“In the world of everything that is already made, the moment of reinvention consists of taking apart something that is known, to reconstruct something that is unknown.”
Bobby Tso’s approach to forms in the post-industrial world is both whimsical and sophisticated. His curiosity is delightful and child-like. His level of intensity and skill are awe inspiring. I had as much fun watching his peers view his work in Kansas City as I did in getting to know him. His masterful arrangement of mixed media forms makes even the clay crowd stop and wonder.
Bobby Tso was born and raised in Hong Kong. He decided to come to the USA at the age of 17 to explore the culture while earning his BFA in ceramics in 2009 at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri. He went on to earn his MA and MFA in Dimensional Practice, with focus in ceramics, metal smithing and jewelry at the University of Iowa In Iowa City.
He’s recently served as instructor, lecturer and exhibiting artist in universities and galleries across the US. He was a summer resident and instructor at the Archie Bray Foundation in 2015 and was featured at NCECA’s 2016 conference as an emerging artist.
His recent work is concentrated on form and develops out of his curiosity about relationships that exist between objects. He has also forged strong foundations through his relationships with his students and his mentors.
On teaching, Tso relates, “I believe the most important techniques I teach in all classes are [for students to be able to] journalize their thought [process] and sketch to record their ideas. By teaching my students basic techniques, I encourage [them] to re-invent what is invented and connect techniques to create conceptual expression.”
Mr.Tso is currently Assistant Professor of Art -Ceramics, in the Department of Fine and Performing Arts at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville. His web page can be found at http://www.bobbytso.com/. I had the pleasure of interviewing him this week.
What’s new for you since 2016 NCECA? Any new ideas or directions?
KPT- I wanted to change a little bit of my work. In addition to expanding working in mixed media, I am exploring the idea of the conversation we can have (as clay artists) with other artists. I was able to go to Arrowmont [where I] had some great conversations with artists [working] in other mediums, which is great!
I also have been working on a CNC, machining clay, which is old news in the auto industry, but I think is new in the field of ceramic art. I will have a few pieces that have parts that were done with this new process in a show called “Slice” [curated] by Chris Dufala (see note below).
Given the recent changes in political climate and immigration policies, are you concerned about your ability to remain in the US for the foreseeable future?
KPT- Yeah I am glad I am still here in the state and working as a professor. It has been great. I’ve been focussed and working hard to promo my school, showing off my BFAs’ work as a good professor would do, and working on some exciting new things!
Slice can be viewed during NCECA at: Siteworks (S) 240 SE 2nd Ave., Portland, OR, 503-230-2337, siteworksportland.com, Hours during NCECA: Mon-Sat
10am-6pm. Reception: Fri, Mar 24, 6-9pm.
View Bobby’s Presentation at the 2016 NCECA Conference here:
As the Missouri dust and euphoria we experienced at this year’s NCECA, in Kansas City dissipate into normality, the gallery exhibitions, personal encounters, and life-altering lectures, continue to linger. One of the most memorable and life altering exhibitions a student can experience at NCECA is the National Student Juried Exhibition (NSJE), which can forever change and undoubtedly charge the lives of both the exhibitors and attendees. Some students leave with a new perspective, a renewed sense of purpose, and a deeper gratitude for clay, the community, and their own passion and dedication.
The 2016 NSJE was held at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center from March 4 to April 23. Consistent with this year’s conference theme, Makers, Mentors and Milestones, the plentitude of new student art situated in the main gallery was bracketed by exhibitions of works by seasoned ceramic legends and NCECA’s 2016 Emerging Artists in the adjacent front and back galleries. Shapers of the Field: NCECA Honors & Fellows preceded one’s path through the venue into the student exhibition, displaying an array of works by seasoned makers who influenced the organization and the field at large. Beyond the main gallery housing the student show was a selection of works by 2016 NCECA Emerging Artists. The situation and proximity of the exhibitions symbolized next steps, ensuing breakthroughs, and dreamed-of career milestones for many of the students exhibiting in the NSJE.
With no overarching theme guiding their selection beyond the well-executed, innovative, and academically compelling, the exhibition’s jurors offered us a glimpse into the future of ceramic art as it is currently being explored and expanded by the field’s next generation. The main gallery was devoted to the NSJE alone. Remarkably the space didn’t feel like a mixed bag, but was rather an impressive indicator of the different genres at work in studio ceramics today. Rife with subtle innovation, coupled with tradition, many pieces invoked similar themes hinging on the subversive, social commentary, or celebration of clay as material.
Human and animal sculptures or figurative imagery captured in glaze, were prevalent. Among the memorable works in this vein was Melinda, Casey Taylor’s sculpture of a seated woman trying to communicate using a tin can phone. In contrast, Chris Drobnock’s Still Life (Numen) involved a terra cotta composition of commonplace objects—a stool, plant, and watering can—suggesting commentary on the banality and centrality of everyday experiences. Across the gallery, ceramic abstraction bulged, crumbled, dripped, and crystalized in works including Shiyuan Xu’s Through the Lens. Among the many excellent pieces of pottery exhibited, Man-Ho Cho’s White-Teapot-Construction-Base demonstrated that fresh takes on the functional and familiar remain vibrant territory for exploration.
As invited exhibition jurors, Quackenbush and Somers, also selected works for merit awards on behalf of NCECA. Prized pottery and representational sculpture were favored for awards over the many memorable examples of new media, gestural, and abstract sculpture, such as Jonah Amadeus’ Childhood Home, Emily Chamberlain’s Containment, and En Iwamura’s Dear My Heroes. Graduate Awards for Student Excellence went to Ariel Bowman, University of Florida (Gainesville) for The Colossal Collapse; Andrea Denniston, Syracuse University (New York) for Egg Basket; and Carly Slade, San Jose State University (California) for Blue Language. Undergraduate Awards for Student Excellence went to Donut Goshorn, Kansas City Art Institute (Missouri) for Body Map; Jacob Wilson, University of North Carolina (Asheville) for The American Dream; and Matt George, Edinboro University (Pennsylvania) for 4-Eyed Nimrod Cup.
Thanks to Facebook, Instagram, and many other social media platforms, followers of these artists don’t have to wait until Portland 2017 to see where they are headed and what they will create next. Viewers who made the time to visit this show and perhaps chat with the artists know that we have a lot to look forward to and discover about these students and their work in conferences to come.
Sara Morris is currently a graduate student at San Jose State University, CA. studying contemporary art history with a specialization in American ceramic art. Morris was a 2015 Windgate Museum Intern at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and has also written for Ceramics: Art and Perception.
We are thrilled to share news of the extremely popular NCECA Gallery Expo, a featured element of the organization’s 50th annual conference, Mentors, Makers & Milestones, which takes place in Kansas City, at Bartle Hall.
At NCECA’s Gallery Expo, you will find and be able to purchase exceptional finished ware from top galleries across the country.
A public reception where you can even meet many of the artists will open Gallery Expo from 6:30–8:00pm, Tuesday, March 15 in Bartle Hall D.
Gallery Expo hours will continue from 9am–6:00pm Wednesday- Thursday, March 16- March 17 and from 8:30am-4:30pm on Friday March 18. The galleries will host talks by participating artists on Wednesday, March 16.
Galleries participating in the 2016 NCECA Gallery Expo include…
18 HANDS GALLERY, a premier fine ceramics and craft gallery located in the historic Houston Heights District of Houston, Texas. An ever-evolving array of locally, regionally and nationally known artists working in clay, metal and fiber are featured in this gallery, united by fine craftsmanship and uniqueness of vision. The mission of Montana-based RED LODGE CLAY CENTER, is to provide a place for professionally minded ceramic artists to create new work and to share the important of art in our daily lives to both its residents and the general public. Red Lodge Clay Center regularly hosts visiting artist workshops, lectures, demonstrations, gallery exhibitions, and educational programming. Kansas gallery, SPINNING EARTH POTTERY, will feature the work of Susan Filly, Cathy Broski, Justin Lambert, and Danny Meisinger. Limiting the gallery space to four artists ensures a large body of work from each artist. All four artists will participate in the gallery talks on Wednesday, and continue to be present in the gallery space throughout the conference to answer questions or just say hello. As Maryland’s only nonprofit cultural organization dedicated to the ceramic arts, BALTIMORE CLAYWORKS provides essential programs and services to local, national and international artists, both from its campus in northwest Baltimore and in community sites throughout the metropolitan area. LILLSTREET ART CENTER celebrates 40 years of involvement in the ceramics arts in Chicago. This year at NCECA, Lill Street exhibits work highlighting its dynamic past while investigating an exciting future as they continue to show functional and sculptural work by a broad range of ceramics artists, educators, and students in the ceramic arts. Advancement of the ceramic arts is the mission for Minneapolis-based gallery, NORTHERN CLAY CENTER. Its goals are to promote excellence in the work of clay artists, to provide educational opportunities for artists and the community, and to encourage the public’s appreciation and understanding of the ceramic arts. KANSAS CITY URBAN POTTERS is a local collective of studio artists including Chandra DeBuse, Paul Donnelly, Jana Evans, Rain Harris, Meredith Host, Erica Iman, and Alex Watson.
Also see invited artists: Ingrid Bathe, Steve Godfrey, Michael Kline, Forrest Lesch-Middleton, Kari Radasch, and Daniel Ricardo Teran. Based in Philadelphia, THE CLAY STUDIO is a nonprofit educational institution, gallery and studio dedicated to teaching, creating, supporting and promoting the ceramic arts. OBJECTIVE CLAY is a collective of artists who create objects for everyday use. Our website serves as an exhibition space and a platform for sharing stories and collaborative projects. By banding together we expand our individual reach and directly connect with people passionate about clay. Designed within a vintage Airstream trailer, the ARTSTREAM NOMADIC GALLERY, based in Carbondale, Colorado has presented the work by over 75 artists in more than 100 cities since 2002. In the 2016 NCECA Gallery Expo, you will find two exhibitions: Artstream 15th Anniversary Tour: On the Road Again and Artstream 2.0 – Exploring the Digital Landscape, a survey studio clay practice using digital technologies, curated by Del Harrow and Andy Brayman. Works in Artstream 2.0- Exploring the Digital Landscape are for available for purchase and proceeds directly benefit future NCECA programming.
If you’ve been a clayer for a while (descriptive term, “clayer,” courtesy Louis Katz), you have likely heard of the Cone Box Show. An juried exhibition of miniature pots, which would be adjudicated from the actual pieces while still keeping shipping and handling costs down for artist entries. The question of size limitation was easily answered given that in the 70s, when the show originated, the Orton Standard Cone Box, a 3″ x 3″ x 6″ box was ubiquitous in every potter’s studio. Three National Cone Box Shows were mounted biennially in the seventies, until the show’s creator took a hiatus. It was revived in 1994 and since then has become the (still biennial) International Cone Box Show. You can learn more about the history of this exhibition on the ConeBoxShow website.
This year, the 14th International ConeBox Show will be on display at the Hilliard Gallery, just a short distance from the convention center, and part of the Central Shuttle Bus Route (It’s also across the street from Christopher Elbow Chocolate….GO THERE TOO)
As you approach the gallery, you are greeted by work in the window that is definitely not miniature. This is the work of past jurors from the Cone Box show, including Yoshi Ikeda, Nina Hole, Brad Schwieger, Bede Clarke, Steven Hill, Anna Callouri Holcombe, Phil Rogers, Harris Deller, Inge Balch and several other incredible artists.
This year’s exhibition was juried by Inge Balch, Greg Daly and Garth Clark and is a stunning showcase of some of the best work in contemporary ceramics.
But that is not all! In the back room of the gallery is a beautiful show of work by students of Yoshi Ikeda:
And almost as if it was an encore there’s some other cool sculptural art in the loft upstairs and the lounge-area alongside the gallery like this cool bike sculpture that I loved and the interesting sinking ship…..
I found myself holding my breath, eyes wide open, and honestly a bit choked up…completely overwhelmed by the experience of standing amongst about 50 pieces of ceramic art from legends…heroes….icons.
Friday March 5th marked the opening of three blockbuster NCECA shows in one beautiful space. The Leedy Voulkos Art Center is hosting NCECA’s National Student Juried Exhibition, Its Emerging Artists, and a very special, 50th Anniversary Exhibition, “Shapers of the Field,” a show curated by Peter Held and comprised of work from prominent figures in both our organization’s and our field’s history.
I am fortunate to know and even served on the board with a few of these masters – Marge Levy, Jay Lacouture, Anna Callouri Holcombe, and of course, Keith Williams. Others I have known for years – Ken Ferguson, Elaine Henry, and Bill Hunt, add in the category of people I have met in recent years at NCECA conferences, and what remained was art from people I was never fortunate enough to meet…I stood inches from a Maria Martinez pot and I marveled at the real life beauty that I had previously only been able to see in two dimensions in the book by Susan Peterson (and oh yes, Susan Peterson…her work is in this show too). To say this show is breathtaking implies that I was, in fact, able to breathe, which as i stated before, I don’t believe I did, the whole time I was in the room.
In addition to this stunning show of artwork, in the adjacent room, you can see photographs of many of the artists in the show.
Shapers of the Field: NCECA Honors and Fellows represent the vast accomplishments of many leaders in the field that have been bestowed special recognition by NCECA. The exhibition recognizes accomplished artists, educators, and those providing exemplary service to the field. Shapers of the Field reflects the evolution of the ceramic arts over several decades, and includes functional pottery, decorative vessels, and sculpture, incorporating a wide range of technique, concepts, scale, and visual imagery.
Fellows of the Council are individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts and served the Council in significant ways for at least five years. Honorary Members have made an outstanding contribution to the professional development of the ceramic arts field.
Join us in honoring this exceptional individuals at the NCECA reception for this show on Thursday Evening at the Leedy Voulkos Arts Center.
Artists Include: Clayton Bailey, Mary Barringer, Glen Blakley, Joe Bova, Aurore Chabot, Michel Conroy, Val Cushing, Harris Deller, Lenny Dowhie, Mary Jane Edwards, Ken Ferguson, Susan Filley, Leopold Foulem, Don Frith, Susan Harris, Robert Harrison, Dick Hay, Elaine Henry, Wayne Higby, Anna Calluori Holcombe, Curt Hoard, Bill Hunt, Marlene Jack, Jeremy Jernegan, Karen Karnes, Jay Lacouture, Marge Levy, Warren Mackenzie, Don McCance, Richard Notkin, Susan Peterson, Don Reitz, Judith Schwartz, David Shaner, Richard Shaw, Victor Spinski, Jim Melchert, John Stephenson, Susanne Stephenson, Toshiko Takaezu, James Tanner, Robert Turner, Peter Voulkos, Patti Warashina, Bennett Welsh, Keith Williams, Paula Winokur, Robert Winokur.
Tongue-in-cheek sculptures, contemplative video installations, gently pinched pouring vessels, and meticulously assembled baskets – frankly, the offerings from the student population at this year’s NSJE are as surprising as they are wide-ranging in scope. 330 students submitted 1000 images for consideration, and the jurors, Liz Quackenbush and Lee Somers, contemplated every single image over three rounds of elimination. They made a decision early on to jury blindly, insisting on excellence over balanced representation and yet, perhaps unsurprisingly, each student category has a strong showing.
I haven’t seen the work yet in person, but I am very excited to see how the Leedy Voulkos Center has arranged everything when I meet with Liz Quackenbush and Lee Somers on-site to view the work one last time before determining awards. Fortunately, I did have some spies in the area who managed to get some pictures of the opening reception at the Leedy Voulkos Art Center for First Fridays. The installation of the artwork is exceptional! Congratulations to everyone, and I look forward to meeting you at the official NCECA reception on
Thursday, Mar 17, 6-8pm!
About the Jurors:
Liz Quackenbush is Professor of Art at Pennsylvania State University. BFA, University of Colorado,
Boulder; MFA, The School for American Craftsmen at Rochester Institute for Technology. Liz has been
seduced by the exotic nature of Morocco where she has returned four times. Having participated in the
Minnesota Pottery Tour for the past 13 consecutive years, she has learned about the value of pottery and
community. Liz’s commitment to making functional pottery has led to innovative course development
focusing on the ability for functional pottery and delicious food to build culture. Selected engagements:
University of Nebraska, University of Colorado, Cleveland Art Institute, Virginia Commonwealth
University, Chicago Art Institute, Cranbrook.
Lee Somers hails from the Southwest; his formative years spent exploring the mountains and deserts. A traveler,
Lee draws inspiration from experiences living, working, and wandering in a variety of locations. Fascinated with
ceramics since childhood, he earned both his undergraduate and graduate degree in the field at Alfred University
School of Art and Design. Lee has been teaching college level art since 2006, including three years in Beijing
at the China Central Academy of Fine Art. He currently teaches 3D Design at the University of Montevallo
in Montevallo, Alabama. His work in ceramics and mixed-media investigates the landscape as an intersection
of natural and cultural history. Lee’s studio practice incorporates a variety of materials and processes, with
experimentation and chance playing an active role. Most recently, his work was featured in a solo exhibition at
the Jane Hartsook Gallery, Greenwich House Pottery, NY, and in the annual Art in Craft Media exhibition at the
Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY.
Note from Cindy – Yes, I’m the spy…with a couple of my mini spies who are seen in the pictures. It’s a BEAUTIFUL show!