Potters Lessons is now Hummingbird Hollow Studio blog

In case you're wondering, I've pretty much given up on this blog... set up one for my pottery at http://hummingbirdhollowstudio.blogspot.com. I transferred all the posts from this blog to that blog and have been updating. Hope you'll follow, subscribe, read my new blog!


Draw + Decal at MudFire Gallery

MudFire Gallery's exhibition Draw+Decal presents the work of thirteen contemporary clay artists known for their use of imagery and narrative on vessel forms. In doing so, the exhibit and sale takes a detailed look at updated studio techniques for creating illustrated ceramic surfaces. Featured artists include Patty Bilbro, Naomi Cleary, Bruce Gholson, Erik Haagensen, Samantha Henneke, Ruchika Madan, Brooke Noble, Stefan Ritter, Elizabeth Robinson, Justin Rothshank, Luba Sharapan, Sue Tirrell, and Betsy Williams.

Draw+Decal will be on view at MudFire Gallery July 11 - August 1, 2009. The opening night reception will be held from 5-9pm on Saturday, July 11, 2009. All works displayed will be available for purchase.


It is impossible to grace the surface of clay without acknowledging thousands of years of history. Many of the techniques and materials in use today were developed millennia ago, but those leading the field are combining new technologies with fresh viewpoints on design and illustration. In the contemporary studio pottery movement, it is no longer enough to simply master form and apply the age-old transformational alchemy of glaze and firing. A new visual language is developing on the surface of today's vessels.

American studio pottery finds itself at a moment both awkward and illuminating. We stand gratefully venerating the pioneering masters of the post-war studio pottery movement, while also looking eagerly to the next generation and forward to where we are heading. Today's studio pottery takes advantage of new technology and contemporary design and illustration sensibilities that allow us to update ceramic surface and lay the groundwork for new traditions. Clay artists benefit not just from an instantly accessible global compendium of illustrative inspirations, but also from the ability to deploy an updated set of tools and technologies to realize their visions. Traditional techniques using pen and brush, the magic of silk-screening, or carving and resists, are joined by more recent innovations like vector art and one-off continuous tone ceramic decal printing. Never before has so great a catalog of commercial finishing materials and purified chemicals been available for mixing and innovating with. Studio pottery, so enabled, is taking on a frenzied, energetic exploration of where clay surface can now go.

Draw + Decal presents a snapshot of this moment, an educational survey of available techniques, and the opportunity for both collector and creator to engage fully in this exciting time in clay.
Images and additional information about each of the artists can be found at:http://www.mudfire.com/draw-and-decal.htm


MudFire Clayworks and Gallery is a unique community art center dedicated to clay arts. Celebrating its 7th anniversary this year, MudFire Clayworks is home to over 150 artists, and is equipped with pottery wheels, sculpting equipment, communal tools, glazes, kilns and plenty of inspiration. Artists in residence and "free range" instructors make it a perfect place for beginners as well as seasoned ceramicists. MudFire also brings high profile artists from around the world to Atlanta for lectures, slide presentations, demonstration workshops, and intensive hands-on classes.

MudFire Gallery is Atlanta's clay-only gallery, providing representation for some of the Southeast's top potters and sculptors. MudFire also celebrates this diverse and accessible medium with monthly exhibits of functional and decorative works including solo, group and themed exhibits.

The gallery is open Thursday - Monday from Noon to 8pm and by appointment. The studio is open Saturday & Sunday from Noon to 8pm, and on Monday-Thursday-Friday from Noon to 10pm.
Community News You Can Use
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R.A.D. Studio Cruise 2009 February 7, 5pm - 10pm

From Mudfire:

Our BIG neighborhood arts celebration is coming up fast. Save the date and rally some friends to head to the Rail Arts District of Avondale/Decatur for an unforgettable night of art exhibitions, demonstrations, music, performances, refreshments, and art, art, art.

This year RAD is just in time for selecting a magnificent artwork for a Valentine's gift. Buy local, buy handmade, buy unique, and delight your honey (or yourself!) with your artful sweetness.
MudFire will host pottery making demonstrations by Marissa Hudson, and will present an exhibit and sale of new work by founders Luba Sharapan & Erik Haagensen. We've also got the shelves loaded up with killer work by Marissa and dozens of our favorite artists.

Get a RAD Map

Download our one page map with all the studio locations noted, directions to the neighborhood, and contact information for participating studios.
Print the RAD map and mark your calendars!

What Will You See?

RAD Studio Cruise includes over 50 artists displaying and selling their latest work. RAD includes pottery, sculpture, ceramic wall art, paintings, drawings, photography, furniture, blown glass, digital art, jewelry, mixed media, and metal.

Many of the studios will host demonstrations and studio tours, so you can see where and how the work is made. Watch lumps of clay spun into pottery on the wheel, hot glass blown and shaped by a tightly synchronized team, jewelry being meticulously crafted at the bench, and see a plasma torch cut thick sheets of steel creating sculpture components. Magicians and performers will entertain at the Academy Theatre, the host of the RAD artist market for even more local artists.

RAD is a celebration of creativity and community, and at each location we'll have music, food and drinks, and plenty to look at it!

Thank you for your support! We look forward to seeing you at RAD!
porcelain & stoneware pottery by Erik and Luba

MudFire Clayworks Location and Hours
175 Laredo Drive, Decatur, GA 30030
Studio Hours
Weekdays, Noon to 10:00 pm
Weekends, Noon to 8:00 pm
Closed on Wednesdays Only
Regular Gallery Hours
Open 12:00 to 8:00 pm
maps and directions
Please call us with questions at 404-377-8033.
Loads of information and images available at www.mudfire.com


Liz Zlot Summerfield Workshop

It's been a long summer with lots going on! One of my favorite treats this summer was a workshop, courtesy of my wonderful husband (birthday present), with Liz Zlot Summerfield at the MudFire Gallery in Dekalb County.

What a great instructor! She has the perfect balance of personality and teaching ability (plus a great artistic talent) to handle a widely-diverse group of students.

All backgrounds and all levels of knowledge converged the first weekend in August to learn what we could at the workshop. Here are two sets of photos from the workshop. The first shows Liz teaching and highlights how she makes some of her outstanding pottery. The second shows the students, some of Liz's completed works in the MudFire Gallery and photos of some of the student's work. - Janet McGregor Dunn

Community News You Can Use


Chair-ity Event

The Fayette Front Page has teamed up with the Hollingsworth House and others to bring a new "Chair-ity" event to Fayette County! The event will be held in early December and will benefit Christian City's new children's village. Artists around the area will paint or decorate chairs which will be displayed around the county, then auctioned off at the Hollingsworth House event. I'll be keeping you posted on this nifty new way to raise money for a great cause! I'll be doing a chair myself (check out my work at www.Hummingbird-Hollow.com... and yes, I know I need to update my site, but the Fayette Front Page and the Georgia Front Page are keeping me plenty busy!).

- Janet McGregor Dunn


Easier to write when the weather stinks...

The weather has generally been wonderful recently and I've had a difficult time writing. I'll have to admit that when the weather isn't quite so hot, but not nasty, I tend to run to the studio to squeeze in a bit of time with my clay.

I've excited about a new direction I'm veering into! My pots are usually rather earthy and mimic the tones of the outdoors. After seeing Peter Max a few months back I've been leaning toward the stunning colors he favors. However, the red clay I have been using doesn't allow for the brights reds, yellows and other colors without a white underglaze or similar. Too much work.

So... I just picked up a bunch of buff, white and stoneware clays.

Well, in looking out the windows I can see a storm brewing. Any minute I'm going to lose my sunshine and will have to shut off the computer. Crazy weather!

I just got back from Lowes, my SUV is loaded with dirt, plants, herbs, fertilizer and things for the garden. I guess I'd better at least get the plants out so they'll benefit from the rain.

More on my new adventures in clay later!


Gotta love the clay

So many analogies, so little time. I'd rather play in the clay than write, but writing (as poorly as I may do it) is in the top ten things I like to do after playing in the clay!

As I walked in to the computer room to do a bit of work it struck me how similar pottery is to life in general.

I had just finished a short article about keeping your mind in tune. According to the data in the article, doing things outside the norm, breaking your routine and learning keeps brain cells in tune and increases brain power. As we get older our minds may slow a bit, but we can actually add brain cells by discovering new things, getting outside our comfort zone (as in, break that boring routine you're in!).

Working with clay is perfect for stretching the mind and adding those new cells. If you started today with the idea you were going to never, ever do the same thing twice with clay you could easily succeed.

Each clay body reacts differently. They fire at different temperatures, are any number of colors and they all have differing properties. Some are great for hand building, some for raku, some for sculpting. Some are perfect for outdoor use, some are so delicate they need to be kept in a glass container for protection.

A person could spend a lifetime just learning the properties of the various clays. If you happened to tire of the available colors of clay you could jump over and start learning how to add components to marble, colorize or otherwise change the clay.

Then there are glazes. Again, another entire lifetime of learning if you had the mind for it.

Those are the basics. When you toss in some imagination it's a wild day any time you're in the studio!

Playing in the clay is a great way to stretch the mind and keep those brain cells growing! The article suggested little things like holding your toothbrush with the hand you don't normally use, or going shopping in a new grocery store. Can't knock the suggestions, but it seems to me that attempting something new with a block of clay is so much more fun. I'd bet an MRI of a clay playing babe's brain would show much higher brain cell creation than a toothbrush hand switching babe (or dude ;-).


Is your hut on fire?

I'm not a big fan of the emails that tell you the horrible things that will befall you if you don't forward that particular email to a million friends in under 3 minutes. Usually you get some sappy message first, or something that pulls your faith strings, then they hit you with the whammy.

So, most of the time I just delete them and move on. The following email came from my daughter-in-law and, happily, did not have the hex at the end! It's just a good message, so I thought I'd share with the world.

The message is much broader than pottery, it's a life lesson. But as I'm heading out to the studio in a few minutes I easily thought of a pottery analogy, one I've experienced myself. I'll share with you AFTER the "Is your hut on fire?" email:

The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him. Every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions. One day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, with smoke rolling up to the sky. He felt the worst had happened, and everything was lost. He was stunned with disbelief, grief, and anger. He cried out, "God! How could you do this to me?" Early the next day, he was awakened by the so und of a ship approaching the island! It had come to rescue him! "How did you know I was here?" asked the weary man of his rescuers. "We saw your smoke signal," they replied.

The Moral of This Story:
It's easy to get discouraged when things are going bad, but we shouldn't lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of our pain and suffering. Remember that the next time your little hut seems to be burning to the ground. It just may be a smoke signal that summons the Grace of God.

OK, now for my poor pottery analogy:

Ruined pots. You put so much into a piece of pottery - it's amazing how much time can go into one creation. Sometimes that pot doesn't come out of the kiln in one piece, or it's cracked, it flops, it doesn't look right, there are any number of problems that can occur in the firing process.

Rather than lament the loss, put it aside and, in a few days or weeks, come back and look at it again. Can it be broken up to make a mosaic? Could you separate the pieces and glue to another pot to give it depth?

I have one pot that I hated, it cracked, it didn't look quite like I intended and I was just generally unhappy with it. I left it sitting out on the shelf in the studio for ages. A visitor stopped in and went right to it. Loved it. Hmmm... It wasn't glazed so she couldn't buy it.

It sat for a few months longer, unglazed.

Another friend, another beeline to that stinking pot. Geez.

Finally, I got up off my duff and realized my mistake. It was in looking at the pot as a failure rather than looking at it as a new direction.

I learned to look at things a bit differently. My tastes aren't always the be-all, know-all, what's gonna sell-all.

Granted, I'm not on a desert island and it's not life or death. But it is a life philosophy that I ignored when making my pots. The Hut story is about the grace of God in everything. You can take that message and translate it down to the smallest of small things in your life. If you're not inclined to want "God" in the message, you can still take the philosophy of seeing good in everything.

Sometimes your worst days turn out to be some of the best in retrospect.

Have a great day, even if it's not!



Powers Crossroads Slipping...

Monday we trekked down to Powers Crossroads (PC) for the arts and craft festival. It was disappointing to say the least.

For years it’s been a must on my schedule.

I never leave the event without seeing some great talent, pottery I can’t walk away from and jewelry that I have to wear home. My wonderful husband, Greg, always buys me some sort of one-of-a-kind jewelry, usually earrings because that’s what I pick out and we usually find at least one piece of pottery or other work of art to carry home. This year I took home a pair of earrings, and while I like them a lot, I usually have a hard time choosing which ones I want and often get two or three different pair. This year, one pair, no competition.

So much of the art seemed to be… well, typical, run-of-the-mill. The same items that you’d see at any non-juried craft fair (as opposed to an ART festival that’s judged and juried). I’ve always gone to PC to see something a cut above. Not saying there weren’t some great talents at the show --- there just weren’t anywhere near as many. The overall quality is down. Way down.

I had an idea things might not be going well a few weeks back. A fellow potter friend of mine had missed the deadline for getting into the show, so she thought she’d try to get into the Moss Oak Plantation Craft Fair that piggybacks on PC traffic and fame. It’s not a juried show like PC. She saw the office for PC while down there trying to find out how to get into the other show, and on a whim stopped in and asked if she could by chance get into PC. She showed the lone lady in the office a photo of her work (or a piece of it, don’t remember which), and the lady said sure, there’s space and you’re in. So much for being a juried show. And this was almost two months after the entry deadline, and just a few short weeks before the show.

I remember when artists complained because they couldn’t get into the show as their work didn’t qualify. It was a little never-wracking hoping you’d make the cut. There was strong competition to get one of the booths. Could be my faulty memory, but it appeared that one whole section was empty this year.

I talked to a lot of the artists at the show as I wanted to make PC my fall pottery show. It’s close to where I live, which put it high on my list to target. Only one artist said they were happy with the show.

I saw many of the vendors who are usually in the Moss Oak Plantation area had booths at PC this year. Many of the regulars I usually visit weren’t there this year. It had more of a flea-market flavor.

I’m not sure what’s going on, whether gas prices are keeping artists at home or whether there’s something happening at PC. I know there are new people running the show this year. There were some glitches with that, long time booth spaces given to someone new, putting the same type artists next to each other, etc. But you have to give the new guy on the block a bit of a break, learning curve, etc., etc. and I doubt that affected artists wanting to come this year. It might affect them for the following year if ruffled feathers weren’t smoothed over.

PC did a lot of TV advertising. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great until Monday so walk-in traffic wasn’t as good as it could have been. Most of the artists I talked with took that into consideration knowing you can’t judge a show by one year.

I decided not to show down there next year. The artists I talked with said they were mostly selling things in the $15, $25 and $35 range. Most said they had to make $2,000 to break even (gas, hotel, booth costs, material costs, etc.). That’s tough to do when you’re selling small dollar items.

Just another quick side-note: I dragged Greg over to Moss Oak on the way out just to get some veggies (there's usually a fresh-product stand with great fresh fruit and products). Hardly anyone displaying at all over there. Maybe ten booths? As said, a lot of them were over at PC this year... However, my produce vendor wasn't anywhere to be found.

OK, I’ve moaned and whined enough! Hate to be so negative about the show, but I really find it sad that what was once a quality show is so obviously on the downward spiral.

I’m going on-line to see if I can get on some email lists for other local shows. I’ll be checking them out as I want to find a fall show for selling my pottery. I miss the Atlanta Arts Festival!


Art Program Funding Up to $2000 (per organization) in Clayton, Coweta, Fayette, Henry and Spalding Counties


8/15/07 What is the Grassroots Arts Program? The Grassroots Arts Program (GAP) is funded by the Georgia Council for the Arts through appropriations from the Georgia General Assembly to make sure that all Georgians have access to the arts activities which enrich all of our lives. Arts Clayton has once again been named by the Georgia Council for the Arts as the FY 2008 re-granting agency for GAP in Clayton, Fayette, Henry and Spalding Counties, and is very pleased to announce that Coweta County has been added to our re-granting area for FY 2008.

The idea behind GAP funding is to help smaller, “emerging” groups get off the ground – to “fill in the gap” between start-up and when an organization is ready to apply directly for larger funding to agencies such as the Georgia Council for the Arts, OR become self-sustaining through admissions and/or other resources. Ideally, Grassroots Arts Projects will create new opportunities for citizens to experience the arts, while fostering greater awareness and developing local partnerships in the arts. Examples of projects eligible for funding include: visual arts exhibits, concerts, readings, theater and dance performances, film programs, folk art projects, storytelling, workshops, and art festivals. Projects combining arts and education are encouraged.

This statewide arts program is designed to encourage local collaborations between artists, arts organizations, and non-arts organizations, in order to serve a broad range of Georgia’s residents. Every Georgia County receives an equal per-capita allocation. Funding is open to any non-profit 50l(c)(3) tax exempt organization or unit of local government. Civic clubs, churches, theatre groups, arts festivals, Boys & Girls clubs, libraries, senior citizens’ centers, Parks & Recreation Departments also may be eligible to apply!

There is plenty of time to apply for the GRASSROOTS ART PROGRAM (GAP) grants. Forms and granting guidelines are available on line at www.artsclayton.org, by email request to artline@artsclayton.org or by calling Arts Clayton at 770-473-5775. The deadline for submitting completed applications is October 1, 2007 at 4 p.m.

Four GAP application workshops will be offered by reservation/appointment, at the Arts Clayton Gallery located at 136 S. Main Street in Downtown Jonesboro. Available times and dates are: Saturday, September 8 at 10am; Monday, September 10 at 10 am and 6 pm; and Wednesday, September 12 at 2pm. Please call Sara Cookson at 770-473-5775 to reserve a date and time to attend one of these sessions. Applicants should obtain application forms and funding guidelines prior to attending, and should bring their rough draft applications with them. The purpose of the workshops is to demystify the grant-writing process for potential applicants. All applicants (especially new) are encouraged to attend.

Funded projects must be accessible to the general public, must provide 50% of the total project cost as a cash match for the grant, and projects must be completed by June 30, 2008. For more information about the Grassroots Arts Program, to discuss a potential project, or to request assistance with an application, visit the Arts Clayton website at www.artsclayton.org where you may download the application and granting guidelines; email Arts Clayton at artline@artsclayton.org to request information; or call Sara Cookson at Arts Clayton 770-473-5775.