Ornament - Contemporary Jewelry with Mallory Wetherell

Thoughts and Process in Jewelry Making

What made you want to start working in jewelry?
The first pieces I made were after the election.  I was feeling a bit helpless. And in an attempt to not feel totally hopeless, I made some porcelain pendants with safety pin paintings on them.  Only three – for my sister, mom, and I.  And then others began to request that I make more.  From the proceeds, I was able to donate 20% to Planned Parenthood.  I enjoyed the process of making them, so I began to expand the imagery, sourcing bits of pieces from my sculptural work.  I continue to donate portions of the sales from my jewelry to organizations that support causes whose values I believe in. 


How has your jewelry making informed your other studio practice?
My jewelry is quick to make in comparison to my sculptural line of work.  So I’m able to treat them like miniature “canvases” to try out new patterns and imagery.  My surfacing process demands a lot of time, so these smaller items allow me a greater opportunity to play in the studio, and they often provide a needed break when I’m frustrated with a sculpture.  I’m also a mom, so studio time is sacred and I have to take it when I can get it.  I might not have a large window to get a new sculpture started, but I can at least keep my hands busy and be engaged with my studio through making jewelry.  My jewelry has a similar aesthetic to my sculptures, so in a way it makes my work more affordable and accessible as well.

Technical Descriptions
With my jewelry, I utilize the same process for applying imagery as I do with my sculptures.  I will either do a sketch on paper, which I then transfer onto tracing paper, flipping it to apply it to bone dry clay – or I draw with pencil right onto the bone dry clay.  Any mistakes are easily rubbed away, allowing for a fresh start.  I then use Duncan Underglazes, treating them like watercolors, to paint in the details.  I then bisque them to 04, apply glaze, fire to 6 (allowing the underglaze to flux a bit, as it’s meant to stay at a lower temperature), and finally luster them, firing to 018.


For more information about Mallory, check out her website: http://www.mallorywetherell.com/

Ornament - Contemporary Jewelry with Kari Radasch

Thoughts on Jewelry

I have always been interested in how nostalgia and memory becomes embedded in domestic objects. I think about this a lot when I make my work. Dishes, for example, have the unique ability to hold a warm, sentimental place in our lives. I often use motifs that recall a sense of discovery or a moment of joy and wonder. In my pots this can be seen as a rain cloud, a confetti storm, or the discovery of a unique feather. I started thinking about these sentimental collections as charms on a bracelet or necklace, and began literally using charms in my work a year ago. I like that these collected charms are unique to each of us and I also love the magical implications to the word “charm”. It has a sensibility that is both fun and “charming”. I used them first on my whiskey cups, where the cup, the charm and the act of drinking sparked a moment of reflection, interruption, and delight.

For over twenty years I have been jousting with the same set of dualities; notions of minimalism and excess, and kitsch and high art. In this vein, the idea of the classic gold and silver charm bracelet was devilishly undermined by my memory of my vintage 80’s Bell charm necklace. I loved the synthetic colors, chattering plastic, the immense selection of charms, and the endless ways to personalize my chain. My necklaces are a response to this recollection and also a celebration of clay, earthenware, the garden, my hands, memory, magic and the act of “making special”.

To learn more about Kari and her work, click here: http://kariradasch.com/

Ornament - Contemporary Jewelry with Joanna Powell

Thoughts about Jewelry

What we choose to wear tells us a lot about a person. It’s a way to express our individuality and it just feels good to wear things we love. I never leave the house without earrings on. They are a staple in my everyday adornment. 

I began making jewelry as a way to think about surface and to have a change of pace in the studio.  Scale influences surface. I found that with the small scale of the earrings, I gave myself more permission to get wild with pattern.  I draw inspiration for pattern from paintings, junk stores, and from looking around everyday. Making jewelry has allowed me to let go of the rules I’d given myself in my studio practice and play with an expanded palette.  

To learn more about Joanna, check out her website: http://joannapowellstudio.com/

Artist - Joanna Powell

Artist - Joanna Powell

Finished pieces

Finished pieces

Works in progress

Works in progress

Rat City Living - Deb Schwartzkopf

Curator for Rat City Exhibition - Deborah Schwartzkopf


Website: www.ratcitystudios.com/deborah-schwartzkopf

About the Show:
Each individual that is in this show has worked or works with me in some context.  Many of the invited artists are past or current studio assistants.  Others are studio renters or guest artists.  Still others have participated in a yearly invitational where I invite artists to work together for a weekend in my studio. Some of us have kept in touch over many years.  Still others are new to the Rat City Family.  I hope these opportunities both highlight their work, keep us in touch, and provide a motivating deadline.  I am excited to see what everyone has made myself! Enjoy!

Why did you start Rat City Studios:
Rat City Studios is my studio workspace, but it is more than just that. My aim is to build the community of artists working in clay by offering studio assistant positions for emerging artists, connecting people through social and educational events, and maintaining a lively, professional career in the ceramic arts! 

Rat City Studios consist of a residential home property, two studio work areas, a well-equipped kiln yard, and garden space. My home is a 1200 square foot rambler with a full daylight basement.  The basement is completely used for studio use. It includes a secondary bathroom, a packing and shipping room, a small kitchenette, rented studio spaces and my studio space - every inch is put to good use!   There is a secondary 750 square foot building which is used as a teaching classroom and also has spaces for up to three studio assistants.  

I began having studio assistants for several reasons:  I needed extra hands in the studio to get everything done, I wanted to have a meaningful impact and dialogue within the clay community, and I worked for amazing potters and got so much out of it so I hope I can do the same for others. The assistants apply to join in a year-long position, trading their time for studio space. Together we do lots of chores, building projects, promotion projects, have exhibitions, have discussions, drink beer, do more chores, manage deadlines, make things with clay, do more chores etc... I want this to be a place where art making, daily living and experiential learning fuse. To read more details about the position read on...

Another project the assistants and I work on are the Resource Pages on the RCS Website. These are for myself, people working at the studio, friends in the field or anyone who happens upon them.  There is a glaze resource page, links to resources for making it as an artist, safety in the studio links, and much more.  

Further community building endeavors include weekly clay classes for all levels, specialized technique based clay workshops, seminars on professional development as an artist, our annual summer party-potluck, and participation in Urban Farm Events. I find having these at my home-studio is a fabulous way to meet people living just blocks away.  The studio is hopping and full of life!  Learning is a passion of mine.  I want to keep growing in ways to give back to the community.  

Deb was born and raised in Seattle, Washington.  She earned a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Alaska (1999-2002) and worked for studio potters in the Anchorage area.  During a year long independent study at San Diego State University, she focused mainly on glazing. Deb completed a Masters of Fine Arts at Penn State in May of 2005. Since then she has taught at Ohio University, Massachusetts College of Art and Design and the University of Washington.  She has worked nationally at the Archie Bray Foundation (MT), Mudflat Studios (MA), The Clay Studio (PA), Pottery Northwest (WA), Watershed (ME), and internationally at Sanbao in Jingdezhen, China, and the Residency for Ceramics-Berlin in, Germany.  Deb also had the pleasure of teaching with the University of Georgia’s study abroad program in Cortona, Italy for a semester. She has taught over 80 workshops and exhibited all around the country, as well as internationally. After ten years of traveling for education, residencies, and teaching appointment Deb moved back to Seattle in 2009.  Since buying a house and studio space in 2013, she has been busy doing projects to create a beautiful, functional space to make pots.  Between herself, her studio assistants, studio members who rent space, and people participating in classes all work in clay, they keep the wheels turning! 

Artist Statement:
Momentum, Curiosity, Community

In order to make pottery I must approach the clay with openness and practiced skill, with a clear idea and playful intuition.  My studio practice is a constant cycle referring to itself in the way I draw from my own processes and from my approach to problem solving.  I also look farther afield, drinking in the many details of the world around me. I am a sponge for nuances of color placement in birds and how shadows break up forms and cause me to notice them anew. I am always seeking and asking myself, “How does this cup feel when held? Where will this pitcher live?  What am I communicating with this line or volume?”  As I spend hours in my studio working away, my mind blends and refracts the interests I research and the circling, recurring questions.  I love the stillness and intensity of my studio practice in which I am free to listen, to move clay, to invent… My studio practice feeds me.  I am fulfilled building my community through teaching workshops, trading eggs with neighbors, and spending time with friends and family. I am busy like a bee tending to the details of life, keeping up with my many hobbies, keeping my studio practice vibrate, promoting my career, mentoring in the studio, gardening and occasionally tinking away on my banjo. This constant motion feeds my energy and excitement for life, which I strive to capture in the forms and surfaces of my pottery. 


A Conversation with A. Blair Clemo & Emily Schroeder Willis

"Defunct factory in Jingdezhen, China. Discarded industrial molds visible in background

"Defunct factory in Jingdezhen, China. Discarded industrial molds visible in background

ESW:  Over the past several years you have been traveling quite a bit doing residencies, where
are the most recent spots that you’ve been?
I try to do a residency, or some activity that will take me out of my studio every summer. I like the experience of making in a new place, with new facilities, materials and possibilities. This summer I spent a few weeks at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena.  Montana with the other Objective Clay folks. That’s where the work in this exhibition was made. Last summer, I spent a month in Jingdezhen China at the International Ceramics Studio. I’m planning to go back to China and work for a few weeks before the new year.

ESW: What’s been the experimentation that’s come out of those experiences?
ABC: Everything is experimental if you change enough parameters. Every new studio, clay, glaze and kiln presents a potential unknown in the work. I find traveling, especially abroad, is an excellent way to invite new processes, material sensibilities and questions into the work. Often when I travel, I take only basic tools with me, nothing specific to my studio work at home. This forces me to engage with the new studio actively and explore new ideas. For example, I am not set up for slipcasting in my home studio, and it is something I have never been particularly interested in exploring. Going to China last summer, and having casting slip readily available to me allowed for me to experiment with that possibility easily, and without any preconceived ideas sketched out. I am still not using slipcasting in the usual sense of the technique, but it has made its way into my practice at home, something that I don’t think would have happened without designating time to play without the pressures of my home studio. I also found a lot of post-industrial molds in China, molds that had been used for factory production and discarded. Using these molds forced me to work with new forms, found forms that I would likely never thought to make otherwise. There is no way to plan ahead for work like that, you have to just jump in, see what’s available and make pots happen! I like working that way.

ESW:  The new work you are making seems to be more based on ceramic history and less focused on utility, can you talk about that a little?
ABC: I would actually shift that question a little. I don’t think I am focused less on utility, in fact, it is absolutely one of the most important and active question in my pots. All my pots (I make non-useful sculptural work also) are intended to work, I don’t undermine their use in any intentional way, and am very considerate of their utilitarian qualities; I want them to function earnestly as pots.

They are pots, just not easy pots.

Everyday Object Series: Mugs. Wheel Thrown and Assembled Red Stoneware. 2016.

Everyday Object Series: Mugs. Wheel Thrown and Assembled Red Stoneware. 2016.

How easy a pot is to use should be an active question for potters! My work is not typically about comfort, and my pots are not meant to be seen-and-not-heard. I have a friend that once told me, “I like your cups, but I don’t want to think about your Graduate thesis everytime I drink a damn cup of coffee!”. I think this is a spot-on criticism of my pots, sometimes their odd nature gets in the way of you ignoring the pot and just enjoying your cup of coffee. Well, I think that is EXACTLY what my job is as a potter! A user may not want to think about a cup, it is my intention to encourage them otherwise! If these pots have conceptual qualities that make their use less passive, that is not meant to undermine, but to raise a question about use.

There is a vast history of vessels that could potentially function as useful pots, but were never intended to do so. Garniture are a perfect example. It is a 20th century modern mentality that utility is the most important aspect of a useful pot. I challenge that. I see use as one of many potentially interesting aspects of pottery, but not necessarily the most important. Sometimes it’s less about use, and more about the questions that arise from considering the potential of use.

ESW: You’ve also recently become Ceramics Area Head of the Craft and Materials Studies Program at Virginia Commonwealth University, how has that affected your studio practice?
ABC:  I am just starting my 4th academic year at VCU, my first full-time teaching appointment. It has completely changed how I think about my studio practice. Anyone familiar with teaching in academia will recognize the “Teaching, Research and Service” breakdown to measure faculty output. The university calls my studio work “research”. That is a term that I have really questioned a lot in the last 3 years and I don’t just dismiss it as university jargon.

What does it mean to be researching in the studio? What does pottery research look like? Consider the other term for studio work: “practice”. Many of us refer to our studio time as our “practice”, but not in the “practice make perfect” sense. It means skilled execution, it implies a certain level of proficiency and ability to anticipate outcomes. Our practice is knowing how to make stuff. A Surgeon has a medical “practice”, and I sincerely hope that they are proficient and know what outcomes to expect when they cut us open! But research is different than practice, the exact outcomes of research are yet unknown. Thinking of my studio as a research space has changed the way I think about pots, and helped me to focus much more on the way that I am making, not what I am hoping for as an end result. Thinking of my pots as a point of research allows me to try lots of different things and see what happens, leaving the outcome dictated by the process. That’s been a huge change in my studio that last few years.

ESW: You’ve been putting up some killer videos on Instagram that I drool over!  How do you feel like social media plays a role in your studio work?
ABC:  I like Instagram, its really the only social media I use. I like posting what’s happening in the studio on a regular basis because I try a lot of different things. Process is something that is so often lost, or taken for granted in a finished pot. I am really focused on process right now in the studio, little videos and in-progress images are a way to show how I’m thinking and where my work is headed. I don’t get fired results too often because I explore a lot and have a lot of failures, lots of work never makes it to the kiln. Posting process shots seems to create some kind of record, even if something doesn’t work out, people still get to see it, and I still get to look back and reconsider it.

Plus, it’s fun to get more followers, who doesn’t like that?

ESW: What are some ideas yet you have been thinking about that haven’t yet had a chance to materialize in your work?
I’m just rolling with the work right now, allowing each pot to inform the next. I made a big mistake this summer though and fired some of my pots (the work in this exhibition) in a Salt/Soda kiln at Penland School of Crafts. I love the results. It feels really right for these pots. I used to soda fire all my work, over a decade ago, and have not really considered it since. The problem here is that I don’t have easy access to a salt/soda kiln right now, VCU is an urban campus and we can’t put off any vapor. So, the next big thing for me is to build a salt kiln at home, I’ll be working on the in the next few months. In the meantime, anyone within a days drive from Richmond, VA have a salt kiln I can fire to cone 9 in November/December? This sounds like a joke... but I’m serious… I’ll pay you.

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A Conversation Between Deb Schwartzkopf & Shawn Spangler

Sugar Bowl by Steve Godfrey

Sugar Bowl by Steve Godfrey


SS:  Where did you first study ceramics? How did that influence you and prompt you to continue working in clay?
I first studied ceramics at Highline Community College in Seattle, WA.  I took classes as a high school student through a running start program available in the state. I enjoyed it, but it did not stand out until I took classes again as a student at the University of Alaska Anchorage with Steve Godfrey, Pam Pemberton, and Robert Banker.  In this community I found a place to belong and was challenged by each of my teachers in a way I found meaningful. I also worked for two studio potters in the area.  Both my time assisting potters and academic experience were formative and helped me find my path as a potter.

In Alaska, working with Peter Brondz 

In Alaska, working with Peter Brondz 

SS:  Looking back in your career as a ceramic artist, could you talk about one decision you made that influenced where you are now as an artist.

DS:  Moving to Alaska was one of the most formative decisions I have made.  I would say the second most important was buying a house.  Moving to Alaska was my effort to find a path away from what I knew, without knowing exactly what I was seeking to change. I find it much easier to change when I have a specific goal. In the case of this move, I was seeking space, a chance to grow in a new environment, and the mountains. I was seeking a place where priorities where different and more clear.  I found this to be made true by the intense landscape and climate.  I felt small in the vastness of place.  I felt a different focus come into being as winter demanded indoor time and summer pushed me into the garden or onto a trail.  I felt a reset happening that was making me more aware of my surroundings.  I also felt lonely.  Reaching out to share experience in a new place made me more aware of how I interacted with people and how much I needed companionship. Moving to Alaska pushed me way out of my comfort zone and helped me see myself. I have moved many times since then. Each time I am reminded of these lessons and they are added to with new experiences.

Buying a house is one of the most stressful and rewarding things I have ever done. Mortgage brokers were not happy to hear I make pottery for a living.  They are even less happy where I proved my income with a huge pile of gallery and workshop paystubs from all over the country with incredibly varying amounts and frequency.  I am lucky I my mother co-signed with me and that close friends loaned me half the down payment. The hardest thing about having a house now is figuring out which project is most important.  I would so much rather buy another fruit tree than fix the gutters.  I would SO much rather add studio windows rather than fixing electrical issues no one else will ever notice.  BUT, there is a more appropriate order and I am finding my way.  I find being able to invest in a place completely worth the stress of being in debt with a mortgage.  Building shelving that is both beautiful and works well is something I would not have done if I knew I had to move again.  Now I have space to offer assistants.  Now I can wire and plumb for permitted kilns.  Now people seek out my place to visit and buy pottery.  Now I can plant asparagus and fruit trees- things that take many years to mature. These are amazing, hard-won benefits. I hold at bay thoughts about how many cups it takes to pay the mortgage.  I focus on the new lessons I am learning about digging in and staying put.  I am growing from a new chapter in my life.

Deb Schwartzkopf trying out her new coffee pour over form on top of a Shawn Spangler cup.

Deb Schwartzkopf trying out her new coffee pour over form on top of a Shawn Spangler cup.

SS:  How often do you work towards new and different designs in your work? 
In my studio practice I have forms that are well refined and worked out.  These are more reliable.  I need these to pay the mortgage.  I enjoy making them, but I also want to explore and grow.  Mixed into my making cycle is time to discover new forms and test for glazes.  This is supported by my way of using bisque molds.  The shapes of them are present in my studio.  I can glance over to the wall of molds and imagine them into new combinations.  Then I can try it out.  Or at times I will have left over segments from current projects.  Pieces these together into an unknown shape is a fun game.

SS:  What does you current studio schedule look like?  
My life is full and I like it that way.  I take breaks in the garden and tending my chickens and bees.  I love to cook.  Spending time with friends and family is important to me. I usually rise around 7:30, have a cup of coffee and have a bite to eat with Joe before he heads off to his own studio or day-job.  A few moments to space out and watch the chickens or bees brings me into studio time.  Twice a week I work with studio assistants on various projects around the studio.  Most days, I spend the better part of the day working on some aspect of the studio, be it web design, packing and shipping, event planning, or making work. We write about studio happenings on the Rat City Studios Blog.  Check it out! I am now teaching classes out of my studio and I also teach workshops nationally.  A bit over half of my income is from making pots and selling them through galleries, craft fairs and online via the Objective Clay Website and my personal website.  The other half is a mix of teaching workshops, community classes at craft centers locally, teaching classes from my studio, writing articles, & DVD royalties. It is a patch-work quilt life. I am excited to have a few short-term residencies coming up in 2018-2019! Noticing the larger cycles and the freedom within them gives me a lot of variation in my days.

Deb's Garden

Deb's Garden

Chickens in her yard

Chickens in her yard

Jams made from the berries in her yard

Jams made from the berries in her yard


Latex Resist: A Surface Tool


By Kip O'Krongly

In my last post, I talked about green glazing and single firing.  As part of that single firing process, all of my surface work is completed prior to the first trip into the kiln.  In order to build up enough surface depth before firing, I've found latex resist to be an invaluable tool.  It allows me to mask out areas while I'm working, but gives me the flexibility to peel it away for additional layers like glaze and terra sigillata (without having to burn off something like wax!). An additional perk of latex is that if you make a mistake, all you have to do is wait ten minutes and you can peel it off and start again.  Yay to forgiving materials and processes!

In this post, I'll walk you through adding a colored background using latex resist to mask out areas of sgraffito. First up, a little information on what kind of latex I use and how to get the best results!

Latexing tools...

Latexing tools...

I have found Laguna's Water Based Latex to be a great option for this process.  While it does have an odor, it's not nearly as smelly as the ammonia based latex types and it gives a strong coverage that stands up well to brushing and sponging over.  (A note of warning, however: This product does have a shelf life.  As it ages, it will begin to clump when you brush it on and start to smell horrifically bad - typically after having around for a 8 - 10 months...)

A few important notes for latex use:

  1. When your latex arrives, you'll want to thin it to the consistency of heavy cream with water (distilled is best).
  2. While you can add water to the latex itself, your brush can NEVER touch water (for some reason, this makes the latex seize up on the brush).  When you are prepping to latex, run your brush through straight dish soap to thoroughly coat the bristles. 
  3. Wipe off the excess soap from the brush on a paper towel before dipping in the latex.
  4. Periodically while latexing, "rinse" your brush again in the soap.
  5. Do a final (extra thorough!) soap rinse when you're done before putting your brush away - again no water!
  6. Lastly, the latex MUST be removed prior to firing.  Burning rubber isn't such a lovely thing...

Now onto the application! The piece below is ready for masking and adding a colored background.  I typically hand paint in the cloud areas with underglaze and then coat both the animals and clouds in one go.

An oval bowl with sgraffito decoration ready to resist!  Note that the rim of the piece was also latexed - I do that prior to slipping the surface so that the rims and feet are easy to clean up.

An oval bowl with sgraffito decoration ready to resist!  Note that the rim of the piece was also latexed - I do that prior to slipping the surface so that the rims and feet are easy to clean up.

Below I'm beginning to cover the drawn areas with a solid coat of the liquid latex - sometimes it can take a few coats to get good coverage.  If it's too thin, it's a royal pain to peel up later.  With latex, thicker is better!

One tricky part of this technique is knowing how long to let the latex set before continuing to add surface.  When I use latex on the rims and feet, the pieces are much wetter, so the latex needs to set for much longer before being fully cured.  (I've done a few tests and 3.5 hours seems to be the minimum wait time in this case).  At the stage above however, the piece has dried out quite a bit during sgraffito work so 20 minutes tends to do the trick.

With the latex set up, it's time for color!  I spend a lot of time at this stage on blending the colors into each other for a gradient effect.  It's still something that I'm working on - do I use a dry brush or a wet brush?  Do I mix the colors together on the piece or off?  How many colors to use?  I'm still learning a lot about this process...  To see captions for the images below, click on an individual image:

Now comes the really fun part - peeling up the latex!  I typically use tweezers to lift an area and then gently pull the rubber from the surface:

The big reveal!

The big reveal!

Check out the detail picked up by the latex:

And finally, the finished piece, ready for green glazing:

If you'd like more information on green glazing, check out my previous post, Bye, Bye, Bisque for the process and firing schedule!