In this guest post, Suzanne Dittenber and Susan Klein share the inspiration and ideas that led them to organize 2020 Summer Residency Session I: Material Intersections. Additional participating artists include Eleanna Anagnos, Philippe Hyojung Kim, Carole d’Inverno, Nicholas Nyland, and guest artist Lauren Mabry Space in the session is available for those interested in joining the group from June 7-19. Learn more and register for this session.
Our session explores the intersection of painting and ceramics. We are trained as painters and teach painting, yet clay has become an important material for both of us and we are excited to offer a residency opportunity for ceramicists, painters, and all hybrid artists. The residency will focus on painterly qualities as embodied in clay. We are inspired by the long history of artists who play with the relationship between sculpture and painting.
Susan: Ceramics are a natural development in my work. I have been building structures as subjects for my paintings since undergraduate school, but it has only been in the past 3-4 years that I have let sculpture take the leading roll. Clay is the perfect material that allows for a balance of planning and improvisation. My sculpture practice is completely intertwined with painting. As a painter, response and improv are key – I rarely make an image that is preplanned. Clay takes a bit more planning, so I do prepare with drawings, yet I am able to change my mind, make mistakes, and work fluidly. I think about surface in similar way as to a painting – where is it glossy? Matte? Smooth? Gnarly? Patterned? I am able to feel my way through the process just as if I were painting. I glaze and oil paint on my ceramics – I like the mash-up of processes and surfaces.
In this workshop I look forward to fostering playfulness, placing tactile response and funky improvisation at the forefront of the process. It is also our intent to work closely with the other artists to trade ideas, collaborate, and experiment with the possibilities of a painterly, open- ended approach to ceramics.
Suzanne: About four years ago, I began to fold ceramic processes into my studio work. I had been making paintings of water-damaged magazines and books. While I was interested in the translation of these sculptural forms to a two dimensional expression, I also wanted to capture their reliefs in a three dimensional capacity with their subtle undulations and variations. I began by dipping water damaged pages of Artforum in plaster and this has expanded to a mold making, slip casting process. The resulting body of work considers the minute and subtle mark-making two- dimensional surfaces, namely books and magazines, isolated from the attendant imagery and text these publications house.
Color has long been a very prominent investigation in my practice. While my work has recently focused on a tighter range of neutrals, I am excited to nudge color back into my work in a more expressive way. At Watershed, I will be working with pigmented casting slip to create new sculptures.
Susan Klein is Assistant Professor of Painting at College of Charleston. Suzanne Dittenber is an Assistant Professor of Painting at UNC Asheville.
In this guest post, Meaghan Gates shares the inspiration and ideas that led her to organize 2020 Summer Residency Session II: Biomorphic Idyll. Additional participating artists include Sara Catapano, Angela Cunningham, Sasha Koozel Reibstein, and Andrew Leo Stansbury.
My interest in creating biomorphic sculptural work started at the potter’s wheel back in 2008 after observing the cut off refuse of the functional forms that I had been making. Looking at these piles of clay, I was reminded of the structures of mushrooms or organisms within a coral reef. There were so many undulating symmetrical and asymmetrical shapes that I could create and arrange in formations which could become my own amalgamations of the natural world. As I veered down this path of biomorphic abstraction, I began to observe this fascination with organic forms across the field of ceramics. There is a quality to this building style that stirs an interest in the uncanny. To create something in clay that takes on its own life-like qualities and then to make it a permanent form can be an addictive act.
Over the years I have made friends and acquaintances that share my interest in organically inspired forms. We have continued to follow one another’s work over the years and support each other’s creative pursuits. This residency is giving some of us the opportunity to convene and have a more in-depth dialogue about what we are actually doing. Whether we stick to a close interpretation of reality or develop work that is more abstract, those of us that are interested in this style of work have noticed commonalty in the content we are creating. Through our acute and intense studies of the natural world, inspiration can be drawn from a variety of sources; from the patterns across the surface of an organism, or variations in color, to the functionality of anatomical structures. I have seen some makers who focus on challenging themselves through the way they create a form, their conceptual aspirations, and the way in which some put it all out there for their audience to engage and interact with. The group that is coming together for Session 2 will work through these ideas and provide inspiration for one another to build off of in an intimate setting along the coast of Maine.
Watershed is a prime location for those who are inspired by the natural world. The facilities are surrounded by lush greenery, rivers, ponds, and the Atlantic Ocean. During our time we will have the opportunity to draw from local flora and fauna for visual content. We will also discuss with each other what our work is aiming to achieve while physically working through new ideas. From sculptural objects to performance-based mix-media work, this residency session will provide a place to create among other ceramic artists using a variety of approaches within a common theme. There will be a bit of everything within this greater theme of the organically inspired.
Regular registrations for this session have filled. Add your contact info to the wait list and Watershed will reach out to you should a space open up (and spots often do open up!) Artists interested in applying for scholarship support may still select this session as one of their choices. Join the wait list for Biomorphic Idyll today or apply for a scholarship.
In this guest post, Shalya Marsh and Naomi Clement share the inspiration and ideas that led them to organize 2020 Summer Residency Session III: Resisting: Surface and Form Explorations. Additional participating artists include Marianne Chenard, Arthur Halvorsen, Mike Gesiakowski, Jill Oberman, Lindsay Rogers, and Adero Willard. Space in the session is available for those interested in joining the group from July 5-17. Learn more and register for this session.
Looking at our work side by side, there are no immediate similarities; Naomi makes brightly colored and decorated functional vessels and Shalya makes elegant abstract porcelain sculptures. However, both of us rely heavily on the use of resist techniques when making our work. Whether analog or digital, we each use resist processes to create specific imagery and develop layered surfaces.
The idea for this session was born of this shared use of resist techniques, and our interest in working alongside other artists who use this approach in their process. Our hope is that this session will bring together makers working across the ceramic spectrum with a common interest in resist processes so that we can learn from one another. In this spirit of experimentation, a key part of this residency will be a shared “create space” that will allow participants to experiment with a variety of tools and materials such as laser and die cut paper and vinyl stencils, shellac, latex and wax resist. A Klick n Kut die cutter capable of cutting a wide range of materials and a Thermofax for easy screens for printing will be also be available for use. All artists will be encouraged to share methods and tools to explore new avenues for their work through daily short demonstrations and conversations, as well as some collaborative exercises.
We view this residency as an opportunity to dive in and experiment with ideas and processes that are new to us, and with less of a focus on finished, resolved work. It is always amazing what new work can come from asking the simple question, “what if?” We are eager to learn from invited artists and session participants, and look forward to sharing our own knowledge with the group. Participants are encouraged to come to this residency with this same spirit of curiosity and fun!
We can’t wait to see what emerges from this residency!
Join this session today! Registrations are accepted on a first-come, first served basis. Scholarship applications are due 2/15. The session takes place during Watershed’s annual Salad Days celebration, and participating artists will get to take part in the festivities.
In this guest post, Bech Evans and Margaret Kinkeade share the inspiration and ideas that led the Kindred Clay collective to organize 2020 Summer Residency Session IV: Agents of Change. Additional participating artists include Christina Erives, Roberto Lugo, and Brooks Oliver. Space in the session is available for those interested in joining the group from July 20-August 1. Learn more and register for this session.
Graduate school is a kind of trench that forges friendships between the most incompatible and dissimilar people. That’s not exactly us. The members of Kindred Clay have a rare chemistry and huge admiration for each other, as makers and as people. We love each other’s work and envy each other’s skill sets. I (Bech here) have, at some point, secretly wished to be and have the experiences of each in this group.
We enjoy an uncommon diversity in our group. We’ve had conflicts and have real differences, from the way we experience the world as a result of our bodies and identities, down to our work and how we make it. Sustaining and deepening our friendships and collaborating professionally over the last eight years has required vulnerability, acceptance, personal growth, and adaptation. As we navigate through lives and careers, maintaining a group identity has involved lots of growth, trust, and forgiveness.
I (Margaret here) organized this session because I wanted two weeks of studio time and conversation. I wanted to meet you and to learn about what makes you, you. Why do you make work? Who do you make work for? We’re looking for two weeks of face-to-face conversations in a progressively distant and digital world—conversations that challenge preconceived ideas of who we are, what we have in common, and how we’re different. We’re looking for growth.
I (Bech here) have spent the last four and a half years in the field of student affairs. This field prioritizes and engages, in an explicit way, work on diversity, equity, and inclusion; social justice; and intercultural consciousness. Kindred Clay members have also navigated this work in a mostly individual, intuitive, and implicit way over the last eight years.
“We want people to be woke, but we don’t want to create the space for people to wake up.” —Jamie Washington
This residency session will be a really new experience for us, and perhaps for you too. I want to tell you more about what you can expect.
None of us can, once and for all, figure out how to foster diversity or create social justice, because every person and community is complex and different. However, we can build skills and practices that support equity and inclusion. I’m excited to explore three areas during our time at Watershed: identity development (awareness of our multiple, intersecting identities, our privilege, and our marginalization), social justice (just distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges in society), and intercultural consciousness (communicating across differences and building meaningful relationships). Together, we’ll approach these conversations and activities with the same hands-on, risk-filled approach we take when working in the studio.
We’ll explore how our identities shape our worldview and influence our behavior. You can expect small group conversations and individual reflection. The aim is to spend time in real conversation, learning from each other. Just like when we make work, these conversations will involve risk-taking and vulnerability! A willingness to make mistakes is a prerequisite as we contend with fear and shame that can often be paralyzing. We will learn, grow, and change during our two weeks together.
Margaret here. Is what Bech wrote exciting you? Does it challenge your idea of a ceramics residency? Does that bring up some fear or anxiety for you? Me too.
Trying new things in the studio can be a quiet, solitary exploration with a humble material and generous room for unseen failures. But when I think of the objects I’ve made, the ones I love most resulted from conversations. Conversations with the material, myself, and my peers about how it functions, how it feels in the hand, if it’s honest enough, if it’s “good” enough, why it didn’t work. Just think of the conversations we will have as an extension of your practice. Delve deeper into the internal dialogue about what you make, who you are, and how you fit into our intimate and extended community by inviting others into it. This is a chance to be vulnerable, to ask questions, and to be brave both in conversation and in the studio. We hope you’ll join us.
Register here to join Kindred Clay for this session.
In this guest post, session organizers Trudy Chiddix and Tara Sartorius share the inspiration and ideas that led them to organize 2020 Summer Residency Session V: Soda Pop! Additional participating artists include Maya Blume-Cantrell, Meredith Knight, Stacy Morgan, Jan Schachter, and Marion Toms, along with guest artist Nancy Selvin. Space in the session is available for those interested in joining the group from August 9-August 21. Learn more and register for this session.
Soda Pop! co-leaders Trudy Chiddix and Tara Sartorius became friends as undergraduate ceramics students at UC Santa Barbara. We both created work with vivid colors and patterns and enjoyed collaborating with others, especially during festive celebrations.
We now live far apart: Tara in Alabama and Trudy in California. Over the years we have continued our friendship and our ceramic practices, but in independent studios. Last year at NCECA 2019 in Minneapolis, we reminisced about the positive energy of the communal studio at UCSB with its easy exchange of ideas, sharing of experimental results and opportunities for collaboration.
We decided to seek a group creative experience that would encourage growth in our work, fun in the studio, and friendships with new artists. A Watershed “Artists Invite Artists” residency seemed like the perfect fit. We were attracted to the beautiful surroundings, studio facilities, abundant kilns, delicious food, and the opportunity for uninterrupted time in the studio.
It was a natural decision to focus on experimentation with color in a cone 10 soda kiln, because we love color and neither of us has a soda kiln. When we learned that Watershed’s studio manager is very involved with soda firing and willing to coach us, we could not resist the opportunity to expand our artistic vocabulary.
Both Trudy and Tara are “friend gatherers.” We gathered artists from Alabama and California, inviting those whose work ranges from sculptural to functional. We all share a sense of curiosity, a willingness to explore the unknown, and a desire to communicate with others.
Participating from Alabama:
- Maya Blume-Cantrell – Celebrating nature and rhythm in form
- Stacy Morgan – Creating dynamic glazes and textural surfaces
- Meredith Knight – Unifying sculptural structures & concepts
- Tara Sartorius – Exploring narratives using diverse materials
Participating from California:
- Trudy Chiddix – Connecting pattern, form and mixed media
- Jan Schachter – Focusing on well-crafted functional forms
- Nancy Selvin – Linking the past with the present
- Marion Toms – Maximizing minimalism in useful objects
“Soda Pop!” is our lighthearted way of expressing the vibrant results we’ll be seeking. In addition to experimenting with colored slips, glazes, stains, etc. in the soda kiln, we hope to share ideas, sources of inspiration, and images of interest. We look forward to discussing art and aesthetics in general and ceramics in particular. We’ll encourage presentations by participants who would like to show images of their work to the group.
Tara has offered to share some “warm” post-firing surface finishing techniques, including encaustic wax methods. This post-firing technique can be used to enhance ceramic surfaces with additional color and texture.
We are particularly pleased to have Nancy Selvin as our guest artist. Nancy has been making work and participating in the international ceramic community for 50 years. She says: “My role in this residency is to mix it up and provide a little craziness for all to enjoy! Poetry, text, color, imagination: it all fits.”
Participating artists are encouraged to bring a few bisque-fired pieces for the first soda firing that will take place soon after we arrive at Watershed. These early results will inform further experiments. To facilitate sharing, we’ll create a digital record of our discoveries by photographing processes and results along with notes about recipes and techniques. A compendium will be consolidated in a PDF that participants may download at home.
If you are also interested in making new creative connections with others while exploring soda firing, color, and new surface treatments, please join the fun in August!
Register today to join this dynamic group of artists!
The Watershed kiln pad and studio bustle with activity throughout the early fall. Seven artists took part in the month-long fall residency, spending their days and nights working on independent projects. The uninterrupted time for inquiry and reflection lead to a wide range of work in the studio.
In mid-September Lydia Johnson led a workshop on surface development that drew artists from across New England, as well as Canada and Israel. Lydia shared her unique process of using colored clay, colored slips, and stencils to create patterned ceramic tableware. Through a series of demonstrations and creative exercises, students learned how to make printed, hand built forms using colored clay.
The atmospheric kilns saw consistent use by groups of regional artists. In late September, artist Tim Christensen organized group firings of the wood and gas kilns. Participating artists un-bricked the doors and sold work hot off the shelves during Maine Craft Weekend on October 5 & 6. Visitors perused and purchased work on the kiln pad and visited Watershed’s new gallery during the inaugural exhibition.
Never underestimate the creative potential of a job interview. In 1995, Watershed Co-Founder Chris Gustin interviewed Lynn Thompson (then located in Tennessee) for the organization’s executive director position. Understanding that fundraising would be an important part of the job, Thompson considered ideas that might impress Gustin. “I had it in my mind that gardening and farming were important in Maine, so it seemed logical to combine food and ceramics,” recalls Thompson. And, as a former English teacher, it was only natural to draw on words from Shakespeare for inspiration. “My salad days, when I was green in judgment” — from Antony and Cleopatra — evokes thoughts of fresh, new endeavors and seemed a well-suited title for an event that celebrates garden bounties and ceramic plates inspired by Watershed’s pastoral surroundings.
When Thompson got the job and relocated to Maine, she decided to launch the first Salad Days picnic in August when Watershed’s board would be meeting on campus. She asked a young artist in the first residency session of the season, Yoshiro Okuma (“Yaz”), to stay through the summer and make 100 plates. Guests would choose a plate and enjoy a picnic lunch for $10 per person. Board members, staff, and resident artists were also asked to contribute to a pottery sale. The goal was to raise $1,000; but this first Salad Days raised $5,000!
Over the years, the event slowly grew in size. In its fifth year, Delta Airlines’ flight magazine ran a story about the event and Watershed was overrun with picnickers. Five hundred people showed up to claim 400 plates and this new participant level set the bar for years to come.
Today, Salad Days has become the organization’s most successful community fundraiser. Watershed annually welcomes more than 600 people to the event. Each Salad Days artist-in-residence is selected by a jury to make 550+ plates for the celebration.
To mark the 25th annual Salad Days on July 13, 2019, Watershed invited the Salad Days Artist alumni to return to campus. Each artist was asked to make five limited edition “reimagined” plates in honor of this milestone. Eighteen of the artists accepted the reimagined plate challenge. The new plates were featured alongside the original plates in a special exhibition and sale during the 25th Salad Days event. Additionally, twelve past Salad Days Artist alums returned to Watershed for the weekend. They enjoyed a reunion with Lynn Thompson, sharing stories and reflections about the impact of the Salad Days residency on their work and careers.
The summer humidity has made way for crisp fall air as the last of our 2019 summer staff pack their cars and depart. We feel privileged to have spent the summer in the company of so many amazing artists and makers who took part in the 2019 summer residency. Please enjoy a few photos from each of the summer sessions.
Session I: Ephemerality in Clay
Session II: How Low Can You Go: Low Fire Love
Session III: Ceramic Sculpture Collective
Session IV: Spirit of the Absurd
Session V: The New Ancient
Thank you to everyone who made 2019 Salad Days such a special occasion at Watershed! This community event began as a small picnic and has grown to have an attendance of nearly 600 people. Celebrating the 25th Salad Days with the support of guests and visitors from near and far felt very special to us. We hope you enjoyed a day of delicious food and stellar ceramic work made by Watershed’s large and varied artistic community. Below are a selection images to commemorate our day together. Thank you again for your support!