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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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September Letter from our Executive Director

I started trying to tackle some larger concept for a September letter; about art and inspiration and making and consumption and the meaning of excellence. But I can’t articulate any of this in a productive way right now. Instead, here is a sweet little story.

My friend Katrina lives in Jamestown, North Dakota. She called me one day because her toddler, Hans, had noticed a unique salt and pepper shaker set at one of her friend’s homes (also in Jamestown, ND). Being a toddler, Hans managed to chip a piece off of the salt shaker. When Katrina asked her friend where and how she could get a replacement, her friend replied “You probably can’t. We got them a long time ago at this little spot in Baltimore.”

Knowing that I live here now, Katrina called me. “This is a crazy long shot…”, told me the story of Hans, and asked if she sent me a photo, by any strange chance would I be able to find the artist? I said I would ask around.

I walked to Mary Cloonan’s office with the photo on my phone and asked, “Do you know who made these crazy baby salt and pepper shakers?” Mary said, “Oh, yeah. I did.”

Again, I think there is something poetic here about objects and energy and connection. Or maybe it’s just sort of lovely to know that, through its history and the objects that have been made here, Baltimore Clayworks has a presence just about everywhere.

-Cyndi Wish
Baltimore Clayworks’ Executive Director

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Artist Spotlight: Sam Briegel

Our September Artist Spotlight feature is with Sam Briegel. Sam is our new Lormina Salter Fellowship Resident Artist, will be teaching classes with us in the Fall, and you can find her work in our retail Shop. Sam is from Knoxville, Tennessee, and received her BFA at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. After graduation, her passion for pottery led her to Helena, Montana for the opportunity to intern at the Archie Bray Foundation Clay Business. After her internship, Sam moved to Missoula, Montana to study ceramics at the University of Montana as a post-baccalaureate student. Samantha then completed her Masters of Fine Arts in ceramics at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Most recently, Sam was a resident artist at District Clay Center in Washington D.C.

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

My rural Tennessee public high school offered handbuilding clay classes but no pottery classes on the wheel. I took one handbuilding ceramics class in high school and made a slab built mug by rolling a slab over a soda can. I added some leaves and carved some curly vine designs and glazed it shiny brown and green. I entered it into a high school art competition and it won second place. It did not seem significant to me at the time but it ended up being the first vessel I remember making. Years later, I still enjoy the slab process the most and have been known to dabble in surface decoration especially with florals.

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

I am often inspired most by the ceramics community I am a part of. Everyone is working with one material and translating it into so many unique and innovating objects. I hope to inspire young artists that had the thought “I want to do this the rest of my life.” It is such a risk to pursue a career in the arts and I hope that my trajectory can one day inspire the artist that can’t fathom doing anything else with their life other than to create.

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

Clay does a good job keeping me humble. I can’t remember a specific funny memory because there are so many and most of them involve a plaster disaster of some kind. My fondest memory of clay is not hard to think of. When I was in grad school at Ohio University, I decided to try slipcasting. I made the mold template with heat activated felt and I draped and glued fabric over the form. The mold was a pitcher and I had to separate it into 3 molds- the body, the handle, and the spout. It was so complicated. It felt like it was doomed to fail from the start. I was able to successfully cast a few pitchers in porcelain and blue porcelain. The texture of the mold was denim and I thought it would be a good idea to rub navy underglaze into the texture to emphasize the denim texture. When I opened the glaze kiln, low and behold, the piece looked exactly like I wanted it to. I burst into tears. I was so overwhelmed to see the process to the end. The white porcelain one turned out looking like acid wash denim which I had to laugh about and then toss in the dumpster but the blue one looked true to the dress that I was hoping to replicate.

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

I try to make my work activate memory. I want my work in the collections of people with distinct memories of the prints and fabrics I use. No one person comes to mind in particular, but someone who is fond of the familiar motifs and patterns so that they can be reminded of their past wardrobe and enjoy it in a different context.

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

I am excited to teach at Clayworks and make work in the studio. I have heard so many great things about the community surrounding Clayworks that I am excited to be a part of it. I have spent a few days working so far and my new studio is so pleasant with all of the natural lighting and openness. Right before leaving my residency at the District Clay Center in DC, I made some new discoveries with my work and I’m excited to continue that exploration at my new studio at Clayworks!

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DIS Student Video about Baltimore Clayworks

In August, students from the Mass Communication Foundation course at the Defense Information School chose Baltimore Clayworks for a project about diversity. They chose Clayworks “because it represent(s) diversity in many forms. From young students to adults who have mastered clayworking, Clayworks has an extremely interesting group of people. Our team chose to represent how diversity unites people and creates communities.” The students visited Clayworks and spent a day photographing and filming our classes and interviewed our staff. We thank the DIS students for working with us, and we are so excited to share a video from their project with our community:

DIS Student video about Baltimore Clayworks

In August, students from the Mass Communication Foundation course at the Defense Information School chose Baltimore Clayworks for a project about diversity. They chose Clayworks "because it represent(s) diversity in many forms. From young students to adults who have mastered clayworking, Clayworks has an extremely interesting group of people. Our team chose to represent how diversity unites people and creates communities." The students visited Clayworks and spent a day photographing and filming our classes and interviewed our staff. We thank the DIS students for working with us, and we are so excited to share a video from their project with our community:

Posted by Baltimore Clayworks on Tuesday, September 3, 2019

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Baltimore Clayworks and City Youth Create Tile-Mosaic Mural in Park Heights

This summer, Baltimore Clayworks, in partnership with Park Heights Renaissance, Youthworks, and Safe Streets, have been helping students create a mosaic mural in Shirley Avenue Park. The mosaic tile mural is themed around anti-violence and hope, and will feature the Safe Streets slogan “There is hope in the Heights.” The mural will be placed in the adjacent Shirley Avenue Park and located in a space that is often used as a meeting point for peace efforts. We are so proud to be part of this project, and thank all of our supporters.

Baltimore Magazine has written an excellent article about this project, and you can read it here.

The Baltimore Times has also written a nice article about this project, and you can read it here.

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