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  • 29 Nov 2021 11:05 AM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

    The Healing Wings Project in Las Cruces is the proud recipient of this year’s Armstrong Grant. This public art sculpture is a creative remembrance to all that has been lost to Covid 19. Nestled in the peaceful courtyard of Josephina’s Old Gate in Mesilla, New Mexico, the art piece is composed of two metal sculptures: a metal tree with barren branches that is quickly filling with ceramic wings and a collection of metal boxes where notes can be left to lost loved ones.

    When the idea of the project was born in March of 2021, our communities had been rocked with the traumatic losses of the pandemic. It became evident that few of us had escaped the innumerable losses of Covid.

    Every community has its stories. In Las Cruces, families gathered outside throughout the long days and nights keeping watch through the hospital windows as loved ones remained in the isolation of the Covid Unit.  Just down the road in El Paso, unable to honor traditional rituals of grief, family members huddled in the stair wells, across from refrigerated trucks serving as temporary morgues, to mourn.    

    Nine months later, we continue to hear stories of complicated and often isolated bereavement in our communities. Several weeks ago, a teacher visited the sculpture, sharing that the students and faculty had lost a beloved teacher to the virus. The school struggles with the loss, having created a mural in honor of their lost faculty member. The teacher expressed a hope that engagement with the Healing Wings Project might provide another outlet to heal.

    The Healing Wings Project is a collaborative venture between the Potters’ Guild of Las Cruces and The Agave Art Coop, to provide a venue and opportunities to groups and individuals to acknowledge their losses by painting individual angel wings and leave messages about their experiences. The Potters’ Guild of Las Cruces has taken on this project as a tribute to its forty-year anniversary.

    The idea for the tree and the memory boxes came from a conversation between myself, the owner of the Agave Art Gallery Wendy Weir, and fellow Potter's Guild member and Agave Artist, Vickie Morrow. The concept was presented to metal artist Josh Switzer, who came up with the designs. 

    Free workshops are offered to community organizations and individuals where they are supported in their bereavement and healing process through artistic expression. Members of the Potters Guild hand make bisque wings which are then fired, and hung on the tree as a memorial. Interestingly, people are much more willing to jump in and paint wings as a group activity. Writing notes for the memory boxes almost always happens privately.  Notes have only been placed in the locked boxes while the open boxes remain empty. 

    The Project’s Dedication on August 26th of 2021 featured traditional prayers and blessings by the Tortugas Pueblo. Pueblo members, like many in New Mexico, have been hard hit by the pandemic. In the ceremony the journey of those who have been lost as well as the paths of those of us left behind were honored.  At the Dedication, members of the Pueblo, civic leaders, health care providers, and residents took part in the first of many wings painting workshops.

    Through the generosity of New Mexico Potters and Clay Artists’ Armstrong Grant, we will be able to expand our community outreach. Free community workshops are scheduled twice a month.  Beginning in January we are resuming on-site workshops with activities scheduled at area healthcare facilities, and senior programs. We are committed to a year of programming that would bring us to September 1, 2022. At that time, we will reevaluate the project.

    Individuals frequently visit the courtyard looking for “the tree.”   This provides an opportunity to provide a brief education on the healing nature of ceramics and encouragement to attend a workshop to create a wing of their own. Education about the project and use of ceramics as emotional expression has been one-on-one conversations initiated by the brochure and word of mouth in the community.  The brochures are distributed by Potters Guild members at art shows and in the gallery.  We have also had articles in many local media.

    We are working on the design for tiles for those donating $200 or above.  We hope to have a dedication of the tiles in the Spring, if Covid cooperates.  Other projects that are being discussed are a writing workshop in the courtyard in the spring, a photo book, and a public exhibit in July of 2022 in collaboration with the Potters' Guild Fire and Fiber Show. 

    As the public art piece evolves with the addition of new wings, in a parallel process our project also expands. We have wings representing participants from Las Cruces, El Paso, Juarez (Mexico), Miami and Albuquerque, including NMPCA. We look forward to providing members of NMPCA future updates as your support has enabled

    this to happen.

    “To hold you must first open your hand to let go.” -Tao

    Kathy Baker

    The Healing Wings Project

    Las Cruces, New Mexico

    Agave Artists Cooperative Gallery is located at 2250 Calle de San Albino, in Mesilla, New Mexico.


  • 19 Dec 2020 11:43 AM | Judy Nelson-Moore (Administrator)

    The NMPCA has had a blog newsletter since 2010.  There are various subjects authored by a variety of authors, coordinated by webmaster and slip trail editors.  There are a lot of really interesting articles on old blog posts.  We are hoping to have a way to display archived blog posts.  

    In the meantime, please enjoy this new blog.  If you are looking for some specific topic, put a word or two about the topic in the search above and you will find all the blog posts that contain the word(s) you entered in the search.  

  • 17 Dec 2020 5:53 PM | Jacquita Beddo

    Late August 2020 saw a contingent of NMPCA members among ceramics enthusiasts convening for a weekend of workshops at the historic Ghost Ranch, near Abiquiu.

    This small group of potters braved the pandemic’s relative lull to venture out to the remote and rustic Ghost Ranch. The natural charms of the ranch’s landscape, along with the promise of exploring new ceramics methods, and the desire to be in community among other ceramists, were irresistible.

    The NM Connections workshop is sponsored by NMPCA every 2 years, and features presentations by local NMPCA ceramic artists. This year, the presenters were members Judy Nelson-Moore, Andrea Pichaida, Joe Bova and Michael Thornton.

    Being mindful of Covid19 protocols, NMPCA kept enrollment for this year’s workshop to a bare minimum, in compliance with social distancing requirements. Face masks were de rigueur.

    Since Ghost Ranch has had to severely curtail it’s programming this year, we were among their few guests at that time. Those familiar with the ranch observed a radical departure from the norm. The ranch’s protocols included: temperature checks on entry, and segregated rooms.  Its dining hall featured hands-off service, and disposable dishes.

    In the hands-on workshops, Judy Nelson-Moore and Andrea Pichaida teamed up for an informative presentation on Paperclay Sculpture. Andrea shared her perspective as an immigrant from Chile, along with her unique approach to sculpture.  Judy shared her vast knowledge of paper clay techniques, and followed up with an illuminating evening slide show of international paperclay artists.

    Joe Bova presented a workshop on altering wheel-thrown forms in a zoomorphic fashion, producing forms he calls Potimals. Joe shared lore from his extensive experience as he demonstrated the techniques he uses in his signature anthropomorphic approach to pottery.

    Michael Thornton presented Naked Raku 2 Ways. Participants prepped the bisque ware they had brought with them for the raku firing, using either of the One-step or Two-step techniques. 

    Michael demonstrated. Dramatic results ensued, as expected from the post-firing reduction!

    Despite intermittent wind and rain, it was a worthwhile and enjoyable weekend of ceramic exploration and community!

  • 19 Oct 2020 5:44 PM | Judy Nelson-Moore (Administrator)

    Frank, our much loved founding member of NMPCA and mentor, model to many clay people in New Mexico has passed away.

    Frank’s ready wit and gentle ways have inspired and guided many of us over the years. His fabulous skill in throwing, including thoughtful consideration of the true function of his pots, is unmatched. He and his wife and fellow clay artist, Luisa Baldinger, glazed the pots to perfection, for beauty and functionality.

    Frank died at home, surrounded by his family, on October 15, 2020.  He was 91 years old.  Here is some information about Frank and his career: 

    Frank held an MA in Fine Art from CSU Los Angeles and taught high school art in California before moving to Santa Fe in 1971, where he established Santa Fe Pottery on historic Guadalupe Street.  Through the years he produced pottery continuously, all with an unerring sense of beautiful form, good design and superb craftsmanship.  He and Luisa collaborated in many ceramic adventures. Together they produced Sunridge Pottery, a line of functional wheel-thrown and slab-made pottery for both the wholesale and retail markets, designed and produced “Santa Fe Lights”, ceramic architectural lighting fixtures, and continued to sell their work in their shop Santa Fe Pottery.  In 2003 they sold the shop.  In his “retirement” Frank continued to spend several hours in the studio each day making his more one-of-a-kind pieces on the wheel and collaborating with Luisa on the glazing and firing. Frank continued to throw work through August 2020. 

    Awarded the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2013, Frank Willett’s work in high fired porcelain and stoneware was recognized in that award as being widely known and respected in the ceramic art community in New Mexico. 

    In addition to the Governor’s Award, he was honored by the City of Santa Fe Arts Commission Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2002, was featured in the December 2005 issue of Ceramics Monthly, and was included in the Ceramic Arts Yearbooks 2015.  His work has been shown in numerous invitational and juried shows, including an invitational show in the New Mexico Governor’s Gallery, an invitational show of New Mexico potters at Santa Fe Clay, and, most recently, an exhibit of ceramics, “Critical Chaos”, in conjunction with an NCECA conference, “Critical Santa Fe, a Symposium” in the Gallery at Santa Fe Community College. 

    He has taught wheel throwing classes and has given workshops at several colleges and ceramic educational institutions in the region. He was an active member of the New Mexico Potters and Clay Artists (NMPCA) lending his expertise as judge of the Clay Olympics, juror for the Celebration of Clay, lecturing and demonstrating at NMPCA Ghost Ranch workshops,  and showing his pieces in the annual Celebration of Clay Exhibitions.  See a video of Frank’s demonstration of trimming a bowl at Ghost Ranch on the NMPCA YouTube channel.

    Frank’s Personal Statement
    My pottery has always been functional for use in the kitchen, dining room and household.  Lately I’ve been experimenting with forms.  Staying within the constraint of functionality, the forms are stretched, bent, imprinted with varied textures, enhanced by glazes that break and run over the treated surfaces, and fired either in gas reduction to cone 11 or in soda to cone 11.

    Making new forms is still a driving force; there’s excitement in it.   I enjoy working with clay and have had a pleasant and successful lifetime of playing in the medium.

    The melancholy of post maturity is upon me but I try my best to turn it into humor.

    You can see and purchase Frank’s work as well as the work of his wife, Luisa Baldinger, on their website at Work can be purchased through the website to be shipped or picked up at their Santa Fe Studio. Instructions are on the website to make appointment in advance to pick up work and wear mask.

    Please add a comment to this post to share your memories of Frank.

    7 Replies to “In Memory of Frank Willett, 1929-2020”

    1. jnelsonmoore 10/20/2020 at 5:36 pm

      Frank is one of the finest human beings I have ever known. He is greatly missed, but I feel so fortunate to have known him.

    2. Layne Vickers Smith 10/20/2020 at 6:51 pm

      Such a fantastic man, but I can never think of Frank without also thinking of Luisa, his soulmate. Always a pleasure to see one or the other—but to see them together, still flirting with each other, was sizzling.!

    3. amber archer 10/21/2020 at 8:22 am

      my heart goes out to Luisa and blessings to Frank on his journey

    4. Maggie Beyeler 10/21/2020 at 9:14 am

      I first met Frank in 1999 when he and Luisa hired me to work at Santa Fe Pottery. They told me I could bring my dog Ed to work with me and that clinched the deal for me. I spent a couple of great years working for them and I got to know them and their families.
      More recently, Frank and Luisa have joined me and other potters twice a year as participants of the Contemporary Clay Fair. Frank not only brought his wonderful work to the show, but also himself and his friendly humor. I will very much miss seeing him every April and November, for he was also a mentor to me as a potter, and I dare say to most of the potters I know. We love you Frank!

    5. Barbara Harnack 10/21/2020 at 9:37 am

      I have always appreciated the joy and happiness Frank brought to the world with his clay work and kindness. His work along with Luisa, is one of the reasons we wanted to have our Gallery. To show what seasoned and visionary artist can create. He was a delightful human being, who will be greatly missed.

    6. jnelsonmoore 10/26/2020 at 4:04 pm
    7. Barbara Hadley 11/21/2020 at 3:49 pm

      I didn’t really know Frank, but I knew and admired his pottery, and purchased a bowl some years ago that I really loved. Unfortunately, that bowel got broken, but I still have the pieces. For some reason, I can’t bear to throw them away. They are still beautiful, with the wonderful glaze that Luisa does. I keep thinking maybe I can do something with them. I am so sad to know that he is no longer with us, and my thoughts go out to Luisa, his soul mate.

  • 02 Oct 2020 4:34 PM | Jacquita Beddo

    NMPCA’s 2018 Armstrong grant was awarded to The Potters Guild of Los Cruces to assist them in purchasing Chinese porcelain works of art for the ultimate goal of developing a presentation on Chinese ceramics to enhance its understanding and appreciation by students of ceramics art, community art galleries and ceramic art organizations throughout New Mexico. NMPCA’s grant enabled The Potters Guild to purchase representative works of old and new porcelain art pieces while on an educational tour of the porcelain productions regions of China.


    This tour was led by Professor Glen Schwaiger a Chinese porcelain scholar of Dona Anna Community College. In May 2018 a group of Guild members and DACC students toured the porcelain production regions of China. The NMPCA grant enabled the group to purchase representative works of old and new porcelain art pieces and ship the works of art back to New Mexico. Educational presentations and exhibitions on Chinese porcelain were consequently made throughout New Mexico. In addition to the porcelain ceramics, the travel group took photographs during the trip to tell the story of the porcelain history from ancient times to the present. A grant from New Mexico State University’s Confucius Institute provided funds for matting of images taken during the tour. Both purchased pieces and matted photos enhanced the story and gave more meaning to exhibits and the concomitant presentations.

    Throughout 2019 multiple sized exhibits of the Guild’s China photos and acquired porcelain pieces were exhibited and presented throughout New Mexico especially at the Clovis Community College Art Museum; Dona Ana Community College’s Foyer Gallery; Matrix Fine Art Gallery in Albuquerque and ended the year in Las Cruces at the Tombaugh Gallery in the Unitarian Universalist Church.

    An excellent investment of Armstrong Grant funds!

    By Lee Liggett
  • 09 Aug 2020 12:23 PM | Judy Nelson-Moore (Administrator)

    It’s not all bad news during the current pandemic. One silver lining is the return to New Mexico and NMPCA by Ed Byers and Holden McCurry. Ed & Holden left NM in February 2017 to be closer to family and pursue business opportunities. Missing friends, open sky, plenty of sun and space to roam brought them back last November. You will recall that Ed & Holden have been a ceramics team since 2003. Both are graduates of Auburn University. Both have done post graduate studies in ceramics and fine art painting.

    Their sculptures are made using clay slabs, extrusions and pinched forms often combined with mixed media materials. Texture is created using found objects, handmade ceramic stamps and roulettes. Drawn and painted surfaces incorporate terra sigillata, underglazes, slips, oxides and sgraffito. Mixed-media works combine original silk-printed photography, wood, wire and clay sculpture into wax surfaces. Please welcome back Ed & Holden by visiting their website:

    Journey Boat, Yellow Chapel with Red Cedar Cross by Byers & McCurry

  • 24 Mar 2020 11:36 AM | Jacquita Beddo

    Svetlana joined the NMPCA in February, 2020. She and her husband moved to Los Alamos in 2019, after living 20 plus years in Michigan. Svetlana is particularly interested in participating in the Celebration of Clay 2020: Perspectives. She very much misses firing in a Soda and Raku kilns.

    I began attending pottery classes in 2012. In 2016 I became a member of the Greater Lansing Potters Guild. After moving to Los Alamos I joined the Fuller Lodge Clay Club. Here I began working with new glazes and lower firing temperatures than what I had been used to in Michigan. This has proven to be and interesting and exciting new adventure for me. I like to work on a wheel and with a slab. I love to decorate my pottery using different techniques.

    As a member of the Greater Lansing Potters’ Guild I fired my pottery in a gas kiln at cone 10. After moving here, I could only fire my pieces in an electrical kiln, at cone 5. I would love to find potters in New Mexico who have access to Soda and Raku kilns.

    In addition to learning all the aspects of lower firing temperatures, my biggest challenges have been getting use to the higher elevations and lack of humidity. Besides pottery, I love to garden and learn about NM culture and art. I look forward to meeting and working with as many members of NMPCA as I can. 

    In addition to learning all the aspects of lower firing temperatures, my biggest challenges have been getting use to the higher elevations and lack of humidity. Besides pottery, I love to garden and learn about NM culture and art. I look forward to meeting and working with as many members of NMPCA as I can.

    Contact Svetlana at

  • 02 Feb 2020 1:31 PM | Jacquita Beddo

    On the last day of 2019, 3 potters and one friend gathered at Ghost Ranch to start up the first firing of the moved and remodeled fume kiln at the Ghost Ranch Pinon Pottery Studio. The day was preceded by difficulties. Two weeks previous, on December 13, 7 potters had assembled at the ranch to fire the kiln. The kiln was loaded, and was intended to be fired, but problems developed and the plan was stopped. Before I finish the story, let me go back and give a short history of this kiln prior to December 2019.

    History of Ghost Ranch Fume Kiln

    In the far reaches of history when no one can remember, Jim Kempes and Willard Spence placed hard brick in a circle on a base of cement blocks and brick. They made a lid of metal lined with refractory fiber with a hole in the middle. The original purpose and method of firing for this kiln was unknown until recently when we got this message from Jim Kempes:

    Willard had the idea to build the kiln as a cheap, mid-range temp kiln. The hard bricks were inexpensive and the fiber insulation lid was new, cheap and all the rage. He came up with the cheap burner solution and we built it for two or three hundred dollars? We fired it a few times, and I do remember the temp difference with the top having to be watched. We weren’t really working at the cone six range so it sat waiting to be repurposed. Willard always loved the science of clay and wanted to use local clays and materials as glazes (perlite from the mine by Tres Piedres) and I think that was the reason behind the kiln (and dollars). It was Willard’s baby and I was the labor. Always loved working and learning with Willard. What a potter! Hope this helps.

    Jim Kempes, via email, 2/2/2020

    Along come Barbara Campbell and Judy Nelson-Moore who decide this kiln should be used for low-fire alternative firings…pit firing, low-fire salt, wood, propane burners, etc. Over several seasons, the NMPCA volunteer camp activities included putting fiber blanket around the kiln, adding refractory plaster and cutting burner holes in the sides. Judy had done this kind of firing in Denver in previous years in saggars and called it “fume firing” because of the atmospheric effects made by salt, chemicals and combustibles brought up to temperature. Kind of like raku, except the work is left in the kiln to cool and the reduction materials are fired with the pieces, not placed in them after the firing as in raku. Here is an article about these firings on Judy’s website. Many happy firings were done in the kiln by the NMPCA and other groups.

    Then, in the summer of 2015, a flash flood washed away the Pot Hollow ceramic studio down in the Yeso Creek arroyo. The ceramic studio was rebuilt on higher ground in the Pinon building of Ghost Ranch. NMPCA volunteers carefully dismantled the still-standing Fume Kiln bricks and base, cleaned them off, moved them up to the Pinon kiln yard, rebuilt the base and kiln, reapplied the fiber blanket and plaster. Quick to say but took about 3 years. Now, at the end of 2019, it was ready to test.


    Back to our story: For the initial test firing after the rebuild, people who had participated in the rebuilding of the kiln were invited to bring work. On December 13, when the kiln was loaded, there was considerable variety in the way different people “packed” their tin-foil saggars. Some added very little in the way of combustibles and chemicals on the theory that “Less is More.” Others added more material in hopes of encouraging more colorful effects. Some used ferric chloride brushed or sprayed on to achieve the red/browns. Copper, cobalt, and iron were also added. Salt in various amounts was added as table-sized crystals, dissolved in water and sprayed on, or sprinkled in the saggar. During the preparation, some of the combustible materials (grasses, shredded wood, banana peels, other natural materials) were soaked in salt and copper carbonate before being dried. All work was wrapped in 1-2 layers of aluminum foil, usually one piece per bundle. The kiln was tumble stacked with one and 1/2 shelves separating the pieces. Here are pictures of the December 13 kiln loading.

    The firing of the rebuilt kiln was started up on December 31, 2019, after considerable effort to prepare the burners with help from Frank Willett and Big Jo’s Hardware. From the start, it was apparent the firing was difficult to control. The kiln jumped 300 degrees in the first 15 minutes necessitating a slow down. Started at 10:45 am, by 1:45 there was considerable fuming out the top. Slowly turning up the burners in small increments enable a temperature of 1330 by 2:15. Looking through the peep holes, it was seen that the tin foil was breaking down in the manner associated with a desirable temperature. Usually this point is reached at a temperature of 1450 or so, but the actual temperature inside the kiln was difficult to judge. Because the firing length of 3.5 hours was deemed minimally long enough and because there had been considerable fuming coming out the top, it was decided to turn the kiln off.

    Unloading of the kiln was delayed until January 6 because of weather and other activities. The firing crew was joined by friends and by Ghost Ranch Jan Term students for the exciting unwrapping.

    Results: The results showed considerable difference in the firing temperature top to bottom, with the top being mostly underfired and the bottom achieving too high a temperature. Work stacked along the outside edge of the shelves impeded air flow which could have added to this problem. In this firing, the “Less is more” principle did not hold, with the most color and pattern being achieved with more materials.

    Conclusions: These are the conclusions of the participants:

    • More materials (combustibles, chemicals) may work better
    • Need more pyrometer holes to be able to judge temperature throughout kiln
    • Need to rearrange bricks under the shelves to encourage more air flow through and up the kiln.
    • Make a chimney, 8″, to put in the top to draw more air up.
    • Make a damper for the chimney and use to control fuming.
    • May need to enlarge the burner holes.

    Aftermath: The people involved in the firing included Barbara Campbell, Judy Nelson-Moore, Luisa Baldinger, Cirrelda Snider-Bryan, JB Bryan, Anne Keener, Penne and Jack Roberts. Frank Willett, Barbara’s friend Tor, Anne’s husband Larry, and some of the Jan term folks gave assistance in various capacities. Even though the firing that was started on December 13 had to be aborted when the burners did not work and was not finished for almost a month, the participants felt that being able to spend an evening at Ghost Ranch in winter with a small group was a sterling experience. Everyone got to really talk to each other, listen and learn, and we all developed a great respect and liking for everyone involved. This resulted in a reunion of firing participants on February 2nd in Santa Fe to discuss the results and celebrate. These types of fun and educational experiences are why we join NMPCA!

    Thank you to Barbara Campbell, Cirrelda Snider-Bryan and Penne Roberts for contributing images to this article.

    by Judy Nelson-Moore

  • 09 Jan 2020 11:58 AM | Jacquita Beddo

    Does your creativity need a jump start? One way to give yourself a shot in the arm is to visit an exhibition. For example, NMPCA member Juanita Dunn’s show last month in Santa Fe was an inspiration to many.

    Clay artists especially appreciated the techniques and inspiration behind “Heads of States,” the first public display of Juanita’s imaginative ceramic portrait sculptures now showing at Alumbramos Art Gallery on Canyon Road. The show opened November 29.

    Fifteen sculptures—nine men and six women—represent different ethnicities and heads of states ranging from a leader of an empire or a family circle or a prison. Most of her inspiration comes from faces she finds in old photographs and her love of rich fabrics and ornamentation which she recreates in clay. She sculpts in paper clay using coils and slabs. She applies texture, multiple layers of underglaze, glaze and final finishes. Many are fired six to eight times.

    “This show was inspired by the many ways a ‘Head of State’ can be identified or imagined,” said Juanita. “Many times there are special head gears, hats, ribbons, hair ornaments, clothing or other accessories that signify special status. I spend many hours in construction and finishing and I want each one to stand as a unique individual with their own personality.’’

    In the display, an Elizabethan queen wears real pearls in her head dress; an impish Nordic peasant wears a headdress of sticks and twigs, a Turkana woman’s clay fish atop her head. By contrast, the fierce Generalissimo needs no special ornamentation to show his strength as head of state.” Other characters include a Venetian cleric and shaman, German brewmaster, cocky Frenchman, and a clown who resembles one associated with well-known burger chain.

    Which are her favorites? She confesses, “I just love old wrinkly men. They have so much character.”

    But she admits the smooth-faced old Nordic peasant captivates her.” Juanita’s college roommate sent her an old photograph that inspired the creation of a woman with the sticks and twigs for a hat.

    “She’s my latest creation and the last thing I create is always my favorite. Isn’t that always the case?”

    The Alumbramos Art Gallery, 901 B Canyon Road, is across from The Tea House. Owner Beatriz Posada can be reached at 505-469-3346. Most of the work from Juanita’s show remains to be seen at the gallery into the first months of 2020, even though the show closed at the end of December.

    The author of this article, Layne Vickers Smith, is a long-time NMPCA member and former board member. As membership chair she recruited Juanita Dunn to join when both were enrolled in a Day of the Dead workshop at Santa Fe Clay.

    by Layne Vickers Smith

  • 30 Oct 2019 5:22 PM | Judy Nelson-Moore (Administrator)

    Workshop report by Eden Radfarr, 2019 NMPCA Ghost Ranch workshop scholarship recipient

    Over twenty potters, beginners and experts alike, gathered at Ghost Ranch over Labor Day Weekend, 2019, for an intense four days of learning from four generations of renowned Santa Clara ceramists; Jody, Polly, Susan and Kaa Folwell. We were there to learn to make traditional micaceous clay cooking pots.

    Jody led us through the coiling process. She taught us to slowly hand roll the coils between our hands, though many of us ultimately reverted to our familiar habit of rolling on the table. Some of us struggled to keep our forms balanced as Jody reminded us to be sure to work all the air bubbles out of our clay. Polly, Susan and Kaa came around giving us tips and troubleshooting.

    Working hard to smooth out and start carving our pots.

    On day two we continued forming, smoothing and carving our pots. Jody helped us learn to feel the right thickness and weighting of our pots and work out imperfections. Later on, Susan lead us through the slipping and polishing processes on small pots that Polly and member Barbara Campbell had prepared for us. We worked with Santa Clara slip, slips that Susan had harvested on her travels and a commercial micaceous slip that many of us were quite fond of. Susan was quite adept at guiding us through ways to work creatively with imperfections such as spots where the slip flaked off during polishing due to uneven drying. Some of us achieved smooth glistening surfaces while others, myself included, needed to embrace irregularity and work more texture into our surfacing approach, but they all turned out quite lovely.

    We low fired the pots overnight and next morning dove into the carving process. The low fire wasn’t quite low enough which made the carving process a little arduous. This was also the day to dry and sand our micaceous pots in preparation for pit firing and to sit back and enjoy presentations from all four Folwells about their (jaw-dropping) work and artistic approaches.

    On Monday morning Kaa arrived with a load of precious cow patties for our pit firing. We gathered wood, prepared the fire, and then, moment of truth: we began putting our pots in the fire. It wasn’t long before the pops, like huge popcorn kernels, began. Jody had warned us about squeezing out the air bubbles and not building too thick, but many of us learned the hard way how sensitive micaceous clay is to air pockets and moisture. Despite the casualties many beautiful forms and gorgeous smoke patterns emerged from the coals. The processes we practiced these four days taught us patience and persistence, with the clay and with ourselves, and we all deserve to feel proud of our accomplishments.

    Many thanks to Jody, Susan, Polly and Kaa for generously sharing their skills, patience and creative flames with us.   

    Small Pots ready to carve and fire.

    Pit Firing with cow patties.

    Pit Firing.

    Pulling the cooling pots.

    Picture  above shows Folwell Family, left to right: Eden Radfarr, Jody, Polly, Kaa and Susan Folwell, Kaa’s children


    Ed note:  This workshop expanded on our “conversation” with Santa Clara potter, Jody Folwell. We had a previous workshop with Jody in 2013 and also a session with Jody as part of our 2014 New Mexico Connections workshop. 

We call ourselves the NMPCA!