Wednesday, December 4, 2013

39th Annual Pottery Show & Sale this weekend!

Friday, December 6, 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM   suggested donation $20, champagne reception
Saturday, December 7, 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM   suggested donation $10
Sunday, December 8, 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM   suggested donation $10

Thank you for tuning into the Art School Blog for short articles on participating artists.
If you are a potter, participant, or enthusiast, we want to hear your thoughts! After the show, send us your reflections and reviews for inclusion in future blog posts. 

Next up, come by the show and let the pots speak for themselves...

Monday, December 2, 2013

Nick Joerling

Nick Joerling
Penland, NC

Words on potter Nick Joerling from Art School Blog guest writer, artist and faculty member Judy Schaefer:

Nick Joerling’s fully functional ceramic forms flirt with you! They express the essence of the human body caught in coy almost cartoon movement, perhaps about to dance, and of human sensuality with their implication of lush physicality. The physical details are both expressive of that focus and are intrinsic to his shaping process. His gestural brushed lines and dots, like wheels, imply movement and simultaneously remind us of the poised human figure. Joerling pushes his forms to an edge, suggesting the risk of being “on point” literally and figuratively. His humor is subtle and beyond all else charming.

- Judy Schaefer

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Chris Gustin

Chris Gustin
South Dartmouth, MA

Words on potter Chris Gustin from Art School Blog guest writer and potter Bruce Dehnert:

If you’ve ever visited the Watts Towers tucked-away somewhere in the urban caverns of Los Angeles you’ll recall marveling at the histories that are literally embedded in their concrete skins. One slice of history you might not know is that some of those multi-hued ceramic tiles, broken into thousands of shards, originated from a factory owned by Chris Gustin’s family. Located in Pasadena, the factory produced a range of wares that the family sold through showrooms from San Francisco to Atlanta . When Chris was only 20 years old the job of running the Los Angeles factory was thrust upon him when a long-time floor boss died. So there he was, surrounded by clay, glazes, and kilns and having to organize workers around the challenges of making things work, without a hitch, through a rather sudden transition. It was this factory’s rejected tiles that Simon Rodia used for his fanciful mosaics covering the beloved and controversial ‘towerland.’ Today, the Watts Towers rise above the city streets as a National Historic Landmark.  A reclusive day laborer, Rodia would quietly disappear from southern California in 1955, a victim of complaints and gossip.  Nearly fifteen years later, Chris found his way to the Kansas City Art Institute to pursue his BFA in studio ceramics.

In 1975, Chris entered the MFA program at Alfred University. While there he studied under the storied faculty members Randall, Turner, Cushing, Hepburn and Higby. In those days art festivals were few and far between but were catching on especially along the East Coast. During his second year at Alfred, Chris attended one such show at Spring Valley where he met Karen Karnes and was immediately drawn to her fiery character and the seriousness with which she approached her work and the business around it. The Vermont potter’s approach was inspirational to Gustin as he began to make plans for life after school.

With his MFA in hand, Gustin moved to Guilford, Connecticut and opened his first professional studio.  Shortly afterwards, he remembers the phone call from Karen with an invitation to exhibit in the Old Church Pottery Show as being one of the most important of his career. After all, the Pottery Show was much more than just a few days of harried sales. The event was a chance to get together with other potters and their ilk, to get out of the hovels of studios and have real exchanges with others who shared the struggle or an appreciation for handmade pots. Gustin recently observed, “Mikhail Zakin, Karen’s co-organizer, was very supportive at a time when I was just trying to ‘get my legs’ in the field. Being a part of that group was a big deal. I mean, this was the late seventies and early eighties…there were no Garth Clark type of galleries then and everyone was trying to find some ground. It was transformative.” It was also in that same year of his first appearance at Old Church that Chris’ work was selected for The Young Americans, the monumental exhibition of its time presented by The American Craft Museum in New York City.

Following his early successes, Gustin was invited to join the faculty in The Program In Artisanry at Boston University where he would navigate one of the most tumultuous evolutions of any American university art department. In the subsequent years after beginning his teaching career, Gustin followed The School as it was sold to Swain School of Art and Design and then, in bankruptcy, was gifted to Southeastern Massachusetts University which then years later became UMASS Dartmouth, now one of the top ceramics programs in the nation. Through it all Gustin maintained a studio and in 1999 retired to a full-time studio practice in South Dartmouth where he lives with his wife, the artist Nancy Train-Smith.  

2013 has been an important year for Gustin as he has embarked on several retrospectives of his work. A “road trip” of three large exhibitions, his career’s work has been shown at The Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts, The Shein-Joseph International Museum of Ceramic Art at his alma-mater Alfred University, and will move on to The Daum Museum of Contemporary Art in Missouri later this year.
Of the experience of having his work gathered for the retrospectives, Chris noted, “you get to see your life’s body of work in one space and the threads seem more obvious than when viewed through the chaos of making the work. You see yourself at various stages in life. It’s actually a very intimate experience…the relationships, friends, and in some cases the traumas that get associated with each piece. Memory changes practically everything, and my worst fears have disappeared because the individual works seem to be able to live in a different time than the ones in which they were made. This has always been a question in my mind and now I’ve had the opportunity to begin to answer that.”

- Bruce Dehnert

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bruce Dehnert

Bruce Dehnert
Layton, NJ

Bruce Dehnert. "Ingot."  Porcelain, Shino.
Bruce Dehnert celebrates the pottery process from kiln construction to the dining room table.  He is involved with everything from the stages of kiln-building to scholarly reflections published in pottery magazines.  While this blog post series is here to celebrate his pottery, it cannot go without mention that Dehnert’s practice includes the written word.  Before receiving an MFA in ceramics at Alfred University, Dehnert studied English at the undergraduate level.  He continues to cultivate a written life that knits together his creative outlook with the knitty gritty of ceramic art creation.
Dehnert has published in journals including Studio Potter, Ceramics Monthly, and Ceramics: Art and Perception.  He recently collaborated on "Simon Leach's Pottery Handbook" praised as "an amazingly detailed, step-by-step text for all major processes in ceramics".  A discussion of Dehnert's writing is included here in support of his stated desire that his pots "visually 'explain' something(s) of the processes that they undergo in order to be finished and used."  This interest is formally present in the finished pot, expressive of his desire that “the person using (his) pottery be provided clues, through subtleties in surface and form, as to the nature of these processes.”  These processes, scientific yet mysterious, are explored in tandem with Bruce Dehnert's vision for the usable work of art.  The form and surface treatment of a Dehnert piece before firing suggests where ash deposits should interact with the surface.  The surface then provides "clues" to the process and how to interact with the piece after  it is fired.
Bruce Dehnert. "Cups."  Porcelain, flashing slip, glazes, wood-fired.

The clay journey is ultimately mysterious, as a gust of air behind the closed doors of the kiln can be responsible for a shift in surface tone.  Having never built a kiln myself, I can only presume that even the placement of the bricks in this process can influence the outcome.  In his teaching positions across the east coast of the United States, New Zealand, and Malaysia, Dehnert has shared expert knowledge in kiln building- from laying the bricks to firing the work.  He currently directs the ceramic program for Peter's Valley Craft Center.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Charity Davis-Woodard

Charity Davis-Woodard
Edwardsville, IL

 Charity Davis-Woodard has been a professional potter for 11 years. A profile on Davis-Woodard in Ceramic Arts Daily describes, with rich insight, the process of turning her life into the life of a studio potter. In the article, Davis-Woodard engages the reader with her process of creating, which describes how the pot is designed to engage the viewer through its implicit function. The artist writes:

Inspiration springs from my belief that pottery has the potential to function as expressive art each time it performs with the user, thereby engaging us in a highly personal and primal way. Even at rest the reference to use embodied in the pots’ familiar form reminds us of the place it holds in our domestic landscape, and thereby grounds us however unconsciously in that same setting… It can remind us of our need as social beings to celebrate common experience with objects that stimulate our memories and all our senses.

I believe I can truthfully say that no amount of technology could ever dull our natural sense of curiosity. Our eyes are constantly looking for information to process as clues for how to function in our surroundings. This is part of the primal sensibility suggested by a Davis-Woodard pot. The flashes of terracotta on the pitcher at right suggest hand placement almost like a lighted runway. The surface highlights areas of greater interest and activity and accent the form in a pleasing way. The use is implied, as is the presence of a social group.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Richard Aerni

Richard Aerni, platter, 
white stoneware, 19” in diameter, 2012
Richard Aerni
Rochester, NY

The first artist to be featured on this blog is Richard Aerni, a potter from Cincinnati, Ohio who now lives and works in Rochester, NY.  Aerni’s informal path into art lends a fresh and striking aesthetic to his pots.  Formal clarity marries with multiple layers of slip and glaze, evoking an emotional response by reminding the viewer of the complex beauty of the natural world.   With no formal education in art, Aerni has embraced a potter’s lifestyle of non-stop work while supporting himself through sale of his work for 25 years.

Richard Aerni, Brown Vase, 
stoneware, 15” high, 2012
As this blogger learned from more thorough writings on the artist’s website at, Richard Aernie was a geology major in college and was part owner of a restaurant at the time that he discovered his love for clay.  Perhaps these two facets of the artist give us more information than we expect; Aerni values the shared meal as well as the mysterious material processes of the earth.  Next we look to the patterns of ash glazes on forms made for the table and the clarity of his calling becomes quite evident.

While Aerni is surely a favorite potter amidst a wide array of talented potters, he is featured first due purely to alphabetical order.  Keep an eye out for the next featured artist!

Friday, September 6, 2013

How did the Pottery Show & Sale come to be?

There are many shows like it around the country and around the world, but the Art School’s Pottery Show & Sale is acknowledged as a forerunner of shows of its kind. What makes this one so special?  Surely, success is due in part to the discerning eye of Karen Karnes, internationally renowned ceramic artist and the show’s curator since its inception in 1974. 

As a friend of the school's co-founder and fellow master potter Mikhail Zakin, Karen Karnes stepped up as curator of the fundraiser show due to her acknowledged authority in the medium.  By selecting ceramic artisans for the high caliber of their craft and innovation and placing them in direct contact with pottery enthusiasts and collectors, this once yearly honey-pot of ceramic artistry became valuable for connecting passionate and knowledgeable buyers to American artisans at the height of their craft.

While the show continues to be crucial to the economic landscape of the non-profit art school it supports, it also set a standard for shows of its kind.  The show is almost entirely staffed by volunteers from the community who donate their time and energy and even welcome potters into their homes and share meals for the long-weekend of the sale.  Here are some words from the show’s curator on how our Pottery Show & Sale came to be:

“Thirty-nine years ago when Ann and I offered to make a benefit pottery sale for the Art School at Old Church we were following the path of many organizations choosing to raise money in this way.  I thought to make an event that would consider the potters who offered their work.  Potters would only need to both bring and remove their work at the end – we would set it up and sell it and send payment for work sold within the first week after the conclusion of the sale.

In the early years I invited potters who lived nearby, but soon I was attending craft fairs to choose potters, and my attention was always aware as I traveled, looking for pottery that would make up a rich and varied exhibition, one that showed a wide range of styles.  I have always wanted each person who attended the show to see something they needed to own, and to have all the work be the best of its kind.  Soon potter friends were able to recommend new clay workers.

It was also important to make an exciting potters’ meeting, as I lured them from far away with the promise of a bed in a member volunteer’s home, a delicious potters’ supper (which I cooked in the early years), and the possibility of a day or two in New York City.

…I have a policy of inviting new potters every year, though there is also a core group who is invited every year as well.  It is always a difficult choice; there are so many excellent, sensitive and original young potters at work now, for the field is steadily widening.”

Join us as we welcome this year’s group of contemporary potters through a series of short articles and luscious images of their cutting-edge ceramic work.
A collection of pots by Karen Karnes, ca. 1950s
A collection of pots by Karen Karnes, ca. 1950s (Image courtesy of American Craft Council Library at

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Welcome to the Art School at Old Church Blog!

The Art School at Old Church was founded in 1974 as a center for the arts in New Jersey.  The Art School provides an environment conducive to the creative process and serves as a meeting place for learning and exchanging artistic ideas.  Check out to see more of what we do!

In addition to our website, which features lists of our evolving class and workshop offerings and gallery events, this blog will feature musings on the creative process with a changing roster of authors including guest writers and posts from staff and faculty members.
In preparation for our acclaimed Pottery Show & Sale we will feature short articles on potters leading up to the 2013 show on December 6, 7 & 8.  

Stay tuned!