Posted by Cindy Bracker, Communications Director
Where do you currently live/work?
Charm City- Baltimore, Maryland at Baltimore Clayworks and Towson University.
What do you like most about your job? OR What do you like most about where you live?
As the Baltimore Clayworks’ Exhibitions Director, I love curating shows, putting together the best “Mix Tape” of artists, supporting the emerging and established craftspeople to inspire our students and collectors. It is also a lot of fun to invite your favorites to come and do a workshop and share their magic. As a teacher, sometimes it’s the students who do the inspiring and we learn so much together. Baltimore is a pretty fun town for the arts, of all sorts: visual and performing. Plus, you can afford to live and make your work. In addition, I have met some of the best humans around in this town and through Clayworks.
Where did you grow up?
The Empire State. Upstate, Western New York- in Greece (the largest town in the largest county in the state) along the shores of Lake Ontario. Usually I just say Rochester, home to Kodak, Xerox and Genesee Beer. My first words were “Lake Effect Snow” and we were taught shoveling skills at an early age.
Bushbaby, for my unruly red hair.
How did you first find out about NCECA?
My professor, Mitch Messina at Nazareth College would talk about it when he would return from attending one and soon after graduation, I had my chance to see for myself.
Tell me a story about your first conference (including city and/or year)
In 1996 it arrived in my home town, which made it impossible not to go. I wandered about seeing shows, collecting postcards and listening lectures, but spent a lot of time in the demonstrators room. Janis Mars Wunderlich, Peter Vandenberg, Julia Galloway and John Glick are whom I remember most. Sat up front to watch Janis build her sculpture, marveling at how lucky I was to sit, literally at the feet of one of my heroes. I got a lot of techniques and tips from it but I think the bigger impact was seeing the creative process and studio discipline in action.
What’s your favourite colour?
What or who inspired you to get involved more deeply in the organization, and what was your “entry point” to the board?
Deb Bedwell is an extremely persuasive personality. She is good at seeing things in people that they may not see themselves. She stopped me in the classroom at Baltimore Clayworks, with that look in her eye, said she had a proposal for me and here I am.
Describe your position with NCECA
I work with the board to select the programming for the conference, trying to organize and streamline the jurying method and fiddle with the days and times to fit all that good stuff into the schedule. It’s a tough process, sometimes there just isn’t enough time in a day to fit it all and hard choices are made. Other times we have a gap and I can reach out and solicit programming. Year round, we are fine tuning the conference, with board spread across the nation and timezones, adding feedback and suggestions.
Then I am boots on the ground with Dori and the AV crew during the conference. I provide the “what is happening and when” schedule for the board, assemble the Powerpoints for the opening and closing talks, put out fires and sleep very little. Basically, I work to make the best possible conference that I will never get a chance to see, since I am behind the scenes. I am still on the quest for the perfect, comfy shoes, I logged in a literal marathon last conference shadowing Steve Hilton.
What’s your favourite thing about being on the board?
Sitting at a table filled with passionate, generous and talented people. As a volunteer board, we all have crazy schedules and yet I can reach out to them and they come through with considerate thoughts and invigorating ideas. It is a condensed illustration of the ceramics community as a whole: potent, creative and compassionate.
What’s your favorite part of your specific position?
After years of attending NCECA conferences, I felt I needed to give back. I like the puzzling of the components into a compelling conference, just like an awesome mix tape. Working to tailor it to the variety of interests of our membership, find new topics, balance viewpoints. It ties in well to my curatorial practice as an exhibitions director, just with a more ephemeral result. Plus I get to work with such astonishing people that I am not sure if they are actually human or in reality brilliant mythical creatures.
Who are some of your mentors, and how have they shaped you as a person/artist? (both in and out of the organization/field)?
My Mom and Dad always supported me being an artist, so I am very grateful to them.
Mr. Robertson, my elementary school art teacher. He made me want to be an art teacher and he let us listen to Queen.
Mitch Messina, my undergrad professor from Nazareth College. He was the perfect inaugural clay teacher for me- a sculptor, working in sections and non-traditional surfaces. It was invigorating to build big from smaller pieces and finish those with paint.
David McDonald, my grad professor from Syracuse. He is an amazing potter and what he saw in my sculptures I am still not sure. But I learned so much about discipline, integrity, hard work, craftsmanship, aesthetics and jazz from him.
Steven Hilton, mentor to the mental. I never could have even attempted this position without his espresso-fueled insight and hand holding.
Deb Bedwell, force of nature and nurture.
Tell me about your work as an artist.
Narrative sculpture of purposeful ambiguity, frivolous functional and dysfunctional wares and jewelry. Obsessed with hands, cephalopods and books as metaphorical elements. Love textures and carve my own stamps.
What’s your favourite ice cream flavor?
If you were a glaze, which one would you be and why?
I like a zingy lemon glaze over a rustic gingerbread bundt cake, maybe with some crystallized ginger chopped fine and added to the batter and sprinkled on top. The contrasting flavors make a surprising melody.
Wait, do you mean ceramic glaze?
I don’t use a lot of glaze in my sculptural work and the functional tend to be bright, commercial types like a five year old with a crayon box. I do love Amaco velvet Electric Blue underglaze and Redart slip, for it’s vibrant resonance and gregarious warmth, respectively. I also use acrylic paint, watercolor, colored pencil and metallic leaf to complete the surface. Not sure if those count as a glaze.
What are a few of your hobbies?
I love music: listening to and attending concerts. Josh Ritter, Tom Waits, The Smiths, Hilary Hahn and Sydney Bechet are some favorites. Oh, and Talking Heads, Toumani Diabate, Patty Griffin, Crowded House and… ok stopping there or this will take a while.
I have an enthusiastic, if naïve approach to gardening. I hate to mow the lawn, so I started to dig it up for a garden. Of course, I have spent more time gardening than if I just left things alone and paid the neighbor boy to do it.
Baking is also something I love to do. and it usually involves butter and chocolate, so that is a bonus.
Being a borderline crazy cat lady, I origami paper scraps into perfect spheres that I flick to my boys, Calvin and Hobbes who promptly chase it around and until its under the couch. There it is lost forever and the cycle begins again. George looks on with skeptical amusement.
I like to sew, small bags and simple circle skirts with fabric from Ikea or upholstery stores (wider yardage for a wider bottom) not sure if that is a wise fashion choice, but it goes back to that five year old and her crayons.