. I gave each of them a wheel lesson and we made some hand-built dishes which I later wood fired. Living in Oregon for most of my adult life, I have not been able to share my art art process with family. The last few years, I have spent more time on the East Coast and have been grateful for time to share my life’s work with them.

Question #4: If you could see your work in anyone’s collection, who/where would it be and why?

I’d like to have my work in the collections of hospitals. There is no place I can think of that houses more life changes than a hospital. I have been told by some that my work resonates with personal changes they are experiencing and they take comfort in the images of strength and spirituality. I have also felt my life, and lives close to me, change within the walls of a hospital and I think those experiences are embedded within my inspiration. 

Question #5: As our current Short-term Resident, what about Clayworks have you enjoyed most so far? 

While there have been a few things I have really cherished, like working with the Mt.Washington kids, my very favorite thing was the Fire Festival and participating in the Clay Olympics. I’m so glad I was here for it. I played my first round of “Sculptionary” but it won’t be my last!

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October Letter from our Executive Director

A while ago I took a writing class with one of my favorite authors. She advised that when you don’t know what to write about, or can’t get started, look at moments of your life and find what “glimmers”. (I’m paraphrasing here.) If you think of the entirety of your memory as a murky pool of water, and if you look into it long enough, you will see shiny rocks and minerals that glimmer. These are your most vivid memories.

Saturday’s Fire Fest is and will remain one of my most vivid memories here at Clayworks. (And there are a lot of them!) Saturday evening was one of those events that overflowed with creativity, community, laughter, and learning. Okay we did run out of food early…. Now we know for next year. More food.

So I want to say thank you to everyone who attended, organized, volunteered, sponsored, donated, or cheered the event on from the sidelines! Fire Fest was a great event for Clayworks, and I hope those who attended had as quirky, transcendental, and memorable an evening as I did.

See you soon!

-Cyndi Wish
Baltimore Clayworks’ Executive Director

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Artist Spotlight: Emily Lamb

Our October Artist Spotlight feature is with Emily Lamb. Emily came to Baltimore Clayworks in September 2019 as a new, long-term Resident Artist. In her work, Emily explores questions regarding the human body, both physical and metaphysical, in her experimental mixed-media sculptures. She is from Denver, Colorado and came to the East coast to earn her BFA at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Richmond, Virginia. She is a recipient of the TOAST Grant, multiple VCU scholarships, as well as partial/full scholarships to Penland School of Crafts, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, and Pilchuck Glass School. Her art has taken her across the country, to Denmark and Norway, and now to Baltimore. Emily will be teaching a figure class at Baltimore Clayworks starting in November.

Question #1: What is your earliest memory of clay?

At the age of five or six, my mom was taking porcelain doll-making workshops. I was very fascinated and confused by all the separate doll parts; faces without eyes, limbs and torsos, plus how dusty and dirty the work was. Being a kid, I wanted to have one of the dolls, thinking it was like a doll store. My mom explained that everything I was looking at wasn’t finished yet and she showed me a little bit about how the heads came from molds and how there was sanding and carving to be done beforehand. I think that was my first glimpse at clay and realization that this material had to be fired and then painted in order to change into something more permanent. I still have the china paint pigments that she used in that workshop years ago and hope to work with them at some point in the near future.

Question #2: Who inspires you and who do you hope to inspire?

So many other artists inspire me it seems unfair to pick just one. I’ve always admired artists that combine different materials and think outside the box of their medium. The phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none” really rubs me the wrong way. I hope to inspire those artists who like myself, are keen on exploring the limits of materials and experimenting with combining materials while at the same time exploring visually meaningful concepts.

Question #3: What is your fondest or funniest memory associated with clay?

In one of my ceramic classes at college, I was working all night in the studio making 9 pots from start to finish before they were due in the morning. At some point in that sleep deprived frenzied state, I looked over at the table next to me and saw Yoda from Star Wars face in the muck. I thought I was losing it at that point, so I took the time to clean my hands, get my phone and took a picture in order to show other people and prove to myself I wasn’t going crazy.

Question #4: If you could see your work in anyone’s collection, who/where would it be and why?

I would love to have my work be collected by people in the medical industry or the psychology field. My work focuses a great deal on both the body and the mind so it’s my hope that people who are as equally fascinated by anatomy and thoughts are able to see those things in my work.

Question #5: As a new Resident, what about Clayworks are you looking forward to the most?

Being part of an artist community. I love having a shared studio where I can ask peers their opinions or for technical advice. Sometimes I struggle making pieces when left on my own because I get too inside my own head about how things could or should look. I find the best and simplest cure for second guessing myself or being at a standstill is to see it from someone else’s point of view.

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Clayworks on WYPR’s Out of the Blocks

WYPR’s Out of the Blocks podcast is an immersive listening experience built from a mosaic of voices and soundscapes on the streets of Baltimore. A custom-tailored score embroiders this tapestry of stories hidden in plain sight. Their latest episodes feature interviews with people from Sulgrave Ave in Mt. Washington Village. We are so happy that they chose to feature Clayworks through interviews with Sam Wallace, Mary Cloonan, and Volker Schoenfliess in their episode “1600 Sulgrave Ave, Part 2: Second Nature.” Visit Out of the Block’s website or listen below.

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