Coming Soon: Design with the Other 90%: CITIES

Praça Cantão, Favela Painting Project
Artists: Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn, Haas&Hahn, with Santa Marta favela community youth. Santa Marta, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2009–10. Photo: © Haas&Hahn for

Design with the Other 90%: CITIES opens this weekend in Portland.  The exhibit is actually divided between two locations, the Museum of Contemporary Craft and the Mercy Corps Action Center.  Here’s a snippet from MoCC’s site about what we can expect from this exhibit:

…explores innovative approaches in urban planning, sustainable design, affordable housing, entrepreneurship, nonformal education, and public health happening in these communities to ensure their residents a brighter future. CITIES features sixty projects, products, and proposals, organized into six themes, that shine the spotlight on communities, designers, and architects, as well as private, civic, and public organizations that are working together to address the complex issues arising from the unprecedented growth of informal settlements in emerging and developing economies.

I am very much looking forward to this show, as it ties directly in with themes I’ll be exploring as a graduate student, beginning in just a couple of weeks.

Finally…Grad School!

The big news: after 10 years of dreaming, scheming, creating, fretting, failing, discovering, and succeeding, I’m going to art school!  This fall l will enroll as a student in the MFA in Applied Craft and Design program offered, in collaboration, by the Pacific Northwest College of Art and the Oregon College of Art and Craft in the great city of Portland, Oregon.  I say “this fall,” but my program begins this Monday, 8/20, with a two-week design/build project, in which all in-coming grad students are suddenly thrown together to create a space with a very real purpose for a very real client.

I nearly fell out of my chair when I heard we will be building a Bike Hub, a community bike center, in the New Columbia neighborhood of North Portland.  This project has been years in the making, thanks in large part to the Community Cycling Center, a local non-profit which believes “the bicycle is a tool for empowerment and a vehicle for change.” Since I found inspiration in the Netherlands last summer I’ve come to believe quite strongly that safe, accessible forms of active transportation, like bicycling, are vital to the formation and longevity of vibrant communities and the overall livability of our city.  The coincidence or serendipity of the chain of events which has led me to this program is simply remarkable.  Never in a million years could I have planned this!

What attracted me to the Applied Craft + Design program can be summed up this way:

With a curriculum focused on the development of a strong artistic voice, the realization of work for a specific community or client, and entrepreneurism that connects making a living with making a difference, the MFA in Applied Craft and Design is the only graduate program of its kind.

I contemplated a more traditional route: a highly-ranked ceramics MFA program at an established school like the University of Nebraska or the University of Minnesota.  These excellent programs have a highly competitive admissions process, many artists applying year after year before gaining entrance (because dozens or hundreds of artists are vying for maybe 1-4 spots in the program each year).  While some pretty incredible artists emerge from these programs, they focus on the individual artist and do not, as a facet of the program, emphasize the relationship between the artist and his/her community.  I believe, in the end, this may be to the detriment of future artists, for how we can make a living has changed dramatically and will certainly continue to evolve.  New paradigms are needed to prepare students for professional life.

I did apply to NE and MN, by the way, and was rejected by both.  But I am so glad!  Portland has become home to me like no other city in which I’ve ever lived. This city has inspired me to want to do more than just make art and be a traveling workshop presenter (every little potter’s dream, to be “famous”).  After two+ years of really living in the city (I live downtown), I better understand the importance of a strong, healthy community.  I’ve seen how design can have a profound effect on livability.  I want my career to have a direct connection with and positive effect on my community, and this program is uniquely designed (and perfectly located!) to help me do just that.

News & Happenings

  • For those of you in central Oregon, a new gallery in Tumalo (near Bend), is now carrying my work: ArtWorks! is located at 19889 8th St in Tumalo.
  • The marvelous ceramics collective that I joined relatively recently, Dirty Dishes, has moved to a sweet new space, but still in the Alberta District.  The new address is 3012 NE Alberta.  Kierstin Oliver, owner and operator, says “Dirty Dishes, home to Stone’s Throw Ceramics, is a space created for local potters and ceramists to show and sell their wares. Located in the heart of the Alberta Arts District, Dirty Dishes is a potters’ paradise packed with the whimsy and warmth of hand-formed clay.”  Check out her website for info on Kierstin and the other artists she represents.
  • And the most exciting news of all…my piece which was included in this year’s Strictly Functional Pottery National (my sweet little jar you see to the left), has been featured in the Autumn 2011 issue of Clay Times.  See it here (click on “View our dynamic digital edition — FREE!” and flip to pg 18), or purchase an issue and receive a studio poster insert, including my piece!  It’s so exciting and such an honor to be featured on a poster.  Clay Times has also decided to publish a 2012 wall calendar, which will include important “planned events for the clay community — plus eye candy from this year’s SFPN show.”  I don’t see them yet, but they should be available to order very soon on the Clay Times online store,

Twist, a Photo Archive

Well, I took my show down yesterday.  Overall, I’d say it was a grand success, but I’ll never again agree to do a show like this with only two months notice!  The reception was lovely, and I was so moved that so many of my friends and family made the trek to Gresham to show their support.

I’d like to share with you all a photographic version of my show.  I’ve focused on my work, of course, but you’ll catch glimpses of some wonderful sculptures by Dan Alley, for his show entitled Writhe.  Enjoy!

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At this very moment two kilns are cooling, each full of potential show pieces perhaps destined to be on display in my first show in five years, Twist.  While I’ve been included in several group shows, in addition to art & craft festivals and fairs, it’s been a while since I’ve put together a comprehensive group of pieces to show the world who I am as an artist.  This show will include my favorite brushwork pieces in black/white/red (and maybe some new colors, depending on how one of my firings worked out!), in addition to some wood-fired work.  I have high hopes for many of my wood-fired pieces, slowly cooling in the woods of SW Washington.  I used forms and surface decoration techniques related to those I use on my electric-fired work, which will hopefully hint at the lineage which links the two bodies of work.

My work will be shown alongside that of sculptor Dan Alley, also a technician for sculpture in the Visual Arts Department at Mt. Hood Community College.  This show, in fact, is to commemorate our terms as techs at MHCC (we’ve both just begun the second and final year of our term).

If you’re in the area, I invite you to visit Twist at the Mt. Hood Community College Visual Arts Gallery, October 31-November 21, with an opening reception Thursday, November 3, 6-9 p.m.

On the Edge

One of the biggest ceramic events of the year is the annual conference for the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, or NCECA.  The conference brings ceramic artists, teachers, and students from all over the world for four days of exhibitions, demonstrations, lectures, and panel discussions.  In addition, galleries, schools and other institutions of the host city put on shows of ceramic art, often pertaining to the theme of the conference.  While it’s still six months away, I’m already preparing for NCECA 2012 in Seattle.  As of January 2012 I will be President of the Oregon Potters Association, and so I’ll be traveling to Seattle to represent our organization (and promote our 30th anniversary Ceramic Showcase, happening May 4-6, 2012…that’s the largest all-clay show in the country, folks! Don’t miss it!).

Today I’m reminded of NCECA 2012, not because I saw my note-to-self to reserve my hotel room ASAP, but because the theme, “On the Edge,” has, in a way, been very much on my mind this week.  Here’s what the NCECA conference website says about this year’s theme:

Seattle, as well as the entire Puget Sound region, is located in a unique geographical position; on the EDGE of the country and on the EDGE of the Pacific Rim.  From this location ON THE EDGE, quite naturally, we have a broad perspective on objects, places and issues, and see great distances.  We thrive on the intersection of old and new worlds.  And we respect distant and historic cultures…Asian, Pacific, Native American, and all of our neighbors in North America.  Most of all we appreciate how they have influenced our contemporary ceramic practices.

Through creative stretching, we also visit the EDGE of our imagination and appreciate the artistic use of clay in dynamic new ways.  Even EDGY ways…often on the EDGE…sometimes with rough EDGES.

I’ve spent quality time on the edge of two continents this summer, lucky me.  They looked quite different.  The coast of the Netherlands, on the North Sea near the port of Rotterdam, is dotted with giant sea-faring cargo ships, windmills, towering loading cranes, and kite surfers.

While the Pacific Northwest sits upon the infamous Ring of Fire, along which frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions can and do alter the shape of our countries, the Netherlands takes a pro-active approach to geography by building their own land, as we saw at Futureland.  Wait, they’re just dumping sand into the ocean until it piles up enough to build on it?!  And it’s not going to wash away?!

Last month, I looked over the precipice while hiking Cape Lookout, west of Tillamook, Oregon.  Our hike first took us down to the beach, where waves crashed against the rocky Oregon shore.  We searched for sanddollars, but the gulls got them all much earlier that morning, and all we found were bits and pieces.  Then, back up the slope, and out to the tip of the peninsula.  Lush and green, this temperate rainforest got quieter and quieter, the farther out we hiked.  While we neglected to take our camera on this hike, this is representative of the scenery and energy of that day, and the edge of Oregon.

And now, back in my day-to-day routine of making pots, I ponder the metaphorical and literal edges of my work.  While I want my pottery to be functional, I also like to push the notion of what a functional form is supposed to look like.  My coffee cups have three feet and my boxes have no handles, but they do not suffer for it, in my humble opinion.  Sometimes, in fact, function takes a back seat to design or grace or movement.

And then there’s the literal edges of my work.  I spent this week decorating pots, painting on underglazes and then carving delicate lines and designs into the brushwork.  When I throw the pieces that will become bowls and cups and mugs, I form the lip to create a surface for decoration.  It has a slight incline that is comfortable for your lip, and/or to lead your eye inward, to the space I’ve created.  It’s also a great opportunity to add ornamentation, and I have such fun coming up with different patterns of dots, circles and lines to jazz up each piece in a unique way.

Here’s to hoping I always have the confidence and the curious spirit to play on the edge.

Local 14 and Columbia Gorge Celebration

This year has been one of many firsts for me, including new shows and sales.  Just yesterday I sent off a piece (actually the one you see to the left) to be included in the Strictly Functional Pottery National, an annual show out of Lancaster, PA.  This past weekend I held a studio sale at the site of my first studio, Middle Mt. Pottery, outside Hood River, OR during the county’s annual Gravenstein apple celebration.  While traffic was not as heavy as other special weekends in Hood River County, many loyal friends and customers came out to support me…it warms my heart so!!

Next month (9/29-10/2) I will be participating in the Local 14 Show & Sale at the World Forestry Center in Portland, OR.  This is a fine art & craft sale put on by an all-women group of artists.  I was juried in as a guest artist for this year’s show.

A mere week after that (10/8-9) I will be one of eight featured artists in the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center (in The Dalles, OR) for the 25th anniversary celebration of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act.  During the day this free community event will include live music, art, living history, recreation, bike tours, local food & beer and more.  On Saturday evening, the Discovery Center will hold the 4th Annual Vintage Evening of Wine & Art, a fundraiser for the Center.  A piece of mine will be included in the auction.  Check out this page for tickets and other information.

Two weeks after the Discovery Center event I’ll be loading Soulgama!  Yikes, this is going to require a lot of pots…better get back to it!

Pottery & Apples in the Valley

I love having sales out at the site of my first studio, Middle Mt. Pottery, off the Fruit Loop in the gorgeous Hood River Valley.  I always meet lovely people who stumble upon my sale, in addition to old friends who stop by to catch up.  It’s a beautiful setting, in the woods of the foothills of Mt. Hood, and I will have a large selection of fresh pots as well as many earlier pieces and seconds at discounted prices.  In addition to my sale, many orchards, wineries and other businesses along the Fruit Loop will host special events and sales this weekend to celebrate the first of the apple harvest.

I hope to see you there!

Finding Inspiration in the Netherlands

Where do you find inspiration?  Do you always know it when you see it?  Do you always recognize it when you use it?  Many people I admire have a very distinct source of inspiration, like Art Deco era architecture or Victorian textile patterns.  I as yet cannot put my finger upon such a specific source which guides my pot-making.  My making decisions are often guided by intuition, but upon reflection I see patterns and recognize the influence of my experiences.  I see myself as a filter, and what comes out is the essence of what moves me.

This summer I had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to soak up the culture of another country, and more specifically a city with a rich history that inspires people beyond its borders.  Last month my husband and I had an incredible two-week adventure in the Netherlands.  Although it wasn’t on to my “must see” list (only because I didn’t know anything about it), I am now in love with this country.  My husband, a Transportation Engineering graduate student at Portland State University, had the opportunity to take a course based in Delft, in order to study the bicycle infrastructure of the Netherlands, along with some other marvels of Dutch engineering (check out his blog  As it happens, Delft is also home to a 400-year old pottery tradition, often referred to as Delftware, or Delft blue porcelain.  We came for the engineering, but found so much more.  The mosaic above perfectly encapsulates what our trip was all about.

A little context for you…my husband and I moved to downtown Portland just over a year ago, to be close to PSU while he completes his Masters.  We left an idyllic farm, six miles from the eastern-most suburb of Portland, for an apartment in a high-rise on the street car line.  About eight months ago, we bought bicycles, and our life is so much better for it.  This is THE WAY to experience Portland, arguably the most bicycle-friendly city in the US.  In short, we can take advantage of all the city has to offer without the burden of a car (yes, the BURDEN of a car…I won’t get on that soap box right now), which brings us closer to and more invested in our community.  And it is on our bicycles from which we got to know Delft and the Netherlands.

We bought refurbished bicycles to use for our two-week stay.  We explored Delft, and Brian and his class took daily excursions around the country on their bikes, logging at least 20 miles per day.  The national network of cycle paths makes this a piece of cake, and you can always hop on a train if you’re short on time.  Here are some of the sights our bicycles afforded us, places that resonated with me for a variety of reasons.  Next week, when I get back in the studio for the first time since our trip, I’ll be thinking of these places and the grand times we had.  At this point, who knows what will make its way into my pots…

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Updated Gallery

Since I’ve spent so much time and energy over the past week photographing my work, I thought I should share some of the results.  On my “Gallery” page you will now find a slide show with new work, in addition to some pieces from last year.  In the next couple of days I will convert it back to stills with detailed captions on construction and firing techniques.