My Journey with Clay
My journey with clay began in 1994 when I was first exposed to the medium through an elective at North Salem High School taught by Stu Chalupsky. My connection to the clay was immediate. I took every class I could and then began some independent study. Mr. Chalupsky remains in my life today as a mentor and a friend. Beyond the satisfaction that comes with having success with pieces that make it through all the stages of bringing ceramics to fruition, I found immense peace during the creating process. It is a feeling that I have been drawn to ever since. I have always been able to sit down with clay and start creating without hesitation. Whether I have a project in mind or not, I have confidence that it will come to me as soon as I put my hands on the clay. The same has not been true for other mediums.
From the beginning I knew I wanted to share my passion for ceramics with others and had hopes of teaching. My early ceramic work was sculpting, pertaining heavily to female form. Then in 2000 while attending Chemeketa Community College I began my love affair with wheel throwing. I continued my education and focus in ceramics at Western Oregon University, where I received my Bachelor of Science in Studio Art in 2005. My participation in raku firings at WOU had a lasting impact. My connection to the earthy element of clay now included a deep fascination with the open flame firing technique. I began feeling equally drawn to the fire element. During this time the scale of my work was increasing and I was exploring how the proportions of the vessel forms interacted with the hostile but magic firing technique of raku. I couldn’t get enough, if I wasn’t working with clay, I was thinking about it.
My Professor, Don Hoskinson’s wife Cindy, also a potter, was a stay at home
mom/ceramic artist. She inspired me. I immediately realized that someday I wanted that lifestyle for myself. I wanted to be able to continue my craft and be at home with my babies. In 2007, my husband and I moved to the coast, started a family, and with his great support I started a small home studio. At this time I began experimenting with raku firing independently.
In 2010 I met Dave Silwones who was opening a community clay studio in Toledo, Oregon. I immediately reached out to him and shared my desire to help his venture succeed by offering my knowledge of institutional ceramic studio equipment and design. Once Toledo Clayworks was up and running, I began teaching wheel throwing classes.
Dave also encouraged me and provided opportunities to begin showing my work in his gallery space. In 2013 I became involved with the Toledo Arts Guild (TAG) where I served as president 2014-16. During this time, I became very dedicated to expanding the art community in Toledo. In 2015, in an act of incredible generosity, Dave passed the reigns of ownership and management of Toledo Clayworks on to me.
Because my relationships with many Toledo artists stemmed from TAG, I was able to invite local artists to show their work in the gallery space at Clayworks. My work traversed varying techniques during my time at Clayworks as I was constantly exploring new techniques used in teaching new projects. Horsehair raku and a sodium silicate stretching technique were two that stuck. I continued to work at perfecting form proportions in relation to the aesthetic of these surface decoration applications. My years at Toledo Clayworks were chalked full of learning how to run a business, teaching classes, maintaining studio functions and equipment, putting on shows, and my favorite part– connecting with others through our passion for clay. With a very heavy heart I closed Toledo Clayworks in March 2020 due to Covid 19.
Through an incredible construction effort by my husband, I am able to once again have a studio space at home. For eight months I was unable to work with clay as the project was underway and the negative mental impact was undeniable. The restoration of my sense of well-being followed immediately after I started working again. In my mind I have always been conscientious of the health benefits of practicing creativity. Moving forward I am working with the Newport Visual Art Center to establish a new clay studio and look forward to finding new teaching opportunities as it becomes safe to gather together once again.