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August Letter from our Executive Director

I did some grant reporting last month. (It’s riveting first sentences like that which keep you reading, I know!) Reporting to foundations that fund general operating expenses is one of my favorite things to do. Here’s why:

The world is a busy place, and non-profits are formed to serve its needs. And the world has a lot of needs, and endless ideas for creative ways to address them. So it becomes easy to think that the work you are doing is not enough, because there is and always will be, more to do. Do you have that voice in your head? “I’m not doing enough, well enough, or fast enough. If all these needs still exist, it must be a sign of some deficiency.” It’s not a particularly healthy way to think, and unfortunately, it can be an easy voice to listen to.

So, you may ask, what is the antidote to this potentially panic inducing idea that you aren’t ever going to be able to do enough? The answer is easy – it’s grant reporting!

Sure, I’m being slightly ironic, but it is immensely healthy and satisfying to look back on a year, acknowledge challenges, and really articulate successes. And Clayworks has had many this past year. I’ll spare you the entire list of fun numbers and programs, but I will share with you my two favorite parts of the Maryland State Arts Council report that I just finished. One is where I got to write that from July 2018 – June 2019, Clayworks exhibited 606 works of art by 208 artists. The other part is the form that asks for addresses for locations of services. That part took a while because Clayworks is running a lot of programs in a lot of places throughout the City and county.

It’s August. Take a moment. Breathe. Reflect. Smile.

And get ready for what comes next.

-Cyndi

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Artist Spotlight: Shawna Pincus

Our August Artist Spotlight feature is with Shawna Pincus. Shawna is a ceramic artist living in Baltimore Maryland with her husband, daughter and their cat, Bowie. She grew up right outside of Philadelphia and went to school at the Maryland Institute College of Art where she earned a BFA in sculptural studies. She has taught public school art, led various adult workshops, and served as adjunct professor of Art Education for Towson University. Shawna currently works full time in her studio in addition to exhibiting her pottery in various galleries and fine shops across the country. She also enjoys teaching adult pottery classes at Baltimore Clayworks on Sunday mornings.

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

Aside from play dough and elementary art class, my earliest memory of clay comes from the evenings my mom and I spent in the home of a lady named Vicky who ran a very early version of “paint your own pottery”. We would spend a few hours every week with a group of local women, gathered around a table in Vicky’s basement, chatting, cleaning the seams and painting little slip cast figures. I was the only child there but I loved it so much. I made a whole village of fairies, dragons and castles to decorate my room. As cheesy as it was I think it started my love of decorating clay and building up painted surfaces.

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

So many people inspire me!! I really feel that everyone comes into our lives for a reason and I love to look for the little moments and special relationships that come from each interaction. In my work I hope to capture some of those stories and fleeting moments that make up our human connections. My daughter informs many of my stories and so does my husband so they frequently show up in various illustrations that I use. I hope that I can inspire my daughter to follow her passions and make her dreams a reality when she grows up.

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

When I first met my husband (we were in college at MICA) he came down into the studio and asked me to teach him to throw pots on the wheel. I think he thought it would be romantic…we all know that movie! It turns out that centering was a bit harder then he thought and the clay flew all over the studio! It was not anything like he expected it to be and we ended up laughing, completely covered in mud and with no pottery to show for it. We now collaborate on paper rather then clay!

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

My goal is to make art that anyone can collect. It’s important to me that my work remains accessible to anyone that makes a connection to it.  I love to hear that a customer purchased a mug years ago and still uses it every day. Or that someone has an entire shelf in their home dedicated to my pots! Some of my pots live very exotic lives (I have a set of mugs traveling the world via yacht right now!) but really I’m thrilled that people buy my work and treasure it and I hope that my work lives in many kinds of homes and are used and loved. I do love to hear where they end up!

Question #5: What is your favorite Clayworks quirk?

I love the people of Clayworks! I’ve learned so much from the people who are involved there from the amazing artists who have taught workshops and classes to the students and community members that I see day to day. Clayworks has been a part of my life for the last 20 plus years and I’m truly grateful for all the amazing people who make it what it is.

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Announcing Our New Resident Artists

For over 39 years Baltimore Clayworks has distinguished itself nationally and internationally for our unwavering support of ceramic artists and for our cutting-edge community arts engagement to the underserved communities of Baltimore. Throughout three decades of continuous operation, Clayworks has developed into a treasured ceramic art center providing quality arts programming to thousands of people annually.

Our Resident Artist program is a community of artists with shared experiences working at a critical time in their career. We provide the opportunity for artists to develop their work, exhibit in our galleries, and teach in our educational and community arts programs. These positions are highly competitive and we receive applications from artists all over the world. Once juried into the program, Resident Artists’ terms are for one year, renewable up to three years. Upon completion of their residency, many of our artists remain in the area, sharing their knowledge and experience, and building relationships within the greater Baltimore community.

We are excited to welcome 2 new long-term resident artists to our community in September 2019: Samantha Briegel and Emily Lamb.

Samantha Briegel will be the new Lormina Salter Fellowship Artist, an honor that comes with a stipend and solo exhibition. Samantha is an artist who explores the relationship between the body and clothing through her handmade functional wares. She is from the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in Knoxville, Tennessee. She received her BFA from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and her MFA from Ohio University. She has been an intern at the Archie Bray Foundation Clay Business, a post-baccalaureate student at the University of Montana, and, most recently, a resident artist at District Clay Center in Washington DC. Samantha says: “I am looking forward to joining the Baltimore Clayworks community! I have heard only good things about the strong community surrounding Clayworks. I am excited to be a resident, especially in its 40th anniversary year. Once I move in, please do not hesitate to come say “Hey!” I can’t wait to see how my new environment will affect my work this coming year.”

Emily Lamb is an artist who 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 says: “I look forward to sharing my knowledge through teaching and joining the Baltimore Clayworks community where I will meet other creatives, make new connections and continue to learn. Being part of Clayworks will further my pursuit of innovative large scale figurative work incorporated with blown/flame-worked glass.”

Samantha and Emily will join Clayworks’ current long-term residents Jason Piccoli and Hae Won Sohn in our studios. Their residencies will start in September, at which point we will welcome them with a community event. Join us on Friday, September 13 for a bar-b-que from 4-6pm, and artist talks from 6-7pm.

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Artist Spotlight: Isolina Alva

Our July Artist Spotlight feature is with Isolina Alva. Isolina started working with Clayworks in the summer of 2018, when she came on as a summer intern. She now teaches children’s classes, including summer camps and weekend workshops, is a front desk associate on the weekends, and will soon be teaching adult workshops. Isolina is currently a student at MICA. She loves her dog and turning her drawings into sculptures that make her laugh and feel small.

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

My earliest memory of clay is making a super chubby & equally wobbly pot with Mr. Webb, my Illinois high school ceramic teacher. I was 14 at the time, and drew poems, flowers, and planets all over this funky thing.

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

I get inspired by everything! This one deli owner I always catch smoking cigarettes when it rains, all hunched under the tiny extension of his shop roofing… 2019 paparazzi photos of Jack Nicholson, Allison Schulnik’s animations & paintings, Mike Mills’ movie “Beginners”, Victoria Jang’s recent & figurative work, ALL of Henry Darger’s work, Mark Errol’s current pieces, the little kids I have the privilege in teaching ceramics to..  this list can go on forever. I think what all these works have in common is their immense honesty during their birthing period & consumption.

I hope to inspire anyone & everyone to follow their dreams and live their happiest lives! From queer/female identifying human beings & people of color who weren’t given the space to express themselves outside of academic pressures, to friends looking for alternative ways in expressing/feeling love!! I just want to give the whole world a huge hug to be honest…

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

My fondest memory is crying into my big figure after hearing my grandmother passed. It was the first time I realized how deep & necessary clay has become to my survival in this world.

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

I would love to see my ceramic work inside a rocket, waving at me from their window. I hope someone like that comes along! Call me, Elon Musk!

Question #5: What is your favorite Clayworks quirk?

My favorite thing about Clayworks is the energy, compassion, and personality every single person contributes to the studio, I think my “Clayworks quirk” is feeling happy to be alive from the minute I get in to the minute I leave!

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July Letter from our Executive Director

When I started my job here, the wise Mr. Wallace warned me (insert Sam’s accent if you can…) “Don’t you get the office fever.” When I asked what he meant, he replied “The studio building is right across that street there.”

While administrative work is rewarding and has its own charm and creativity, let’s face it: office fever is a very real thing. Last week when it started to set in, I followed Sam’s advice and went across the street to say hello to our new short term resident artist, Misty Gamble, and to check out what was happening with summer camps.

Misty was working hard in her studio. I didn’t want to interrupt, but she invited me to sit down and within moments, we were in thick conversation about panty dinnerware sets and sexy chickens, how to sustain a “goal diet”, the intersection of veganism and feminism which led, naturally, to farm subsidies and reproductive rights, and what it might feel like to have a hoop skirt on your head. She gave a great talk about her work last night, which you can catch on our Facebook Page.

The artists downstairs were also working hard making protective animal sculptures inspired by Haechi. One artist was working on a dog with very pronounced tube shaped lips. The lips, the artist claimed, were shaped specifically to suck bad dreams out of the air. Who doesn’t need one of those? Or two, even?

It is such a unique privilege to engage with artists about their creative processes; I’m so grateful. And Sam was right, if you feel the office fever coming on, getting into the Clayworks studio building will probably cure it.

See you soon,
Cyndi

[Photo: Misty Gamble teaching her June workshop. Photo by Jani Hileman.]

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Artist Spotlight: Yoshi Fujii

Our June Artist Spotlight feature is with Visiting Artist Yoshi Fujii. Yoshi first came to Baltimore Clayworks as a Lormina Salter Fellowship Artist in 2008. He stayed on as a resident artist, instructor, and gallery manager until 2016, when he went to the United Arab Emirates for a teaching residency. He is now back at Clayworks as a Visiting Artist and instructor.

Yoshi is an accomplished ceramic artist, and holds degrees in Foreign Language, Anthropology, Sculpture, English as a Second Language, and Ceramics. He has done residencies in Taiwan and the UAE, and has won awards from the Baker Artist Foundation and the Maryland State Arts Council. His work has been published and shown in national and international exhibitions and competitions and has won several awards.

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

I make wheel thrown functional porcelain wares with hand-carved surfaces. I put artistic value in both the quality and complexity of the objects themselves, and in my own acquisition of craftsmanship as a maker.

Question #2: What drew you to clay?
I enjoy visiting my friend’s home and seeing my work in their kitchen sink. It is a privilege to know that my work is actively used through holding the vessel, feeling its surface, and nourishing their body with its contents. The time that I spend carving and finishing each piece bridges the time that the user spends developing connections with others.

Question #3: What is your fondest or funniest memory associated with clay? 
My best friend asked me to make a butter dish when I was just learning clay in college. I carefully measured the size of a stick of butter, and threw a bowl/cover and saucer and altered the forms for perfect fit. When the piece is fired, I couldn’t close the cover with butter in; I didn’t know about clay shrinkage during drying and firing! After 15 years, he still uses and loves my butter dish, but only after he cuts out one slice.

Question #4: What is something about yourself or your work that other people may not know about?
Shhhh!.. I use IKEA tableware in my kitchen… But I DO use my own and my peer potters’ work, especially drinking vessels. I like mix-and-match of handmade and mass produced vessels.

Question #5: What is your favorite thing about Baltimore Clayworks? Definitely the close community of artists and students! I am very grateful to come back to the artist studio at Baltimore Clayworks and start teaching classes again this summer after my teaching residency in the Middle East for the past two years! Please come by, so we can reconnect!

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