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January Letter from the Executive Director

Happy 2020, and Happy 40th Anniversary to Clayworks!

I wanted to thank everyone who made 2019 a success. Whether you took a class, donated to the organization, stopped by the gallery, bought a pot, attended a resident artist talk, participated in a community program, volunteered, served on staff, taught a program, shared a post on social media, helped connect us in the community, or even just cheered Clayworks on from afar, thank you!

We’ve said this before, but I want to say it again. It truly is all of you who make Clayworks a unique and wonderful place.

I hope that you will stop by the opening reception on Saturday evening, so we can thank you in person and celebrate Clayworks’ 40 years of clay and community together.

Baltimore Clayworks’ Executive Director

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Introducing our Jan/Feb Short-term Interdisciplinary Resident Artists

We are proud to introduce our 2 January/February Short-term Interdisciplinary Resident Artists Danni O’Brien and Luna María Oak:

Danni O’Brien is a queer womyn maker and art educator currently based in Baltimore, Maryland. Her work is rooted in play, collecting, and constructing and informed by an education in assemblage sculpture, fiber arts, and ceramics. She marries construction and wood working skills with traditionally feminized and domesticated systems such as stitching, beading, and rug making to compose her dually hard and soft objects. Danni has recently been awarded artist residencies at The Wassaic Project (Wassaic, NY), PLOP (London, UK), The Maple Terrace (Brooklyn, NY), Art Farm (Marquette, NE) and Proyecto Ace (Buenos Aires, Argentina). Her work has been shown at School 33 (Baltimore, MD), Hillyer Art Space (Washington D.C.), Arlington Art Center (Arlington, VA), Little Berlin (Philadelphia, PA), and Terrault (Baltimore, MD), and published in Architectural Digest, ArtMaze, and Hiss Mag.

About her residency, O’Brien says “I am so excited to be one of the interdisciplinary artists in residence at Baltimore Clay Works this winter. My studio practice grapples with camp, craft, and play and involves various modes of object construction such as assemblage sculpture, ceramic hand building, and hand tied, latch hook rug making.

While in residence at Baltimore Clay Works I plan to work towards a new series of sculptures that marries my ceramic, fiber, and sculpture practices and address themes of fragility and precarity. I will construct overlapping, ceramic skins for my assemblage sculptures concocted from found metal and scavenged, defunct home goods. These ceramic objects will operate like armor or appendages and sometimes, like hardware to suspend or stabilize my off kilter, delicate objects. I also plan to create a series of clay “paintings” that serve as interlocking tiles or segments of wall paper for future installations.”

Luna María Oak is a two-spirit Apache-Xicanx multidisciplinary artist. They are a plural creature of the mountains and the desert, born and raised in Puebloan lands. Their practice studies the transformative dialogue between being and material as explored by traditional/ancestral methods of making. They currently live in Picataway territory.

About their residency, Oak says “I am interested in making musical instruments to be used communally in ritual. Making these from clay ties into ancestral ways of making flutes and drums. Uncovering ancestral connections and learning the mechanics of each individual instrument is key. Beginning to expand my knowledge of the properties of clay, especially how to work with them in their many different states, will open my personal practice. The way clay is shaped by all elements (earth, water, air, and fire) is something I want to understand at a deeper level. I want to feel the ways each element transforms in relation with one another.

Applying these instruments to ritual work will create a space for experimenting with communal sonic healing. This is where earth and sky meet, the mundane and the ethereal, held within clay vessels with a pulse and a voice. Ultimately, this takes me to a new place in my ritual practice that is less self-focused, and more focused on holding-together and healing-together. To hold and heal in moments of vulnerability is what will create growth as we move into the future, and I want to learn to be more present in these tender moments.”

Stay-tuned for updates during their residencies!

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Artist Spotlight: Eileen O’Donnell

Our January Artist Spotlight is with Eileen O’Donnell. Eileen is a ceramic sculptor, teacher, and filmmaker. In her work, she searches for connections to a common human experience, and draws upon ancient works of art, literature, and film to to create her sculptures.  She earned a B.A in English Literature from Saint Joseph’s University, and a B.F.A. in Three Dimensional Fine Art from Moore College of Art and Design.  She has shown her sculptures in exhibitions throughout the U.S., and has been awarded grants from Creative Capital, and the Louisiana ArtWorks. She loves teaching at  Baltimore Clayworks, where she also makes her work in the upstairs Mezzanine Artists Studios. In 2019, after years of being a cinematographer and production designer, she finally got to direct her first short film.

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

This might come from my Catholic upbringing. Creating my thoughts out of clay from the earth is the closest I can get to being a god.

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

Inspiration is a call to action, transformation. I am constantly inspired by the world and its mystery, the people and animals in my life, the structures of nature that surround me and that I am a part of.  To feel surprised, to learn something new, to be hurt, or confused- all of these experiences bombard me with opportunities to respond.

I hope to inspire the people in my life, my students, and my audience, to search for what being a human means to them. Sometimes this comes out in my own work in ways that people find disturbing.  But my work is the product of my own explorations, and is true to my experience. For me, the best art, the “most beautiful” resonates with a truth about human experience that connects us through time, place, and culture.

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

One summer I interned at a production pottery where, among other duties, it was my job to wedge and pug the raw clay that they received from the land of a local farmer.   The sun was beating down on me as loaded up the clay, and I thought it would be a smart idea to wipe some of the dark brown clay on my nose and cheeks to stave off a sunburn.  My boss came out later and said “You know there’s goose poop in there, right?”

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

I make independent films with my husband, Miceal O’Donnell.  Mostly I work as the cinematographer and production designer, but this year, I directed my first short film. “Good for Goodness Sake” stars Aaron Henkin (from NPR’s Out of the Blocks) Vera Takemoto, and Ada Smith. It’s a morality tale about a young girl who takes revenge on her cousin at Christmas.  It played at the Charm City Fringe Festival’s rough cuts screening at the Creative Alliance in September.

Question #5: As a teacher and member of our Mezzanine program, what about working at Clayworks have you enjoyed most?

It’s hard to say just one thing. Clayworks has become my creative home. I truly learn something new every day I am there, and am so grateful for the generosity of people who stop to answer me when I ask “What are you working on?”  The community at Clayworks shares a love of creating, and is therefore kind, ebullient, and delights in sharing their knowledge about clay.  I can’t think of a more inspiring place to be.

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December Letter from our Executive Director

Photo by Morgan Morreale via Instagram

Let’s see… 2019. I think it’s been quite a year. Memories tend to define their own hierarchy, right? My favorite memory of the year, hands down, is the opening of the exhibition of art made by the Workforce Development Students. A close second is Fire Fest. Third would have to be the staff meeting that we held while planting our veggie garden.

No year is without challenges, of course. But even better than specific memories is this sort of duende (I’m still not sure there is a direct English translation for that word) happening at Clayworks. I hear students, artists, and teachers complain that there isn’t enough shelf space, that there aren’t enough carts, that the kiln room is too hot, that we accidentally oversold a class, that there aren’t enough wheels, that the downstairs glaze room needs to be kept in order, that we are out of porcelain, etc. We try to address these issues as soon and as well as possible, but secretly, I love these complaints. It means things are happening! It means, as Sam Wallace would say, “Pots are on the MOVE.”


Cyndi Wish
Baltimore Clayworks Executive Director

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