Remembering Doug Baldwin: 1939 – 2018

Remembering Doug Baldwin: 1939 – 2018

Doug Baldwin. Our Doug. Our Duck Man. How can it be that there will be no more red clay ducks in falling from his fingertips? Who will tell the stories of how artists and other peculiar humans behave in all kinds of situations through the metaphor of a few hundred ducks, or a few thousand ducks? Or maybe a million ducks? Doug, you left us too soon with the present stories of our time still needing your narrative. 

Doug’s warmth, humor and keen awareness of the human condition gave voice to so many of us again and again as ducks large, small and in multitudes acted out our experiences.  His Great Duck Pottery School Series speaks to students and makers who have had a life in ceramics, portraying our first sad attempts at throwing bowls and firing kilns. We are able to laugh at ourselves, our teachers and  our colleagues with him, a warm and gentle laugh, a knowing chuckle. We are able to enjoy sports and games not as static sculptural statements, but as immediately engaged participants, and enjoying the familiarity and foibles of ourselves and our fellow humans, even if we are created by Doug Baldwin as just ducks.

Doug was wholeheartedly committed to the studio, making art every day, making the ducks and their environments all the time. But the making was not a solitary pursuit for Doug; it was, like the finished pieces, a shared pursuit.  And sharing that joy of making infused Doug’s life and interactions with everyone he touched. Here in Baltimore, Doug cheerfully, readily, shared the resources, his professional networks and the students of Maryland Institute College of Art with Baltimore Clayworks and scores of other artists and organizations.  He connected institutions by sending  interns to work and learn in community settings. He held gatherings in his home for artists to show images and talk about their work.  Doug not only created communities of ducks, he created communities of artists and students. national and international, united by clay.

Volker Schoenfliess, a Baltimore Clayworks co-founder, sculptor, and head of ceramics at Baltimore School for the Arts remembers, ”He was a kind and quirky influence. I never had him as an instructor, but met him through the clay circuit. I remember the events he held at his Bolton Hill home, and once had the honor of being invited to give a slide presentation of my work there. Thank you Doug.”

A particularly significant collaboration took place in 1992  when three Baltimore institutions-Maryland Institute, Baltimore Clayworks and the Contemporary Museum- joined forces to site Jimmy Clark’s brilliantly curated “Contemporary East European Ceramics” in the former St. Stanislaus Convent.  Doug had travelled extensively in Eastern Europe, and took a special  interest in hosting artists Jindra Vikova (Czech Republic) and Czelaw Podlesny (Poland), involving them with Baltimore’s communities and Maryland Institute students.  This phenomenal exhibition and its programs with the artists were visited by more than 2,500 individuals over a six week period. One Saturday evening Doug called the organizers to let us know that Jindra was hosting a breakfast the next morning in her apartment, and that we must come. When we arrived, we found a beaming Doug seated with Jindra and her husband, Pavel Banka, at the kitchen table with only some paper plates and plastic cups, a  large Braunsweiger sausage, a knife  and a bottle of Jim Beam.  Jindra announced, “We are having a little Viskey Brunch.” Doug with a benevolent smile proudly said, “This was all her idea.” And we joined in!

Encouraging people to move forward with an individual vision, without judgement but with an inclusive spirit was a hallmark of Doug’s teaching and professional interactions. Whether preparing to attend NCECA, frequently in the company of Dennis Parks and Verne Funk, and finding ways to get students to the conference, collaborating on an exhibition with Baltimore Clayworks, or teaching a room full of undergraduate first- time clay students, Doug’s attitude and his stance was to give things a try and see what happens. He would say about most things – “don’t worry too much about technique”.  

Ron Lang, Doug’s colleague and co-conspirator in clay at Maryland Institute framed it this way,  “ He was an inspirational muse for four decades of devoted students at MICA. Doug’s teaching made space for the students to really be themselves and in doing so, he gave them permission to be more authentic and to take bigger risks.”

Kim Robledo, now a program director at Cooper-Hewitt, the Smithsonian’s design museum in New York, says of her undergraduate years (1991-95) as a ceramics major with Doug, “ Doug always encouraged the possible. I guess when a man spends his clay career making thousands of ducks, he has the power to make you believe there is no idea that clay cannot explore. I thank Doug for giving me this gift as an artist. I also thank him for showing me how to properly eat a Maryland crab.”

Anthony Stellachio, one of Doug’s students and the newly minted Director of Studio Potter and a member of  the  International Academy of Ceramics,  credits Doug with being a major career influence. He says, “Doug Baldwin is one of those people whom I think about and marvel at how my life might have been different without him. He connected me to Eastern Europe, a favorite haunt of his, and that has affected – even defined – my personal and professional life even today.” 

“Doug didn’t do that because he was a larger than life personality who singled me out for my potential and decided to change my life. No, Doug was a humble and quiet man with a generous spirit. He believed in the potential of all of his students, and he did anything he could for them.  Well, he did everything he could for them except give us assignments. In fact, the only instruction he ever gave us as sophomores was to “fill up the table” with work. Doug trusted us, and he thought of us as artists. God bless him, some of us still are. 

Regardless of the influence that Doug had on his students at Maryland Institute and artists here in Baltimore, Doug longed to be in his native Montana and always planned to retire there.  He did just that in 2004, moving close to his daughter Tracy and his grandchildren. That was where he felt grounded and alive. Doug was extremely productive in Montana and made numerous duck- populated pieces about “these Montana woodfiring potters”. He became involved with film and video, using this work as content. Once he called me to talk about The Clay Studio of Missoula, where he found a warm and welcoming community of like-minded makers who were down to earth and accepting. He was clearly at home in Missoula. 

Doug and his ducks will forever remain a singular artistic legacy in the field of ceramics. But more than the actual physical genius of the work he leaves in the world, for those of us who knew and loved him, he leaves behind a legacy of all that is authentic, good and cherished in clay: a lifelong commitment to the studio, inspired and intentional teaching, and a genuine, unselfish impulse to advance the ceramic well being of others. Doug Baldwin set the bar much higher in his time among us. 

December 15, 2018

Deborah Bedwell, ceramic artist

Founding Executive Director, Baltimore Clayworks

Past –President, NCECA (2012-2017)

2016 Emerging Artist Tom Jaszczak

2016 Emerging Artist Tom Jaszczak

Tom Jaszczak – Artist Interview

 

What is the biggest change in your work or life since your emerging artist talk?

I don’t know that I have made a major change in my work since my emerging artist talk.  Things just keep rolling forward right now, I would like to make a momentous change soon and have ideas that I am putting on the back burner.  Right now, and probably for the first time in my life, my family is in the driver’s seat and my work is second.  I have a one year old and am looking to buy a house/studio.  So, the most important thing is setting the three of us up to succeed since we live off the sales of my pottery.  I have made a lot of new bisque mold trays, some drape molded pots, a new white and black surface, a few new surface solutions like using a vinyl cutter to cut shapes and for some reason I have gotten back to making teapots.

 

How would you describe yourself? How would your friends/family describe you?

I am steady, determined and have a dark sense of humor.  My wife would probably say I am steady, willful, maybe stubborn and most important to our relationship is to be funny/goofy.

 

When were you first introduced to ceramics and by whom?

I was lucky enough to get an education in MN where public school generally has a lot to offer.  Including having a high school teacher who predominantly taught ceramics, Jon Holtz. He was a Randy Johnston student and I took all the ceramics electives offered in school.  We also were fortunate to take field trips to the Northern Clay Center, the Weisman, Walker and Minneapolis Institute of Art.  These places all were informative, especially NCC. Later I would take ceramics as an elective in college and slowly it willed me into pursuing it full time.

 

What do you listen to while you work?

I listen to music, podcasts and sports.  The podcasts I enjoy most are Bill Maher, Democracy Now, Ear hustle and anything Radiolab produces.  My favorite thing to have on in the studio is any Minnesota sports team, I love sports in the studio.  There is nothing better when I need to work late then a baseball game, a beer and a few pots to trim.  I wish I was a better music fan, but I tend to just let pandora do the choosing.  I just don’t have time do research all the things I wish I could.

 

What kind of creative patterns, routine or rituals do you have?

For being a self-employed artist, I am very routine oriented.  On a day to day basis I tend to work 8am to 8pm and I use a making list to give myself goals and fill the kiln efficiently.  I have developed a making cycle where I have wet working days for the first 15 days of the month.  I bisque, decorate, glaze, fire and clean pots the second half of the month.  Whatever time is left at the end of the month is my free time (usually 2-5 days).  This seems to be the right amount of time to leave me wanting more of all parts of the process and allows for two kiln loads of work.

 

What informs your work?

A lot of things.  I share a studio with my wife (Maggie Jaszczak) and that is always informing my work. We steal ideas from each other frequently.  Last year I started looking at minimal tattoos and that has come into play.  A lot of graphics come into my work intuitively. Contemporary potters that inform my work are Mark Pharis, Michael Simon, Randy Johnston and Lucie Rie.  I have mostly focused on contemporary pottery and have not dug into historical pots.  One reason is I had such great pottery around me in Minnesota to handle it had to make its way into my work.  It also works for me to be ignorant, I don’t spend much time looking on social media or in books.  It keeps me feeling my work is authentic and there is still so much to inform me with those pots.

http://tomjaszczak.com

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday

Over the past three years, you have may have contributed to NCECA’s rising conference registration numbers or visited the more than 100 exhibitions surrounding the conference expanding awareness of thousands of artists working in clay. Through and beyond each year’s conference, NCECA advances research and creates connections with people to ignite conversations about clay, teaching, and learning.

Through residency opportunities, fellowships, mentorship, and volunteer experiences NCECA connects artists to one another and to the communities and experiences that support their continued growth. From our beginnings at early convenings that drew in around 500 people, primarily university professors, to recent conferences hosting more than 6,000 lovers of clay, NCECA’s community has changed and expanded. We include professional and aspiring potters; museum staff, arts writers and scholars, collectors, and gallery owners; educators and students at every level; community arts centers and cooperative studios with resident and teaching artists; manufacturers, distributors, and publishers; and, now more frequently, family members of these varied constituents. NCECA has evolved as a leader in the ceramic art movement. Since 2015, NCECA has made participation in a first conference more accessible to artists of underrepresented communities through Multicultural Fellowships that support conference registration and membership, as well as costs associated with travel and lodging.

Please consider being an advocate for clay, creation, and connection through a gift to NCECA’s annual campaign by clicking DONATE NOW. Every amount counts towards NCECA’s annual fundraising goal. Even a very modest donation can support a day-pass scholarship for a high school student or educator in the conference region. We know a lot of organizations are competing for your attention this time of year. Dollars we raise as part of our annual campaign directly support NCECA’s operations including programming for youth, and direct support to artists and other conference presenters. We don’t think we could possibly communicate our impact better than 2015 NCECA Multicultural Fellowship recipient Yinka Orafidiya when she shares, “The NCECA conference has given me opportunities to be in the right place at the right time and participate in thoughtful conversations.”

NCECA’s leadership includes dedicated volunteers who advocate for the interests of those working in the field as artists, educators, students, and organizational and business leaders. Ceramic art today is an increasingly diverse platform of creative expression, with deep connections to craft, fine art, and the educational communities that contribute to their sustainability. We seek to acknowledge these contexts with our choice of artists, programs, venues, and community partners. Histories of place and dedication to material and tactile knowledge ground NCECA’s mission and mandate. We invite you to learn more about Yinka’s story here.

In 2019, NCECA returns to Minneapolis, Minnesota for Claytopia, our 53rd annual conference. We hope you will join us to explore and learn from a region that has contributed so significantly to ceramic art’s creative possibilities and influences over the past half century.

 

2016 Emerging Artist Sean O’Connell

2016 Emerging Artist Sean O’Connell

Sean O’Connell – Artist Interview

 

How would you describe yourself?

I would say that I am inquisitive, detail obsessed, and a bit of a control-freak, but also easy-going with most other things . . . and I try as hard as I can to be an engaged, conscientious human-being.

 

When were you first introduced to ceramics and by whom?

I was in my Junior year at the Kansas City Art Institute in the sculpture program and had decided to enroll in the ceramics elective course taught by an artist named Karl McDade. I recollect barley passing Karl’s class with a low ‘C’, but the feel and process of the material stuck with me. In my Senior year I opted to do an independent study in the Ceramics Dept. with Cary Esser and was supported in my decision by my Sculpture Prof. Jim Leedy. Those events were the beginning of my ceramics career, but the thing that really solidified my continued interest in ceramics was after I’d finished undergrad and had taken up a work-exchange for the KC Clay Guild . . mopping floors in exchange for studio space. I spent a year there working and learning and becoming enamored with making functional pottery. After so many years in school and focusing on conceptual art, I was mentally exhausted and found making pots to be the perfect remedy . . . I believe at the time I thought, “oh . . . this is so much easier than making sculpture.”. Of course, that was a naïve and uninformed perception of pottery at the time, however that led to many years of intense investigation. Over time my interest deepened, the nuances of pottery forms began to take on more meaning and context and I began to recognize the complexities and challenges of making functional pottery.

 

Who are your ceramic influences?

I look at and study ceramic traditions form all over the world, but some specific examples of historical ceramics include 8th-12thcen. Islamic pottery, as well as Japanese, Korean, and Early American ceramic traditions. I am intensely interested in “Cross-Road” cultures . . those that have been at the intersections of great empires’ trade routes and conflicts.

There are also so many wonderful modern & contemporary ceramic artists that I find influential: Jun Kaneko, Ron Nagle, Akio Takamori, Julia Galloway, Robert Turner, Linda Christianson, Bruce Cochran, Rosanjin Kitaoji, to name a few, but also my peers . . . the people I work with and whose work I experience daily.

 

Who are your personal mentors?

I would consider Julia Galloway to be a personal mentor. She was my professor during Graduate School and really took me under her wing. Julia opened a lot of doors for me over the years too; either through her direct advocacy or through the many lessons I learned in her presence. To this day, Julia and I stay in touch and see each other fairly frequently. I continue to rely on her as someone who I can bounce ideas off of, get professional advice, or just lean on a little when things aren’t so great in my life.

I would also like to mention Rick Hirsch, he was one of my other graduate professors and really opened my eyes to the importance of having a personal philosophy to guide ones’ decisions as an artist. He believes in standards and an uncompromising commitment to making . . . this lesson has taken longer to sink-in, but I think its been one of the more important lessons I’ve learned over time.

 

What does “being creative” mean to you?

‘Diligence’ I suppose . . . I don’t have a lot of faith in the idea that creativity is the product of inherent talent as much as I believe one’s creativity, like anything else is learned and strengthened through use . . . the 10,000 hour rule definitely applies! So ‘being creative’ for me is about flexing those muscles by going and working in my studio day after day. It can be a very slow uphill battle sometimes, and other times it flows freely.

 

Can you describe the time when you first realized that creating was something you absolutely had to do?

I don’t think I frame it in terms of “have to do” . . at least not strictly in terms of being a ceramic artist. As I was growing up in my late teens and into adult-hood I felt like I brushed past numerous potential creative professional career paths. I’ve had a long-time interest in culinary arts as well as music. In all honesty, I went to art school as an undergrad cause I didn’t know what else to do and a good friend of mine was going to the Kansas City Art Institute. It turned out to be a good choice, but I’m not convinced it was the only choice I could’ve made.

 

What kind of creative patterns, routine or rituals do you have?

I’m not one for ritual, but I definitely have a rhythm to my studio practice. It is largely a result of the tension between my desire for downtime and the necessities of deadlines. I will make work furiously for a month or two, exhaust myself and then take too much time off before the next deadline and have to scramble all over again. I don’t think its laziness or lack of motivation on my part, its just that I really cherish my free-time and like to do a lot of things outside of the studio . .  . Knitting, hiking, painting, creative research, etc. this is in addition to all of the other normal day-to-day things that can get pushed aside until they pile up and need to be dealt with . . . paying bills, responding to emails, updating my website, house-hold chores, taking care of my health, etc.

On the more positive and proactive side of things, I suppose I have a few patterns that exist to help my work grow and change over time. In every round of studio work I make new pieces with new patterns, these don’t always make it out to the world, but they fuel change and new ideas. I also have a longer-term pattern of making some major changes to my work every 5+ years or so . . I’m currently on the cusp of one of these changes. They generally include a switch in clay body, firing temp and atmosphere, as well as decorative motifs. However there is a sensibility that runs through each body of work, connecting it to the whole over a period of time.

 

Which other creative medium would you like to pursue?

As I mentioned I have a lot of interest in Culinary art and music. However, I prefer that they remain non-professional endeavors. I think that way they are a creative refuge and don’t become stressful or tedious the way my day-to-day ceramics job can. I also do a decent amount of painting and drawing . . . though the amount of time I have to commit to 2-D work fluctuates a lot during the year. I think the painting has some very direct correlations to my surface work on pottery, and of course, cooking goes hand-in-hand with pots and tableware.

 

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

I follow my nose . . . meaning my intuition. This can be re-enforced with feedback from peers about ‘what is’, or, ‘is not’ working in a piece, but as the authors of our own work, we are responsible for that final edit, or that final addition. Trial and error is the simultaneous enemy and ally of the artist. I don’t know of any other way of arriving at a conclusion than failing multiple times to reach that conclusion and refine the approach, or idea, or the process needed to get there. And ‘there’ is different for everyone . . . there’s no universal formula or recipe for a successful piece of art. A good analogy is the image of a horizon . . . the edge of the horizon is the desired artistic/aesthetic/creative solution. Of course . . as you approach, it always recedes . . so a final answer or solution is an illusion, but there’s a lot to discover between you and the horizon.

 

What informs your work?

As mentioned earlier I look at a lot of historical ceramic work, but I also find its useful to look outside of the field and find sources that can inform your work without becoming self-referential (as in the case of making pots and only looking at pots to make those pots) Fiber art is a huge source of inspiration for me, specifically Japanese, African, and central Asian fiber traditions. I also look at architecture and its relationship to table-top forms as well as natural phenomena like mountains, valleys, and how can these concepts all interweave or inform one another. Listening to music gives me a sense of emotional content to what I make . . for instance, I ask myself the question, “what does that song look like if it were solid?” “How would be come form?” These questions are not meant to necessarily bring about a concrete facsimile in any of my pots, but simply to understand what the content of an object is beyond its superficial appearances.

 

What’s the best advice you ever had about how to be creative?

Originality is only a by-product of long hours of copying, digesting, and investigating the links between what we love and what we make.

 

What do you hope to impart to other emerging or “pre-emerging” artists?

Don’t be in a rush to achieve notoriety. I think its ok to have that as one of your goals, but if its is a focus too early in your career you can easily get stuck in a career rut where you will be reluctant to take risks or step away from formulaic solutions.

 

What do you listen to while you work?

Music: Pretty eclectic  . ..  indie, world music, blues, jazz, just about anything . .  also podcasts.  . particularly History podcasts (I particularly like Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History)

 

How do you know when a piece you are working on is “done”?

mmmm . . . sometimes I have a really clear agenda, as in the case of making multiples with a pattern/deco that I’m familiar with . .. other times when I’m working in less-explored territory I suppose I have a developed sense of intuitive reflexes . . for instance ..  ‘it looks right” is a common thing I will tell myself to indicate its done. Or, sometimes I’m wrong and I go too far or not far enough. That’s not always evident at the time either . ..  that assessment can come after a day out of the studio, after a firing, or even years later!

 

Tell us something about yourself that most people do not already know

I began my art/craft career as an apprenticed silversmith. I worked in jewelry and metals for three years prior to starting my BFA in sculpture.

 

http://seanoconnellpottery.com

 

2017 Emerging Artist Brooks Oliver

2017 Emerging Artist Brooks Oliver

Brooks Oliver – Artist Interview

 

How would you describe yourself?

I hope they would say I was funny.  I think they would most likely say that I was a very passionate and friendly person with an ability to relate to people.

 

 When were you first introduced to ceramics and by whom?

I was first introduced to ceramics in high school by my high school teacher, Raymond Ochs, who I still talk to regularly.  Raymond first “gave me the ceramics bug”, but I really discovered my passion for ceramics in college at Southern Methodist University with Peter Beasecker.  Peter was the person who gave me the courage to switch my majors from Mechanical Engineering (that I studied for 3 years) to ceramics.  I am forever grateful to Peter for giving me the confidence and courage to do that as it changed my life in countless ways.

 

What are your influences? Who are your mentors?

I am so extremely lucky to have such amazing mentors!  They are Peter Beasecker, Shannon Goff, Tom Lauerman, Chris Staley, Liz Quackenbush, and Klein Rieds. My biggest influences are Anish Kapoor and contemporary furniture and accessory designs.

 

What does “being creative” mean to you?

Creativity in my mind is the ability to play, taking risks, and not being afraid to fail.

 

What kind of creative patterns, routine or rituals do you have?

I am a creature of habit.  I rely on my process to guide me and help me play. Chis Staley always used to say that “process saves us from the poverty of our intentions” and I full heartily believe that.  I fall into my routine within my studio, and I find comfort in that routine.  Once I am comfortable, I start taking risks and start playing – and that’s when the fun starts.  I find that this usually happens late at night after a full day.  In regards to routines, I only wear sandals in the studio and ALWAYS have music playing in the studio which often leads to dancing as nothing makes me more confident than dancing.

 

What else are you interested in outside of your studio practice?

Growing up as an amateur magician since adolescence I have always been fascinated by illusions and love when the eye is tricked and the mind is boggled. I have identified three crucial aspects to creating a successful illusion; to make the viewer question their assumptions, to construct a context around how the viewer perceives what is happening, and to generate a moment where belief is suspended. Like a parlor magician in a tuxedo or an illusionist on stage with a bedazzled cape with flashy lights, within my studio work, I set a stage and construct contexts around my forms. While they often tend to lean towards the dressy tuxedo side, my forms are often displayed in ways that provoke further inquiry regarding their performance and the anticipated environments where they are intended to reside.

 

Please tell us more about your artwork:

I use the universality and familiarity of the ceramic vessel as a means to approach the work, however I frequently attempt to alter the viewer’s preconceived notions of the vessel by disrupting and challenging expected functionality or by creating a conscious function. Just as a magician performing a magic trick, I ask the viewer to reinterpret the familiar and question their assumptions through forms that present multiple inquiries regarding their use. I want the viewer to examine various aspects of the vessel’s utility and question would I use this; when would I use this; how would I use this, and for what occasions? I strive to evoke ideas of functionality in my forms that frequently can be put to multiple uses, with some ambiguity as to which use is preferred. While not meant for everyday use, but rather special presentation and show, many of my works can be used functionally or simply maintain elegance as sculptural works.

http://brooksoliver.com

2018 Emerging Artist Sara Parent-Ramos

2018 Emerging Artist Sara Parent-Ramos

Sara Parent-Ramos: Being An Emerging Artist

“My work originates out of a cyclical process of accumulation and synthesis. I make sense of information first by arranging the objects I create and then assigning them a meaning through organization.  I then obscure the categories I have created through recombination, which enables me to endlessly play with the objects’ associative meanings. I take pleasure in the transition from reduction to synthesis and back again.  This journey enables me to appreciate the micro and macro simultaneously, reaching an intuitive understanding of the whole work as well as its component parts.

I am also interested in creating visual and physical manifestations of the rules, scaffolds and supports that underpin human existence. I see a direct allegorical relationship between the intimate scenarios I create and the biological, social and psychological processes that are the invisible scaffolding supporting human functioning.

Being an NCECA Emerging Artist has been an amazing and energizing experience, a time of personal artistic reflection and connection with others. I feel so fortunate to have had mentors in the field of ceramics who have shared their thoughts and time over the years. These mentors not only have provided feedback on my work and process, they have helped me navigate life as an artist, and have been my advocates. Thank you to Alice Robrish, Syd Carpenter, Kukuli Velarde, Richard Burkett, Joanne Hayakawa and Anne Currier. A particular shout out to Andrea Gill, who has encouraged and prodded in equal measure and provided feedback on the intricacies of being a women, mother and artist.

I have been asked to share the best advice I have been given about how to be creative. Here it is: being an artist is a marathon not a sprint. Be excited by what you are doing. Find/create community.”

 

 

https://www.saraparentramos.com