Tag Archives: Stoneware

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Rick Monikowski

My work is inspired by the sky and the mountains, the traditional pottery makers of the American Southwest, and the basket makers of my own Mi’kmaq people of New Brunswick Canada. My heritage is mixed – half Polish and half Mi’kmaq (Micmac) Indian of the Eel Ground First Nation of New Brunswick, Canada. I am originally from Hartford, Connecticut and now live in Rochester, NY.

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My trivets and baskets, for example, incorporate both the traditional and contemporary because the Mi’kmaq were traditionally basket makers. Weaving each piece of clay is time-consuming but these are some of my favorite pieces to create.

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Prior to moving to the Rochester area, I attended the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. While pursuing my JD and PhD, I had the opportunity to study and admire Pueblo pottery. In much of my pottery, my designs combine traditional shapes and forms with contemporary methods (wheel throwing and hand building).

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I began making pottery in 2001 at the Flower City Arts Center (formerly Genesee Center for the Arts and Education). I’ve also taken classes at Rochester Institute of Technology’s School of American Crafts. In the summer of 2007 I took a month-long course at the NY State School of Ceramics at Alfred University. My primary focus was studying glaze calculations while interacting with over 40 artists from across the country and a number of internationally recognized faculty. My work continues to evolve and expand as I experiment with different types of clays, glazes, and glaze applications. I create many of my own glazes. I work out of “Art Hill” near Honeoye Falls, NY (just south of Rochester).

I produce two different kinds of pottery – functional ware and art pieces. All my functional pieces are handmade and unique and are food-safe as well as microwavable and oven-safe.  I make a variety of smaller pieces such as mugs, bud vases, pie plates – again with glazes I developed myself.  And as I prepare for the show season, I spend a lot of time re-stocking my inventory shelves because once the nice weather comes, there’s less time for the studio!

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pieplates in progress

 I have also started producing dinnerware sets. This is my own green glaze on brown speckled clay – brand new!

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My art pieces, as I said, are inspired by the traditions of the American Southwest. In this plate, for example, I take an ancient design and put a contemporary spin on it. First I apply layers of colored slip, then using a sgraffito technique I scratch away the slip to reveal the Native design. In order to made it more contemporary, I often use a ruler, compass, and/or a protractor to sharpen the edges of the design.  After the piece dries, I finish it by applying a clear glaze and then I fire it .

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One last thing…It is very important to me – as an artist, an attorney, and a Native American – that the general public understands the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-644). It is a truth-in-advertising law that prohibits misrepresentations in marketing of Indian arts and crafts products within the United States. It is illegal to offer or display for sale, or sell any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian,  Indian Tribe, or Indian arts and crafts organization. This covers all Indian and Indian-style traditional and contemporary arts and crafts produced after 1935. Every piece I make carries my RAM mark (my initials) and those pieces that reflect my Native American heritage come with a Certificate of Authenticity with my signature.

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Stop by Main Street Arts to see RAM Stoneware in our gallery shop! Visit Rick’s website at http://ramstoneware.com (new website in progress) and email him at rick@ramstoneware.com.

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by jewelry artist Brittany Rea.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Jillian Cooper

I spent my early childhood growing up in Manchester, New Hampshire and then moved to Lubbock, Texas where I remained for 20 years.  I earned my MFA with concentrations in Ceramics and Metalsmithing/Jewelry from Texas Tech University in 2015.  Currently, I am living in Plano, Texas where I work at Collin College as the Ceramics Lab Coordinator.

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I enjoy using lace in my work because it can be found embellishing everything from tablecloths to underwear.  It can be innocent, seductive, outrageous, delicate, timeless and trendy. It appears on babies, brides, entertainers and grandmothers.  The incorporation of lace allows me to simultaneously represent a variety of associations.

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I have only recently began using plaid in my work.  It started as a suggestion from a friend and I ran with it.  The more I research it, the more I enjoy using it much for the same reason I use lace. Its broad spectrum of use and associations from historic family tartans, to the lumberjack, to the school girl leave so much room for interpretation

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“Plaid Mug” featured in The Cup, The Mug exhibition

I use Laguna Dark Brown boxed clay. I start out with a simple slab built cylinder.  I slip and score the seam and use the overlap as part of my design instead of smoothing it out.

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When the cylinder is formed I use it as a template to cut out a rough circle for the bottom.

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Thick slip is painted over lace on the slab that is going to be the inside bottom of the mug.

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When the slip is no longer tacky, I peel away the lace.

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The bottom of the cylinder is slipped and scored and carefully attached to the bottom.

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The excess slip around the edges is wiped away and the remaining clay is pushed up against the cylinder creating a lip around the bottom.  The basic cylinder shape is gently formed into a softer edged form.

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I use a rubber tipped tool to divide the surface into an area that will have lace added to it.  The area without the lace is pushed out slightly more from the inside.

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Again, thick slip is painted over lace and allowed to sit until it is no longer tacky.

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The lace is peeled away and any excess slip is wiped away with a rubber tipped tool.  I use a drill bit to remove clay so that the stitches are recessed into the clay and not just sitting on top.

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Small coils are rolled out and pressed into the holes to create the stitches.

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When the clay dry, I sketch out a (very) rough plaid pattern.

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Three coats of underglaze are applied, then it is bisque fired to cone 08.

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After bisque firing, a clear or celadon glaze is applied on the interior.  The lace and stitches are waxed and a clear glaze is applied over the outside.  I then fire to cone 10 in reduction.

My plaid cups are still in their early stages of experimentation and development, but I am excited to see what they grow into from here.  You can find me and my work on Instagram @toberninejilly or on my website at www.jilliancooper.com


Stop by Main Street Arts to see the mug shown above by Jillian Cooper in our current exhibition “The Cup, The Mug: A National Juried Exhibition of Drinking Vessels” (juried by ceramic artist Peter Pincus, exhibition runs through January 6th). 

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Renee LoPresti

Renee’s cups are on view in our juried exhibition “The Cup, The Mug: A National Juried Exhibition of Drinking Vessels”. Her cups are available for purchase in our Online Gallery Shop: store.mainstreetartsgallery.com


“I was born and raised in rural Northwestern New Jersey and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the New York State School of Ceramics at Alfred University. Currently, I live in San Marcos, Texas as a resident artist at Eye of the Dog Art Center. My focus is making functional ceramics consisting of simple forms and graphic surfaces with underlying narratives.”

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All pieces are thrown using a locally mixed, mid-range stoneware clay with a high-iron content (Armadillo’s Cinco Rojo from Austin, TX). The claybody becomes a rich, rusty color when fired and provides a dark base layer for the brightly colored underglazes, which are layered upon it. I prefer to create relatively simple forms designed for comfort and functionality. The smooth thrown surface and simplicity in shape  creates the perfect  ‘blank canvas’ for the graphic surfaces.

thrown mug prepared for surface decoration

thrown mug prepared for surface decoration

Overlapping blocks of punchy colors and repetitious dots patterns are layered beneath images of paper airplanes, crashing into one another and sometimes ascending into the clouds. The paper airplane has become my most commonly used image lately, and I have come to fall in love with the range of scenarios and interpretations it offers. To me, the paper plane is delicate, fleeting, and hopeful, with the ability to be easily picked up by a gust of wind and soar freely. Of course, the planes can eventually fall and are often crashed into a large pile. I love to play with notions of hope and cheerfulness, backed by underlying tones of loss or despair.

finished mugs with crashing and ascending paper airplanes

finished mugs with crashing and ascending paper airplanes

First, I begin by throwing multiples of the same form in small batches that can be finished in approximately one week. Each piece is trimmed, each handle is pulled and shaped before attaching. After the ends are cut to fit, both sides of the handle are slipped, scored and firmly pressed to the cup. Coils are added near each connection for strength, but mostly for visual continuity and ergonomics. All mugs are stored in a damp box (an air-tight plastic box with a 2” plaster sub-floor to regulate and maintain moisture) until they are decorated.

damp box storage

damp box storage

thrown and trimmed cups awaiting handles to be attached

thrown and trimmed cups awaiting handles to be attached

slipping and scoring for handle attachment

slipping and scoring for handle attachment

The layering begins by incising equally spaced vertical lines using a blade and a circle divider, thereby creating a general framework for each subsequent layer.

using a circle divider and xacto to incise vertical lines

using a circle divider and xacto to incise vertical lines

Next, the imagery with highest contrast and focus are affixed to the leatherhard clay using thin gauge die-cut vinyl. The paper airplanes are cut using a Silhouette Cameo, which can cut many identical images with intricate lines. The vinyl is the perfect material because it sticks well to the bare clay and when removed from under many layers it will create crisp lines without tearing (and its reusable).

applying die-cut vinyl paper airplane cutouts

applying die-cut vinyl paper airplane cutouts

After all the vinyl images are in place, the first color of underglaze is applied to the entire piece.

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Once dry to the touch, I will begin blocking out sections using the blade to incise defined areas. These areas are then filled with the second color of underglaze.

grey underglaze applied to blocked areas with 1" hake brush

grey underglaze applied to blocked areas with 1″ hake brush

Often, I will use the rule of thirds when deciding where to place the horizontal lines for each layer of color blocking. It is important that the blocks continue to become smaller in size, as to not cover too much of the preceding layers.

mint underglaze being applied to smaller blocked areas

mint underglaze being applied to smaller blocked areas

Now, I begin to apply glaze to certain areas, particularly to the areas where one’s mouth will come in contact with the rim.  I use Mayco’s Stroke and Coat glaze because it is formulated to be applied to greenware. The clouds are also cut using the die-cutting machine, but are cut from construction paper. Paper is preferred for this stage because it can quickly be soaked in water and gently applied to previous layers without marring the surface.

paper cloud cutouts ready for use after being cut from silhouette cameo die-cutting machine

paper cloud cutouts ready for use after being cut from silhouette cameo die-cutting machine

After three coats, the paper clouds and vinyl airplanes are quickly removed  (this helps to keep the edges clean and crisp).

removing paper cutouts while glaze is still wet

removing paper clouds

removing vinyl paper airplanes from cloud section while glaze is still wet

removing vinyl paper airplanes from cloud section

An applicator squeeze bulb is used to apply glaze dots of a complementary color. The dots are applied to all open areas that were painted with the first base color. This allows the dot pattern to move all around the piece, even inside and outside of the handle.

using squeeze bulb to apply  dots inside the handle

using squeeze bulb to apply dots inside the handle

The final touch is to use a tracing wheel to create the dashed lines trailing behind each airplane. These lines create an additional line quality, one that is organic and momentous and helps to carry one’s eye around the piece.

the tracing wheel being used to create trails behind each paper plane

the tracing wheel being used to create trails behind each paper plane

finished and ready to dry before being bisque to cone 06

finished and ready to dry before being bisque fired

The mugs are then bisque to cone 06, each piece is gently sanded using fine grit sandpaper. An opaque, cream colored liner glaze is poured into the interiors, and they fired in an electric kiln to cone 5. All the feet are then sanded again to ensure a smooth bottom surface.

bisqued mugs sanded and ready for liner glaze

bisqued mugs sanded and ready for liner glaze

finished mugs after being gaze fired to cone 5

finished mugs after being gaze fired to cone 5

finished mug in demonstrated color palette

finished mug in demonstrated color palette

In the upcoming  year I plan to continue to explore new color palettes and narrative-based imagery. I have a few workshops I will be teaching in 2017 on surface techniques. For the most up-to-date information on my studio practice you can find me on Instagram @renee_lopresti. You can also find me on the web at  http://www.reneelopresti.com


Stop by Main Street Arts to see two cups by Renee LoPresti in our current exhibition “The Cup, The Mug: A National Juried Exhibition of Drinking Vessels” (juried by ceramic artist Peter Pincus, exhibition runs through January 6th). Renee’s work is available in our Online Gallery Shop (available cup pictured below): store.mainstreetartsgallery.com

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Renee LoPresti, "Pink, Blue and Green Planes Crashing Teabowl", stoneware, 3.25" x 3.5", 2016.

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Renee LoPresti, “Pink, Blue and Green Planes Crashing Teabowl”, stoneware, 3.25″ x 3.5″, 2016.

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by sculptor Muhammad Aslam.