“My pottery combines classic wheel thrown shapes with various surface decorating techniques. I incorporate image carving, building and hand painting with multiple firings. Therefore, no two pieces are ever the same.”
Thomas Skupniewitz was born in the hills of Baraboo in 1957, and is a third generation painting contractor and tradesman. He is recognized as a master and expert of faux finishes, murals and glazing, and conducts seminars and teaches throughout the United States. His talents do not stop there. Thomas, known to his friends as “Bud,” is an accomplished woodworker, gardener, chef, photographer and sculptor, largely self-taught.
I have made wheel thrown pottery for over 40 years. My interests have ranged from porcelain to stoneware, but the focus has always been in the flowing lines that best show the form of each piece.
My exploration back into raku has been rewarding and, as always, a learning experience. I continue to be excited by the contrast of the black and white of the raku technique, the uninterrupted flowing lines of the form, and the simplicity of the gold leaf.
Peel Off Raku
In “peel off” raku, a bisque fired vessel is coated with a slip. The slip acts as a barrier between the vessel and the glaze. The slip does not melt thus allowing both the slip and glaze to separate from the surface of the vessel after firing. The clay body for raku needs to have enough grog and sand to withstand the stress of the firing. The clay body is not fired to maturity, which makes my raku pottery for decorative use only.
The firing process is simple. Once the glaze has melted and the vessel is removed from the kiln with tongs, I place the vessel into a reduction chamber that is full of paper and saw dust. The combustibles ignite almost instantly and the lid is placed over the chamber. Inside the chamber, the vessel absorbs the carbon. After cooling for a short time, the vessel is removed from the chamber and cooled with water. The vessel is next cleaned of burned debris and then coated with a sealant. The gold is applied last and is also sealed.
Nawal Motawi founded Motawi Tileworks more than 20 years ago. A University of Michigan art school graduate with a restless spirit and an interest in applied arts, Nawal moved to Detroit to learn tilemaking at Detroit’s storied Pewabic Pottery. She returned to Ann Arbor after a few years and began making her own tiles in a garage studio and selling them from a stand she rented at the local farmers’ market.
Today, Nawal is still designing and making tiles in Ann Arbor. Her companies, Motawi Tileworks and Rovin Ceramics, employ more than 30 people. Her company utilizes Toyota-Style Production and practices an intentional workplace culture.
Recently, Motawi tiles have been featured in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Dwell Magazine.
“My thoughts on Porcelain as a material is that it is not simply “White Clay”. When used in conjunction with the right glazing techniques it can achieve a state where it visually approaches glass. Crystalline glazes often achieve this effect developed on simple economical forms.
A good analogy to the way crystals form on a ceramic piece, is the way frost forms on a window pane. Frost is water vapor gathering at particles of dust and forming ice crystals. This phenomenon will only take place when all the conditions to do so are ideal.”
My current work seeks to perfect the very essence of making ceramics by focusing on just clay, water, and fire. The saggar firing process relies on the skill and experience I have developed over thirty years to create an environment of combustible materials that will use the fire as a painter uses a brush. Unlike raku or glazing, the coloring of a saggar-fired pot occurs from the moment the kiln is lit until the pot has completely cooled.
To accentuate this unique coloring, I use a vocabulary of forms built with a foundation from the traditions of ancient ceramics cultures and then honed with my intuitive understanding of form.
I believe that saggar firing approaches the very heart of ceramics as a medium—the fusion of clay, water, and fire. By eliminating everything that is not these three components, my work unites surface and form.
Spooner Creek is the artwork of Michael Macone expressed in clay. He has been making pottery for over 30 years and his work is in collections around the world. Michael grew up in a very creative environment, as his mother was an artist and she encouraged his gift at an early age. In his high school years, Michael was introduced to clay and never looked back.
After attending Layton School of Art in Milwaukee for a year, Michael opened a small clay operation in Minneapolis in a one-stall garage. First, he created novel pottery planters shaped like blue jeans and called the work Klay Klothes. Then, he designed mirrors and vases, sold his work at prestigious art fairs throughout the country, and won many awards along the way. Finally, married with four school age children, Michael grew tired of traveling and searched for another way to market his work.
“That’s when I developed a unique engraving technique that allowed me to etch my designs right into the clay, rather than placing them only on the surface. This gives the work a dimensional quality that can be appreciated with the hand as well as the eye.” This process made it possible to produce a line of high quality ceramic art tiles that could be distributed wholesale. The new line was an instant hit and he called the new company Spooner Creek, which now offers a distinctive assortment of etched ceramic tiles. “We are zealous about keeping the line fresh and relevant. Our current accounts are proof that the line sells well since most of them have been repeat customers for years and years.” In 2002 Michael introduced “The Potter’s Shed” line of earthy clay artwork that he sells at art festivals and to galleries and shops across the country. Michael’s two sons, Miles and Clayton, work with him in their Northern Wisconsin studio.
We work together as a collaborative team with no assistants helping with any part of our artwork. There is no set pattern for this interplay. We each work on what we are best at for the piece and process given our individual expertise.
Our medium of choice is clay sculpture, which we have come to as a natural progression. The craft of working with clay was learned starting with functional forms, both wheel-thrown and hand-built. Over more than 30 years they became first decorative objects, then sculptural representations that elicit an imaginative response. Clay is a flexible medium. All the things you can do with it– roll, fold, paddle, add, subtract, texture, burnish, etc.–offer virtually endless possibilities. Combine that with the different firings of raku, low temperature salt saggar, and terra cotta and you have a lot of room to explore. The technique provides the right vehicle for communication through the art object. That’s our goal with every piece.
Our artwork is about our lives, experiences, and interests. It is a reflection of the wild land we live on as well as our backpacking experiences in the mountain and desert wilderness areas in the western United States. An ongoing love affair with birds and a few other animals provides the balance of the content for our sculpture. Combining all these focuses has led to exploring the possibilities for interaction between the human race and the natural world. And, very important to us, virtually every piece we make has some kind of story behind it which gives the finished work added meaning beyond the decorative aesthetic.
My work is steeped in archetypal and personal symbolism. Figures, houses, boats and pottery are all vessels to contain things we hold dear, and sometimes those things we would cast off. I chose these forms to work with because they have several levels of meaning I find intriguing to explore. The surfaces reflect my experience and attitude.
I love the idea of found objects, because of their wear and marks of their journeys. I see people in much the same way. When I go to a museum or a home and see these objects put into a special environment they are reborn. To accomplish this in my own work, I use a layering technique.
By using the figure as a three-dimensional canvas, the eye will travel completely around the surface. This helps to enhance the pattern or surprise in a story. Each piece begins on the potter’s wheel or with slabs. The pieces grow with the application of coils or additional slabs. When each piece is completed, I carve the surface and let it dry. The base color is applied and fired. Once the first firing is complete, I apply and wipe off a combination of terra sigilattas, slips, stains and glazes, then fire again. This process is repeated until I achieve the desired effect.
Since receiving my BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1990, I have worked in the ceramics field in many capacities.
Presently I am represented by numerous galleries, teach many pottery classes, instruct workshops, sell at art fairs, and have been published in several ceramic periodicals. In 2000, my husband and I built my studio right outside our backdoor.
Life is good.
I have been experimenting with clay, glazes, shapes, spouts, handles, rims, and decorations for over 35 years. I am fascinated with the process and possibilities.
My father and mother encouraged our family to create art and music. I have always loved art. Nature and the world around me gives me inspiration and stimulation. I love to travel to foreign countries to study and appreciate other cultures and it’s people.
The encouragement of my parents instilled my own passion for art. They allowed me to follow my dreams and encouraged me to become an art teacher, potter, and gallery owner. Their support allowed me to become an independent crafts woman.
After receiving my BS from Luther College in Art Education in Decorah, Iowa, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study with Marguerite Wildenhain in Gueneville, California. She is one of the most recognized female master potters in Europe and the United States. Ms. Wildenhain was an author and outstanding teacher. She lived her life according to strong ideals, making her a model of and for humanitarianism. She was an invaluable mentor and strongly influenced my quest for creating beautiful pieces.
My husband and I established Clay Bay Pottery in 1976. Here we show our work and other artists from around the country. I approach my work with the wisdom and enthusiasm of a lifelong learner and explorer. My unique style reflects the environment of Door County. Landscapes, water scenes, floral motifs, woodland scenes, birds, and sky often adorn my work.
Since the early 80s I have been teaching children and adults clay techniques at the Peninsula Art School, The Clearing and various schools across Wisconsin. I, with my husband, have continued to be Artists-in Residence at private and public schools throughout the state, creating large ceramic tile murals with students, teachers and adult volunteers. I strive to continue to inspire and rediscover the beauty and spontaneity of unbridled creativity.
David Aurelius, at a young age, always enjoyed making things with his hands. Woodcarving was an early passion but he turned to clay, which opened unlimited possibilities. He studied as an Art major at the University of Minnesota and then went on to study at Luther College, Decorah, IA. Later, David studied with Marguerite Wildenhain during the summers of 1972-1980 at her school in Guerneville, CA.
Since 1976, David has operated Clay Bay Pottery with his wife Jeanne Aurelius. His work is shown throughout the midwest and is represented in collections around the world. He and his wife are continually involved in making clay murals in schools, corporations, and for private homes.