Posted by Amanda Barr

Let’s be honest, getting to the annual NCECA conference costs money, as do any kind of professional development opportunities. Many of us budget for it every year, others apply for grants and scholarships, some are fortunate enough to be sponsored by work or schools. A lot of attendees have been holding fundraising efforts, both as groups and individuals. I’ve seen these range from selling pots on Facebook and Etsy to Kickstarter campaigns and bake sales. One school asked for artists to donate pieces of art for auction to raise money for their students, who had work in the K-12 show, to attend. It’s an opportunity to get creative, and to involve the community, friends and family.  All of this furthers the mission of NCECA–education.

Coinciding with the opening of Lauren Mabry’s solo show at the Belger Crane Yard Gallery, the current Red Star resident ceramic artists presented their fundraiser, Sip Shop. I took some time to speak to the residents involved about how it worked.
1512361_10202959344121850_1102874812_nThe idea for Sip Shop came from resident Brice Dyer’s stint at St. Pete Clay in Florida, where Lydia Johnson hosted the Grown Up Lemonade Stand fundraiser. The idea was for all of the residents to create cups for sale, both online and at the event. Patrons who purchased their cups and attended theopening, also received a free adult beverage in their new cup.

In creating Sip Shop, the residents worked together, their first joint assignment. Each10931344_10152551432375986_1541265389733824310_n was assigned a specific task– logistics, setting up the Etsy shop, photography,
bartending, graphic design, etc. Everyone
was responsible for helping to market the sale on their own social media feeds, though they created a timeline as not to overwhelm followers.

Red Star Studio Manager Tommy Frank, having recently attended Arrowmont
School of Arts and Crafts first annual “Pentaculum” event, donated multiple collaborative cups he created with other artists during the week-long residency. Belger and Red Star were incredibly supportive of the endeavor, giving use of gallery space, helping with setup and displays. Brice Dyer says Sip Shop would not have been possible without their help.

In addition to allowing residents to raise funds for professional development opportunities, such as attending the 2015 NCECA conference, fundraiser benefits were plentiful:

  • * the experience helped the residents bond;
  • * residents worked with the gallery and gained experience inmany  aspects of putting on an exhibition;
  • * residents networked with other artists in creating “collectorspacks,” sets of cups that included a cup made by each resident andone made by an established artist who was invited by a resident;
  • * the experience generated other ideas for working with the local community, including an upcoming collaboration with Tommy Frank to decorate clay “piggy” and “cow” banks to sell and raise money for scholarships to send children to Red Star’s summer art camps;
  • * everyone had a lot of fun;
  • * all worked together for the common good

Resident Catie Miller said her favorite part of creating Sip Shop was being pushed to create new work. She worked on a new design of cups that was exclusive to Sip Shop. Jamie Bates Slone, normally a sculptor, got to explore functional ware, and particularly enjoyed learning to set up a live event in the gallery.

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(Left to right: Jamie Bates Slone, Maura Wright, Catie Miller)

As an attendee, I can say that Sip Shop was a splash. It was well set up, smoothly run, and quite a bit of fun. From speaking to all the participants, I can say that this is exactly the type of activity that programs should encourage, as the relationships formed between the residents and the lessons learned from the experience have already made their time at Red Star a success. Community is key in any group environment, and community will enhance the work and experience of these residents.

Residents: Jamie Bates Slone, Catie Miller, Maura Wright, Brice Dyer, and Lea Griggs.


The follow-up: I talked to the residents several months after Sip Shop to find out how they felt about it. Here’s what they had to say.


Catie Miller: “This is really exciting. The Sip Shop was put in place as a professional development fundraiser. This left it open to the residents to use the money to attend NCECA and other conferences, and participate in other residencies. Each of us made $500 after expenses. We sold out of nearly all the cups. I’m using the money to buy a used kiln and set up a home studio after my residency ends in June. Following the Sip Shop the residents are working collaboratively with Tommy Frank to design “piggy”or rather “cow” banks as a scholarship fundraiser for Red Star Studios summer art camp. Next year I think we will make more cups (we each made 20 this year), have Red Star resident alumni involvement, as well as the visiting artist collector packs. Overall, a great experience and reaction from the public.”

Brice Dyer: “The Sip Shop Event was definitely a success, we were able to raise money for professional development (I am going to Watershed this summer and Arrowmont in the fall) as well as work together as a group of residents and build even more camaraderie. The support we saw from locals as well as the greater clay community was more than we had anticipated and we could not have been happier with the outcome. In the future I think we will need to make a few more cups as well as enlist the help of friends of Red Star.”

Jamie Bates Slone: “This experience really brought us closer as a group. It not only helped us monetarily, but it also aided us in communicating for future events and studio issues.”

Conclusion? Make more cups.  It was a huge success for the residents monetarily, professionally, and boosted camaraderie.

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What’s happening with ceramic artists in your community? If you are involved in creative collaborations that generate resources for professional development for artists and would like to share your experiences, NCECA would love to hear from you. Write to communications@nceca.net with your stories and you could be featured here!

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