25th Anniversary Interview: Marion Angelica

How did you get involved with NCC?
I have known about Northern Clay Center since its inception, when I was working at the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council and directing people to NCC for grants and other resources. I had taught clay at places in the area, such as U of M–Duluth, and, of course my MFA is in ceramics. When my daughter went to college, I knew it was time for me to come back to clay. I wanted a class without assignments, so I started working with Peter Lupori; that was just perfect. I knew that clay could not be just a hobby for me and that I would need to dive in full-time, so after two years on the waiting list, I ended up renting the studio that I still have today. That was about six years ago. 

What was the most surprising thing that has happened with NCC?
I don’t know if I would say “surprising,” but definitely unexpected was receiving the Jerome Ceramic Artist Project Grant in 2012. Of course, I intellectually understood that “emerging artists” can be any age, but it did always seem like a more likely fit for young artists. But I applied for two reasons: the first one, I call the “pottery lottery”—that I definitely would not win if I did not apply. And the second reason was that I know my work is good and I wanted to show the jurors that I’m serious and this isn’t a hobby to me. Receiving the grant affirmed for me that people with years of life behind them have things to say and that’s one of the things I love about this community—the mix of young and old, potters and sculptors. Compared to other studios I have worked in, we enjoy the relationships here and respect each other’s work, even when it is very different from our own. It’s inclusive, not competitive, and I value that.

What was the most gratifying thing that has happened? What pleased you the most?
I love my studio—I call it the “mousehole” because it’s sort of long and not very wide once I placed my furniture. I love that it’s between the visiting artist studios [McKnight and Fogelberg] because there’s new energy that’s interesting and very stimulating. That’s a huge benefit! It’s gratifying; it’s like the world comes to me through all of these people. I’m able to work in my bubble, but then go out and see good people all around. And I’ve made friends with the visitors; we’ve had dinners together and gone shopping; that was fun. The limited space keeps me moving. I sometimes just wish I had a hammock above for a quick nap!

What’s different now from what you expected? What do you think might be different in ten years?
After working in other studios, I had tempered my expectations of a group studio. I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but NCC has met all of my hopes—the studio culture is just the right mix of private and social. We have lunch dates and find firing buddies easily. I also have to say that Sarah [Millfelt] has done a fabulous job transitioning the organization and hiring staff. She’s just a great executive and brings her sense of humor to the job. NCC was very smart to take her.

Any funny stories? 
Well, two have come to mind. When we had Milo [the studio cat] he really liked to sleep in my studio because I always had big pieces of foam around for making my work. We had a good relationship, but then another studio artist put a warming lamp above a piece of foam and he dumped me! But I still find a piece of his hair now and then…

The next story was with a visiting McKnight Resident who had just been promoted at her college. She needed to go clothes shopping, but on an artist’s budget, so Kip [O’Krongly, former Anonymous Potter Studio Fellow] and I took her to a secondhand store called Rodeo Drive that has more designer looks. She had the slightest figure and a stylish haircut and I tell you, every time she came out of the dressing room it was like a runway show! We had a fun day and it was gratifying to be able to share this opportunity with them!