That is the question I hear most frequently when I am showing my work. The short answer is no, but the longer answer reveals an underlying reason that the work gives people that impression. I set out for college with every intention of becoming an architect. I was 2/3 of the way through my university’s 5 year architecture program when I realized I didn’t want to spend years designing bathrooms and stairways before I would ever play a role in the way a space made someone feel. Ah, so someone pointed me to the ceramics studio, right? Well no, not quite. I changed my major and after graduation I was tested and hired by the FAA as an air traffic controller. In 2006 I began having some health issues and at the urging of my wife, I signed up for some wheel classes at the local rec department. I was hooked. I sold off all of my camera equipment and purchased a wheel and a kiln. My career came to an early end, six years later, due to those health issues. This retirement gave me the freedom to explore hand building, which is a much more time consuming and time critical process. Hand building also afforded me the opportunity to develop the style, or “voice”, of my work today. So, no, as you see, I’m not an architect. However, there is still a bit of the teenage me who set out to become an architect lurking in here somewhere.
I live in Fayetteville, GA with my wife Debbie. We are in the process of becoming empty nesters. Our daughter is in her sophomore year of college and our son will be graduating high school in May. When I am not working in the studio I can be found volunteering/mentoring at the elementary school our children attended, predominately helping kids with reading and math.
My pots are simple in form and surface design with architectural references. I try to make balanced pots that would be nice to have in the home for use or just be around. I really enjoy making pots and hope that they bring a little light to people’s lives.
I’m currently working with earthenware clay because I love the rich color of the clay body and wanted to have some areas of bare clay showing through on the surfaces of the pots. I’m using a printing technique called mono-print transferring to decorate the surfaces. I paint slip onto cut pieces of paper and then transfer them onto the pot making a design. I love the imperfections that this process leaves on the surface of the pot. And the clean lines I can get from the process. I started out as a printmaker and have always gravitated to the qualities of hand printed images.
Maria Dondero makes pots and teaches in Athens, Georgia where she lives with her husband and twin boys. She received her MFA from the University of Georgia in 2008 and has worked as a studio potter and professor ever since. In February 2016, Dondero started Southern Star Studio, a community ceramic center with space for artists to work and present their ceramics in the gallery.
Her own work, marmalade pottery, focuses on kickwheel thrown functional pieces to be used everyday. Each piece is unique, with its own story to bring to your home. The pots are intended to be used daily, hopefully bringing a moment of lightness to one’s generally hectic life.
The mid-range earthenware pots have an aesthetic that draws on the history of ceramics. While subtly referencing pottery traditions from around the world, Maria intuitively sketches images on her ceramic surfaces from her surroundings, grounding the pots in the Georgia soil. She is represented by galleries across the country, and exhibits her work nationally and internationally.
I have worked with clay for over 40 years and I still feel I’m learning about its endless possibilities. In addition to my ongoing commitment to produce fine, functional vessels, I try to capture the wet plastic nature of the wet clay in the finished piece. I use a runny, active wood ash glaze to enhance the textured surfaces. I seek a harmony between form, surface, and function. The work is made to be used and is fine in the oven, microwave, and dishwasher.
During the past few years, my studio practice has become increasingly slow and steady as I have worked to extend the conversation with each pot. I fire smaller kiln loads and spend additional time decorating and focusing on the final details of individual pieces. The inlayed line is particularly significant on the surface of my pottery. These lines form repeating patterns and floral motifs that reference traditional quilt blocks, architectural ornament, Art Deco patterns, stained glass windows, and 16th century Iznik tiles.
The lines that travel around my pots are found under the feet, over the handles, and inside of lids. By interacting with the cups and bowls, plates, and vases, in search of the hidden lines, the audience will find unexpected details - small rewards for close examination.
My color pallet continues to be bright, with translucent blues, shades of chartreuse green, and spots of yellow and red. I use a porcelain clay body that I fire in an electric kiln. This allows for a bright white canvas, providing vibrancy to my glazes and decoration. With each pot and kiln load, the choices I make in color, form, and decoration come together to create a body of work that continues to generate new challenges, questions, and occasionally solutions.
With both my pottery and mobile gallery, I hope to add pomp to daily life. As I leave evidence of the hand, made visible in the imperfect patterns and variations of weight, proportion, and size of each piece, I work to heighten an aesthetic awareness in the user. The record of time spent is found in the nuances of each pot. As my pottery moves into the world, I optimistically pursue my goal to make useful and beautiful objects. Objects that I hope will find a home in everyday life and daily conversation, where they will reward and remind the user that the well crafted object has not only satisfied a need but has connected them with another human being.
Since 2008 Lora has been a studio potter and pottery instructor in Atlanta, GA, selling her work at art sales, exhibits and galleries. Sharing her love of working in clay, Lora teaches pottery classes at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center with concentration in the soda firing process. She also teaches hands-on and demonstration workshops.
As a ceramic artist, her goal is to bring a touch of artistry and elegance anywhere in the home. Lora enhances the surface of her pots using a unique process of striking and moving clay with personally designed tools, creating lush and fluid surfaces that beg to be touched. Designs and patterns found in Gothic Architecture mixed with the fluidity of Art Nouveau are strong influences for her patterns. Inspiration from fabric design provides movement to the texture on the form. She fires her work in her soda kiln in Blue Ridge, GA. Sodium vapors glaze the exterior of each vessel, interacting and uniquely highlighting the form and surface.
My work is a union of pattern, repetition, and tactile surface treatment that is stimulating to the touch. Texturing my pieces allows me to experiment with line quality, rhythm, and movement. My pots incorporate objects and imagery found in nature, which have personal value to me.
I am motivated by floral patterns I would find in my childhood homes. My family lived a very transient life; we would move to a new town every couple of years. With my environment con- stantly changing, it was easy for me to see the little consistencies, like the floral wallpaper bor- ders that ran along the ceilings around every new house we moved into. Whether it be wallpa- per, curtains, or dinning room linen napkins that my mother insisted we use every meal, the repetitive floral design on these items have made its way into the earliest memories of my life.
I believe that the social and communal aspects of functional pottery are significant. The shape, design, and function of a pot inform its surroundings; it is able to turn a social gathering into a ceremonial setting. My intention is to create pots that beg to be held and used in a setting that brings people together in conversation and fellowship. I want those who experience my work to touch, hold, explore, and most importantly, find a personal use for the work.
In a body of work there is a common thread of expression and exploration that binds it together. My current work contemplates our shared existence and individual experience. It is a pursuit of “truth” (trying to figure out what and how things really are). I am intrigued by what we think, do, and say, by who we are and how we live and the ideologies we embrace.
The body is the container that our consciousness comes in.
Behind that familiarity are truths about the human condition.
They are contemplative statements, ubiquitous and global thoughts, universal principles.
They are questions that are never fully answered in any final way; why are we here?, and how do we live?
here’s what I know so far:
people are important.
tech talk My ceramic figures begin with hand building techniques in red earthenware clay with a high grog content. I use red clay because of its relevance to where I live. I layer the surface with terra sigillata, slips, underglaze, stains, oxides, glazes, and underglaze pencils and powders – firing each piece three to five times. My imagery is influenced by Greek and Roman sculpture, Catholic statuary, South American Santos, and Southern and indigenous folk art. Some of the larger pieces utilize “stages and backdrops” – to create an environment or context. Graffiti tags and text are added as elements that provide essence; the “I AM” – of things that distinguish and define a life.
May it be of benefit
Travis Berning took a BFA from Wichita State University and then did graduate studies at the University of North Texas for two years. He then spent five years in Western Kansas working as a full time studio potter, all the time increasing his mastery of clay forms and techniques.
Travis moved to the Appalachian Mountains of Western North Carolina in “2003” to open Tree House Pottery. He then co-founded the WNC Pottery Festival in “2004” which has been voted one of the top 10 festivals in the Southeast. In “2014” he teamed up with four other potters to open Clay 5 Ways a working studio and gallery in the renowned, River Arts District, of Asheville NC. His work has been published in “Ceramics Monthly” and “Southern Living”. Travis has been working in clay for over 28 years. Inspired by nature and the processes of clay, his work is continually evolving, and we look forward to seeing were it goes in the future.
I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina in my father’s pottery studio. I was lucky to be immersed in a thriving community of craftsmen who worked in a wide variety of materials and techniques. My father made every dish I ate off of growing up, his best friend made the stained glass window in our living room and the lamp over our dining room table. Another friend made our bathroom sink, and we collected onion skins for another who specialized in natural dyeing. We personally knew the artist of each and every piece on our walls. This rich community of craftsmen greatly shaped how I have come to approach my own work.
Pottery is very much about the physical interaction with the ceramic object, the balance of a piece in the hand, subtle texture over the surface and how the hand will find and experience these areas in a very direct way. I am interested in how the regimented linear geometric patterns and the repetition of my stamps contrast with and accentuate the curves of the thrown form as well as the organic shapes left by the caress of the soda vapor. This innate mark making that the soda creates has led me to a very organic collaboration with the kiln itself. My stamped patterns are built from a single small triangular element. My goal in the repetition of this single element is for the individual stamp to disappear into the larger rhythms of the pattern. Though the stamping itself is the dominant decorative element, I am also delighted by the negative space created by offsetting the patterning so it locks together and creates a dynamic parallel of the pattern in the negative space between rows. Due to the rather deep impressions I create with the physical act of stamping the inside surface of the vessel bears an echo of the patterning on the exterior.
A mug sitting on a clean white pedestal is a dead thing to me. Pottery was never the untouched piece on the top shelf of the china cabinet; it was the much loved mug that you dig for every morning because the coffee just tastes better out of that specific one. I strive for my work to have that same immediacy of being handled or interacted with every day of the owner’s life. My greatest wish is for each piece to invite the viewer to pick it up, touch it, feel it, see how it fits in the hand, converse with it on the most intimate level, skin to skin.
During childhood on my family’s organic farm, daily interactions with plants and animals caused a sense of wonder and connection to the landscape. My current work references this personal story while responding to a human desire for immersion with the natural environment through the witnessed experience of animals. In my practice, I sculpt realistic animals who correspond and integrate into vessels and altered forms. Each animal is presented in a position of honor and integrity, aiming to invoke an introspective response while the corresponding vessel serves as a stage and invites human interaction. Using porcelain and stoneware, each piece is wheel thrown, altered, sculpted and carved. Firing in both electric and wood kilns, I attempt to accentuate qualities of preciousness through glaze application or spontaneity of ash and flame.
In the spring of 2003 a pair of Carolina Wrens took up residence in the rafters of my studio. I watched them raise two sets of babies over that summer. Day in and day out they would move upon the rafter calling down to me, always feeding their babies. The summer of Carolina wrens nestled into the depths of my mind, and over time I began to create work about that experience. In hindsight I can see a similar path in many of the pieces I design. They are born out of something outside of clay, and evolve over time. The theme that reoccurs most often is movement. I am always looking for ways to make the surface or the actual pots seems as though they have captured a moment in time. I balance this movement and life in the pots with a desire to make them functional. This is the challenge that brings me back to the studio eager to make pots.
Successful art has a firm foundation in the work that came before it. Working within a tradition is not necessarily a formula for maintaining, but can be a disciplined path in which to continue the consequential thread of craft and to make things new. Building on and blending the seemingly disparate ceramic traditions of our world and varying these themes into new translations and experimentations allows my work to progress. It is my hope that this referential work will remind us that these functional forms are necessary and that through interaction this work will have a humanizing effect; it will slow us down and remind us of the significance of the timeless daily rituals which make us human.