2022 Summer Residency Recap

As the golden light of September evenings gives way to shadows earlier each day, we find ourselves reflecting on a most memorable summer residency season. Over the past three months, nearly one hundred artists joined us from thirty-one states and eight countries. They ranged in age from twenty to seventy-two and brought a breadth of experiences, ideas, and interests to our creative community.

Many of this year’s sessions were years in the making. The artists who developed the session themes began working with us in 2019 with intentions to hold the residencies in 2020. Looking back, it feels like the planning process took place during a different life altogether. But the organizers stuck with us through pandemic closures, a studio rebuild, and an altered 2021 season operating at half capacity. Perhaps the patience and determination required to hold these long-awaited sessions made the residency experience that much sweeter.

The following reflections from resident artists and photos from their time on campus capture moments from each of our remarkable 2022 sessions.

The Color Network Mentorship Session

For the second year in a row, we partnered with The Color Network (TCN) to host a residency for artists taking part in TCN’s mentorship program. Intended to deepen mentor-mentee relationships among artists of color, the session offered time and space for program participants to connect in person. Sixteen artists spent their time together making work, enjoying delicious food, firing Watershed’s salt kilns, and pursuing their creative practices with support from fellow participants.

“It was not just that we were artists of color but also that we were an inter-generational group. This allowed us to have such rich and generous dialogue with one another. I am so moved to have been included and am still processing the impact of this experience.”

  –Shaya Ishaq

 

 

“I wish I had experiences like this when I was a student. To know we aren’t alone in our corners of the world is really important. Diversity makes everyone better.”

  –Shoji Satake

This session was supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts with all artists’ residencies fully funded. Participants included Jasmine Baetz, Lena Chin, Patsy Cox, Magdolene Dykstra, Jesus Chuy Guizar, Shaya Ishaq, Ibrahim Khazzaka, Cassandra Scanlon, Kay Marin, Malcolm Mobutu Smith, Yesha Panchal, George Rodriguez, Chris Salas, Shoji Satake, Sam Shamard, and Vivianne Sisqueiros.

Biomorphic Idyll

For two weeks, the artists who took part in this summer’s Biomorphic Idyll session transformed the studio with their positively ebullient energy. Sixteen folks who draw inspiration from micro- to macro-cosmic natural forms gathered to share ideas and delve into their creative practices. They braved a salt firing with very successful results, lit some stellar campfires, and turned the studio into a karaoke stage. These few shots of the session capture just a touch of the magic they brought to campus.

 

 

“I had an incredible time at Watershed. My practice grew in ten days as much as it usually grows in half a year. I feel refreshed and super excited to keep creating.”

  –Grace Gittelman

Organized by Meaghan Gates, the session’s participating artists included Natalie Anthone, Angela Cunningham, Maya Vivas, Nan Farrar, Brianna Gerrish, Grace Gittelman, Rennie Jones, Sasha Koozel Reibstein, Coleton Lunt, Francesca McGinley, Walter O’Neill, Ashton Pawl, Elizabeth Peña-Alvarez, Meriel Stern, and RJ Sturgess.

Material Intersections

Multidisciplinary artists in this session explored painterly approaches to working in clay and filled the studio with color. They monoprinted on slabs, made burnout casts and drawings in slip, crushed kiln-fired mica into their surfaces, and — in what seemed to be a ‘22 Summer Residency session requirement — fired the salt kiln. Their positive cameraderie carried through all interactions from the studio to the dining table and beyond.

 

 

“This was an extraordinary residency…the other artists, the facilities, the staff, the meals, the conversations, the vibe. I loved every single minute and already know that my time at Watershed was pivotal.”

  –Susan Klein

Organized by Suzanne Dittenber and Susan Klein, participating artists in the session included Marcie Bronstein, Antonia Casino, Corinna Cowles, Susan Gregory, Philippe Hyojung Kim, Sarah Knight, Susannah Kopchains, Lauren Mabry, Jess Rapaport, Maria White, Claire Whitehurst, and Ryze Xu.

Resisting: Surface & Form

The artists who took part in the Resisting: Surface & Form residency spent their session in pure experimentation mode as they collaboratively explored ways to use stencils, silkscreens, cut vinyl, and countless other methods of adding pattern, color, and texture to their work. They also helped us celebrate during Salad Days by performing demos, selling work in the pottery sale, and all-around elevating the good vibes on campus.

 

 

“As an educator, most of the year is focused on my classroom and doesn’t always allow room for creating my own artwork. Being offered this time and space to work with others without any of the normal daily distractions was a gift. It helped to foster community, work through ideas, and recharge my creative spirit.” 

-Mike Gesiakowski

Organized by Naomi Clement and Shalya Marsh, the session brought together participants including Jennifer Allen, Ann Boyajian, Yael Braha, Marianne Chenard, Katerina Devadan, Erin Furimsky, Mike Gesiakowski, Kyle Scott Lee, Jill Oberman, Lindsay Rogers, Shana Salaff, Samuel Sarmiento, Piper Smith, Grace Tessein, and Kara Thomas.

Soda Pop!

During an unforgettable two weeks, the adventurous artists who participated in the Soda Pop! session ambitiously staged four soda kiln firings, experimented with raku, tried their hand at encaustic, and truly brought a lively pop of color to campus. These few photos only scratch the surface of their time together!

 

 

“Watershed provided an ideal environment in which to move my work forward. The collaboration, resources, and time were immensely beneficial. I learned so much during the short time through speaking with the other artists, speaking with the incredibly knowledgeable and helpful staff, and just going for it. I would recommend the experience to anyone!”

–Andy Mazzaschi

Organized by Trudy Chiddix and Tara Sartorius, the session included participating artists Japheth Aseidu-Kwarteng, Maya Blume Cantrell, Fabiola De la Cueva, Hana Dvorak, Benjamin Fedosky, Roy Maayan, Andrew Mazzaschi, Jocelyn Miller, Eliesa Peters-Bollinger, Tara Sartorius, Susan Siegel, Jeonghyun Song, Lorie Stout, Marion Toms, and Asma Waheed.

Clay in Other Frames

We closed out the 2022 Summer Residency with a session that convened interdisciplinary artists from around the US and abroad. Bringing their experience in other media to bear, participating artists took novel approaches to working in clay and filled the studio and campus with their experiments and collaborations. They raku fired, gas fired, went on plein air painting dates, found inspiration in Maine’s eccentric antique shops, collaborated with silk worms, lamented challenging breakages, installed finished pieces, gathered around the camp fire, and so much more.

 

 

Organized by Dan Gunn, session participants included Audrey An, Leslie Baum, Emily Cooper, Paul Erschen, Vincent Frimpong, Chris Frost, Ahn Lee, Bianca Macphersen, Louisa Neill, Barb Smith, Allison Wade, Keegan Whitford, Ariel Wood, and Chen Zou.

Thank you one and all for being part of an exceptional summer! Plans for 2023 residency sessions are already underway with more details coming this fall.

 

 

 

 

 

Executive Director Fran Rudoff to Retire

Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts Board of Trustees announces that Executive Director Fran Rudoff will retire in early 2023.

Rudoff began her tenure as Watershed’s executive director in 2013. During her time leading the organization, she spearheaded substantial improvements and additions to the campus. Under her guidance, the Center’s Watershed NOW capital campaign has enabled the organization to open a new gallery space; create year-round offices for staff; host outdoor installations on 22 newly-acquired acres; build a Studio Annex, complete with a wood shop and workshop space; offer new housing for staff; and construct Watershed’s new 7,500 square foot Windgate Studio, the cornerstone of the capital campaign. 

In addition to these transformative campus changes, Watershed’s assets have grown significantly under Rudoff’s leadership, $1.2 million in 2013 to over $5 million in 2021, in addition to a $3 million operating endowment. The organization now offers more residency and workshop programs and supports more artists with scholarships than ever before. 

Rudoff has also deepened Watershed’s commitment to antiracism, diversity, equity, and inclusion. She worked steadily to increase access to artist programs by creating new funding streams, developing outreach initiatives, and building relationships with partner organizations. A significant partnership with The Color Network (TCN) has resulted in two residency sessions funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Nearly thirty artists of color who are taking part in TCN’s mentorship program convened on the Watershed campus in 2021 and 2022 to work together in person and grow their creative practices. Watershed also serves as TCN’s fiscal sponsor as they grow from a national affiliation of artists into an independent nonprofit. 

“In my years of experience with non-profit boards, I’ve never met a more competent and energized executive director than Fran Rudoff,” shares Watershed Board President Bernie Toale. “Fran easily juggles nine things at one time with efficiency and grace. Her achievements over the past ten years are hard to number, but the crowning glory is the construction of our new $3 million Windgate Studio built during COVID lockdown.” 

Prior to her time at Watershed, Rudoff worked for the State of Maine in regional planning and resource management, followed by nearly fifteen years as Executive Director of KIDS Consortium, a nonprofit that supported service learning opportunities for Maine students. Rudoff brought her expertise in education to bear on Watershed’s K-12 outreach programs by creating new professional development opportunities for Maine art teachers to hone their ceramics skills and reach more students. The popular grant-funded programs have positively impacted the artistic development of thousands of Maine youth.

All of these accomplishments are buttressed by Rudoff’s abiding care for Watershed’s community. While the organization is based in the small town of Edgecomb, Watershed’s extended network of friends, alumni, and supporters stretches from coast to coast. Rudoff forged lasting and meaningful connections with artists, collectors, and supporters around the country. 

“It has been my privilege to steward Watershed over the past decade,” she shared. “The organization’s mission and focus on artists is more important than ever. I am filled with gratitude for the many professional relationships and friendships that have become so important to me and for the opportunity to contribute to Watershed’s growth.”

The search process for a new executive director has begun, with an expectation of having a new leader in place at the beginning of 2023. The full position description and application information can be found here.

About Watershed

Founded in 1986 on the site of a former brick factory, Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts’ mission is to provide artists with time and space to explore ideas with clay. The organization was founded by artists with a common vision: to offer a supportive and enriching environment where artists could fully engage in creative practice while working with clay. This vision meets a critical need in the clay community and remains at the heart of Watershed’s programs.

The organization’s internationally-recognized residency model prioritizes the development of creative community; artists work alongside one another in an open-concept studio, collaborate on kiln firings, share meals, and forge lasting personal and professional connections. In addition to the residency program, Watershed’s extensive atmospheric wood and gas kilns draw artists from the region, and guest artist workshops offer hands-on learning experiences led by nationally-known ceramists. Watershed’s K-12 education program provides popular professional development workshops for Maine art educators and connects teaching artists with regional schools.

Interview with Grace Tessein

During the early days of the pandemic, 2022 Salad Days Artist Grace Tessein found herself seeking opportunities to spend time in nature. While hiking near her home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, she collected broken eggshells from hatched birds, feathers, animal bone fragments, flowers, and leaves. Tessein illustrated the surfaces of her ceramic work with the items found on these excursions and imagined that this process would translate well to Salad Days plates. She proposed exploring the paths and trails of Maine and creating plates with imagery tied to the area.

While we expected Tessein would develop a catalog of regional imagery, we never imagined each of her plates would be completely unique! In our interview below, Grace shares more about her process, memories from her months at Watershed spent making 400 plates, and wise advice on noticing, slowing down, and appreciating the natural world.

Watershed: What was your inspiration for your plate design and what do you love most about the finished plates?

Grace Tessein: I wanted to make plates that felt sturdy, durable and meant for use. I wanted the shapes of the plates to be free-form and organic, with drawings that represent the plant and animal life that occupies Maine. I love that no two plates are exactly alike. I’ve never been great at or satisfied by making pots that all look the same, so it was nice to embrace that aspect and run with it.

WS: How did you approach the plate making process?

GT: I came into the residency with a stronger background in production food service than production pottery. Working in a bakery taught me a great deal about time management, organization, controlled repeated movement, and patience, all of which I brought into the plate making process. I used paper templates to cut out about thirty slabs of clay a week. I draped the slabs over bisque molds and added a coil for the foot. Once the plates could release from the mold, I cleaned them up and stored them in plastic lidded tubs until I could slip and draw on them. 

WS: What was the most rewarding part of your experience as the Salad Days Artist?

GT: The point when I realized that I wasn’t going to fail was pretty rewarding! I was really unsure of my abilities going into this. I sometimes feel like an imposter in functional ceramics because it wasn’t how I entered into the medium. It sort of crept into my art practice in grad school and just never left. The greatest reward was figuring out my capabilities as a potter.

WS: What was the most challenging aspect of producing a large quantity of plates?

GT: About half way through when the process felt redundant, I noticed I was slowing down. Doing the same thing day after day to meet my weekly quota was not sustainable. I needed to switch things up to make it interesting again. So I made some different drawings, took more walks in the woods, and found new inspiration for the plates.

WS: In what ways did the experience impact your current work or practice?

GT: I’ve become more efficient in the studio and more confident when making large quantities work. I used to be concerned about all the “what if’s” in ceramics but I’ve let go of a lot of the worry. It was freeing in that way; I trust myself more and don’t nitpick my work as much as I did before.

WS: What other artists’ work do you admire and why?

GT: [2021 Watershed seasonal staff members] August Lantz, Sophia Larsen, and Sarah German! I’ve always found it fascinating to live and work so closely with other artists. Being at Watershed with these folks inspired me.

WS: What was your favorite part of being in Maine for an extended time? Was there anything that stuck with you or inspired you about Maine or Watershed when you got home?

GT: The sounds of coyotes and the barred owls at night, and the quiet.

WS: What advice would you give to future Salad Days Artists?

GT: Touch the spotted touch-me-nots. Take time to feed the calves [next door at Straw’s Farm], they will remember you and come running over for snacks when they see you, like very big dogs!

When the moon is full and the sky is clear, you can walk back up the hill [from the studio] without a flashlight and it’s magical. When the moon is new, and the sky is clear, lay in the grass and you can see every star.

Ask for help when you need it.

Purchase your 2022 Salad Days plate tickets online now and select a plate by Grace Tessein at the fundraiser on July 9. Plates are limited and tickets will only be available online in advance.

Bill Daley: A Remembrance

In this guest post, Watershed co-founder Lynn Duryea shares memories of artist William P. Daley and recounts his connection to Watershed. Daley passed away on January 16, 2022.

When I think of Bill Daley, the word devotion comes to mind. Devotion to his family, his friends, his work, his teaching, his spiritual life. He was generous in that devotion, giving to everyone and everything expansively. His ability to communicate, his sense of humor, his acknowledgement and acceptance of his humanity, made him accessible and profound.

Bill Daley & Lynn Duryea

I met Bill in October of 1990 at Open Door, a workshop for Maine residents at the Haystack School. I’ve long since forgotten the focus of the weekend, but I do remember the energy in the room. It wasn’t unusual for Bill to be one of the last to leave the studio late at night, after helping us navigate the structural challenges of what we were doing. His closing critique was masterful. Anyone who has had the experience of Bill as a teacher can say the same thing. I am deeply grateful for the friendship and mentorship that grew out of that weekend.

Bill was a supporter of Watershed from its early years, understanding our mission and our potential. We honored him in the first group of Watershed Legends in 2007, our way of acknowledging leaders and innovators in our field. Bill certainly was that.

Bill gave the closing remarks at Ignite / Invite, Watershed’s 25th celebratory symposium in 2012. In typical Bill fashion, there was a lot of laughter as well as ample food for thought. The picture of Bill with fellow Watershed Legends John Mason and Richard Shaw (below) was taken at that time.

John Mason, Richard Shaw, and Bill Daley at Watershed’s 25th anniversary celebration

 

During the 1991 NCECA in Arizona, Bill’s forthrightness had a major and lasting impact on Watershed. That year, the Randall Session was Art in the Age of AIDS. The panelists included gallerist Garth Clark, collector Stephane Janssen, AIDS activist Peter Staley, and Gustavo Gonzales, an art therapist from New York City. During the panel, Gustavo mentioned he had been invited to lead a workshop the following summer at Watershed for people living with AIDS—provided there was enough funding. Bill was in the audience of thousands. He stood up and said loudly, “If everyone in this room gives $2, this workshop will run.” Hats, paper bags, and backpacks got passed. After the panel, we sat in the hallway counting stacks of bills. Those funds, in addition to contributions from the panelists, funded the 1991 workshop. The Watershed Workshop for People with HIV/AIDS continued until 2004. A publication about its history is currently at the printers.

Thank you Bill, for what you gave—as an artist, a teacher, a collaborator, a mentor and a friend. But most of all for who you were.

Watershed & The Color Network Receive $35,000 NEA Grant

Watershed and The Color Network (TCN) are partnering for a second year to offer an artist residency focused on mentor-mentee relationship building among artists of color who work in clay. This summer, sixteen artists who are part of TCN’s mentorship program will gather in person for a two-week residency. The session will be funded in part by a $35,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. 

TCN supports artists of color by providing resources, visibility, and professional development opportunities. A significant facet of their work focuses on building mentorship networks among experienced and emerging ceramists. With TCN’s mentors and mentees scattered across the country, most of their connections take place online. As TCN considered ways to bring mentorship program participants together in person, Watershed’s open-ended residency structure offered a natural fit.

“As a student and an educator, I have often been the only person of color in the room. In these situations, I feel simultaneously invisible and hyper-visible,” shares TCN steering committee member Magdolene Dykstra. “The Color Network provides space for creatives of color to be seen and to see themselves in an uplifting space. The residency at Watershed is a crucial opportunity to be, make, and think alongside each other in person, in contrast to our increasingly virtual interactions.”

Artists who took part in The Color Network’s 2021 mentor-mentee residency at Watershed: Adam Chau, Gerald Brown, Isaac Scott (back), Sana Musasama (front), Isolina Minjeong Alva, Salvador Jimenez-Flores, Sarah Petty, Corrin Grooms, and April Felipe. Not pictured: Natalia Arbelaez and Alex Paat. 

 

Last summer, eleven TCN members gathered at Watershed for the group’s inaugural mentorship residency. While the mentor-mentee pairs had previously established connections with one another online, the majority of the group arrived as strangers. During their three weeks together, artists kept long hours in the studio while making strides in their work. Simultaneously, their conversations and collaborations engendered a comfortable ease that enlivened their practices and connections.

“The residency was life changing,” shares TCN member and 2021 resident artist Corrin Grooms. “I learned more in three weeks than I did in one semester in school. I made lifelong connections and am on a better path with my art career from the guidance I received from not only my mentor but all of the mentors.” 

Like many art centers, Watershed’s programs are funded through a mix of donor support, grants, and direct fees paid by participants. The Grants for Arts Projects (GAP) award from the National Endowment for the Arts will cover the cost of every TCN artist’s residency. “The award helps remove financial barriers to participation,” explains Watershed Executive Director Fran Rudoff. “Watershed and TCN agreed that cost should not deter anyone from participating in the session. We are pleased that the NEA recognizes the importance of this experience and has awarded a second year of funding.” 

Artist Gerald Brown works on a piece during The Color Network’s 2021 Watershed residency. 

 

“This is some of the most radical programming I’ve ever been part of,” shares 2021 TCN resident artist Gerald Brown. “So many artists of color struggle with money that they can never be fully immersed in a space. But when you remove that barrier, you tell them they are enough as-is. Imagine what a generation of mentorship residency cohorts would look like and what a massive impact it would have on the ceramics field.” 

NEA GAP awards reach communities in all parts of the country, large and small, from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds. In 2022, there are 1,248 organizations recommended to receive grants totalling more than $28 million. 

In addition to time spent on studio projects and mentorship work, TCN and Watershed will host a summer exhibition featuring work by the TCN’s mentor-mentee residency cohort from last year. 2022 resident artists may also livestream artist talks, demonstrations, and conversations for their greater community and the public.

What Watershed Offers Artists

As we weather life during COVID-19 and grow into a new studio, Outreach and Communications Director Claire Brassil shares thoughts on Watershed’s trajectory and the values that will shape our next chapter.

Over the past year, the Watershed campus underwent a sea change. Because of — rather than in spite of — the pandemic, we built our new studio a year earlier than planned. The expedited project resulted in a large and light-filled structure that brims with potential and is fit to support artists and art-making in all seasons.

In the spring, we celebrated the building’s completion and collectively reoriented after such a rapid metamorphosis. The studio can contain any program we dream up. But … how will Watershed’s limitless future take shape? As an organization known for its scrappy rough edges, what will it mean to nurture the best parts of our original identity while making the most of our shiny new vessel? These coming-of-age throes find us wrestling with invigorating yet challenging questions of who we’ve been and who we want to become. 

2021 resident artists Sana Musasama and Adam Chau outside the new studio.

 

To set a solid foundation for our future planning, my colleagues and I have engaged in soul-searching conversations about what matters to us as an organization, what we value most about our mission, and what the “Watershed experience” offers artists. These conversations uncovered surprisingly consistent feelings we share about the intrinsic importance of art-making and creative community. We believe that art matters because it reveals new ways to understand the world and each other. Artists need space and support to do the work of creating, exploring, and even foundering. Place, context, and community shape creative ideas and practices, especially when artists are freed from day-to-day stresses and responsibilities. And, clay as a medium embodies an alchemical magic.

2019 resident artist Takming Chuang installs a piece on Watershed’s campus.

 

These ideas don’t occupy the forefront of our minds as we plow the studio driveway, return emails, and balance budgets. But they flow like a current beneath the banal tasks that keep Watershed running, and they are the reason we commit to our work each day. While not all staff members work in clay, most of us come to Watershed from a creative background. We engage in the collective venture of growing and sustaining this organization because we have personally experienced the profound need for places that support art-making and creative community. With each new cohort of residents, we help artists reinvent Watershed as a new and different space that champions their practices and goals. We understand the relief that comes from feeling acknowledged, accepted, and fully engaged in artistic exploration, and we endeavor to offer artists that experience at Watershed. This endeavor has been at the heart of our organization since its inception. Watershed was started by artists, for artists, and we continue to be run by artists, for artists who agree on a common vision. 

2017 resident artists enjoy an outdoor banquet and swap ceramic pieces at the end of their session.

 

The shape and scope of Watershed’s next chapter will begin to emerge over the coming year. I feel confident that my colleagues, the board, and our greater community share a collective passion for refining and growing this unique place. Watershed is a quantifiable physical space: 54 acres, 7,500 square feet of studio space, 31 dining room chairs, 15 bedrooms, 11 kilns, and one gallery. But in an equally real sense, we are an experience, an idea, and a respite during an era when few places affirm that creative practice and artists matter. 

Reflections From the 2021 Residency Season

 

Resident artist Kyla Culbertson at work in the Windgate Studio

 

As summer’s humid air lifts and the days grow shorter, we find ourselves reflecting on the 2021 residency season and the artists who formed our campus community. After years of planning and months of construction, we welcomed artists into the new Windgate Studio in June. Together, we launched a new era at Watershed and brought the gleaming new space to life. The studio hummed with energy as the residents took risks, considered their trajectories, and developed new work.

While our facility has changed, creating time and space where groups of artists can connect, explore, and grow remains at the heart of what we do. After a year without residential programs, we felt more fortunate than ever to witness artists gleefully hop in the back of a pickup to run up the hill for meals, enjoy elated and hilarious exchanges with one another, and share ideas behind work as it progressed. These mundane yet meaningful moments underscore the value of the residency experience and make all of the careful planning worth the effort.

The pandemic altered many aspects of life on campus but residents found new ways to make the most of their sessions. Ceramists took sunrise swims, shared ideas around the campfire, and left Watershed with new plans and perspectives.

The following images capture moments from each of the 2021 sessions, along with reflections from artists who helped shape this remarkable season.

The Color Network’s Mentor-Mentee Session

The Color Network’s residency came to fruition after extensive planning on the part of many collaborators. The 3-week session focused on deepening mentor-mentee relationships among artists of color. While participating artists had previously established partnerships between experienced mentor artists and emerging mentee artists–with the majority of their connections formed online–their Watershed session offered an initial opportunity for the program participants to work alongside one another in person. They arrived at Watershed during a heat wave, braved a fifty degree fourth of July, and amicably adapted as we worked out the inevitable kinks of a new studio. While impressive work resulted from the late night studio sessions, the residents’ palpable joy and ease engendered by their time together was undoubtedly the highlight of hosting this group. We hope this will be the first of many sessions with TCN artists.

 

“I felt so supported mentally, physically, and monetarily in a way no other organization or program has done! All the staff and organizers made me feel welcome, included, and confident to pursue a life in making! Everyone lifted each other up and did so in an immaculate environment!

Isolina Minjeong Alva

The Color Network Session resident artists included Isolina Minjeong Alva, Natalia Arbelaez, Gerald Brown, Adam Chau, April Felipe, Corrin Grooms, Salvador Jiménez-Flores, Sana Musasama, Alex Paat, Sarah Petty, and Isaac Scott.

TCN’s session was supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and by donations from AMACO, Laguna Clay, Shimpo, and Speedball.

Open Studio Session I

Our first 2021 Open Studio Session provided time and space for an unusual theme-free residency (our summer residencies usually have a theme). Participating artists arrived as strangers ready for this experiment in creative community during the pandemic. It worked out seamlessly thanks to the adventurous and caring nature of this fabulous cohort. We so enjoyed watching resident artists connecting, creating, and inspiring one another. The new studio’s open floor plan contributed to some cross-pollination of ideas and work (there were quite a few clay heads hanging around by the end of the session) as the artists kept a variety of day and nighttime hours during their time together.

 

“I was able to completely focus on my work. I didn’t know if I was able to do that anymore! I found that I still have the desire to make work for myself and that was very meaningful to me. I’m sure with time I will become even more aware of how valuable the residency was to my practice.”

Karen Beall

Open Studio Session I resident artists included M’Shinda Abdullah-Broadus, Malene Barnett, Karen Beall, Cassandra Brown, Aaron Caldwell, Kyla Culbertson, Phoebe Deutsch, Penny Huynen, and Kevin Snipes.

Open Studio Session II

During the second Open Studio Residency, nine artists arrived at Watershed with no formal agenda and quickly found a common interest in firing the wood kiln. While the labor-intensive preparations and firing process occupied the majority of their third week in residence, this ambitious group made time to curate a pop-up exhibition of their work as well. They staged the impromptu show for one night in Watershed’s Barkan Gallery and included work by everyone in the session, along with pieces by staff members.

 

“I have been unable to regularly work in clay during Covid-19 and was hungry for time and space to develop my practice. By the end of the residency I could identify and articulate what/who influences me and start to see where my own voice in clay was. I reevaluated my skill set and can now proceed in this career by targeting what additional skills I want to obtain so I can create the work I want.”

Carolyn Wiley

Open Studio Session II participants included Eugene Agyei, Emily Beck, Jessica Cheng, Lili Chin, Alejandra Cuadra, Joe Donnelly, Summer Orr, Julia Pierce, and Carolyn Wiley.

Salad Days Artist Grace Tessein and resident artist M’Shinda Abdullah Broadus

 

Interview with Salad Days Artist Kari Woolsey

Kari Woolsey at work in the Watershed studio, 2019

 

When Kari Woolsey signed on to make 550 plates for Watershed’s 2020 Salad Days celebration, none of us anticipated that a world-wide pandemic would bring public gatherings to a sudden halt. While we look forward to hosting our fundraiser in person again, we’re thrilled to offer a highlight of Salad Days this year by featuring Kari’s handmade plates for sale online. We talked with Kari about her work, interests, and experience at Watershed in order to give supporters a better sense of the person behind the colorful plates that anchor 2021’s virtual Salad Days.

A stack of Kari’s summery plates

Watershed: Kari, tell us about your plates. What was the inspiration for the colors and design?

Kari Woolsey: My work is inspired by everyday domestic objects. These plates have patterns inspired by kitchen linens, while the colors—blue, chartreuse, pink, and gray—were chosen from my favorite aspects of summer: blue skies, lemonade, watermelon, and summer rain showers. I am partial to these colors from my childhood in South Florida but they also reflect my summer at Watershed—swimming in lakes, luscious green of new spring growth, popsicles on a hot day, and the weathered barn studio. I also enjoy the mix and match aspect of the glaze colors and patterns in this body of work. I chose colors that I thought would complement an array of salads and the variety of hand-stamped patterns create an element of discovery when turning over a plate.

WS: How did you approach the production process?

KW: I hand-built my plates using a slab base with an added coil for the rim. I pinched the plates to create an added textural quality. Additionally, the bottom of my plates have a slightly raised pattern. To get the texture on the bottom of the plates, I shaped a slab over a hump mold with a stamped pattern and repeated the pattern on the rims of the plates using hand carved stamps.

The textured back of a plate

WS: It’s unusual to find such detail on the bottom sides of everyday dishes. Can you share why you chose to give attention to this often-overlooked space?

KW: I incorporated patterns and textures into my Salad Days plates in every way that I could in order to bring attention to the entire plate. The raised pattern on the bottom and the stamped pattern on the rim provide an element of repetition and texture but also offer a way for the plate’s user to explore its surface—whether it’s holding the plate while you fill it up with food or while you wash the plate and leave it in the rack to dry. I wanted to consider every surface throughout the plate’s lifecycle.

WS: What was the most rewarding part of your experience as the Salad Days Artist?

KW: There are a few aspects of the residency that I look back on with so much fondness. I really enjoyed meeting many past Salad Days Artists during the event’s 25th anniversary. I also feel so grateful for the caring and supportive friends I found in the summer staffers and resident artists. I have many fond memories of studio chats, conversations over delicious meals, and swimming in lakes and rivers during my summer at Watershed.

WS: What was the most challenging aspect of producing such a large quantity of plates?

KW: It was challenging to fire such large batches of work. Throughout the three-day process of candling, firing, and cooling, I found it stressful to wait and see how the freshly glazed plates turned out. This got easier the more kiln loads I fired and the more finished pieces I could check off my list to 550 plates.

Woolsey’s in-progress plates drying in the studio

 

WS: How did the experience influence your current work?

 KW: Making plates gave me a new perspective on time management. I broke the process into several steps while hand building, slipping, and glazing. The experience provided a benchmark for how much I could accomplish in a very focused environment with a short amount of time.

I also let my mind wander during repetitive parts of the production process. My daily routine in the studio often led to brainstorming sessions. I kept track of new ideas in my sketchbook and have been revisiting those ideas in my current practice.

WS: What other artists’ work do you admire?

KW: There is an endless list of ceramic artists I admire! A few that come to mind are Joanna Powell, Pattie Chalmers, Linda Lopez, Martina Lantin and Future Retrieval, which is a collaboration between Katie Parker and Guy Michael Davis. I am also enamored of Laura Letinsky’s photography and the fiber work of Dee Clements.

WS: What is your favorite memory from your time in Maine?

KW: I loved the walk down to the studio every day. It offered time to clear my head before a day of working. Seeing the variety of roadside flowers blooming and the lambs growing next door at the farm marked the different stages of summer.

Another standout memory took place after the summer residency ended. While finishing up the plates and cleaning out my studio, the remaining staff and I made a pasta dinner with loads of tomatoes from the garden. It was so nice to end the summer with a great group of friends, lots of laughs, and a delicious meal. 

WS: What advice would you give future Salad Days Artists?

KW: Find what you need to work best in the studio—whether it’s music, audiobooks, podcasts, swimming breaks, or taking a walk. I listened to many audiobooks and podcasts and asked for recommendations from each group of residents.

At times the workload will seem very daunting, but just keep going. I found it comforting to remember that many artists before me had completed the task. Before I knew it, the summer was over and the plates were finished.

Kari’s plates are on sale online through July 11, 2021. Visit the Watershed Shop.

Factory Reflections From Reeder

For the past thirteen years, Watershed Studio Manager Reeder Fahnestock bore witness to the ever-changing organism that was the “Factory” – Watershed’s original studio that welcomed artists for 35 years. In this guest post, Reeder shares his abiding memories and indelible connection to this special space and reflects on the hopeful promise of the new Windgate Studio.

I was there when they came for the Factory. I bore witness as the giant claws took their first bites, disgorged them into waiting trucks that hauled them up the drive and off the property. The building had occupied that spot for fifty years and before that had enjoyed an active first life up at the top of the hill housing chickens before they cut it in half, rolled it down into the valley and converted it into a factory for making bricks. But now its usefulness had found its end and I was there to watch as it was taken away.

As the Factory’s primary custodian for the past decade I developed a relationship with the building not unlike one might form with a stray dog. It had come into my life largely without warning or introduction, and it came “as is”, leaky roof, heaving floors, bugs, rodents and all. In short, it came to me in need and showed no inclination of leaving anytime soon. But it also came with an endearing backstory and a charm all its own and so, what at first glance was pity, quickly became sympathy, empathy and finally love for a structure that had so humbly served so many for so long, so faithfully, in so many different ways. The Factory was wholly without pretention or even aspirations. We got along well and did our best to ignore each other’s shortcomings.

The Factory sheltered more than just chickens and artists. The Factory was its own ecosystem, home to birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and a hundred thousand insects. Bittersweet twined through the walls. The rain dripped through the roof, snow blew through the gaps in the siding, and every spring the floor turned into marshmallow fluff as the frost left the ground. Each spring meant opening up the studio – sweeping away the cobwebs, getting the water running, patching the new holes in the roof, re-leveling all the shelves of materials that had moved with the frost heaves. Now, “opening the studio” means turning a key. The old studio didn’t even have doors, let alone keys.

Vintage images of Reeder and summer staffers at work in (and on) the Factory

 

In its place a new structure has risen like the proverbial Phoenix, a building of concrete and steel, a building exuding self-confidence and proclaiming a sense of permanence the Factory totally lacked. The Factory looked like it might dissolve into matchsticks during the next thunderstorm, while the new building looks like it could withstand the worst Nor’easter the coast of Maine has ever seen. The wildlife has been relegated to the outdoors and the polished concrete floors have drains for ease of cleaning. And that is as it should be. There will be those that knew the studio as it was before who will now bemoan the loss of “character” and refer to the new one as “sterile” and “institutional”. But one need not suffer for one’s art.  If brute nature is their inspiration and muse, it is all still available within a few simple steps beyond the studio doors. I will be happy to accommodate their needs and will gladly move a wheel and a table to the dooryard if that is where they work best.

It is true, I will miss the barn swallows who now must find new homes. I loved to see them swoop through the building with a bug in their beak fetched back to a clutch of chicks with open, greedy mouths. And their nests were architectural wonders. But as industrious as they were, still they could not eat all the mosquitos, nor even could the spiders, inspirational builders in their own right with their foot-wide-webs covering every nook and cranny. And so, come an August night when the humidity hangs thick in the Maine coast air and I, at labor late on my wheel, find no reason to swat and curse the clouds of winged and heinously buzzing blood suckers because they have been banished forever from the building, I will silently rejoice and be grateful. If the resident artists take no notice of their absence, take for granted a dry work space free of biting insects, I will give silent thanks again.

When Covid came to Maine and we were forced on short notice to cancel our programing for the year, I felt fortunate to be a part of an institution that didn’t panic, but had the forward-thinking leadership in place to pivot instead. Watershed pulled on its waders, went to work and even in the worst of times turned a big idea into a reality of true consequence. There were no deer-in-the-headlight stares around our conference table, just a steely resolve to grasp the moment and forge ahead with diligence and conviction. The result has been nothing short of constructing the premier ceramic facility on the east coast, if not in the entire United States. That is no small feat and is a testament to the resiliency of Watershed and the importance of its place in the community. It goes without saying that this would not have been possible without the deep and broad support of Watershed’s friends and allies and as such it stands, literally in concrete and steel, as evidence of the importance of our mission.

Watershed and The Color Network receive $30,000 National Endowment for the Arts Grant

Watershed was recently awarded a $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support a three-week artist residency organized by members of The Color Network (TCN).

TCN supports BIPOC artists working in clay by providing resources, visibility, and professional development opportunities. They are also building a mentorship pipeline that links experienced and emerging ceramists. During their residency at Watershed this summer, participating artists will have unlimited access to our new state-of-the-art studio to work on independent and collaborative projects. They will also take part in group work focused on developing mentor-mentee relationships.

“I think it’s so important to have mentors you identify with,” shares TCN steering committee member Natalia Arbelaez. “BIPOC artists will sometimes be the only ones like them in their community or institution. Having support from someone who has already navigated similar experiences is so valuable.”

Natalia Arbelaez, “Ceremonies for González”, performance, 2019

 

Fellow TCN artist Adam Chau agrees, “When I was in school, it was very hard to have intimate critiques with people who didn’t necessarily understand my culture. I hope that our mentorship can be a supplement to artists who find themselves not being able to resonate with their peers or immediate community.”

Adam Chau, “TXT”, porcelain, cobalt, white gold luster, 2018, photo: Jorrit Taekema

 

With TCN members scattered across the country, virtual meetings and online conversations have provided creative connection. However, the collective felt that making work together and spending time with one another in person was essential for mentors and mentees. The majority of TCN’s steering committee—which also includes artists April Felipe, Salvador Jiménez-Flores, and Yinka Orafidiya—had previously participated in residencies at Watershed. They agreed that our open-ended program structure and 54-acre campus would provide the ideal place to gather and develop their mentorship program.

“Until very recently, I thought I had nothing to offer as a mentor…I mean, who am I to advise anyone in a craft that I’m still figuring out myself?” Yinka Orafidiya says, “But I realized that, at a bare minimum, my value is captured by continually showing up—an offer of Black representation, which is sorely lacking in American ceramics. Through my many failures, rejections, and missteps, I have accumulated a wealth of wisdom that I now believe will be useful to the next generation of BIPOC makers.”

Yinka Orafidiya, “Freedom Cups”, Underground Railroad code printed on red stoneware, 2018

 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Watershed has instituted new campus health and safety measures to accommodate physical and social distancing in accordance with Maine CDC guidelines. These changes result in a decreased number of participants but still allow for eleven artists-in-residence to spend three weeks together on campus. 

TCN intends for this residency to act as a springboard for additional virtual and in-person programs. The small group of participating artists plans to connect with their greater community and the public during the residency via livestreamed artist talks, demos, interviews, and conversations.

April Felipe, “Wade”, porcelain, cotton thread, glaze, pastel, acrylic paint, 2018

 

Like many arts organizations, Watershed’s programs are funded through a mix of donor support, grants, and direct fees paid by participants. By applying for grant funding, Watershed and TCN endeavored to remove financial barriers to participation. “Residencies are powerful places where artists develop their work and create deep relationships within their field,” shares April Felipe, who first took part in a Watershed session in 2016. “For many BIPOC artists, cost is too large an obstacle while also navigating if the space will be welcoming and safe. We wanted to create an opportunity that could eliminate those obstacles. Funding through the NEA grant allowed us to do this and more.”

This $30,000 Grants for Arts Projects (GAP) award is one of 1073 selected projects from a pool of 1674 applications submitted in 2020. The National Endowment for the Arts awarded nearly $25 million in support for 64% of all applicants with an average grant amount of $23,190.

Salvador Jimenez-Flores, “Nopal Espacial”, brass, cast iron, rose gold plating, brass hose, 2019

 

Subscribe to Watershed’s e-newsletter to keep updated on ways to connect with TCN during their session and find additional NEA grant information at arts.gov