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  • 04 Dec 2022 12:34 PM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

    It was a banner year for giving through the NMPCA – in addition to the Clay Forward Campaign for Ghost Ranch ceramics programs (via over 100 donors), the board chose to award four schools this year with the Armstrong Grant. 

    The mission of NMPCA includes the support of education in the ceramic arts. Schools and non-profits are invited each year to apply for a Bill Armstrong Grant to support their programs and projects. Bill Armstrong was an active member of NMPCA from the organization's beginning til his death in the early 2000's. He served on the board, and co-instructed courses at Ghost Ranch with Jim Kempes in the 1980s and 90s. The New Mexico Potters and Clay Artists established an annual grant program in memory of the late distinguished member in 2002. Bill was instrumental in teaching many people about pottery and was always interested in experimenting, learning more, and helping others.

    The applications were many this year, and the NMPCA Board decided to fund several, due to the worthiness of the proposals, as well as the health of our finances.

    In the spirit of celebration, read on to witness a small sampling of what is happening throughout New Mexico with ceramics education, from preK through high school. All are definitely worthy of the support of the over 200 members of New Mexico Potters and Clay Artists. Because we choose to offer this grant, we are able to keep our finger on the pulse of ceramics education in New Mexico a bit!

    Holy Ghost Catholic School, in the International District of ABQ, was awarded a $1000 Bill Armstrong Grant to hire a Pueblo potter for workshops, and to purchase clay and clay tools. Sarah Madigan, Applicant; Dr. Douglas Wine, Principal.

    From the Holy Ghost Catholic School proposal:

    “Holy Ghost is a STREAM school inspiring students with a highly engaging curriculum that provides context for their learning and challenges to apply their knowledge. This grant supports a ceramic unit for grades K-8 with a focus on the rich tradition of pueblo pottery here in New Mexico. Funds will bring in a visiting pueblo potter/ceramic artist to Holy Ghost School. This artist will share practices, techniques, processes as well as the work’s cultural significance. The artist will engage with students around the development of their own ideas and inspire them to create their own work with clay. Funds will provide every Holy Ghost student with clay. Students will have experiences in various hand-building techniques, including but not limited to, coil building and slab building. Younger artists will begin with a simple pinch pot. Following some practice with the pinch pot, coil building techniques will be introduced to elaborate on the vessel. All young artists will have a guided experience hand building a prescribed ceramic vessel and then apply their new skills to make a piece of their choosing, whether a utilitarian vessel or something sculptural using the techniques they have learned or the inspiration they gained from the stories they have heard. A description of who will benefit from this project/program and what are the anticipated outcomes All Holy Ghost curriculums are K - 8, building knowledge and skills from previous to future years. Older students are “buddies” for younger students, so students will not only work on their projects solely in class; they will also be able to share their efforts and ideas with older and younger students. One hundred and fifty-three Holy Ghost students grades K-8 will be included in this experience. Initially, students will learn about pueblo pottery traditions in New Mexico from a visiting artist as well as from different books from our library. In addition, students will learn about and explore several clay techniques. The first piece will be prescribed to ensure the acquisition of foundation skills, and the second piece will challenge students, as we do in our STREAM mission, to apply these skills to an individual creation.”

    Cottonwood Valley Charter School , a K-8 school in Socorro, NM, was awarded a $730 Bill Armstrong Grant for purchasing a new slab roller for the school. Beth Cadol, Fundraising Committee Chair and Linnea Burleigh, K-8 Art Teacher.

    From the Cottonwood Valley Charter School proposal:

    One of the major goals of the art program at CVCS is to use community support and collaboration to expand the art program by planning, designing, constructing and utilizing a kiln room/clay studio that benefits students and community members. Students will identify how the plan for the building and kiln will be implemented in lab sessions with the art teacher and other community members. Students will participate in clay projects that relate to societal, cultural, historical and personal themes. So far, we have fundraised enough money to purchase a kiln for the school; the next step is building a kiln room. Our request for funding from New Mexico Potters and Clay Artists is for a portable slab roller. Slab rollers are fantastic opportunity makers! They can be used to make tiles, dishes, flower pots, boxes or anything else that needs a flat starting place. Storage for one isn't as tricky as a kiln, and a portable slab roller could fit into our existing setting. The 170 students at CVCS (Kindergarten through 8th grade) would be the ones benefiting from this program. We are a Title I school with 100% of students offered free lunch. Anticipated outcomes include continuing to empower students with the opportunity to explore new mediums, to serve our community and to promote long lasting beauty on our campus. Students will benefit from being able to easily connect with clay thanks to the opportunities and ease a slab roller provides. Students will be able to create hand built bowls for our community Empty Bowls Gala, where their ware will be auctioned off to raise money for our local food pantry. The eighth graders will be able to continue the Legacy Mural Project and leave behind a beautiful space in the school many of them have been in since kindergarten. Many, many more opportunities to use the slab roller will come up and be thoroughly appreciated! Though we may be a small school on a skeleton staff, our art curriculum is vibrant and thriving. Art in our school is valued as a way to personally process and navigate uncertain times. We continue to sing songs that remind us to love others and the world, and we create art with our friends and family for the good of our community, giving our students and our city opportunities to create, to make purpose, and to grow towards the future.

    Aztec High School, in Aztec, NM, was awarded an $800 Bill Armstrong Grant, for clay and glazes to support Ceramics program. Dr. Warman Hall Director of Federal Programs Aztec Municipal School District and Ms. Anne Hartman, Fine Arts Chair & Ceramics Teacher.

    From the Aztec High School proposal:

    “The Grow Ceramic Arts at Aztec High School program is an integral part of our fine arts course offering at the school. Currently, Aztec High is only able to offer one section of pottery and ceramics to our students each semester. This is due to constraints in our master schedule of classes. For the 2022-23 school year our Ceramics teacher, Ms. Anne Hartman, has received over 50 requests from students to take ceramics. This level of request has grown considerably with the school’s forward thinking decision to increase our daily course offerings in a seven period school day. Unfortunately, Ms. Hartman is Aztec High's only ceramics, drawing and painting teacher.   With the support of $1000 from the Bill Armstrong Grant, the Aztec High fine arts department will be able to purchase the supplies needed to add at least one major unit of ceramics and pottery into the existing curriculum in Ms. Hartman’s regular painting courses. Given Ms. Hartman’s load of 5 daily art classes, other than ceramics, this increase in budget for clay and glazes would allow her to deliver ceramics art instruction to an additional estimated 150 students. Such an increase in ceramics art learning at our high school would greatly increase the presence of student art on exhibit in local art shows and grow the interest in ceramics study among our general student population. Aztec High School is the comprehensive public high school in Aztec, NM. The school’s enrollment includes an average of 750-800 students; 35% of whom are Native American and 45% of Hispanic background. An estimated minimum 40% of students at Aztec High School will be eligible for free and reduced lunch this coming school. Most notably, the school expects to serve a population of 60-80 students who will reside in the Kinteel Dormitory residential facility during the school week, while returning to their homes in rural and reservation parts of the greater Four Corners region for the weekend. Aztec Municipal School District and Aztec High School are fully ready to partner with the Grow Ceramics program through continued support to Ms. Hartman in her courses; and by highlighting the students' art pieces in the school’s student concert and fine arts exhibitions each semester.” 

    A Child’s Garden Preschool, in Albuquerque, NM, was awarded a $470 Bill Armstrong Grant for clay, glaze, firing and other materials to support the Bosque Bark Project. Sandria Cook, lead teacher for the project.

    From A Child’s Garden proposal:

    “A Child’s Garden (ACG) Bosque Education Project is an opportunity for our oldest preschool children to become familiar with our local ecosystem and to experience learning and growing in an outdoor classroom. Our older three-year-old and our pre-k classes are taken out into the Bosque to learn about this ecosystem firsthand. … the children can experience the wonders of the Rio Grande and the surrounding Bosque. The Tree Bark Clay Project has been designed to facilitate and expand upon the children’s explorations and observations during and after their excursions to the Rio Grande Bosque. The purpose of the project is to help children see their place within the natural world and cultivate an interest in, and a love for, their local ecosystem that they will hopefully spread to their families and communities.  

    The project will include creation of bark impressions on clay that will be made into vessels, a model “bosque”, tiles, and/or a mural. 

    This project aims to promote observational skills that the children will use to:           

    *become familiar with the flora and fauna in their natural habitat

    *notice and be able to differentiate between various types of trees in the Bosque

    *become aware that trees are individuals just like other beings 

    *learn and be able to identify different parts of a tree 

    *learn and remember locations of individual trees within the Bosque

    *build an awareness of what trees provide to the flora and fauna in their environment (ie: food, shelter, shade)

    … A Child’s Garden Preschool is a fully inclusive non-sectarian community outreach program of First Presbyterian Church which is committed to providing a developmentally appropriate learning environment for a diverse population of young children. We accept any child regardless of ability, background, and socioeconomic status and we are respectful of the individual needs, cultural heritage, and identity of each child in our program.  The teaching staff at ACG recognize that all children are unique and learn in different ways and at different rates.” 


    Congratulations to all!

    This article has benefited from the individual applicants’ proposals as well as from the words by Vice President and Armstrong Grant coordinator Michael Thornton. 


    -Cirrelda Snider-Bryan, Slip Trail Editor 

    December 4, 2022. 

  • 01 Nov 2022 3:12 PM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

    Thanks to Leonard Baca who reminded us about this article at our July 14, 2022 "Clay Connections" Zoom. 

    From Slip Trail archives. Original: February 2005; re-published January 2013.

    By Betsy Williams

    How do you price your work? Do you have a consistent pricing system, or do you simply assign prices according to whim? Do you think prices are arbitrary and 'personal'? Are you trying to build a viable career? Do you have a long-term strategy connected with the pricing of all your artwork? These are essential questions to ask before you sell your work. Pricing is a joint venture, involving you, your market, and yes, your fellow artists. Failure or inability to price your work appropriately will create obstacles in your career. If your work is overpriced, you may alienate potential customers and galleries. If your work is underpriced, you may undermine your own reputation and long-term financial growth. According to Caroll Michels’s book, How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist, there are three approaches to pricing your artwork, each of which must be considered and coordinated. 

    1. Pragmatic Pricing 

    2. Market Value 

    3. Confidence 

    Pragmatic Pricing: 

    The artist should begin with a standard formula to calculate the price of a piece. 

    • Calculate your annual business expenditures, including materials costs. Divide by 12 to calculate your average monthly overhead 

    For example, let's say that all of your expenses for materials, utility costs, advertising, and so on, add up to $15,000 per year. $15,000 divided by 12 gives you a monthly overhead of $1250. 

    • Calculate the number of pieces you complete in one month. (While the specifics may be different for production potters, or those who make a combination of gallery pieces and production pieces, the approach is the same.) Clay artists should calculate the average number of pieces that are successfully fired each month. 

    For example, let's say you've kept track for an entire production cycle through to a glaze firing, by recording your hourly work, and find that it takes about 30 minutes (.5 hours) lo complete one cup in your production repertoire - throwing, trimming, adding a handle, bisque-firing, decorating, glazing, loading the kiln, etc. This time period should represent all of your labor from start to finish. On average, you could complete 16 cups per day. If you work 22 days per month, that means you can make, give or take, 350 cups per month. 

    • Determine your hourly wage. What is minimum wage for you? What do other professionals with equivalent levels of education charge per hour'? Do you have many years of education and expertise, or are you just starting out? When you have decided on a wage, calculate your monthly costs in labor. Keep an accurate record of your labor costs not only to help with pricing, but also to give you information necessary to schedule, budget, and price commissions and other projects. 

    For example: let’s say you’ve set your hourly wage at $15 per hour. At this point, you can multiply .5 hours (the time it takes to make your one cup, as described above) by $15 per hour. Your labor costs alone for the cup total $7.50. Then your $1250 per month over- head must be included. If you can make a total of 350 cups in a month then your monthly overhead per cup = $1250/350 cups = $3.57 per cup. Your total thus far is $7.50 plus $3.57 per cup = $11.07. 

    • Add a profit margin (recommended is 10%). That brings your total to $11.07 + $1.11 = $12.18 per cup. 

    • Add 100% commission (to account for the standard gallery cut of 50%). Whether or not you sell all or some of your work through galleries, the price that you charge from your studio and the price for which a gallery sells the same piece must be the same. Always establish the retail price, rather than the wholesale price, to prevent inconsistent prices at different galleries and in different regions. When selling work directly to the customer, a discount of l0% is acceptable. If you discount more to your direct customers you are underselling yourself and doing a disservice to your gallery, as well as to your fellow artists in the same market. 

    Now the total is $24.36 per cup.
    Note: These examples are meant simply to clarify the method of calculation. Your figures may be dramatically different from the ones above. 

    • Add sales tax, packing, shipping, etc. 

    Market Value: 

    After you have calculated the price of a piece or body of work according to the above formula, next compare your figure to the market value of a similar type of work by other artists with similar backgrounds and reputations. This means, simply, visit other galleries, shows, and fairs to see what's out there. Know your world. Michels advises that you “keep in mind that other artists' price ranges should serve only as guidelines, not as gospel." 

    Is your figure dramatically different from other work in your field? Do you have a valid reason for this difference? Consider whether or not you should adjust your hourly wage to bring your figure closer to the perceived market value. 

    Constance Smith, in her book Art Marketing 101 advises, "Think of your artwork as having a price range, not just one price. You'll determine an average price range, and then price according to size, subject, media.... and importance of work." 

    A typical price range on functional items, for example coffee cups, can be clearly determined. Setting the specific price for a specific cup may require some additional thought, but is, even so, not normally a complex issue. One-of-a-kind pieces - because of their individuality and because of considerable time spent creating each piece - may require more market value study than production items, but the approach is similar. 


    Underselling work that you value will ultimately make you resent your own customers. Selling, at any price, work that you don't value will degrade your own image and your potential to create truly fine work. What about work that you feel is your best, and for which you have designated a price? Now confidence becomes important. Las Vegas-based art theorist and critic, David Hickey, known for his daring ideas and blue-collar approach, describes the pricing of art as a kind of casino-style bet with your potential customer. The artist says, “I’ll bet I can sell this piece for price X." If the customer buys the piece at the price X, the artist wins the bet. Of course, the artist can study all the cards and make an educated, rather than a wild, bet. Essentially this is a foray into discovering what the market will bear, at the root of our capitalist system. Where there is no risk, there is no gain. 

    Garth Clark, in Shards, reprimands clay artists for underselling their work. How, can ceramics ever gain legitimacy in the art world if ceramic artists continue to undervalue their own work? He advises ceramists to dispose of, once and for all, the Leach model of inexpensive work, pointing out that Leach himself was never the successful businessman able to follow his own advice. In the chapter "The Future of Functional Pottery Part Two: Bernard's Orphans – Searching for Neo in Classical" Clark writes: The Japanese, unlike the British or the Americans" got the concept right. They built a strong following for functional wares and they kept both the quality and the prices high. ... At the end of each year potters would assemble all of their pots and destroy all but the best work. Others ... controlled their market by selecting a minority of their pieces to be boxed and signed, giving them value above the unboxed wares. Either way they developed a system that allowed their potters to live lives as comfortably as successful painters have done, or other visual artists do, rather than the subsistence existence we often find in the West. 

    Do you have a piece that you don't feel is up to par? Do you just want to get rid of it? Don't affix a low price and give your customers the impression that your work is cheap. Put it in the closet for a few years, out of sight. Or go out into the yard and smash it with a sledgehammer. Or, donate it to charity. Use what you've learned to make your work better. Remember that pricing your work is part of the larger web that connects you with society. Developing a consistent pricing strategy will give you confidence, and you will be able to convey this confidence to your customer. Will you help society understand the value of your work in re- turn for an appreciative clientele's advancement of your career though financial support? Money is a link in the chain that connects us all. Will you be the weakest link? 

    Recommended reading:
    Art Marketing l0l by Constance Smith ISBN 0-940899-48-5

    How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist by Caroll Michels ISBN 0 8050-1953-7 

    Shards: Garth Clark on Ceramic Art Ed. by John Pagliaro ISBN O9725097-1-2 

  • 29 Aug 2022 2:39 PM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

    The Rio Grande SUN in Española published Arts Editor Bob Eckert's review on July 14th, 2022. Thanks to Bob for furnishing these pdfs of the article, as well as for writing a vivid document of NMPCA's 2022 Celebration of Clay: Uplifted. Be prepared for lots of background info on 9 of the 50 artists in the show: Sara D'Alessandro, Lee Akins, Sheena Cameron, Sharon Brush, Marina Rabinowitz, Leonard Baca, Hebé Garcia, and Judy Nelson Moore. 

    Celebration of Clay page 1 - CMRS20220713B006.pdf

    Celebration of Clay page 2 - CMRS20220713B007.pdf

  • 22 Aug 2022 3:42 PM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)
    We came together August 19-21, 2022, to renew our community in clay and share techniques and ideas with each other.  This year's New Mexico Connections workshop brought six experienced NMPCA members to share their knowledge, learn together, and celebrate creativity in the beauty of Ghost Ranch for two full days. Album of more photos posted to the NMPCA Facebook page

    Presenters were Luisa Baldinger & Judy Nelson-Moore, Yuriy Luzov, Brant Palley & Cirrelda Snider-Bryan, Merlene Walker. Workshop Coordinator: Michael Thornton, NMPCA VP.

    Judy and Luisa give a demo on applying Terra Sig.

    Luisa Baldinger & Judy Nelson-Moore - Terra Sigillata

    Luisa Baldinger, in collaboration with Judy Nelson-Moore, will be discussing the preparation of Terra Sigillata, the addition of various colorants to Terra Sigillata and its application to the hand-built form.

    Luisa Baldinger: My vessels are simply sculptural forms - vehicles for the exploration of color, surface, movement in three dimensions. Terra sigillata, stains and engobes are used to enhance form and surface, followed by a "fume" firing in aluminum foil saggars. I grew up in Santa Fe, and returning here in 1980 I soon married well-known potter, Frank Willett.  For more than forty years we partnered in a number of ceramic adventures: producing a line of functional work, “Sunridge Pottery," combining our skills in wheel thrown pottery and slab-made work decorated with a landscape motif; we designed and produced “Santa Fe Lights,” a line of clay architectural lighting fixtures; and we owned and managed Santa Fe Pottery, a fine craft shop on historic Guadalupe Street carrying the work of over eighty local and regional craftspeople. More info at:

    Luisa Baldinger sprays her pot with Terra Sig. 

    Judy Nelson-Moore is an artist born in Denver, Colorado, who moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico 20 years ago. Having worked with clay in all forms of expression for over 45 years, she is currently concentrating on sculpture using paper clay. She enjoys exploring mixed media additions during the ceramic construction process or after the firing. These additions might be fabric, paper collage, paint, or other mixed media. Over the years, she studied with many wonderful clay artists, and realized that what she admired about many artists’ work was not the technical expertise, but the spirit and soul in their work. The combination of these experiences, plus a strong interest and affinity for primitive and indigenous art of many cultures, has helped to form the imagery and motivation for her sculpture. More info at:

    Samples of Terra Sigillata with different oxide and stain washes added. Made by Judy and Luisa.

    Yuriy Luzov - Polymer Clay

    Yuriy using camera over his work table to display on screen.

    Yuriy Luzov demonstrated the basics of murrine construction in Polymer Clay, with several cane profiles to generate a great variety of geometric patterns and three dimensional forms. Bigger, more elaborate sculptures may be constructed with a combination of these simple tessellated forms. With a good foundation, participants were able to take this technique quite far. Materials provided for hands-on learning.

    Yuriy observing Leonard Baca's cane compositions.

    Polymer clay is a medium that fascinated Yuriy's inner child in high school, and he's been working with it ever since.  Yuriy discovered the Murrine technique mostly on his own with minimal external influence, and therefore his style has developed in a unique way.

    Born in Minsk, Belarus in 1982, Yuriy immigrated to the United States in 1994.  "As a child, seeds of a future in clay were planted when I discovered vast amounts of wild ball clay at my grandparents’ homestead in Ukraine, where I spent my summers.  In Colorado, I discovered atmospheric firing.  Now I have an anagama kiln of my own in Santa Fe, and am excited to build on over a decade of experience firing a variety of wood kilns around Colorado and New Mexico." More info on FB - Yuriy Sergeyevich Luzov   

    Yuriy observing Andrea Pichaida's compositions.

    Brant Palley and Cirrelda Snider-Bryan - Stains and Oxides in Clay

    Brainstormed list of how participants use oxides and stains. 

    A discussion about color in clay with a ceramic materials fabrication expert and a ceramics educator, focused on oxides and stains. Participants gained hands-on experience mixing a body-stain into porcelain, and making test tiles. Materials provided. Printed information will be shared: Mason Stain Ingredients; Joan Weissman Mason Body Stains for Porcelain, and more. Brant Palley was unable to be with us due to recuperation from recent surgery.  A handout shared his words on stains and oxides, and he provided a Mason Color Inc. Reference Guide for each participant. 

    Brant Palley – Owner of New Mexico Clay since 1985. Graduate of Otis Art Institute, 1979.  Clay Body Designer, Webmaster at, Kiln Expert, and ... Head Floor Sweeper. More info about Brant & NM Clay:

    Tomás Wolff's body stain tile portrait. 

    Cirrelda Snider-Bryan – Artist/Educator/Community Muralist. Creator of clay programs/instructor of: cirrelda’s clases de clay (Pot Hollow South studio) and Clay Science at the Museum (NMMNHS). Whole school tile mural coordinator at Alvarado and Alameda Elementary schools, APS. Co-coordinator Protect Our Wildlife Corridors Community Mosaics, a project of Pathways located in Placitas, NM. Board member of NMPCA 2021-2024, editor of The Slip Trail.  More info on Cirrelda:,

    Andrea Pichaida's body stain applied to porcelain on a bowl form. 

    Merlene Walker - Precious Metal Clay

    Merlene "Mo" Walker giving her introduction to Precious Metal Clay.

    Merlene conducted a hands-on workshop in Precious Metal Clay. If you like working with clay, and you love silver jewelry, this is the best of both worlds!  Participants saw Merlene demonstrate how to work with Precious Metal Clay. They learned the basics: how to texture, shape and cut the clay; how to fire, polish and finish your work to best bring out the design. Students learned these methods using 7 grams of Silver Metal clay. Tool kits were supplied. 

    Silver metal clay pieces drying ahead of firing with the help of hot plates. 

    Merlene Walker worked in a corporate environment for over 25 years. After years of taking art classes, and with the help of "The Artist Way" workshop, Merlene took a leap of faith and left her job to pursue a degree in art. She designs and facilitates metal clay classes and creative workshops to help others have fun and learn about the transformative power of creative possibilities in their life.  I am stimulated by museums, nature, books, and classes of all kinds. But my favorite stimulation is the exchange of ideas and experiences with others. I am better able to process my own thoughts more clearly as I listen to others share their experiences. Teaching provides the perfect venue for this exchange.” As a PMC instructor, certified by Tim McCreight, and cross-certified in Art Clay®, Merlene maintains memberships in the NMPCA and Eldorado Arts and Craft Association. 

    More info at:

    Mo dunking silver metal clay pieces into water while hot, just out of kiln. 

    Thanks to Michael Thornton and all the presenters for the text of this article. Photos by the editor.

    -Cirrelda Snider-Bryan, editor for The Slip Trail.

    Rainy day at Piñon Pottery Studio, complete with moss growing on the edges of the puddles and rain plinking on the sheet metal. 

  • 23 Jun 2022 7:21 PM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

    The annual membership exhibition of the New Mexico Potters and Clay Artists opened Saturday, June 18 at the Taos Ceramics Center. 

    The afternoon of opening day was overcast, with sprinkles from a persistent weather system giving a much welcomed respite from the threat of recent historic wildfires. Spirits were not dampened in the least as the exhibition’s doors opened to an eager crowd. 

    On display are the ceramic artworks of NMPCA members from across the state, whose individualism is mirrored in the diversity of approaches, techniques, forms and treatments in evidence. 

    Personal impressions: 
    Everyone has a unique subjective experience encountering an artwork, based on their own experiences, knowledge and taste. I want to highlight here a few select pieces which caught my eye and made me look deeper. 

    Columna 4, by Jorge Luis Bernal. 

    Columna 4, by Jorge Luis Bernal  

    At first glance, this piece’s size and drum shape suggest the progeny of an African djembe and a Middle Eastern doumbek.

    Evincing an abstracted portrait bust with hat tipped at a jaunty angle, this hand-built sculptural form is simple, yet comes alive with a complex surface. 

    As the name implies, the base stands erect as a column, and supports a flaring capital. It’s surface is busy with deeply impressed textural patterns, which have been stained black to their depths. A thick white glaze with black-stained crackle overall gives an organic, animating patina. Accents of clay slip encircle the base and top rim in terracotta color. 

    Three Ravens Running, by PattyMara Gourley.

    Three Ravens Running, by PattyMara Gourley

    This is a whimsical merging of vessel, sculpture and drawing. A hand built, tall, cylindrical form, flared at top and bottom is the framework for this circular tableau of three ravens running after one another, ad infinitum. 

    The quirky line drawings of the ravens are reminiscent of Medieval illustrated manuscripts.  Beaks aloft, the trio parade endlessly after one another, their heads and beaks alone breaking from the curved surface to jut proudly above the rim. The terra-cotta color of the low-fired micaceous clay body underlies the thin-line drawings evocative of quill and ink. The ravens’ beady eyes of blue accent the sculpting with a mischievous glint. 

    Snow Flurry, by Anna Bush Crews.

    Snow Flurry,  by Anna Bush Crews 

    This tall, columnar sculpture is at once unmoving and perpetually flowing.  Like an earthen Lava-Lamp rising and falling, it undulates and folds back into itself.

    Terrestrial geology is evoked in the sense of its transformative, grinding, subsuming relentlessness. The earthen spectrum of colors are explored through juxtaposing and overlapping white, red and black clays. The forms are primordially organic and sinuous. 

    Surfaces are rendered raw and unglazed. The bare clay evokes the natural processes of stretching, evaporation, shrinkage, while the smoothly bulging forms speak of weathering through wind and water over eons. 

    I’ll Hold You, by Andrea Pichaida 

    I’ll Hold You, by Andrea Pichaida 

    Like a crow to a shiny object, you become drawn in to this vessel by the lurid red of its gaping maw.  

    The bowl’s tri-lobed form is yawning and capacious. Thinly potted by hand, it’s elegant, sweeping curves are interrupted by 3 golden-yellow radial ribs running up from its base to its pointy, lobed rim. 

    Hugging the rim are a band of perforations letting a lattice of light through, except where strategic holes are plugged with precise, wooden dowels bisecting the frieze of piercings. 

    The dark, solemn, matte exterior surface contrasts starkly with the glossy, mottled, sanguine riot inside. 

    These are just a few standouts in the showing of breathtaking ceramic art contained in “Uplifted”.

    Do yourself a favor and see the show in person at Taos Ceramics Center, or online at

    Michael Thornton

  • 20 Jun 2022 11:51 AM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

    This is one of the strongest COC shows that I have seen in my time with this group.  The set up by owner Jules Epstein is superb!

    The work in this show is varied and strong.  The strength of a member show is that the artist chooses what will be seen.  This offers an insight into the creator’s thought process.  Following an artist over time allows a glimpse of their growth process, or none.   This sort of appreciation and apprehension is not for those in a rush. 

    These are the impressions of one person viewing the exhibition at the opening and then relying on the Peoples’ Choice list, to fill in names and other detail.  Sara D’Alessandro admits her many biases and preferences.   Michael Thornton says he will write a review of the show as well giving a couple of opinions to compare.  But, you know, go see for yourself. Don’t take our paltry words for it. 

    By SL, eNews Editor (aka Sara D'Alessandro)

    Work by Artist alphabetically

    Lee Akins’s seemingly effortless surfaces always are impressive and worthy of study.  He has two hand built works in this show, fairly large.  One, a gorgeous globe shaped jar, a form for which he is known; the other is an open form called “Lobed Bowl”, an apparent new direction formally.  Both pieces have rich texture intrinsic to the forms with subtle colorations.  I hope to own one someday.

    Melissa Alexander’s “Golden Bull” is a rapid study of a bull full of motion, (something clay does so well).  It is a reflection of the large Morgan Stanley bull sculpture in lower Manhattan but, as a sketch it has more animation.   Kintsugi would be a perfect solution for the breaks in the tail.

    Leonard Baca’s “Turquoise Flared Bowl” is simply thrown and graceful.  It is turquoise glazed with the rim the color of the clay body.  Four light finger flares in the rim give accent.  It is lovely and to the point.  It will never will overstay its welcome.

    Luisa and Frank Willett’s covered jar.  It is my understanding (I hope this is correct) that in these collaborations Frank did the throwing and Luisa did the glaze or surface treatment.  If you have managed to acquire one of these works consider yourself very lucky.  This is lovely in every way.

    Luisa Baldinger’s “Basins” I had only seen pictures of this series of Luisa’s.  Pictures, almost always do not convey what an in-person experience provides.  That certainly is the case here.  These are not new works but they inspire!  The two basin snuggle together on one side encrusted with the past.  They are forms which hold, which keep.   They are a prayer.

    Kathy Bartlett’s “Mudcrack” is a work I can look at again and again.  The crackle surface, frequently over used, is here expertly applied over and ancient mottled coloration, a mysterious combination.  But the real draw for me is the almost liquid globule form itself.  I am guessing a closed form was paddled to the absolute extreme of its cohesiveness, then pierced by a finger pull.  A sipapu. Extremely sensual.

    Kathy Bartlett’s “Raku 1” is the same sensibility of form as “Mudcrack”, sensual, swelling from within with two “openings”.  The black and white raku surface is intrinsic to the form.  It is a voice of eternity.

    Jorge Luis Bernal has six cups, small mugs, decorated with what I assume are personal motifs of his.  He is a new member and I have no past reference to relate.  It will be interesting to watch this work going forward.

    Jorge Luis Bernal’s “Columna 4” looks like a doumbeck.

    Elaine Biery’s two works are jars lidded with birds atop.  Jars with an animal lid.  Here they are done to perfection.  Metallic pastels are the luscious finish of the jars.  One with an interesting cut foot detail which gives a dark accent to the pale color.

    Steve Blakely has two small (circa 10-12”) vases one glazed in solid turquois with red accents, the other is more green.  They present themselves as much larger than they actually are.  They could be enlarged to a monumental scale and would still hold their impact.    

    Joe Bova has two animal heads. One is an owl mug, “Night Commander” quite hilarious.  The other is a very serious rabbit, with a mottled dark glazed surface.

    Sharon Brush, a juror from last year’s COC 2021exhibition, offers us “Acclimation”.  This is a meticulously considered profile.  The surface is not the usual black but rather an uplifting grained white.  The variation from the profile is a widening of the left (as you face it) foot which enables it to free stand.  A symbolic birthing figure.

    Sheena Cameron’s “Sea Horse” is a clever and well done variation of her Horses.  One side , is a clear rendition of the title.  The other side has her signature door in the side of the horse which contains some eccentricities. You may want to ask the gallery to turn the piece to be able to see the other side.

    Sheena Cameron’s “Our Deb Haaland” is a portrait, a sincere and effective rendition of appreciation.  I hope Deb Haaland gets to see this one.

    Anna Bush Crews, “Snow Flurry” is a small form, well developed to obscure the columnar core.   It wants to be larger. (Or, I want it to be larger).  A fine marriage of surface treatment with the form.

    Sara D’Alessandro “River Styx” is a bozetto and as yet I have not been able to enlarge the idea to the scale that I would like.   This work is not in narrative form rather it skirts the narrative.

    Caroline Dechert “Yellow Vase” is off center and organic without trying to overwhelm the flowers that would be put in it.

    Jan Doris has two works: “Black Ball”, a sphere with a small hemisphere cup at the top.  The interest is the surface treatment of the sphere which is like the reading of a planetary object.  Her second work utilizes the sphere in a bead like formation, a figure reduced to its basic three elements, a satisfying arrangement of three forms which many of us have come to as stations in our own work.  This is the clay deciding. 

    Adam Emery’s “The Tower” is an absolute joy to see.  The picture does not convey the exuberance of the Keep.  Adam makes monsters and now he has the castle for them to dwell.

    Christine Evans, “Flying Dreams” is an exalted portrait of a mortal/ goddess, in the tradition of Roman portraiture. Her very accomplished, refined and serene work make me think of the Della Robbia terra cottas of the fourteen hundreds, Europe.  Google Lucca Della Robbia and see.

    Gail Goodwin “Untitled” Just beautiful, that’s all, just beautiful.

    Patty Mara Bourley “Three Ravens Running” is a black drawing over a cylindrical form in black.  Three ravens fitting on a slender terracotta vase.  And, she did it!  Very clever.

    Christopher Hosbach “Scalloped Platter” This work seen in the gallery orange room is wall mounted.  A forceful dynamic pattern executed with extreme control and skill.  Impressive and intimidating; deserving of the award it received.

    Svetlana Kirillova “Pitcher and Mug” Black shiny glazed top and handles with off-setting fluidly added flowers on the bottom, a pleasing contrast between the black and bright. A nice functioning pair.

    Serit Kotowski “Three Tiers” This is a signature texture for Serit a texture she does so well. The proportions of the three are just right and her presentation of antiquity defying function continues.  I am loving watching this journey of hers.

    Alex Kurtz “New Mexico Pollinators” and “New Mexico Plants”  are two sets of six three dimensional tiles, extremely well crafted, an interesting project and a very different interpretation of the tile form.   Tilers take notice!

    Jennifer Lowell “Alegría” a small box with a golden bird flying over the waters.

    Jennifer Lowell “Freedom”  Three nesting tiers each with birds flying around the sides and topped with a bird handled lid.  Birds are her iconology and they seem to be symbols for lots of people.    There are many in this show.

    Dianne MacInnes “Becoming” is a small figurine, a trans figure, with a somewhat naturalistic head atop an amorphous form.

    Catherine McClain “Amber Bloom” A cactus, such a clay friendly form, with blossoms on the top.

    Sheila Miller “Sunset Jar” thrown form modified, fan shaped decorated lid, a fine looking jar.

    Sheila Miller “Shades of Blue Leaf Jar” She embraces utility with beauty.  This piece is fun to look at because you can see the flow and joy of her throwing experience in the fluid finger marks, enhanced by the liquid blue color.

    Vincent Morales “Round Wood” I would also say “round jar”.  The sphere is round and solid.  The cut of the lid provides interesting counterpoint.  The fetishized bound wood lid makes this a special stash.

    Judy Nelson Moore “Back Seat Driver” is an assemblage that is self-explanatory and amusing, unless you are the driver under command.  Judy never shrinks from combining and exploring different media. She is always pushing new boundaries.  Here she has used metal and paper clay.  This is shown on a pedestal in the gallery it would be good wall mounted work, as well.  I like this 3D collage.

    Richard Orlando “Hummingbird Bowl”    The hummingbirds are incised around the insides of the bowl.  You cannot see them in this photograph.  It is a shame there is not a better photo. This fine work will miss out in the Peoples’ Choice because of a poor photo.

    Charlotte Ownby “Sunrise Uplifting”  I have seen other tiles of Charlotte’s and they have been of trees, birches, leaves and landscapes.  This is the first I have seen where she has introduced humans.  She worked within this year’s theme Up Lifted and has begun a narrative.

    Adam Padilla “Lilies” A pleasant understated dish with three flower symbols of differing colors.  

    Casey Pendergast “Turtle Chalice” is a visually interesting assemblage.  Probably not practical for function.  I couldn’t find a turtle.  I like it, never the less.

    Andrea Pichaida  “I’ll Hold You” is a gorgeous pierced bowl form, glazed with her bright optimistic colors.  The bowl is very large, swelling and absolutely flawless, a result of paddling against air. 

    Sabrina Pratt “Moving Forward” This work has solved a vexing problem of clay’s nature is to be “earth bound”.  Sabrina has broken through the pyramid solid to which clay is inclined, giving an open space at the bottom.  Bravo! (Also, see Sharon Brush).  The work balances on its two points.

    Alma Quillian  “Big Horn Sheep” is a straight forward clear rendering of a big horned sheep.

    Alma Quillian  “Pierre”  Here she has taken a serious portrait and turned this black bird into a pitcher with a red lid!  

    Marianna Rabinowitz “A Series of Unnecessary Objects”  I was unable to see this more closely at the opening.  The picture tells little being too dark to make out.  Seems interesting.  I will watch for her future works.

    Barbara Raulston “Celebrating Charlie” with your morning coffee and a warm hand grip.  Charlie probably would be pleased.

    Jenna Ritter “Sky Bowl” is a lovely proportioned bowl with a smoked surface.

    Greta Ruiz “Multi Pod” becomes even more interesting when you look down inside the pods. The lighting in the gallery encourages this view.  The photo doesn’t show this aspect.  A very different work to consider.  It garnered a deserved award.

    Jill Schulman “Hanging by a Thread” A powerful portrait that doesn’t feel the need to be cute.  Seems as if I know her, or, have seen her.  Maybe I have.  I am curious about the four holes in the neck.  Makes me think of a cloth body might get attached, like the old cloth dolls with the ceramic head and hands.  I must ask her if we ever come into contact.  I found this a powerful work.   I kept coming back to it.

    Joey Serim “Rising” is made up of two joined, thrown pieces.  A pathway to grow larger.

    Cirrelda Snider-Bryan “10’ Above Our Roof” Here is another tile maker who considered the theme for this year. This is an interesting narrative with subtle twists by an abstract thinker.  The center is an insert with screws at the corners.

    Darla Graff Thompson “When I fly” These heads of Darla’s continue to grow on me.  After the Sunport show was taken down I hosted two of these heads at home for a couple of weeks.  They have divergent attitudes depending on which side you look.  Then there is the melding in the front view.  With two heads I would make changing dialogues by moving them around. People visiting me would stop in their tracks when spying them. 

    Michael Thornton “Chi Meets Epsilon” are two small columnar abstractions with openings at the top.  I am ignorant of the title reference. 

    Atom Vigil “Dragon Runes” and “Runes” are two small cups about shot glass size, white with runic marks around the outside lips. 

    Susan Voss “Raven Dreams” Head with Raven wrapping the head and neck, romantic, nice face.  I love the crackle most of all.

    Susan Voss “My Raven Muse” Standard portrait bust configuration, pretty face, bird on shoulder, romantic.

    Sheryl Zacharia “Ventanas” is a medium size, designed sculpture.  Her work is always satisfying.

    The juror work:

    Abby Salsbury is a juror and also has work in the show. Her work is not up to receive awards, but is included because they show a jurors point of view.  She has tiles which are an extension of her designed work.  These are tiles which advance into the space much as some children’s books which open and pop forward.  The projections offer shadow play between the levels presenting a lot to contemplate.

    Hebe Garcia is a juror for this show and she has a work in the show as well.  I do not have the title of this work on hand.  It is a figure of a child holding a doll.  Hebe’s work reminds me of the writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, particularly his novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude”.

    Jules Epstein, owner of the TCC, is also a juror.  His skill is apparent in this clearly structured presentation.

    To view the show, visit the Taos Ceramics Center, 114 Este Es Road, Taos, NM. Gallery hours Wed Noon-5, Thu-Sat 10-5, Sunday Noon-4. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Closing date: Saturday, July 23, 2022. If unable to attend in person, here is the online gallery:

  • 25 Apr 2022 2:42 PM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

    Every year Celebration of Clay allows members to enter their own selection of work, and features awards to highlight exceptional works, selected by a juror. This year we have three: Abby Salsbury, Hebé García, and Jules Epstein. They will be selecting Best in Show Award of $150, the UNM Arita Porcelain Award for Beauty, Quality and Functionality of $100, and three Merit Awards of $50 each. Read on to learn more about them.  

    Abby Salsbury       

    I am a visual artist working primarily in clay. Although I've concentrated on ceramics throughout my life, in recent years I've taken an interest in printmaking and I now practice both mediums. My current ceramic work is a combination of the two with highly detailed surfaces and narrative scenes depicting natural forms and their relationships within a unique landscape. My printmaking imagery is transferred using a ceramic decal process, offering many more possibilities for the creation of themes, story lines and characters; as well as pure texture, varying line-weight and depth. 

    I grew up in western Massachusetts and studied ceramics with William Daley at the Philadelphia College of Art and Betty Woodman at the University of Colorado. For the last twenty-two years I've been making a living as a studio artist, working on the mesa of Taos, New Mexico. This desert and Rocky Mountain view offer a vast array of inspiration from its changing light and atmosphere to its plant life and varied creatures. The worlds within my artwork come from this view and I'm motivated by it every day.

    Hebé García

    Hebé García and her husband visited Abiquiu, NM, for the first time in 2013, and it took just a week for them to fall in love with the town and its surroundings. By 2015 they were ready to move from Puerto Rico to New Mexico. After a long search, they found the perfect spot for their home and García s Artist Studio on top of a Mesa with 360 views, including Georgia O Keeffe s iconic Pedernal.

    The move has inspired and influenced García s work —a diverse range of painting, sculpture, and installation — to explore more the intersections of feminism, mythology, and cultural roots. Her clay and oil figurative works often reflect Jungian archetypes and are firmly ensconced in magical realism. Her figures are hauntingly beautiful, mysterious, and sometimes macabre.* She hopes that her work acts as a point of departure, encouraging the viewer to connect, interact, and ultimately create their own narrative. Hebé García graduated from the University of Southwestern Louisiana with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in 1986. She has participated in numerous collective and individual shows within Puerto Rico and the USA, including the prestigious Muestra Nacional de Arte of 2013 de PR; La Entrada del Espejo 2016, San Antonio TX; Celebration of Clay 2018, Taos NM; A Certain Sense of Her 2019, Beeville, TX; Ceramic Wall Works, Roseville, CA; and From the Ground UP XXIX at the Museum of Art Las Cruces, Las Cruces, NM amongst others. Presently, García is a member of the New Mexico Potters and Clay Artists (NMPCA), the Abiquiu Studio Tour, and the Gentileschi Aegis Group Association (GAGA). Her work is held in collections in Puerto Rico, England and the USA. * Sylvia Benitez, Director of the Gentileschi Aegis Group Association

    Jules Epstein

    Just two years after receiving his BFA degree in graphic design from Penn State University, Mr. Epstein founded a brand design firm just north of Boston that grew to be a nationally recognized business with more than 25 employees. Thirty-three years later, in 2013, he sold the business and retired full-time to Taos, NM, with his wife and two daughters. In 2019, along with his wife Georgia, he laid the foundation for the formation of the Taos Ceramics Center (TCC), a community ceramics studio, supply store, and respected interdisciplinary gallery. Mr. Epstein continues to be the curator for the TCC Gallery and Operations Manager of the business. He has been an active board member on the Taos Arts Council since 2018 and is treasurer of his local acequia in Arroyo Hondo.    


  • 13 Mar 2022 10:00 AM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

    How did you first get interested in clay?

    My mother was a potter and artist, so I began playing with clay at a very early age. I recall making crude ashtrays and sculptures of animals when I was four or five years old. My first serious work was inspired by pre-Columbian and Native American pottery that I saw in Guatemala in 1964 and in 1967. I began experimenting with pit-fire black firing after I moved to Colorado in 1967. I met and talked with Popovi Da in 1968. An accident during a firing n 1968 or 1969 led to innovative firing methods for unglazed burnished pottery that included the first horsehair firing which I first did in 1971. 


    Describe your studio.

    My studio a room in my home in Pilar which is a small village on the Rio Grande in Taos County. The studio is generally a mess.

    Describe your work.

    I have made a living with my work for more than a half century. I seem to be too much of an oddball for anyone to hire me for a real job. I hand-build pottery and occasionally make clay or stone sculpture. I am largely self-taught and have developed a new coil building technique. I almost never use glaze but add color by using colored slip. I burnish the surface with a smooth stone or with my fingers or with a plastic bag. Firing adds smoke stains from various organic materials: coffee grounds, hair, feathers, flowers, leaves, and other things. I also work with micaceous clay which I dig from deposits in the Tusas and Sangre de Cristo mountains. I work with Taos Pueblo potter Bernadette Track offering native clay workshops using traditional hand-building and firing techniques. 


    When you are not working in your studio, what do you enjoy? 

    I draw with pencil and charcoal. I dabble in photography. I write.


    Do you play music in your studio? If yes, what do you listen to?

    I sometimes listen to classical music while working with clay, sometimes to blues or gritty rock. One day recently I binge-listened to over a dozen versions of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" while building a pot.

    What other pottery do you have in your home? 

    Years ago, my first wife, Mary Blake Witkop, and I would participate in many art and craft fair shows. We would trade pots with other potters. I have quite a few pueblo pots from that time, and pots by several Anglo and Hispanic potters. I much prized an effigy pot by Fred Wilson but lost it to a divorce.

    What caused you to join NMPCA?

    Joining NMPCA was, of course, a no-brainer. I'm a potter and I live in New Mexico.

    By Carl Gray Witkop. Hand-built burnished vessel, smoke-fired with hemp leaves, 2021. 7” diameter.

    By Carl Gray Witkop. Hand-built native micaceous clay pot. Pit-fired.  2019, 61/2”. The clay is from Pot Creek area.

    Places to view Carl’s pieces:

    From the editor:

    Carl Gray Witkop is one of 38 new members who joined NMPCA in 2021. Thank you, Carl, for taking time to answer these questions and share your intriguing clay journey with all of us. 

  • 24 Feb 2022 3:27 PM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

      “Brushing” off my notes from the very memorable Ghost  Ranch workshop August 19-21, 2021, here at last is a story  of the time with Sharon Brush.

    Ahead of the seminar, in July, I was so elated to get Sharon’s email to participants with its lengthy questionnaire - it became a very effective tool for me. From her questionnaire: “It’s my belief that new work most easily develops after periods of deep reflection. With that belief in mind, it is my intention to spend the three days helping you to realize some fundamental truths about yourself and your work.” I ended up referring to my questionnaire notes a lot during the 3-day workshop.


    But as I remember, that time seemed a lot longer than 3 days. With folks all around me working up a storm of pieces - from Michael Thornton to my left with his slab free-form cylinder evolving tall, to Shelly Jackson’s prolific expressions catching my eye across the room, there was a hum of harmonious creation. With more than half a dozen out under the porches, I chose indoors table spot. Everyone with masks on, there was the lovely intentional atmosphere of folks pouring their focus into sculpture, with Sharon Brush appearing at our sides, to engage every single one of us, again and again. Her mode of presentation honored our few short days, as she encouraged us to start our own pieces early on, meanwhile she built and commented on her own emerging form. 


    Sharon showed us how to make a “maquette” - a miniature version of our concept - first. You can see hers next to her water bottle on table in the photo. I loved making maquettes!! She used multiple forms for her multi-faceted piece, the handcrafted styrofoam one covered with old t-shirt. Spray bottle and blow torch alternated in her hands. Later the first evening we saw the entire journey of her exploration with “vessel as sculpture” forms laid out in slide show. "Vessel as sculpture" describes her oeuvre well. 


    At the top of my notes is scrawled: “1200 folks coming mañana.” Yes, there was a brand new type of event occurring during our weekend - the “Ghost Ranch Music Weekend” that we potters were invited to join with tickets half-price. But we were having too much fun with our participant slide show that second night! The Ranch had been transformed and the staff were scurrying! Dinner was in a box, and Saturday night we all were able to eat under the Pinon Pottery Studio porch together, sharing stories around the table, true to our NMPCA camaraderie. Music drifted over, the full moon rose, and a whole new batch of Ranch fans were oo-ing and ah-ing at the edge of the alfalfa field while we oo-ed and ah-ed at the slides of our member pieces.


    Sunday, our sculptures lined up on tables outside. Sharon our leader expressed her happiness in the success of the workshop, that each person in our group took the challenge in as many wonderful directions as there were participants. For her, that brought joy.

    Article and photos by Cirrelda Snider-Bryan, Editor of the Slip Trail 

  • 08 Jan 2022 8:34 AM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

     Gary and Valerie Tibbetts of Weyrich Gallery are retiring, and will be closing the gallery January 30,  2022 after almost 40 years enriching the community with their array of fine art. Their support of  potters and ceramic artists has been unparalleled. Grateful for the time given by Valerie and Gary for  this interview --- this is “Part One,” --- “Part Two” will be published at a later date. 


    From their website: 

    Weyrich Gallery, owned by Valerie and Gary Tibbetts, is a special place. Intuition is the determining factor in the harmony the Tibbetts have orchestrated in their small space whose inspiration is on a grand scale. The thoughtful visitor will soon realize the high level of craftsmanship reflected in the work on display and also the sense that gallery artists seem to have an affinity with each other.

    The Weyrich Gallery is full of educational and artistic products and services that bring harmony into one’s hectic life. We offer a creative environment featuring exquisite jewelry, paintings, acrylic, pastels, and prints. Also mixed media, glass, metal, wood, clay, fiber, wood block prints, hand colored photography, monotypes, and limited-edition prints.


    In a follow-up conversation after the November 15th interview, Valerie told the story of how she became enthralled by a place they visited in Latin America (their mode of transport was hitchhiking). The vision she gained there would give fruit to starting the gallery, and lead them to name it a “Rare Vision” gallery. A vision they have been dedicated to ever since.



    The Slip Trail: What do you think of this warm weather? 

    Valerie: Ha! We should be out hiking!

    Gary: It’s scary. What’s the summer going to be like?

    PHOTO CREDIT: Leonard Baca, November 2021


    TST:  Here is that first question I sent. You have shown ceramists/potters from New Mexico as well as potters from across the country in your gallery. Talk about the importance of ceramics and clay to your gallery.

    Valerie: Well, I’m just going to start from the beginning. In 1982-83, we opened a “rare vision” type of gallery, our focus on fine craft and fine art, mixed media, ceramics, paintings, and prints. My background is in fine art and metal work design. In 1973 my study of art and metal work began. I studied fine art at the University of New Mexico, and lived and studied arts and metals work at the Art Institute in Córdoba, Spain for 9 months, in 1974-75. Gary graduated from UNM with a degree in anthropology, and had studied ceramics in Sydney, Australia in 1966. And he will give you a little bit of a connection leading up to that answer about his experience with clay. In 1989, Jim Srubek, a professor at the university in the College of Education, came to our gallery and asked to do a show, I think it was called “Legacy in Porcelain,” with his work and the students of the Arita Method of Porcelain program. We had a very successful show, and continued to exhibit ceramics from University of New Mexico. The gallery continued to feature works by UNM students and faculty after Prof. Srubek retired in 2001, until 2021.

    Gary: The first show was 1989 although we are not certain of the date. 

    Valerie: We had been exhibiting tea bowls, and really didn’t have much knowledge about Chado / Japanese Tea Ceremony, so, when Kathy Cyman came on board in 2001, I asked her if there was ever a teacher, I would love to know more about tea bowls, and to start studying about Chado. And that led me and Gary to a teacher and to many other accredited teachers in the U.S.A., many would come and speak/tour to ABQ and Santa Fe. The school of Japanese Tea Ceremony is called Urasenke. We started in 2006. Chado New Mexico group connected us to many different ceramic artists in N.M. and nationwide. And so, Gary and I would go out to the west coast to San Francisco and stay there, cause that’s where the North American headquarters for Urasenke is, at Green Gulch Farm north of San Francisco. And there’s a tea house there, there was one also here in Santa Fe that we were lucky enough to drink tea in also. This was the catalyst that changed our outlook in ceramics and clay, and to present it at the gallery as fine art, not fine craft. Because in the East, ceramics back in Japan, it’s considered a fine art. I’d been to Japan twice, and was exposed to ceramics, Raku, Hagi, in the different prefectures in Japan, Bizen and Karatsu, and how again ceramics in the East is considered a fine art. The study of Tea is a very deep and moving meditation that opens the senses of the physical body and also really connects with the present moment. It is very sensual: smells, touch, sound, seeing, listening, taste. And again, the Japanese Tea ceremony has the 4 principles: wa - harmony, kei - respect, sei - purity, jaku- tranquility. So, this really started Gary and I to understand more about clay and ceramics by holding tea bowls. Then we had to start learning more about glazes, the rim of the bowl, the foot rims, the clays, the shapes of the tea bowl. Again, Raku - considered the crème de la crème, Hagi, and Karatsu ware. This really changes our eye. The subtleties of holding the tea bowl in our hands and mixing tea in the vessel with the whisk and preparing tea, but also during the ceremony, before drinking, you make an offering, called kanche, honoring the tea, the potter, the people that made all of the utensils, past and present, was important. The shape of the bowl, the front, maybe where the glaze has hit the bowl. I think what really happened is we were taught, not just us, we were taught the pure essence of the bowl. And again, really moving into the present moment, I think that’s why we were willing to sit you know in these strange positions sometimes [both chuckle]. In my mind, the Tea connects with the kokaro, which is the Japanese term for heart-mind connection. So here we started opening the heart area, not really intellectualizing about the glaze or the form, but we were moving into learning about the essence of what you were holding in your hand. So that’s what I feel was my story of how we began, the answer to your question. 


    TST: Describe a potter your gallery has represented, sharing an anecdote. 

    Valerie: One time at my tea class, which is called a tamae in Japanese, I was using a water container with the form called mizusachi, that a potter Willi Singleton had made. I was moved by the form, the glaze, the design. I didn’t know he had studied in Japan 6 years. And dug his own clay and made his own glazes. I was then introduced to anagama, the wood-firing kiln by Willi, the potter from Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania, and he taught us about his process of “Slow Clay,” like “Slow Food.” He was a teaching potter at Lama Foundation in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, which was started by Millie Johnstone. She’s an important figure because she’s the one that brought Urasenke to Lama Foundation in 1970. That’s where a lot of our teachers were coming from. Then we were introduced to different conferences, one was called Tea Beyond Japan, where there were new teachers, new ceramics, and artists, a circle of artists, not only we were exposed to local potters like Kathy Cyman, Michael Thornton, Michael Prokos, or some of our Native American potters that we had, we were also then introduced to people like Rob Barnard, Judith Duff, Jack Troy. And that also broadened our awareness. I continued to see that it really happened, even though I had been to Japan twice, and introduced to it while I was there, I think it was the actualization of holding the vessel, and really being taught how you look at them. And that too, as I said, the intellectual mind, that really kind of heart-felt … what was the essence of the vessel that you were holding. We’re such a throw-away society, and we’re moving at such a fast rate, that even I know for artists, they’re not being able to center, you know, so that they can quiet themselves and kind of get grounded. 

    PHOTO CREDIT: Leonard Baca, November 2021


    TST:  Didn’t you also hold seminars and workshops there at the gallery?

    Gary: Yes, we had the classes in tea ceremony, but of course we also had openings throughout that whole period, that went along with it. 

    Valerie: Oh yes, many different times, yes. We did classes, as Gary was saying, in the loft, for I think two years, where our teachers would teach the pottery, and offered the tea room, but yes, we have done different exhibits with having our potters from NM come, and see the work of four students as well as other visiting ceramicists. Sometimes if we had an exhibit opening before that, what we would do was to bring the tatami mat out, then upstairs, we would create as a tea room, maybe we could only sit six people at a time. Then some of the members of the NM Potters group would come down because some of them lived in Santa Fe or Taos. Then they would talk about how you would move the bowl, and how you look at the subtleties of it. And sometimes the “Slow Clay” potter Willi Singleton, I think we had 10 shows with him, would always do a lecture about his process and a lot of potters would come to that. And sometimes he would go and do a teaching at UNM with Kathy Cyman’s class. When you know about glazes, when you know about shapes, and then developing that eye that you’re talking about, being exposed to shows and the things people do during the ceremonies --- when one starts developing that, one starts seeing things differently. 


    TST:  Describe a learning experience you had with clay, and share about pottery you have made yourself. 

    Valerie: Part of Chado New Mexico arranged for people to visit different clay artists. Betsy Williams was a member of that. Betsy offered to do a class and she showed me how to throw a tea bowl. For me it was most humbling to get on a wheel and center, to knead the clay and all that. I left thinking, “This is hard work these people are doing!” I know a lot of the artists they say the clay, what they are doing, is valuable. Betsy says this helps her stay focused and centered. But Gary’s the one who has experience doing clay. more than I have. Gary, he’s a potter. When he looks at a potter’s cup, he immediately goes to the handle to see how the hand fits it, and also, he’ll put that cup to his lips.

    Gary: The cup and the feel is so important, and the same with the Chawan [tea ware], which of course started out to be a Korean rice bowl, that were incorporated by the early people of Tea, when they got away from Chinese objects. The thought of it was being the epitome of what they were using, given to more wabi and more fundamental pieces of the tea- of more Japanese pieces. I was lucky enough to be introduced to pottery work in Sydney, Australia. I had a great teacher whose name was Ivan McMeekin, and he worked with Bernard Leach in St. Ives in his early days. And he was a friend of Hamada who came to the University of New South Wales and lectured and looked at what he was doing there. I was just very fortunate to be introduced to clay by using a kick wheel, and of course trying to make a cylinder out of a pound of clay, or tea bowl. I was just a beginner, just enough to give me a feel for what’s involved in pottery, in clay, in the work, and an appreciation of the work. 

    TST: Gary, your teacher had direct connections with Shoji Hamada and Bernard Leach. Did you meet either of them?

    Gary: No. Ivan McMeekin was a great teacher and I was very fortunate to have some time with him. Some of his pottery was inspired by the Song Dynasty China stoneware that was made for the common people 1000 AD.

    Valerie: with the celadon glaze --- 

    Gary: Celadon glaze, Ivan McMeekin loved that. 

    TST: Was there a museum there, a collection of Song Dynasty pottery?

    Gary: Not there, but in the Philippines, we saw a great collection. In the Song Dynasty time, the Chinese and the Filipinos were trading with each other so you find lots of good Song Dynasty work in the Philippines. 

    TST: Very good to hear your teacher Ivan loved that. Not the ornate, painted with gold, that you’re saying the Japanese got away from and started to appreciate wabi, the style of their own pottery.

    Gary: Yeah, they were using things in tea ceremony that were not only ceramics, but metal as I recall, and the Japanese in their early tea ceremony were using lots of Chinese stuff, but then they got to their own stuff. 

    Valerie: and Rikyu.

    Gary: Yeah, Rikyu, the founder of that school.

    Valerie: Rikyu, the founder of Urasenke. He was the one then that really brough nature into the tea room. It was more austere, not decorative, just like Gary was saying. 


    TST: Any more to add about experiences with clay?

    Gary: A memory of Australia years ago, from when I was in New Guinea … Under a house on poles was a woman with her thumb up in the air and a lump of clay on the top of it. She was opening that lump of clay on her thumb, she was centering and opening it up to make something, I assume a bowl. But I will never forget that image of that lady, and God, there are so many ways to do clay!

    Valerie: We aren’t as in touch with our bodies to know what we can really do with them that was the thing I thought about, oh my God, look at that! I think we underestimate the potential. 

    Gary: That is just something that has been in my mind for many years.


    End of Part 1 --- to be continued …

    PHOTO CREDIT: Leonard Baca, November 2021 

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