Ephemerality in Clay: Summer Session I Preview

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.