Interviewing NCECA 2013 Emerging Artist Amber Ginsburg

Interviewing NCECA 2013 Emerging Artist Amber Ginsburg

Amber Ginsburg works frequently with clay but her work responds to histories, locations and narratives in a way that is not bound by specific materials or methods of expression.  She often works collaboratively and engages audiences in a participatory manner, creating dynamic site specific installations.  Amber generously shared her time to answer a few questions I had about her work and process.

When were you first introduced to ceramics?   

I was first introduced to ceramics at Santa Cruz High School in the 80s.  Looking back it was a rare and remarkable experience.  We were well trained and once we knew what we were doing, Mark Levy, the instructor, let us have free reign of the studio.  A group of us fired the down draft kiln for the studio and we mixed our own glazes. There was a strong studio ethic and a close-knit group of us worked late into the night, mostly throwing.  The ceramics studio became a second home where we shared food on the plates and bowls we made.

Have you always had an interest in history?  How did this interest develop?

I am primarily interested in using history to draw out a narrative.  In High School I leaned towards literature and science, which where taught as tools to look at how we live. History was, unfortunately, presented a series of names and dates.  Ironically, it was through fiction that I began to love history. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, and The Color Purple by Alice Walker were just a few of my invitations into history.  Literature takes a history and brings the reader to that time and place through the telling of the story. Literature also has the benefit of not striving to fix a truth, but rather to get at an idea through imagination.

It wasn’t until I attended the University of California at Santa Cruz in the mid 80’s that history itself became a relevant and important material. History was not something that happened a long time ago, but something that was happening right this second.  My first woman’s history course taught me history is the way we live life.

Past Times: Remembering, Remapping, Recovering by Amber Ginsburg and Katie Hargrave Viewmasters, Archival Images, Contemporary Images, Walking Tours

Past Times: Remembering, Remapping, Recovering by Amber Ginsburg and Katie Hargrave
Viewmasters, Archival Images, Contemporary Images, Walking Tour

When did you realize you wanted to work collaboratively with other artists, history and objects?

Working with history and objects are more obvious extensions of my interests than collaboration.  I did not set out to work collaboratively. Instead, it developed by accident. After living in Japan and Holland for three years, my family and I settled in Urbana, Illinois where my husband Tom began teaching at the University and our three daughters were all in school (I had decided not to homeschool anymore).  I found I had the time to follow through on a commitment I made to myself in Japan, not be a hobbyist, as so many talented and accomplished women I met there called themselves. I found studio and gallery space at Boneyard Pottery, run by Michael Schwegmann, who turned out to be a generous teacher by sheer example of skill and began working with clay as a defined career.

After a few years as a production potter, I found my hands making bowls while my mind imagined large and complex projects.  I decided to stop thinking and start doing. I went back to school to work on large-scale installations. An unexpected outcome was that I began working collaboratively.

To cast 3000 pounds of plaster into bricks as part of my first solo show, I rented studio space at Opensource Art, a not for profit collective art space in downtown Champaign.  It did not take long before I was an active member in the democratic structure of the organization and began helping to curate and host exhibitions, lectures and contemporary art events of all stripes.  Between the necessity for debate and  the remarkable things accomplished by a small group of us at Opensource, I began to find collaboration a more challenging and dynamic way to work.  My first collaborator on a site specific and historically driven project was a fellow Opensoure member, Katie Hargrave. We have been collaborating since, for almost ten years.
Do you have specific ceramic influences?

While I get art crushes easily and love many people’s work, my real influences have always been my mentors/teachers. My first teacher, Mark Levy in High School, trusted us and made hard work part of the joy of the process. I have had the pleasure of working with Ron Kovach at the University of Illinois, Paul Sacaridiz and Tyler Lotz at the Illinois State, and Kitty Ross, Javier Toubes and Anders Ruwald at the School of the Art Institute, to name a few.

I am particularly indebted to Paul Sacardiz who, rather than try to curb my various interests, encouraged me to chuck them all together and trusted I would learn to edit, and Kitty Ross, who through her own remarkable practice introduced me to long term research into specific and beautifully esoteric histories.

Do you always wait for something to spark an idea or do you sometimes search and seek out ideas for a project?

When I started doing research-based and site-specific installation, reading and asking questions about a site would spark my ideas.  I would bump up against a little known history, or else ask what had happened below where I was standing.  The materials used to investigate these questions would emerge from the narrative. For example, when Katie Hargrave and I started working together almost ten years ago, we researched the site of the Illinois State University gallery and art department.  We discovered layers of history: a trolley line had passed through the site; it had also been a football field, an archery course and a tennis court, to name a few. As part of a three room exhibition and walking that included actors from various historic moments leading tours with 3-D viewmasters of past activities on current sites, we created a moist clay floor, as an extension of an idea of a clay tennis court.

Now that my practice has progressed, I find that projects breed projects. The research and the collaborations don’t end at the exhibition. Rather exhibitions are pause points in ongoing material, social and historical research. Exhibitions raise new questions, which in turn lead to new explorations and works. For the past three years, I have been working on a solo body of work entitled Past Present Perfect. Imagining a future in which we have forgotten how to interact with dishware, I take on the role as an anthropologist investigating this past. This premise lead to a series of works where I created artifacts that explore dishware. From two pieces in the series, Break and Edge, a new collaboration has begun.   Taking the shards, residue from a 16mm film where 2 columns of plates are broken and harvesting the potato starch from  500 potatoes used to light 100 diodes, I am currently working on a large scale work with Marrisa Lee Benedict that uses bio-plastic made from potato starch. I am beginning to think of my projects in term of traces and leftovers, where one project offers a material or idea that becomes ingredients in the next one.

CHARGE by Amber Ginsburg Cyanotype, Shards from two columns of dishes, wire, 400 potatoes, 100 diodes Image: Allison King

CHARGE by Amber Ginsburg
Cyanotype, Shards from two columns of dishes, wire, 400 potatoes, 100 diodes
Image: Allison King

How do you know when you have found the appropriate way to express, investigate or explore a specific narrative?

 When the content within a narrative becomes the material expression of the story.

The Weapons Project by Amber Ginsburg, Rodney Harris, Joseph Madrigal Raw clay, seeds. molds of WW1 munitions.  The Bristol Biennial Image: Stuart Bunce

The Weapons Project by Amber Ginsburg, Rodney Harris, Joseph Madrigal
Raw clay, seeds. molds of WW1 munitions. The Bristol Biennial
Image: Stuart Bunce


The Weapons Project by Amber Ginsburg, Rodney Harris, Joseph Madrigal Raw clay, seeds, molds of WW1 munitions. The Bristol Biennial Image: Stuart Bunce

The Weapons Project by Amber Ginsburg, Rodney Harris, Joseph Madrigal
Raw clay, seeds, molds of WW1 munitions. The Bristol Biennial
Image: Stuart Bunce

Is it important to you that something is left behind from a project?  Some kind of evidence or history?

This is a complex question.  We are at time when more people will see the work of an exhibition on a computer screen in the comfort of their own home than in a gallery. So yes, I think there is always something left behind, as I consider an image a form of evidence.

More directly, for those who experience the work in person, every choice, materially, conceptually and spatially are constructed to involve the audience directly into the work.  This involvement allows the performance of a history or material to become intimate through interaction.  To give an example, I was invited to work in the Museum of Surgical Science by Rebecca Keller.  I had been noting instances, particularly in gas station bathroom, when people refused to touch a doorknob.  Some people used the underside of their shirt, an out turned pocket, a paper towel, really anything to avoid touching the doorknob.

I began to see the doorknob as a transitional object, one about, in the next 20-year or so, to become an object for a museum.  Our physical expression of germ theory has become a fear of public toilet doorknobs,.  In the Museum of Surgical Science, I choose to work in the bathroom.

I collected words related to the history of contagion and wrote them in porcelain on the bathroom walls, vapors, miasma, germs, humors, spirits, etc.  Additionally, from a variety of  doorknobs I had been collecting, I made worry stones, small impressions of doorknob casts. These were offered to the audience, in the bathroom, if they chose to take one.

In this exhibition, everyone was free to take an object, but each exhibition is different. What remains the same, is that I work to involve the audience in the narrative; in this case, questioning their comfort taking an object others might have touched in a public bathroom.

Knob by Amber Ginsburg Porcelain worry stones cast from doorknobs, bedpan from the Museum of Surgical Science, raw porcelain works of contagion, in the bathrooms at the Museum of Surgical Science.   Image: Allison King

Knob by Amber Ginsburg
Porcelain worry stones cast from doorknobs, bedpan from the Museum of Surgical Science, raw porcelain works of contagion, in the bathrooms at the Museum of Surgical Science.
Image: Allison King

8. Your projects often involve people working together and the viewer becoming an active participant.  Do you hope for a specific experience for people?

While my collaborators and I strive to create a environment for interaction, we leave the space of interpreting open to the audience.  This is where my love of fiction comes in.  While Joe Madrigal and I created a replica WWI Mark V Dummy Test Bomb factory where the audience could take a shift and make bombs with us, how they interpreted this activity and how they passed this story along is entirely up to them.  The bones of the story were in the factory, the passing of that story along lies in the agency of the teller.  I am most interested in keeping the story going but not invested in controlling it.

FLO(we){u}R by Amber Ginsburg and Joseph Madrigal Replica WW1 Mark V Dummy Terra Cotta Test Bomb Factory Image: Dane McFarlane

FLO(we){u}R by Amber Ginsburg and Joseph Madrigal
Replica WW1 Mark V Dummy Terra Cotta Test Bomb Factory
Image: Dane McFarlane








FLO(we){u}R by Amber Ginsburg and Joseph Madrigal Replica WW1 Mark V Dummy Terra Cotta Test Bomb Factory Image: Dane McFarlane

FLO(we){u}R by Amber Ginsburg and Joseph Madrigal
Replica WW1 Mark V Dummy Terra Cotta Test Bomb Factory
Image: Dane McFarlane

FLO(we){u}R by Amber Ginsburg and Joseph Madrigal Replica WW1 Mark V Dummy Terra Cotta Test Bomb Factory Image: Dane McFarlane

FLO(we){u}R by Amber Ginsburg and Joseph Madrigal
Replica WW1 Mark V Dummy Terra Cotta Test Bomb Factory
Image: Dane McFarlane




9.  What has surprised you most about people’s responses to a collective experience?

I find audiences to be remarkably generous. People offer their stories, expertise and willingness to play/try/learn much more often than not.  It is said that most people look at a work of art for only a few seconds.  That is not my experience.

10. What do you have upcoming?  Where can your work be seen?

Material and Investigation: 2013 NCECA Emerging Artists talk with Linda Swanson and Josh Green.

Friday, February 14, 5:30-7:00

Concurrent program (free) at CAA at the Hilton Chicago, 720 South Michigan, Erie Room, 8th floor.


Sustainable Table, Jewish Museum,  curated by Anna Metcalfe, Milwaukee

A collaborative work in bio-plastic with Marissa Lee Benedict

February 20th – March 31st.

NCECA reception on Thursday, March 20 from 7-9pm

1360 N. Prospect Ave. Milwaukee


How to Unmake an American Quilt, Roman Susan Gallery

A collaborative work with Katie Hargrave

August 2014

1224 West Loyola Avenue


Inside Out, Rutherfurd Hall

A collaborative work with Joe Madrigal

Opening July 4th, exhibition dates TBD

Rutherfurd Hall, 1686 Route 517, Allamuchy, New Jersey


The Tea Project, Lawrence Art Center

A collaborative work with Aaron Hughes: An installation and performances with 776 porcelain cups, one for each Guantanamo Bay detainee

October 1- 31, 2014

940 New Hampshire St, Lawrence, Kansas


I hope you enjoyed this discussion with Amber Ginsburg and a look into her process of collaboration.  You can learn more about Amber at:

You can learn more about me and my work at:

Interviewing ceramic artist Lauren Gallaspy

Interviewing ceramic artist Lauren Gallaspy

NCECA 2013 Emerging Artist Lauren Gallaspy’s work spans many disciplines including functional and sculptural ceramics, painting, and drawing.  Through all of her work there is a theme of exposure, a sense of expressing tangibly that which is not immediately visible.  Lauren kindly took time from her busy teaching schedule and studio practice to speak about her artistic process.  You can see more of Lauren’s work at:

1.When were you first introduced to ceramics?

I started my undergraduate art career in Painting and Drawing. After a horseback riding accident, I was temporarily disabled, my arms and body sore, swollen, and torn raw.  As somewhat of a perfectionist, this momentary disabling was difficult but also attractive to me. I started fantasizing about other ways in which I might relinquish ability and control.  I discovered ceramics, with which I was utterly unfamiliar, and was excited by the idea of making bad, embarrassing work. I wanted to feel free to fail at something.  I declared myself a major without having taken a single class.  I have, over the years, encountered several ceramic artists whose career was initiated by an injury and have wondered if the physicality of clay doesn’t hold some particular appeal to those who have endured bodily trauma, as though the material, like a kind of golem, might act on our wounded behalves.

 2. When and how did you recognize it was a material you wanted to continue to explore and experiment with?

I knew immediately.  I was enamored with the living quality of wet clay, the negotiations it seemed to request and require, the simultaneous ease and complexity of thought that it stimulated.  I discovered in clay a relationship that was less about dominance than exchange and that surprised and challenged me. At its best, I believe, ceramics allows a unique collaboration between the artist and the unknown in its various mundane and miraculous-seeming incarnations.

Bone Spurned by Lauren Gallaspy, 2010

Bone Spurned by Lauren Gallaspy, 2010

 3.Do you have specific ceramic influences or artists whom you admire?

There are too many to name.  Certain historical ceramics have had a big impact on my thinking, in particular the skewed spirituality of Mimbres bowls, eerily anthropomorphized Meissen animal figurines, the humor and exuberance of Pre-Columbian ceramics, and the slightly off silhouettes of Etruscan ware. But I am equally influenced by folk artists like Howard Finster, Martín Ramírez, and Bill Traylor, and painters like Philip Guston, Dana Schutz, David Humphrey, and Ellen Altfest. The poets Emily Dickinson and Kay Ryan have formed a kind of duet of influence in my studio. Fashion, literature, and film are regularly called on, as well as cultural and scientific oddities like Gaetano Giulio Zumbo’s anatomical wax models of human bodies on display at La Specola in Florence or the elaborate installation of human skeletons along the catacomb walls and ceilings of the Capuchin Monastery in Rome.  In contemporary ceramics, three artists have loomed most large in instilling in me, through their work and/or their words, a belief in myself as an intuitive maker: Andy Nasisse, Jean-Pierre Larocque, and Sunkoo Yuh, each of whom, I believe, manifests mystery with a fierce but sensitive intellect and an extraordinary physical fluency.

 4.  When did you begin drawing?

I have been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. My mother used to set reams of computer paper in front of my sister and I that we would turn into epic narrative scrolls.  I was enrolled in an oil painting class in the 2nd grade and took a very particular satisfaction in having depicted a sunset that felt as opulent and terrifying as I found them in life. My earliest childhood drawings are still my favorite things I’ve made.

sometimes a head is a house-trace (details)

Sometimes a head is a house by Lauren Gallaspy, 2013

see (detail)

See (detail) by Lauren Gallaspy, 2013

 5.  How and when did you first recognize your Southern upbringing as a powerful influence on your work?

I think sometimes it takes leaving a place to understand how much it is a part of you. It wasn’t until I left Athens, Georgia for Alfred, New York in 2005 that I started thinking deeply about the history and characteristics of the region from which I came. The South is a place of excess and contradiction, of violence and beauty, humor and tragedy shaped by stories and embroidered with voices.  The fertile and teeming jungle of the South, in contrast to the white and stoic snowy hills of western New York, swarmed in my imagination. As stone-hard apples formed on the trees outside my window during my first fall in New York, I recalled the sugary squish of Mississippi figs and the constellation of mosquitoes they attracted. Gradually, I came to miss the soft but rangy sounds of the Southern accent and the ornate words of affection that decorated Southern speech.  That led me to return to the myths and fables that I grew up on, and suddenly, I saw connections between what I made and where I came from that I had never seen before.  The sense of excess, the narrative underpinnings, the contained contradiction of violence and beauty were all there. I don’t know that my work is ever really about the South, but I do believe that it is distinctly of it.

Beat by Lauren Gallaspy, 2011

Beat by Lauren Gallaspy, 2011

Teratoma by Lauren Gallaspy, 2012

Teratoma by Lauren Gallaspy, 2012


6.  When you are working on a piece, how does the form develop?

The forms have changed over time, but generally could be fit into at least one of three categories: animal forms, body forms, and vessel forms. I typically have one or two of these categories in mind when I begin. I may have sketched out 5-10 pieces in advance, circling a couple that interest me the most. Once I begin building, however, it is as if I am balancing on a semi-slack line of thought, one step after the next, with little perspective on where I am going but faith through necessity that I will get to the other side. Often, I am working with a mass upon which or out of which emerges a kind of fragile structure—architectural, skeletal, biological.  While this process is delicate and sometimes disastrous, it is also, in many ways, the most pleasurable; it is slow but satisfying. On a good day, the results surprise me.

in progress, 2013

in progress, 2013

 7.  Do the forms of your sculptural work respond to the imagery or do you make forms as a result of a drawn image you would like to express and explore?

 Because the sculptural component of my work is largely improvisational, I do not typically start building a piece with a drawing in mind.  The “drawings” (I call them drawings too because they are so intrinsically connected to line, although they are technically paintings) usually respond to the form or to the combination of form and glaze. I am interested in the movement between two and three dimensions, between illusionary or imaginary space and real space and the somewhat mystifying ways in which they overlap.


Glossolalia by Lauren Gallaspy, 2012

 8.  Do you attempt to facilitate a specific experience for the viewer?

The short answer is: no. Although I am interested in and often get great delight out of others’ descriptions of experiences they have had with my work and the ways in which they do and don’t resonate with my own, I would not say that I have an aim to facilitate any specific experience in others through my work. I do not, personally, feel that this is my role as an artist. Artmaking, for me, is an engagement with ambiguity. It is an immensely private act with the potentiality of a public end. I try not to place on the work any expectations for how it should behave in the world.

 9.  You write: “How do we know anything, short of consuming it or being consumed?” Do you consider the viewing of your work a form of consumption? 

I believe that everything that we do of any real significance involves some kind of consumption.  I am thinking of consumption as an act of entrance—the interaction between body and object, or body and body, or body and matter, or body and idea.  Consumption can have both positive and negative connotations. It can nourish you and it can possess you. I can hope but never presume that my work might have this effect on someone.

 10.  How do you balance teaching and a studio practice?

Delicately. In truth, each informs the other in complex and profound ways.  I can only teach based on my particular experience of being in the world.  Much of this perspective has been informed by artists and teachers who have demonstrated to me the power of a personal point-of-view. The difficulty and complexity of my work in the studio keeps me honest and humble in the classroom.  The words of encouragement or critique that I offer my students, I can usually turn right back on myself.  After a while, the process forms a kind of loop, and the point where teaching begins and my own learning ends becomes indistinguishable.

 11.  How has teaching and living away from the South influenced your studio practice?

I think it will take time to understand all the ways in which it has impacted me. There is something very particular about the sense of space in the West as opposed to the South that is changing the way I think about scale and form.  The South inspired in me a kind of cozy claustrophobia through its abundant vegetation and dense hills.  In the West, I can watch a storm stalk its way across the valley or I can climb a mountain to stand above the winter fog.  Objectness is continually reemphasized here even while the scale is so much more grand. In my latest work, I find myself engaged with these shifts as well as the complex notions of spirituality that dominate both Georgia and Utah.

 Still, like a fluent speaker of a second language, the space of the West, I suspect, will always feel secondary to me, always an environment in translation. In many ways, my work is concerned with this translation; it is here, within the threshold of the known and the unknown, that discrete objects can transform and be transformed.

Into the brain like branches by Lauren Gallaspy, 2013

Into the brain like branches by Lauren Gallaspy, 2013




12. Where can your work be seen?

 My work will be included in a group show entitled Immersive Stages at NCECA this March, and I have an upcoming solo show at the Signature Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia in the Fall.




Thanks again to Lauren for her time.  I hope you enjoyed the interview and discovering a little more about her relationship with clay.  You can learn more about me and my work at:

Janine Antoni Podcast

Janine Antoni Podcast

If you missed Janine Antoni’s Keynote Speech: At Home in the Body, at the 2013 NCECA Conference in Houston, do not fret.  For you are in luck, because you can now download and listen to this lecture as an NCECA Podcast!  Click here for the full, uncut one hour lecture.  An abstract of this lecture  also appears on page 40 of the NCECA Journal, vol. 34.  You can purchase a copy in the NCECA store.  The journal includes excerpts from all conference programming and many full-color images from Emerging Artists, Demonstrators, the NCECA shows, and many of the presenters.

Janine Antoni received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and her MFA from Rhode Island School of Design.  Her work has been showcased in exhibitions including the Venice Biennial, Whitney Biennial, Johannesburg Biennial, Istanbul Biennial, Kwangju Biennial, SITE Santa Fe Biennial and the Prospect.1 Biennial in New Orleans.


interviewing NCECA 2013 Emerging Artist Brian R Jones

interviewing NCECA 2013 Emerging Artist Brian R Jones

NCECA 2013 Emerging Artist Brian R Jones is a contemporary ceramic artist.  His functional pottery combines slip coated earthenware, drawing and bright fluid glazes.  Based in Portland, Brian is also the host of the Jonescast, a podcast where he interviews others working in the arts.  You can see more of Brian’s work and connect with him at:

1.  Where and when were you first introduced to clay?

I was a sophomore at Alfred University and had signed up for an intro throwing class for the hell of it. It was the spring semester of 1999.

2.  I have read about the influence of an introductory throwing class with Linda Sikora on the intellectual approach to your studio practice.  Was this class also a pivotal moment if your choice to pursue ceramics?

Yes. But prior to that class I had had a semester of printmaking. I latched on quickly to the process and the chance to work through visual ideas in a way that was more layered than painting or drawing. I had taken a lot in from books, looking at the work of artists like Jim Dine, Richard Diebenkorn, Robert Motherwell, and Larry Rivers, among many, many others. I think that I was attracted to the physical aspect of their work, which although they were working on a flat plane the images looked as if you could grab them with your hands and hold on. I was already primed to work with my hands, and Linda’s ability to articulate abstract ideas pushed me over the edge. It seemed that someone who was smart, interested in both abstract ideas and notions of beauty and also wanted to work and think technically would make pots. I also just really liked working with clay. And it was difficult to throw pots (and often still is) and I liked that challenge too.

Tumblers, earthenware, slip, glaze, 3 x 3 x 6.

Tumblers, earthenware, slip, glaze, 3 x 3 x 6.

3.  Have you always maintained both a drawing and ceramics practice?

More or less. Sometimes I catch myself telling others about my drawing practice, but the truth is probably that I think more about drawing than actually doing it. I think about the process that I go through, its comfortable nature, and how I can manage to bring that sense when I’m making things out of clay. I have gotten attached to a more intellectual idea of what drawing is. It has served me well, but I am headed back toward just putting pictures on paper naturally. It takes some effort for me to not just go into the studio and work in clay and instead to pull out some paper and gouache and sit at the kitchen table for a few hours of quiet work.

4.  How do the mediums of drawing and ceramics interact and influence one another?

They both have a very immediate sensibility in the way that I use them. Pencils and clay will do anything you want them to. They respond immediately to the action of the user, and people know this. I recently remembered how comfortable drawing is, that I don’t take it too seriously and I don’t judge myself as harshly because of it (which is what happens constantly when I’m working in clay). It comes from a place where I’m able to trust myself.  I’d like to keep that thought in mind when I work in clay.

5.  From your interest in European peasant pottery you strive for honesty in your work.  How do you think honesty is expressed in a pot?

It depends. When I think about looking at other pots I usually know it when I see it. It’s a case-by-case scenario. One would have to take into account the context in which the work was made, right? Those old peasant pots aren’t anything more than what they are, and they glow because of it. I think when I see that kind of honesty in a pot what I’m seeing is the maker coming through, or that the maker is completely connected to their work.

6.  You have encouraged our generation of studio potters to share the narrative surrounding our work as a means of building and connecting to an audience.  What is the narrative surrounding your work?

I might say that the narrative surrounding my work is one of searching, finding what works, and moving through ideas…maybe trying to get to the truest version of my work. Right now my work is in flux and in the early stages of changing. It’s too soon to say exactly what the narrative around my work is (someone else might have a more objective opinion of it than myself), but I would like to move from a more self-concerned vision of how drawings and pots work together to one that has more to do with the pot as a functional object in the larger world.

Platter in progress, earthenware, slip, ink and underglaze.   13 x 22 x 3

Platter in progress, earthenware, slip, ink and underglaze.
13 x 22 x

7.  Is the Jonescast part of your way of sharing this narrative?

Sure. One of the reasons that I started the program was essentially to reach to the outside, invisible world of other people’s ears and hope that someone would understand. I wanted to know if anyone else was going through the same things I was. I share, sometimes over share, what’s going on in my head or in my studio. The audio format is more intimate and easier for me to handle than a blog post. The level of connection is deeper, and my decision to not edit gets me toward a place where I’d like my work to go: an informative, casual, intelligent, sometimes charming engagement.

8.  What have you learned from doing the Jonescast?  Has the experience surprised you in any way?

I’ve learned to keep my attention and focus on the person at hand. I sometimes listen to old programs and hear myself asking a question in order to set myself up to get a chance to say something. I work at keeping that at bay and just try to ask a better question of my guest than the one before it. I’ve also had to rethink how I want to present myself, how I want to word certain things, and to prep for a guest in a way that gives me flexibility in conversation. I’m surprised that it’s become such a part of my studio practice, if anything.

9.  How has becoming a father changed or influenced your work?

I don’t get much time in the studio for the time being because I’m a stay at home dad. When I do get in there I try and be as efficient as possible, but it does take me a lot more time to work through ideas or maintain momentum. As much struggle as one goes through in the studio I don’t really have time for self-pity. I welcome change and know that I will get through it, although the when and how that will happen is up in the air. I am trying to focus on the process of making (and being a good father) rather than the outcome (like getting my daughter to stop chucking food off of the table and letting her work it out on her own.).

10.  How do you balance the demands of being a husband and father as well as maintaining a studio practice, business and podcast?

I’m not really sure. Sometimes it seems like I’m on top of things, and then all of a sudden I’m not. I work from lists, organizing my week on Sunday nights. That works for me the best. Lots gets lost in the cracks and I’ve had to lower my expectations in terms of what I can actually get done in a day, home or studio. I will say that I am very lucky in that my work is not supporting my family and I don’t have to be in the studio. I can tell myself that I have time to make changes as I see fit. As much as I want to be successful as a businessman I see the value in having the opportunity to be home with my daughter and letting business slide for a bit.

11.  Have you begun to answer the question you posed at NCECA: How will I be able to make a living now and into the future?

I’m looking at what options I have when I think about working in different ways. I’m beginning to look at how pots look to people who don’t have a degree in them and see what they see. I’m trying to be more open. I’m thinking of working with slip cast pots and forms and using different clay, which is something I wouldn’t have done in the past.

12.  How do you stay inspired when you are not inspired?  What helps you continue going into the studio?

I can always go to the studio, seriously. And on the off chance that I’m not feeling it, I just stay there and wait it out or go for a bike ride and clear my head. The studio is my one place that is my own. No one else really goes down there, and sometimes it’s more of an oasis than a place to get work made. I have a large inventory to work from: books, ideas, drawings from the past several years. I also work in a few different ways so sometimes I just do something else for a while and then go back to the thing that wasn’t working out.

13.  You are currently developing new work.  How does this process happen for you?  

I don’t really know. I feel like I’ve spent the past few years working in a way that might be coming from a place I don’t want to work from. This change is happening slowly, for one thing. And I’m very suspicious of my motivations and working through those feelings. I’m trying to make work that doesn’t feel like something’s missing from it, to make work that comes from an honest place and to get comfortable working that way. Everything’s up in the air, and I’ve made an index of my strengths to help guide me through the muck and mire of over thinking.

Sandwich plate in progress, earthenware, slip, underglaze.  8" diameter.

Sandwich plate in progress, earthenware, slip, underglaze. 8″ diameter.

14.  How do you recognize when your work needs to change?

Galleries send the work back…80% of the galleries at this point. Having that happen has made me wonder why, and to try and see what others are seeing…or aren’t seeing. I don’t take it personally anymore. I simply want to know what’s missing from the work. And then I get a chance to let myself off the hook, no one’s expecting new work from me or I’m not as established as other makers so I can do whatever I please for the moment until something sticks. But I still need to keep in mind where I might be weak and work harder at correcting those problems.

15.  Where can your work be seen?  What do you have upcoming?

The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, I’ll have new work at Charlie Cummings Gallery for the holidays. I’m in a cup show at Crimson Laurel Gallery in Bakersville, NC that runs from Nov 1 – Dec 31.

I’ll be lecturing at Harvard on October 17 at 5:50.

And I’ll be presenting as a podcaster at the North Carolina Potter’s Conference March 3-6

16. In your earlier podcasts your cynicism about the place of contemporary pottery in the current economy is really evident. More recently you seem to be investigating possible solutions, many of which you shared during the lecture you presented at NCECA, such as your involvement in Objective Clay ( -where the lecture from NCECA can also be found). What do you think helped you move from a place of cynicism to one of engagement?

It is exhausting to always be down, for myself and for others around me. It also doesn’t come off well when trying to sell work. People can sense when someone’s not in a good mood, desperate, or a mix of the two. I also need to be a good example for my daughter. And I believe that things will work out. Cream rises. It’s been proven to me over and over as long as I keep plugging along good things will happen. As long as I keep an open mind and work to the best of my abilities I’ll keep getting a leg up. I didn’t believe that before. I was so focused on the outcome of the show/sale/whatever that I couldn’t see where I was at the time. This is still a struggle for me, but then I snap myself out of it. I also want to figure out how to have a future as a maker, rather than just show up and hope for the best.

I hope you enjoyed this interview with Brian R Jones.  I really enjoyed the honest and sincere insight into his process, struggles and exploration.  You can learn more about me and my work at

Calling all Interactive Artists: Projects Space Opportunity!

Calling all Interactive Artists: Projects Space Opportunity!

Does the thought of creating a dynamic and site-specific installation thrill you? Are you interested in pushing the boundaries of process, material, and interactivity with your ceramic practice? Are you hankering to create cutting edge, performative work, or perhaps to explore the fragile and ephemeral nature of time? If you said yes to any of these questions, NCECA Projects Space is your venue. With just under a month until the October 2 deadline, there is plenty of time to polish your application materials for the 2014 NCECA Conference in Milwaukee. Projects Space is an opportunity to approach clay in new and surprising ways.

As a past participant, enthusiastic audience member, and now the 2014 P.S. Coordinator, I value Projects Space for the vitality and unpredictability it brings to the conference. The prolonged presence of both the artist and the audience in the art space allows for a communal interrogation of the work—a shared opportunity to ‘pull back the curtain.’ Watching the installations unfold over several days, while connections are forged and frayed between maker and observer, process and interaction, labor and value, is a beautiful and exciting adventure.

This year’s conference theme, ‘Material World’, is ripe with possibilities. While this theme intimates our collective fascination with a material, clay, it also allows for a divergent exploration of the multivalent threads of history, culture, experience, object, image, and meaning. Projects Space offers a fluid and interactive space for this exploration, one that is a synergistic embodiment of the NCECA spirit. Projects Space is not just an exhibition—it is an experience!

Are you ready to become part of the Projects Space experience? Click here for Details, information, and application guidelines.

Interested in learning more?  View the videos below to watch footage and interviews from last years Projects Space in Houston!