Artist Interviews

The Holiday Sale is a great time to re-connect with artists who have previously sold pottery at NCC. It is also an exciting opportunity to introduce new artists to the gallery—keeping the cupboard full of fresh ideas and pots for our shoppers. NCC’s Gallery Manager, Karen McPherson (KM), interviewed a few of this year’s featured holiday artists. 

Brenda Quinn

Brenda is a teaching artist in Bronx, NY and maintains a home studio. She is a BFA turned MFA turned mother of two. Her work graced the American Pottery Festival in 2007, 2008, and 2010, and we are happy to have her here for the holidays this year!

KM: You had children and a bit of a studio break. What has changed since you got back into your practice? 

BQ: The biggest change is working in shorter increments. The changes in my work feel like they happen faster— I have more time to think about the work, and less time to execute it. I also began incorporating more handbuilding. Working with slabs and pinching and coiling—I can go into my studio, add a few coils, slump a few slabs and then walk away, let it dry and work again later. I have also added a dark chocolate brown clay and slip into my palette.

KM: How else is daily life influencing your work?

BQ: Last summer, I got chickens, which has brought a new twist to the observations of composition and pattern in my garden. I also ran my first trail half-marathon. Long runs in the woods force me to watch the ground for rocks and sticks and to observe the filtered sun through the trees. The shadows make me think about how the dark slip covers the white clay, and how the fallen leaves span both the shadowed areas and the sunlit areas the way some of my patterns continue over both the light and dark surface.

KM: Do you bake treats for the holiday?  I imagine some of your work as the perfect flair for grandma’s cookie recipe!

BQ: I love baking, and I love eating baked goods!  Every Christmas I bake my dad’s favorite cookie, The Italian Rainbow cookie. They are beautiful and delicious!

Kip O’Krongly

Kip is a past NCC artist grant recipient and teaching artist; she recently moved away from the cities to Northfield, MN, where she has set up a home studio. Her earthenware pots are decorated with iconic agricultural and environmental images from the upper Midwest. Her work has been featured in NCC galleries in various capacities over the last few years; we are pleased to check in to see how things are evolving.

KM: You recently attended a surface workshop with Linda Arbuckle and Victoria Christen at NCC’s APF. Was there anything especially re-affirming for you in that experience?  

KO: The workshop was super! Having an opportunity to connect with other artists interested in highly-decorated earthenware came at a perfect time for me. While the demos were great, I think I got more out of hearing about how the artists structure their time, price their work, and pursue exhibition opportunities. It was really interesting to hear from both a full-time working artist and a full-time professor... Two very different paths, that’s for sure!  

KM: What returning or new imagery will you have on your pots at the 2013 Holiday Show?

KO: There will definitely be a group of my continual favorites, but with some new twists. You’ll see bikes, but on different forms and in new sizes, tractors with wheat (instead of corn!), and a new version of the wind farms. Bats and tornadoes will be new symbols. I’m also set to introduce my new line of low-fire white work, which is a very exciting direction for me! 

KM: Can you talk a little about how you get the images on the pots?

KO: In the past, I cut my stencils out of a thin plastic tablecloth using an Exacto knife. Often, they would take four or five hours to cut (and a LOT of blades!). While they are reusable, once cut, I was stuck with that particular size. I’m now using a Silhouette Cameo die cutter to cut some stencils out of a bamboo paper. While it gives me much more flexibility (I can easily resize my designs), I’ve found I’m spending a lot of time on the design end, and I have to plan carefully to ensure I have enough stencils cut and ready for decorating. While the die cutter can cut the stencils dramatically faster than I can, a full 8.5” x 11” sheet can still take over two hours to cut because my designs are so detailed. I have a feeling I’ll end up using a combination of the hand-cut plastic and the die cut paper stencils to find a happy medium where I can still be somewhat spontaneous in my surfaces. 

See more examples of Kip's work here!

Justin Rothshank

Justin is from Goshen, Indiana where he works full-time as a studio potter. He works in both earthenware and high-fire clays, often firing his work over three times to get different layers. He is best known for his decal work, using both natural forms and a “Presidents” series.

KM: Can you tell us how you fit into the wild and wonderful world of decaled pottery?

JR:  Some artists working with decals use them as accents, or layer them on top of silk-screened images, or colored slips. I use decals almost exclusively; I just use layers, upon layers of decals— including decals on wet clay, and decals between layers of glazes.

KM: What are you sending for the holiday sale that you are particularly excited about?

JR: I’m most excited about the pieces I am sending with colorful glazes used in the background. I used a black/white glaze palette for the last five years, but have started experimenting with red, blue, yellow, and green glazes, and corresponding colorful decals. 

KM: Remind me, you do both wood-fired and reduction work, as well as decals?

JR: Primarily I fire cone 04 – 06 electric. I also have a two-chamber wood kiln that I fire 3 – 4 times a year. I put iron toner decals into the firings; I also do my decal work after the firings. I spray soda in the back chamber of the kiln. I multi-fire everything; sometimes 4 – 6 times. Some of my favorite pieces are ones that have come out of the wood kiln with not-so-great results. I’ve re-fired them, built up layers of decals, and taken advantage of the subtleties created in atmospheric kilns. This is very fun for me.

KM: What part of your process offers the most room for growth and discovery?

JR: I’ve been experimenting with lower temperature atmospheric firing for the past few years. I’m very interested in continuing this discovery. I hope to build a soda kiln next year and look forward to cone 3 – 6 soda firing after that. 

See more examples of Justin's work here!