Welcome Back, NCECA Blog Readers, to another episode of “meet the board”. If you’re brand new to following the NCECA Blog, you may want to check out the previous board bio on Kansas City On-site, Paul Donnelly. Today, I am delighted to tell you a little more about NCECA’s Treasurer, Lee Burningham. I first met Lee almost 6 years ago, when I was running for Director-at-Large, and he was running for the then Secretary/Treasurer position (back then that role was filled by a single person!!!) Immediately after the election, the bylaw change to separate those roles was also approved and Lee chose to fill the role of Treasurer. He served a three year term and then was re-elected to a second term. Finally, he is nearing the end of his time on the board as Treasurer. I certainly have enjoyed not only his financial expertise, but also his love of, devotion to and deep history within this organization….also his hugs…Lee gives some of the BEST hugs! His big personality will certainly be missed on our board next year! Of course,I will also take this opportunity to remind everyone that if you are interested in serving the board and following in Lee’s footsteps, the deadline for NCECA Board applications was extended to September 23rd…(and it’s ok if you wear smaller shoes) Now, on to Lee…
Where do you currently live/work?
I have spent the last two months frantically moving from my last pipeline project in SE Iowa back to my new home in Monticello, in SE Utah. Also moving out of, cleaning, and prepping for sale my former residence and pottery studio in northern Utah. Only 15000+ miles in the last two months hauling load after load of studio and household goods from one end of the state to the other, 400+ miles each way. I now live in Monticello, Utah, middle of all the best scenery and national parks in the US. I am settling in to a new residence, a 100 year old hotel on the National Historic Register, and beginning to shuffle through the hodge-podge mess created by moving and starting to set up the kilns, the studio, and begin playing in clay again.
What do you like most about your job? OR What do you like most about where you live?
Give me a building project, a renovation project, throw in some pottery time, building a new studio and set it all in the middle of the best and most diverse scenery in the entire world and I’m a happy camper. Due to the drop in oil prices and a general slow down in pipeline activity, I am unemployed as a Right of Way land agent. It only means I am a full-time Colleen employee with a long list of honey-do’s for our preparation for a 100 year anniversary celebration for the Hyland Hotel next July. Come join the celebration! I’m enjoying everything about working on this historic home except for the bruises and lumps on my head from running into very low hanging pipes and beams in the short basement.
The things I like best about where I live are way too numerous to mention individually. I could briefly mention the central location to more national parks and exotic scenery than anywhere else on earth. Small town friendliness. Great weather. Best golf course in several surrounding states. Destination locations like Moab, Durango, Telluride only a short drive away. You would have to take some serious time to catalog everything possible to see and do within two hours drive time of Monticello. Lots of gallery space to fill with pottery in Moab!
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in northern Utah, the Salt Lake City area. The family moved out to a farm SE of Salt Lake while I was beginning my junior year in high school. I had been briefly introduced to clay while in Holladay but dove into pottery with enthusiasm out in Sandy. It has contaminated my life ever since! LOL
What was your childhood nickname?
Which one? Little Man because I looked and acted so grown up while still a very young child? Leaping Lee because of my jumping ability on the basketball court blocking shots and dunking the ball?
How did you first find out about NCECA?
John Neely and the ceramics program at USU, Logan, Utah, introduced me to NCECA while I was taking graduate classes while on sabbatical. It sounded interesting and entertaining. How little did I realize how much it would influence my teaching, my production, and my career paths.
Tell me a story about your first conference (including city and/or year).
I heard all the stories about NCECA from the other students and John Neely after they returned from NCECA. It fired up my enthusiasm to attend the next year after I was once again in a classroom setting in Monticello, Utah. I took a student along with me to the conference in Tempe , Arizona and we were both totally enthralled with the excitement, the energy, and the camaraderie of the conference. It was a life changing experience for both me and my high school student. He has commented more than once over the years about the road trip to Tempe to hang out with all those crazy potters! It provided wonderful experiences for me as a teacher and for Richey as a student that set the tone for me bringing literally hundreds of students to NCECA over the past 25 years.
What’s your favourite color?
Good question! Are we talking pots, clothes, eye color, skies, or vegetation? In the US or, based on the spelling, any of the former British Empire colonies or homelands? Black is good. Shino ought to be its own color universe. Anything with wood ash.
What or who inspired you to get involved more deeply in the organization, and what was your “entry point”to the board?
There was a point in time when Bob Feder, Leah Schlief and myself were told that NCECA is a member driven organization and if we really wanted a k-12 presence at NCECA then we ought to make it happen ourselves. We did. We were told later to go play in our own sandbox and stay away from the real potters, artists, and suppliers and sponsors of NCECA. We dug in our heels and we didn’t go away.
My entry point into considering running for and participating as a member of the NCECA Board was the multiple requests by members of NCECA that recognized the work that had been accomplished by Bob Feder, Leah Schlief and myself for the National K-12 Ceramics Exhibition Foundation and tap some of that energy and focus into Board service during a time of Board turmoil and divisiveness. Multiple positions came available at the same time. I ran for Secretary Treasurer with the thought I would be able to use my background and skills set to make the most difference from this position. I ran from the floor, not as a Board recommended candidate, nominated by Val Cushing, and won the election against the Board nominee. I hope my aspirations of making a difference have been realized at least in part.
Describe your position with NCECA
I am the Treasurer of NCECA. In the years before Josh Green was hired as the Executive Director, my position largely entailed the development and oversight of a cohesive and coherent annual budget that funded the annual conference as well as the ancillary programs sponsored by NCECA. I was also the direct oversight officer of the NCECA investments and responsible for investment strategies and fund management with the very capable help of Helen Anderson. Members of the Board can remember the hours, days and weeks spent in phone calls to bring the budget together the first two years of my tenure.
Josh Green as Executive Director has lightened the Treasurer load considerably. The budget process begun by Helen Anderson and myself has been tweaked and improved to a fine tuned process overseen on a continuing basis by Josh Green and maintained by Helen Anderson. My primary duties now consist of reviewing the monthly financials, following the market as impacting the investment notes, and maintaining the financial growth and stability of NCECA through regularly scheduled Finance committee conference calls and occasional personal calls to Catherine Clark, the Merrill Lynch financial advisor supervising the NCECA investment accounts.
Knowing and understanding the budget process is a must for this position. Good grasp of numbers and investment strategies is highly recommended. Previous experience as a budget developer and manager is a tremendous step in the right direction. Knowledge of tax law relating to foundations and non-profits is a distinct advantage. Then be prepared for working with highly motivated individuals in an exciting arena including every aspect of the ceramic arts!
What’s your favourite thing about being on the board?
I absolutely love the association with the entire NCECA membership, knowing I am working for the good of the members, the good of ceramics throughout the world, increasing the available education and exposure to ceramics, and paying back a little of the wonderful opportunities made available to me through NCECA in the past.
What’s your favorite part of your specific position?
The interaction with everyone at the annual conferences is my favorite part of this position. Knowing I helped make each conference come to fruition.
Who are some of your mentors, and how have they shaped you as a person/artist? (both in and out of the organization/field)
The man that hired me for my first public schools teaching position, half day art, half day math, Dale B. Maughan, back in 1980 told me to take the supposed art program at Monticello High School and turn it into a “real ART program”. Dale then provided the necessary funding to get it started and then stood back to let it grow. Mr Dale B. Maughan, just recently deceased, was the catalyst behind many successful teachers by providing a vision to accomplish, the means and basis to begin, and then getting out of the way to see the goal unfold.
Val Cushing was a tremendous influence long before I ever set eyes on the man. His book, his teaching outline, his personal gift to education has been tremendously influential in my teaching career as a pottery teacher.
Thanos Johnson. Greek potter. Served with the 10th Mountain Division. Marin College pottery professor. Heavily influenced by his time with Shoji Hamada in the 1970’s. The Oriental aesthetic was brought home to me and my entire pottery program when Thanos began to utilize my high school students as summer apprentices at his summer studio in Marble, Colorado beginning in the mid 1990’s.
Otto and Vivika Heino. The Heino’s invited me to bring eleven of my students to visit and assist at their April sale in the early 1990’s. The opportunity to sit, talk, share pottery ideas with the students and both Otto and Vivika was phenomenal. Working the sale during the days and early evenings opened up to discussion around the dinner table after the gates were closed.The visit by the Grande Dame of Ceramics herself, Beatrice Wood, was icing on the cake for all of us.
Tell me about your work as an artist.
My work in clay varies from the purely functional through to the abstracted and sculptural. Too eclectic to fit neatly into any pigeonhole in my life and in my artistry.
What’s your favourite ice cream flavor?
Anything chocolate with nuts in it and a healthy serving of rainbow sherbet over the top.
If you were a glaze, which one would you be and why?
I would be a large bucket of Malcolm Davis’ Carbon Trap Shino!!!!! I love the variability. The colors, the depth of color and the tremendous range of effects all change under different atmospheric conditions. Same with different glaze thicknesses, proximity to the flames, and the reactions to any and all other glazes layered over or under the shino glaze. The variability of Malcolm’s glaze reflects well the variability and range of interests and activities found in my own life.
What are a few of your hobbies?
Making pottery and teaching ceramics skills to “newbies”.