Session II: How Low Can You Go: Low Fire Love

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In this guest post, 2019 Residency Session Co-Organizer Chanda Glendinning shares plans and ideas for the second session of the summer (June 16-28) focused on low-fire work. There is room for any artist interested in the session to join. Register now to reserve your spot or apply for a scholarship or work-exchange. Registrations are accepted on a rolling basis.  Applications for financial support are due February 15. 

Amanda Dobbratz

Well, hello, all of you bright, shiny, lovely people! Chanda here – I can’t tell you how happy I am to be returning to Watershed this summer, and joining forces with my co-host Amanda Dobbratz for Session 2: How Low Can You Go: Low Fire Love. I am so excited to have two whole weeks to immerse myself in the creative magic of Watershed and work and play and collaborate with the wonderful group of artists who are coming together for this session. I am foreseeing an explosion of color and red clay in the studios during our residency.

As I took another look at the images from our invited artists, and peeked into their studios via Instagram to see the freshest work still on their tables, the word “extravaganza” popped into my mind. From the goopy colorful glazes of Chris Drobnock and the narrative drawings of Lynne Hobaica, to the slip cast and decal-ed abundance of Shenny Cruces, the sgraffitto-ed jackrabbits and skulls of Jamie Adams and the subtle layered slips and glazes of Amy Evans to Margaret Haden’s multiple techniques that contrast decal & luster work with hand drawn informal lines, our invited artists are a varied and interesting bunch! I can’t wait to see old friends and make many new ones as we work side by side in the studio together.

Margaret Haden

 

We encourage all participants to bring some bisque ware. Not that we won’t have our hands deep in fresh clay as soon as we possibly can, but I know from experience how fast two weeks can fly by, and we want everyone to have the opportunity to explore and share and over-indulge in all of the unpredictable delight of salt and soda at low fire temperatures. I’ve had some really interesting results from my kilns at temperatures as low as cone 04 with a variety of surfaces – bare clay, underglaze, slips, glaze. If everything goes according to plan we’re hoping to squeeze three rounds of kilns in, so there will be a bit of room for trial & error, and something for everyone.

Amy Evans

I am anticipating those long lovely studio days – easy banter wafting through the air, collaborative work being passed from one person to the next, gathering around a table for a quick little demo. I see art, and life, and stories shared after dinner as informal slide talks, before heading back down the path for just a few more minutes of studio time. I foresee moonlit walks back to our beds, the crunch of gravel under our feet, and sunlit afternoon dips in Peter’s Pond once the kilns are loaded. I am impatiently counting the days until June, and looking forward to seeing what the synergy of this group will bring forth from our time at the ‘Shed. Let’s experiment together and see just how extravagant and “low” we can go!

Register today to join this dynamic group of artists for some low-fire bonding!

Ephemerality in Clay: Summer Session I Preview

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In this guest post, Kate Roberts shares the inspiration and ideas that led her to organize 2019 Summer Residency Session I: Ephemerality in Clay. Additional participating artists include Alida van Almelo, Peter Barbor, Magdolene Dykstra, Rachel Eng, David Katz & Erna Skuladottir. Space in the session is available for those interested in joining the group from June 2-14. Learn more and register for this session.

Upon completing graduate school in 2015, I prepared myself for the nomadic lifestyle I was about to embark on.  Not only was storage becoming almost non-existent but the realities of a life without a kiln felt like an imminent possibility.  I knew my practice might need to change to accommodate these new circumstances. In graduate school, I had experimented with creating work with unfired clay.  In this state, I was able to create pieces that exuded a fragility thematically relevant within my work. For the past four years, my work has almost exclusively been dedicated to understanding the limits of clay in its many stages from dust, to wet slip, to unfired.  It has given me the freedom to explore scale and place. My dream no longer was a successful kiln firing but the ability to show up at a location with my toolbox of materials and create in the moment.

Roberts in the studio

Kate Roberts

In recent years, there has been an increasing number of artists who are exploring raw clay through its inherent physical qualities, its range of transformation, its connection to site, and its ability to discuss time in its relation to people, circumstance, and geography.  For the Watershed Session Ephemerality in Clay, I have invited a range of artists who work with raw clay for different reasons.  Some were excited by the freedom to experiment, a few were interested by its ability to grow their work in scale, while others navigated to it out of necessity due to lack of access to or funding for kilns or work space.  I believe the diverse range of approaches will allow all artists present to find commonalities and possible collaborations on site or in the future.

Erna Skúladóttir, Inundation 2

 

The geography of Watershed makes it the perfect site for this session.  We will have the ability to not just work indoors but outside where raw clay has the chance to be informed but also challenged by the surrounding nature and elements.  In addition to exploring investigations in raw clay both personally and collaboratively, all artists attending, before dinner each evening, may present an informal slide talk or discussion of their work.  I foresee these discussions covering the strengths and challenges professionally in working in a temporal way. We each will have the opportunity to share techniques, ask questions and learn from each other.  I’m most interested in learning others’ ways of navigating discussions of shipping and finding funding for installation. Through sharing these diverse experiences and knowledge we can create a greater dialogue and visibility to composing in this alternative way.

Alida van Alemlo

 

I can’t wait for June to meet, or in some cases meet again, artists that have or will inspire me.  And also, the time this session will afford me to further explore the vast possibilities of this material that—in the end—is just dirt!  

Any artist who is comfortable working independently in a clay studio may join this residency session. While the focus is on ephemeral work in clay, participants are also welcome to fire work in Watershed’s kilns. Sign up for the session here. For those interested in participating with the support of scholarships or work-exchanges, please apply here. Financial assistance applications are due February 15. 

Spirit of the Absurd: Summer Session IV Preview

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Hello, this is Carolyn Baginski! Fellow ceramist Heather Kaplan and I have co-organized Summer Residency Session IV: The Spirit of the Absurd, which will run from July 28 to August 9 at Watershed this summer. Heather is Assistant Professor of Art Education at University of Texas, El Paso and I am a ceramic artist and middle school art teacher in Columbus, Ohio. The session we have developed will focus on the “Serious Making of Absurdity in Ceramics” and we aim to explore this topic through joy and merrymaking!

Ryan Kelly, “Self Loathing Narcissist”

 

During our session, we plan to call on the power of the absurd to create community, build meaning, and make sense of the absurd political, social, and cultural times we find ourselves in. While immersed in the serenity of Maine’s lush landscape, participating artists will engage in the serious work of the silly, humorous, harebrained, daffy, nonsensical, screwball, unbelievable, unreasonable, irrational, fantastical, ludicrous, illogical, low brow, trivial, kitschy, campy, and absurd. As humans, we know that laughter and fun are integral to life. Through this session, we will explore the question “How can a disposition of playfulness and absurdity contribute to creating thoughtful and thought-provoking artwork?”

Kim Tucker, “Oooweenow”

 

Artists Ryan Kelly, Kim Tucker, Benjie Hue, Andy Sloan Jackson, and Seana Higgins will anchor the session with us. Heather, our invitees, and I have a lot in common. We all draw on art movements like that of Dada and the West Coast Funk Ceramics as well as the traditions of the figurine, souvenir, and commemorative object.

Heather Kaplan, “Play and Display”

 

We want to invite you to find community and camaraderie in our play and merrymaking. We understand that fun is subjective but ultimately it is a lens with which to see the world differently and a tool to make connections between ideas and people. We approach the residency with this in mind and with sensitivity toward multiple views of fun and community. In addition to the organic conversations that happen among artists working side by side, we plan to share optional readings and presentations about the more nonsensical facets of ceramics.

Carolyn Baginski, “Still Life with Lemons and Goats”

 

Heather and I have both attended sessions at Watershed before and are beyond excited to return. Watershed provides the perfect mix of studio community and dedicated time to investigate new ideas. For both of us, time at Watershed means time to work alongside other artists while building social and conceptual connections.

Any artist who is comfortable working independently in a clay studio may join this residency session. Sign up for the session here. For those interested in participating with the support scholarships or work-exchanges, please apply here. Financial assistance applications are due February 15. 

 

The New Ancient: Summer Residency Session V Preview

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“There is no civilization that has not produced great ceramics.”

—Roberta Smith

 

In this guest post, Ginger Lukas and Matt Merkel Hess share their plans for Watershed 2019 Residency Session V: The New Ancient. Several spots are still available for those interested in joining the group from August 11-23. Learn more and register for this session.

Our Watershed session, The New Ancient, will focus on how to use the 15,000-year history of vessels to make ceramics in our post, post, postmodern time. Through shared work time with a variety of invited artists and a visiting critic, we’ll examine how history, technology, tactility and humor inform pottery today.  

The idea for the session started with a news article in Fall 2017: Japanese instant noodle maker Nissin released a limited edition Jomon Doki Doki ceramic Cup Noodle cooker that was a small but faithful recreation of a 3,000 year old Jomon vessel. Combining ceramics, pop culture and utility in a meme-worthy idea sparked a conversation between the two of us that has continued to this day.

We are both primarily ceramics makers in wide-ranging practices that include painting and neon. As “Elder Millennials” we also love a good ceramics meme. Inspired by Cup Noodle, Matt has taken a deep dive into Jomon-inspired forms, such as Jomon milk crates and buckets. Ginger has been ripping off ancient Chinese and Mayan temple incense burners while also copying take-out containers, plastic dollar store dinnerware and using ideas like .jar files to craft MetaData jars. You might be lol-ing (we hope you are) but we are very serious. 😉

We first connected online almost a decade ago and our studio visits and texts are almost always a dialogue around ceramics, critical issues in craft, and clickbait-ish pottery memes and other articles. As trained vessel makers, we are constantly asking what the pottery of the information age can/should look like. We now have access to nearly every documented pot in history, but what do we do with this knowledge? As these issues are foremost on our minds, we will bring them into the shared studio environment of Watershed.

We are very pleased to be joined by artists Ebi Baralaye, Stephanie Kantor, Jeffry Mitchell and Robert Raphael who all work with expansive ideas of the possibilities inherent in the vessel. Through a shared dialogue with these amazing artists, and visit for a few days by curator and critic Elizabeth Essner, we hope to circle around issues of the vessel for today and in the future.

The New Ancient is all about the mishmash of information, styles, and techniques in this age of Google Image search – we know everything about the past but are still discovering what can be mined in the present. Please join us this August as we continue this process of figuring out what vessels tell us about ourselves and the future.

Any artist who is comfortable working independently in a clay studio may join this residency session. Sign up for the session here. For those interested in participating with the support of scholarships or work-exchanges, please apply here. Financial assistance applications are due February 15. 

Reflections on the 2018 Summer Residency

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As our summer staff members pack their cars and head off to their next adventures, the summer residency season draws to a close. We are grateful for all of the artists who shared in the 2018 residency with us. Please enjoy the following images and reflections from each of this summer’s sessions.

Pre-Session: May 20-June 1

In late May, eleven Pre-Session artist-volunteers arrived at Watershed to help prepare the buildings and grounds for the season ahead. The group spent their first two days on campus pursuing their own projects in the studio and then tackled an array of maintenance and facilities tasks. They spruced up the studio, painted the interiors and exteriors of the residential cabins, mixed 1500 pounds of clay, helped with grounds-keeping and landscaping, and stacked four cords of wood. Their instrumental support helped Watershed’s small staff immensely as we readied to welcome artists for the summer.

Volunteers included Cara Beglin, Sarahlynne Bradford, Georgia Cronin, Ben Culbertson, Gail Culbertson, Luke Fasano, Nadia Koltsoon, Mary Montgomery, Pam Nobles, Andy Rogers, and Lizaveta Romanovski. 

“I was baffled by the pure positivity that I experienced at Watershed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. Everyone was all-in, genuinely present, ready to work, and share.”

-Nadia Koltsoon

 

Session I: Breaking Tradition, June 3-15

Watershed’s first residency of the season brought together artists, designers, and curators interested in exploring new modes of sharing work in both physical and digital spaces—from pop-up shops and supper clubs, to animations, videos, and performances. Participating artists spent long hours in the studio, visited nearby swimming spots, and experimented with a range of atmospheric firings during their two weeks together. They also took a field trip to Ayumi Horie’s studio in Portland, ME. She gave the group a tour, demoed her air-release press mold, and discussed the origins of Pots In Action and the ways that the national and international dialog around clay and ceramic work continues to evolve.

Participating artists included Alexandria Algiere, Mérida Anderson, Brianna Burke, Taylor Carter, Kyle Demmon, Lindsey Hampton, Natalie Hererra, Ali Karsh, Taylor Kibby, Negina Kolesar, Shannon Maldonado, Ben Medansky, Jason O’Malley, Yelani Stieg, and Kelly Witmer.

“During my two weeks at Watershed I gained the confidence to fire my own kilns, knowledge of new techniques shared by the generous group of artists around me, friends and connections that will live beyond this experience, inspiration and enthusiasm that has flowed into my making back home, and a solid 5 pounds from all of the delicious meals. I left Watershed feeling full in all the best ways.”

-Ali Karsh

 

Session II: Ceramics in a Transdisciplinary Studio, June 17-29

Fawn Krieger and Emily Weiner organized a session for artists who work in a variety of disciplines—from photography and video, to portraiture, painting, installation, and social practice. The group was interested in exploring how clay can integrate with other methods and materials. While many of the participating artists had extensive experience working across media, many were relatively new to clay. The dynamic and innovative ways that they approached working with the material led to a wide variety of experiments and finished pieces.

Participating artists included Tyler Beard, Sasha Bergman, Amelia Carley, Suzanne Goldenberg, Fawn Krieger, Daniel McGarry, Keiko Narahashi, Ed Pell, Amy Pleasant, Leah Raintree, Amber Sandoe, Dustin Senovic, Barb Smith, Molly Surno, Daniel Trejo, Emily Weiner, and Payton Wiedner.

 
“The residency was an incredibly fruitful time working in a communal space was a welcome change from the usual privacy of my studio. There was an almost constant exchange of ideas, information, and possibilities.”
 
-Keiko Narahashi

 

Session III: Collective Makers, July 8-25

After completing formal training, many artists discover that finding a creative community can be challenging. Artistic collectives provide support, encouragement, and visibility for those with independent studio practices. During Watershed’s mid-summer residency, members of the Kansas City Urban Potters collective (KCUP) anchored a session that exemplified the collaborative spirit that the clay community cultivates. Participating artists worked day and night in the studio, hosted a fantastic (and fantastical) costume party, and spent time together on and off campus. KCUP artists also hosted a one-day demonstration workshop for regional ceramic artists. 

Session III artists included Carmen Allen, Christina Bendo, Kaitlyn Cirielli, Chandra DeBuse, Paul Donnelly, Mark Fehl, Tommy Frank, Rain Harris, Meredith Host, Kim Kirchman, Eder Perez, Kyla Toomey, Alex Watson, Adam Yungbluth, and Melissa Yungbluth.

“I think Watershed is a strangely magical place. Every time I have been there I take back something that later impacts my work in a meaningful way.”

-Rain Harris

 

Session IV: Women, Ceramics, and Community, July 29-August 10

Members of this sessionorganized by Normandy Aldenused Jenni Sorkin’s book, Live Form: Women, Ceramics, and Community, as a foundational text to examine how women clay artists have influenced and shaped the ceramics field over the last seventy years. In addition to spending hours together in the studio, the diverse group of participating artists held daily discussions on women’s collective history in clay and how the current political and social climate plays a direct or indirect role in their work.

Participating artists included Normandy Alden, Mary Barringer, Elisa DiFeo, Jackie Fischer, Michelle Grey, Nicole Gugliotti, Aisha Harrison, Noelle Hiam, Dana Lofink, Aysha Peltz, Liz Quackenbush, Deborah Rapp, Tracy Ren, Holly Roberson, and Hilda Steckel.

“My experience at Watershed fed my soul. Being several years out of grad school and mid-career, uninterrupted studio time is hard to come by. The fact that it was complimented by excellent fellow artists, including the amazing staff, meaningful discussions, and swimming made it all the more sweet.”

-Nicole Gugliotti

 

Session V: The Surface Exchange, August 12-24

Shanna Fliegel created a session for artists and makers interested in exploring new ways to develop the surface of their work. Participating artists shared strategies they use in their own studios during informal demonstrations and discussions. The group fired Watershed’s soda kiln and enjoyed experimenting with a range of surface development techniques.

Participating artists included Estelle Berrebi-Hurst, Sukjin Choi, Joe De Pinho, Shanna Fliegel, Zahava Friedman, Joshua Hamilton, Sarah Leber, Melissa Mencini, Joyce Nagata, Brooke Noble, Adams Puryear, Chanakarn Semachai, Candace Sidner, and Megan Whetstine.

“Watershed exceeded my expectations. Having two weeks to completely immerse myself in clay and exchange techniques with other artists inspired me and lifted my work to the next level. I hope return to Watershed, as it was an unforgettable experience that profoundly influenced my work and how I think about clay.”

-Zahava Friedman

 

Clay Education with POW!

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Artist Hayne Bayless believes in the magic of mud. “Teaching pottery to kids may ultimately solve the world’s problems,” he says. Bayless and several other New England-based teaching artists spearhead Pots on Wheels! (a.k.a. POW!), a mobile clay education project that brings ceramic art lessons to communities around the region. Watershed partnered with POW! in early July to work with Maine youth through an outreach effort supported by the Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust. 

On July 12, POW! educators parked their large yellow truck under a grove of trees at Portland’s Riverton Boys and Girls Club. Bayless and fellow teaching artist Hannah Niswonger opened the back of the truck and set up heavy tables covered in canvas, rolling pins, large blocks of clay, and a pottery wheel complete with a banana-shaped seat padded with foam. The children from the Boys and Girls Club joined the POW! instructors under the pines to try their hand at creating with clay. Students had the opportunity to build functional and sculptural vessels, and to throw work on the potter’s wheel for the first time. Staff from the Boys and Girls Club and partners from A Company of Girls assisted the youngsters with their projects (and enjoyed making a few items themselves!).

The children eagerly awaited their chance to try the wheel. Bayless gently guided them through the process of centering the clay and bringing up the walls of their creations. After their initial attempt at wheel throwing, several students were hooked on the process. They immediately walked to the back of the line to wait for a second turn. 

Niswonger led another group of students through the hand-building process, showing them how to slip and score pieces together and how to select appropriate tools for their projects. The POW! instructors also pre-made numerous leather-hard plates that the children could paint with colored slips. Watershed studio staff will kiln fire the pieces and return them to the Boys and Girls Club members later in the summer. 

The following morning, POW! visited the Morris Farm, an agricultural education center in Wiscasset. The farm runs a summer camp program for youth ages 4-12. Earlier in the week, Camp Director Lisa Packard led the campers on a clay-digging expedition at the farm. The group shared with Niswonger and Bayless that the clay they dug from the creek was “soft, gooey, full of pebbles and grass, cool, and sometimes dry.” After comparing the commercial clay to the clay they dug, the campers tried out POW!’s new plate press—invented by Bayless and Niswonger. The youngsters flattened discs of clay on the bottom of the press and then used a lever (and all their might) to sandwich the clay between two heavy, circular pieces of wood. “It reminds me of a waffle-maker,” remarked one camper. After letting the finished forms dry in the sun, the students decorated their plates with colorful slips. 

“The POW! program added depth and new experience to our campers’ time exploring natural clay in our creek and digging in our different soil types,” shares Packard. “We are grateful that POW! and Watershed chose the Morris Farm for this project!”

The final stop on POW!’s Maine tour was Watershed’s 24th annual Salad Days festival.  For the third year in a row, Watershed visitors of all ages had the opportunity to learn from POW!’s instructors. Participants took part in an ongoing exchange by selecting finished pieces to keep from POW!’s project gallery and leaving their completed work to be fired and shared with future students. 

2018 Salad Days

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On July 14, Watershed welcomed nearly 600 visitors to Salad Days, a celebration of local food and handcrafted ceramics. This annual art- and craft-filled festival features a picnic buffet of fresh salads that guests enjoy on handmade ceramic plates that they keep.

 

2018 Salad Days Artist Christina Bendo lived and worked at Watershed during the summer of 2017, creating more than 500 plates for the event.  The plates were made of clay dug from Maine riverbeds and processed in Watershed’s studio. Bendo decorated the surfaces with images of flowers and foliage she found on campus and in nearby environs. “I seek to evoke a connection to place by using site specific materials and motifs in my work,” explains Bendo. “I was excited to work with Watershed clay because it carries the history of the region and community.”

In addition to enjoying a delicious lunch and a new handcrafted plate, visitors watched pottery demonstrations by master ceramic artists, toured Watershed’s grounds and studios, listened to live music, and won unique ceramic pieces in the art raffle.

The Invitational Pottery Sale featured work by more than 20 artists from around the U.S., including members of Kansas City Urban Potters, who were in-residence at Watershed during the summer session that coincided with Salad Days.  A number of Maine artists also sold work in the pottery tent and in the popular beer stein tent.

Pots on Wheels! ( a.k.a. POW!), a mobile clay education project that brings pottery lessons to communities around New England, offered visitors a chance to try their hand at creating with clay. After making a piece, guests chose finished works from the POW! project gallery to keep, and left their work to be fired and claimed by future POW! visitors. Other arts nonprofits sharing information about their organizations at Salad Days included the Maine Craft Association, the Society of Arts and Crafts, and Studio Potter magazine.

Funds raised during the celebration support Watershed’s community education and residency programs. We are grateful for the support of our Salad Days Sponsors —including  Ames True Value Hardware, First Advisors, J. Edward Knight Insurance, Jeffrey Spahn Gallery, Laguna Clay Company, Renys,  and H. Chester Wright, Inc —along with the many visitors who celebrated with us this year.

Ceramics in a Transdisciplinary Studio: Summer Residency Session II Preview

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Process image from Summer Session II invited artist Leah Raintree’s “Estimated Ultimate Recovery (EUR)”

 

When artists think of Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts, they often envision a studio filled with potters throwing functional pieces on the wheel, sculptors hand-building forms, and groups firing atmospheric kilns at all hours. While all these scenes hold true, Watershed also provides space where artists who work across disciplines can experiment with ways to integrate clay into their multifaceted practices. In 2015, Future Retrieval’s Katie Parker and Guy Michael Davis organized a session that brought together artists who primarily work in media other than clay to investigate the role of ceramics in contemporary art and craft. In 2017, a social practice collective called The Brick Factory spent a summer residency working on performance-based projects that integrated clay into their pieces. This summer, Fawn Krieger and Emily Weiner have created a new opportunity for artists who work across genres to connect during Summer Residency Session II: Ceramics in a Transdisciplinary Studio

Untitled piece by Session II invited artist Keiko Narahashi

 

During this session, artists who work in a variety of disciplines—from photography and video, to portraiture, painting, installation, and social practice—will explore how clay can integrate with other methods and materials. Over the course of the two weeks together, artists will work in clay with an eye to how the medium may meet with other media—as a foil, an aggregate, an extension, or a central player. The residency community will gather for several brainstorming sessions in order to foster exchange and inspiration between participants.

“Experiment in Resistance 4” by Session II Co-Organizer Fawn Krieger

 

Fawn Krieger’s multi-genre work examines themes of ownership and exchange. Her projects transform spectators into participants, challenging expectations of agency, desire, and proximity. Krieger’s extensive planning routinely culminates in series of discrete sculptures, often produced from clay, plaster, or concrete. She notes that these materials collapse human time and converge domestic and expansionist material histories. Krieger has exhibited nationally and internationally and has received numerous grants and awards to support her work. She teaches at Adelphi University and serves as the Grants Officer and Education Director at The Keith Haring Foundation. 

“Harlequin” by Session II Co-Organizer Emily Weiner

 

Emily Weiner’s recent work includes a series of oil paintings placed in hand-built ceramic frames. In these paintings, symbols that have been repeated across cultures and epochs are put into a visual and playful conversation. In her practice, she explores ways to read visual threads across history-from antiquity and the Renaissance, to female and craft traditions of art-making, to archetypes in folklore and theater. Her paintings and integrated ceramic frames question what happens in the interplay between visual images and tactile experience. Emily teaches at The School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. She is the founder and director of The Willows Apartment Show, and co-directed Soloway Gallery in Brooklyn from 2013-2017. 

Video still from Invited Artist Wynne Greenwood’s “Culture Keeper”

 

The artists who Krieger and Weiner invited to anchor the session share an interest in how ceramics function in relationship with other studio approaches. In each case, they find the dynamic between clay and other mediums (2-, 3-, and 4D) provides fertile ground for exploration. Invited artists include Suzanne Goldenberg, Wynne Greenwood, Keiko Narahashi, Janine Polak, and Leah Raintree.

Any artist who is interested in cross-disciplinary practice and has experience working with clay may join this residency session. Signing up is a simple registration process. For those interested in participating with the support scholarships or work-exchanges, please apply here. Financial assistance applications are due February 15. 

 

 

Arlynn Nobel Reflects on the Magic of Watershed

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From her first step into Watershed’s rustic studio, Arlynn Nobel—a 2017 summer artist-in-residence and Watershed board member—hoped to discover what lay in this space that could ignite new ideas in her work. During the first day of her Watershed residency, she reflected that she “could feel the history” and could feel that this environment was “a hot bed for creativity.”

Arlynn Nobel during her 2017 residency.

Arlynn Nobel was born and raised in Detroit, but has lived and worked in Neebing, Ontario, a small town on the shore of Lake Superior in Canada, for many years. She earned her BFA from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 2007 and her MFA from University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in 2011. She describes herself as a “committed vessel maker, who enjoys challenging the limitations of the clay medium, opening up new avenues of expression by devising my own techniques for altering and assembling thrown forms.” Her experimental approach to ceramics drew her to Directly PlayfulWatershed’s 2017 Session III residency organized by Didem Mert. This group of mostly functional makers, which also included Lisa Buck, Ian Childers, Mike Cinelli, James Davis, Amanda Dobbratz, Rachel Donner, Bebe Federmann, Yoonjee Kwak, Hannah Medovnikov, Annie Morford, Ronan Peterson, Carla Prinster, and Koen Vrij, came together to explore surface, form, and collaboration during their two-week residency. Because of Arlynn’s extensive background in ceramics, including many workshops and years of school, she was drawn to Watershed’s unique non-hierarchical model. She reflects upon certain moments in the Watershed studio during her 2017 summer residency:

As I sat in front of my clay wondering what I would produce, it hit me—there were no instructors and no demos. I was in new territory. I realized that I had to dig deep within myself. All of a sudden I felt an intense sense of freedom and joy. I could make whatever I wanted to. I could explore unknown territories, or build on my current work, and there would be no critiques or professors with boundless instruction and input. I know that I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for all these wonderful professors and workshop leaders, but in that moment I felt free. So there I was, and I knew it could be the start of something magnificent.

I ordered my tried and true clay that I have been using for years. While I was waiting, I worked with the low-fire Watershed clay, which is full of grog and has opposite properties from what I’m used to. Using this clay I noticed something wonderful, and found that the Watershed clay’s qualities added a whole new element to my forms. I sent back my usual clay and I realized that changing clay bodies could jump start new and wonderful explorations in my work.

Arlynn experiments with her functional pieces using the Watershed clay.

The rough quality of the clay adds new elements to Arlynn’s pieces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could feel the boundless energy in the room from fifteen peers who were in the same boat. Everyone was warming up, getting to know each other. Session leader Didem Mert was great. She walked around to see how everyone was doing and suggested that people collaborate. What?? Have someone else decorate my precious work?! I had never done that before. Much to my surprise I loved the collaborations. They gave me ideas of how to shake things up and make my work better. Koen Vrij, a fellow resident, walked over one day and suggested I use the feet from my bowls for my mugs. They looked fantastic (thank you, Koen!).

 

2017 Session III’s pieces waiting to be fired.

Artists unload the kiln of their finished work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ultimately, the answer to my question of what makes Watershed life-changing, is that within this space I found what comes next. How wonderful there is a place like Watershed to nurture our passions.”

One of Arlynn’s finished pieces.

 

The Surface Exchange: Summer Session V Preview

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In this guest post, artist and session leader Shanna Fliegel shares her plans for Watershed 2018 Residency Session V: The Surface Exchange. Several spots are still available for those interested in joining the group from August 12-24. Additional participants include guest artist Mariko Paterson and AIA members Sukjin Choi, Melissa Mencini, Brooke Noble, and Adams Puryear.

Learn more and register for this session.

Shanna Fliegel

 

Several years ago, I was invited to a Watershed session, but my responsibilities as a new mom took precedence. Life can be so messy, exhausting, and scripted at times but I kept the idea of coming to Watershed with me. Watershed exists as a wild, magical bubble “somewhere” in Maine…somewhere in my imagination. The stories I have heard about the clay, raw wildness of the area, and strength of the community have settled inside of me. Throughout my journey with clay I have always felt gratitude for places like Watershed-places that cultivate space and time for artists to connect, work, think, and make. Now more than ever, I feel a personal need to visit Watershed and share with those who also need a place to anchor them in order to make new work, or just make new friends. I see this residency as a quiet breath of fresh air with a dash of collaborative babble.

Fliegel works on a pot

 

As artists, we may regularly feel the allure of multiple approaches to surface and form in clay, but choose to pigeon-hole our work into a rigid “look” or identity. During this Watershed session, I envision our group transcending the normal fall backs we often rely on and branching out to try new techniques and materials. Seeds of change take time to grow, but the Watershed residency offers the perfect opportunity to nurture the experimentation we often avoid out of convenience, fear, deadlines, or lack of time.

Detail of a plate by guest artist Mariko Paterson

 

I invited artists to anchor the session based on the diversity of their surface methods while also considering the variety of forms they work with. Several participants use surface as a place to “draw” on their clay, adding narrative, figurative, or decorative elements to their work. Others approach surface through texture, layering, and material experimentation. Through informal demonstrations, a collaborative tile exchange and brainstorming exercises to generate imagery, we will investigate a wide range of strategies for developing the surface of our work and explore techniques that are both familiar and new to us. I plan to share drawing methods I use to create visual depth on a flat surface in order to “push” or “pull” imagery to the background or foreground of a piece. I also plan to share a simple screen printing technique called thermo-faxing or thermal imaging. Participants will have the opportunity to experiment with underglaze, mason stains, slip, and oxides. We’ll also spend time exploring mishima, sgrafitto, stencils, stamps, glazes, luster, and decals. 

Work in progress by Shanna Fliegel

 

I am thrilled to have organized The Surface Exchange and look forward to sharing this fruitful adventure with other artists and makers! 

Read more about the Surface Exchange and sign up to join the session.