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April Letter from our Executive Director

Hello and Happy April,

NCECA happened last week. It was my first time attending.

At the airport, on the way home, I ran into a man I had met briefly at the conference. He was reading Ceramics Monthly. I said, “How was the conference for you?” He replied, “Are you as excited to get back into your studio as I am?”

Conversations about making art can be delicate. What do you answer when someone asks if you aren’t an artist? At NCECA I learned a ton, met wonderful people, saw amazing ceramic art, and felt like an imposter because I’m not a ceramic artist. When he asked me that, I wanted to be able to say “YES!”, and I got a little bit jealous of his enthusiasm to get back into his studio and make new work.

On the flight back to Baltimore, as often happens when one is overwhelmed and tired, my mind tried to tackle existential turbulence and I wondered about my own lapsed studio practice. Then I binge watched YouTube videos of closing speeches delivered at other NCECA conferences, listening to stories about people’s paths to the medium of ceramics, how they have made clay applicable to social movements and abstract concepts, ways that lives have been transformed through the process of making. I thought about the nature of my job, reconciled my place in the world (for now), and realized I was excited to get back to work.

There are so many exciting programs that Baltimore Clayworks produces, pioneers, and emulates, and so much more innovative work to tackle in the field. It’s a thrilling time to be involved in the arts! Thank you for what you do in this intricate and fabulous community.

And how lovely is it to go away for five days and come back to daffodils in bloom?

Back to work now!

Best,

Cyndi Wish
Executive Director

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Artist Spotlight: Jason Piccoli

Our April Artist Spotlight feature is with Resident Artist Jason Piccoli. Jason came to Baltimore Clayworks as a Resident Artist in the summer of 2018. A native of Colorado, he studied Fine Art at Arapahoe Community College where he earned his Associate’s. He then earned his BFA in Ceramics at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and later his MFA in Ceramics at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Before coming to Baltimore, Jason was a Resident Artist for 2 years at the LUX Center for the Arts in Lincoln, NE. Jason teaches classes for all skill levels in our Mt. Washington studio, while maintaining his studio practice where he bridges the functional, the sculptural, and the painted image.

Question #1: What kind of work do you make and why do you make it?

(WHAT) I make a wide variety of wheel thrown, trimmed and assembled forms that are both functional and sculptural, with a touch of ritual. Glazed with transparent celadons, they often feature underglaze paintings in select areas that reference calm scenery and/or landscaping with architecture.

(WHY) It makes me feel satisfied and happy! I have always been drawn to challenges present in ceramics and love exploring the potential of the medium through various styles, methods and disciplines I’ve caringly developed over the years.

Question #2: What drew you to clay?

A perfect medium to create the things I draw. I am inspired by the many layers of function inherent in ceramic objects.

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

During the tour of a kiln room stuffed with the rest of our class, I stood too close to a peep hole and it burned a huge hole in the back of my shirt. Shaking a container of glaze or chemicals without making sure the lid is secure always gets me laughing at myself.

Question #4: What is something about yourself or your work that other people may not know about?

A lot of inspiration from my work comes from video games and fantasy literature.

Question #5: What is your favorite thing about Baltimore Clayworks?

That’s easy! The people who work there.

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2020 Planning Meeting

Can you believe it’s already almost April? And that means that 2020 is right around the corner!

As you know, 2020 marks the 40th year of Clayworks’ bringing the joy of clay to the Baltimore area community. If you joined our 2020 Blast Off planning meeting last month, you know that a bunch of fabulous ideas came out of a lively discussion, and now our calendar for 2020 is starting to come together with a fun list of ways to celebrate this hallmark year.

Our next 2020 planning meeting will be on Thursday, April 11 from 5:30-6:30. The goal of this meeting is to start looking at events and logistics, and to begin to assign tasks and make timelines. Please come with your enthusiasm and the desire to roll up your sleeves.

If you are one of those fabulous brainstorming, big-idea people – we love you and your creativity! Please feel free to put any big ideas you have for 2020 in writing and email them to me or another member of Clayworks staff.

2020 will be here soon, and if you have done any event planning, you know that large-scale events take time and energy. In a dream world, we would have started this planning last year, but Clayworks has been busy these past few years accomplishing great things. Which is all the more reason to celebrate!

Please RSVP to info@baltimoreclayworks.org. We hope to see you there.

Cyndi Wish
Baltimore Clayworks Executive Director

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Community Conversation March 14, 2019

Join us Thursday, March 14th, at 5:30pm for a community conversation hosted by our real estate committee. Are you curious to know what ideas have been discussed as they think about best ways to utilize Clayworks’ properties? This casual conversation is a forum for all interested to get together, share ideas, and catch up. All are welcome. Conversation will be held in the community gallery at 5707 Smith Ave.

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March Letter from our Executive Director

Happy March! Even with the forecast of more flurries looming, I can feel that spring will be here soon. Can you?

Like many people I’ve been trying to apply Marie Kondo’s philosophy to my home, and reduce my life of objects that don’t “spark joy”.

Did you know that the word “Joy” is written into Baltimore Clayworks’ mission statement? “The mission of Baltimore Clayworks is to develop, sustain, and promote an artist-centered community that provides outstanding educational, artistic, and collaborative programs in the ceramic arts. Its core values are artist-centeredness, excellence, inclusivity, integrity, and joy.”

Every day as we face our challenges here at Clayworks (grant reporting is due, deadlines loom, heating systems fail, we run out of coffee, etc.) we do our best to remain committed to our mission and practicing its tenets. Joy is an elusive thing to define, as it means something different to everyone. As our fabulous founding director Deb Bedwell wrote in her essay “Measuring Joy”, “you know it when you see it.” Or, as an internal evaluation, “You know it when you feel it.”

A woman came by the Clayworks shop on Monday morning, coincidentally interrupting our staff meeting. She was on a mission to find the perfect mug. (Her husband’s perfect mug had broken, so she had given hers to him.) Everyone on staff commiserated; finding the perfect mug takes time. There’s the shape of your hand as it relates to the handle, the balance, the color. Thickness of the walls and width of the mouth. Is the mug for tea or coffee? And then there’s that other thing. The phenomenology that happens when you hold your perfect mug and you fall in love. You know it when you hold it.

She wound up not finding her perfect mug in our shop, and that’s okay. A perfect mug takes time, and I am honored that she chose Clayworks as part of her quest.

Here’s what I am learning about the Marie Kondo approach to life: It is not necessarily about surrounding yourself with less stuff; it is about making room for more joy. And here’s what I am learning about Clayworks: there is a lot of joy here. It’s in the objects created and in the energetic creativity of the artists who make them. Come on by. I bet you’ll feel it too.

-Cyndi Wish
Baltimore Clayworks Executive Director

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Artist Spotlight: Wes Brown

Next up in our monthly Artist Spotlight series is Resident Artist Wes Brown. Wes came to Baltimore Clayworks as a Resident Artist in the summer of 2018. He has worked and studied as an artist in such places as Indiana, North Carolina, and Jingdezhen, China. He holds an Associates of Art from Sinclair Community College, a Bachelors of Fine Art from Bowling Green State University, and a Masters of Fine Arts from Indiana University. He now teaches in Baltimore at our Mt. Washington studio, our off-site Community Arts locations, and at Bard High School Early College.

Question #1: What kind of work do you make and why do you make it?
I make ceramic sculptures to convey ideas of time, struggle, and triumph. I make sculpture because I find it challenging and it allows me to bring my own physicality forward in my making process.

Question #2: What drew you to clay?
Clay is an amazing recorder of touch so when I first began I knew that it was up to me to learn how to manipulate it. And it was that accessibility and challenge that drew me.

Question #3: What is your fondest or funniest memory associated with clay?
My fondest memory in clay is when I opened my kiln to my first pieces in my Monument series. It had been my largest piece up until that point and I had been taking a great deal of risks so I was very nervous.  So when I opened the door to the kiln I was overjoyed to see all my risks had paid off and it was better than I expected.

Question #4: What is something about yourself or your work that other people may not know about?
The Monument series that I am working on was half mistake and half blind intention.  I improvised too much and forgot to measure the piece and it got to big for the kiln so I had to change from my original plan.

Question #5: What is your favorite thing about Baltimore Clayworks?
My favorite thing is the Baltimore Clayworks Workforce Development class I teach. It is constantly challenging and the students are full of energy and are always excited to be challenged and learn.

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