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Community Spotlight: Nicole Fall

Clayworks is excited to share a new “Community Spotlight” series of written blog posts by members of our community. During this period of isolation, we hope these posts can spread joy, introduce you to some of the people that make Clayworks amazing, and help you #claypositive. We are kicking off this series with members of our staff – next up is Nicole Fall, Baltimore Clayworks’ Community Arts and BCYF Grant Manager.

“I come from a family of artists; my grandmother, my mother, an aunt, an uncle, and one of my sisters were or are artists. Now my spouse and my grown children are artists as well. I consider myself a sculptor. I created and sold my first sculpture when I was 13 years old – this made something of an impression on me. It was an “I can do this!” moment.

I majored in ceramics at MICA where I made sculpture that was influenced by nature and undersea imagery which was then used to explore the human condition. The department at that time consisted of professors; Doug Baldwin, Ron Lang, and Lois Hennessey; conceptually and technically strong hand-builders. Their teaching was premised in the attitude that you will come up with an idea and then figure out technically how to make it happen. They encouraged big ideas so I made a clay sculpture that was about 7 feet tall before I graduated.

Doug Baldwin brought us seniors to Baltimore Clayworks in 1981, pretty soon after it had opened. He wanted us to see options for continuing to work once we graduated.

Upon graduating, I set up my own studio in every basement (and one living room), of every house I lived in. I was making very thin, fragile clay objects. It was frustrating to endure so much breakage, I wanted to build bigger, AND teach college…  SO, I went to graduate school and learned how to weld steel. Since then I often combine steel with clay. It makes it possible to build things that are weightless-seeming, tall (25 feet so far), with the primordial substance of clay.

I have managed Community Arts twice at Clayworks; in 2000 and again in 2018. It combines my experience as an arts educator and artist with the activism of enhancing access to the arts for all. I very much enjoy the challenge of making clay programming happen in as many spaces as possible in Baltimore. Because of the pandemic we are currently working on how we can deliver programming in a time of quarantine where we cannot have direct contact with the youth we work with.

This time of Covid 19 has been challenging personally. A relative has come to stay with us for the time being and she has Alzheimers. Our time is structured by her needs and like, when we were raising children, we have rediscovered artmaking with interruptions. I have also managed to rediscover solitude and plan on bringing more of that back into my life.  I hope and wish everyone is managing well.”

-Nicole Fall

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Community Spotlight: Merina Casa

Clayworks is excited to roll out a new “Community Spotlight” series of written blog posts by members of our community. During this period of isolation, we hope these posts can spread joy, introduce you to some of the people that make Clayworks amazing, and help you #claypositive. We are kicking off this series with members of our staff – first up is Merina Casa, Baltimore Clayworks’ Development Associate.

“I’ve always had a soft spot for ceramics, mostly because of my mother, who is a fearless and talented woman. When I was growing up, she tried almost every craft you can think of: painting, drawing, glass blowing, carpentry, upholstery, metal sculpture, ceramics, to name just a few. Trust me, there were more. Ceramics was one my mom stuck with for a long time, and she was great at it.

My mom was a large part of the reason why I wanted to become a part of Baltimore Clayworks. She had to stop working on pottery after getting shoulder surgery when I was in college, but she still loves and appreciates ceramics.

Throughout my life, I’ve always been artist-adjacent, never really feeling like I could claim the title. I’ve dabbled in a few art forms, printmaking, drawing, painting, but nothing that I felt like I had ownership of. I think I was deterred, and possibly jealous, of my mom’s innate talent in all things creative.

I had worked at Clayworks for a few months before I was ready to take a class. I’d gone through a bad breakup in the Spring, and I was finally feeling like myself at the start of the Fall session, so I figured I’d give it a try. I knew I wanted to take Sam’s class, I’d always loved his planters, and anyone who knows me can tell you that I am obsessed with houseplants.

One of the first thing Sam tells you is to “DANCE AROUND THE POT! YOU BECOME THE WHEEL!” in his charming, and at times, intimidating Jamaican accent. You watch him mold a perfect cylindrical pot in a matter of minutes while dancing around and around a couple of stacked buckets and bats. It’s almost hypnotizing, and very calming.

For three hours, things just melt away when you shuffle around those stacked buckets. I haven’t made anything groundbreaking, and probably won’t, but I’m enjoying learning about this medium. I feel closer to my mom when I send her photos of what I did in class each week. I’ve learned so much about all the things that clay can do, and how many possibilities come from each piece.

I’ve done a lot of self-exploration in the past year, and I think ceramics has helped me find confidence in new ways that I needed. Being around all the wonderful artists at Clayworks made me realize that these are my people, and I am indeed an artist. Lofty title included.

During these weird covid-19 times, I’m still dancing around pots, this time with Lizzo as a soundtrack (highly recommend). On the other hand, I have also found it incredibly difficult to motivate myself right now. I start projects with great energy and enthusiasm and lose steam halfway through. I’m sure I’m not the only one with that problem. I am the most and least inspired I have ever been. My house is cleaner than it’s ever been, though.

I miss my studio friends, my coworkers, watching people drive the wrong direction down Smith Avenue from the Gallery building. I know we’ll be back to work at some point, whenever that may be, I hope it’s soon. Sending lots of love and light to everyone reading this. Thanks for listening.”

x Merina Casa

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