Tag Archives: The Cup The Mug

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Sam Lopez

Demo days are the best days

Demo days are the best days

I was born and raised in a small dairy town in Riverside County called Mira Loma just one hundred miles north of my current home in San Diego. As a kid, I spent most of my spare time  in my dad’s leather shop either helping sew up saddles or struggling along with my own projects. Working alongside my dad over the years has allowed me to grow up with an appreciation for well-crafted objects that help serve a community.

I got my start in ceramics in high school and was instantly hooked and spent all four years completely seduced by the potters wheel. Nearly fifteen years later, in May of 2017, I still retain my infatuation with the material and recently  received my MFA in ceramics from San Diego State University and now teach ceramics at Riverside City College. I am currently learning and enjoying the process of becoming an effective educator; and as with most teachers, I get most of my own studio work done anytime class isn’t in session.

One and three fingered handled mugs

One and three fingered handled mugs

I primarily make utilitarian pottery but try to remain open to other processes and ideas. I make the majority of my work on the potters’ wheel but also use slip casting and hand building techniques for some of my larger scale works. My surface choices are made based on the color of my clay. Aside from its’ smoothness, I work primarily in porcelain because it provides an opportunity for a pristine white background to the painted surfaces I apply to each piece. It also takes color fairly well so I will often pigment my clay to explore different foreground/background color relationships.

Porcelain Polychrome cups

Porcelain Polychrome cups

Polychrome cups on Black Porcelain

Polychrome cups on Black Porcelain

slip case colored clays with black underglaze

slip case colored clays with black underglaze

When making pots, I work fluidly through small batches and continually test myself with new forms. My sketchbook will sometimes guide a making session if I am actively trying to approach new ideas of form, especially with more complex forms like teapots and other pouring pots. However, I will almost always use sketches through a batch of cups with the hopes of exploring larger forms similarly. Generally, I am attracted to creating some kind of tension in each form as well as a tension with the glaze surface of each pot.

I continually try to ask questions of each piece. The question, “How can this form demonstrate qualities of both hard and soft sensibilities?” has been lingering in my head for nearly six months and still keeps me excitedly making new work in the studio.

Varying Mug Shapes

Varying Mug Shapes

Cup variations from my sketch book

Cup variations from my sketch book

Two prominent influences are my dad and Josef Albers. My dad taught me the importance of making with quality, which means to make something that can potentially last someone a lifetime of hard use with appropriate care. The beauty of the object was secondary to its functional success. As a result, some may find my pots to be a bit heavy according to most standards. I like for the user to be confident that each pot can withstand some banging around without fear of it easily breaking so I make sure to leave them just a little on the hefty side.

Josef Albers is largely responsible for my decisions when using color. His book, The Interaction of Color is never more than an arm’s reach away when I am painting with my underglazes. This book is full of great information and I would recommend it to anyone interested in color theory. This book helps me continually ask questions about color relationships and is the influence behind all the clay and glaze choices I make.

Mixing Color Washes

Mixing Color Washes

Tech talk:
I use cone 10 Miller Porcelain (WC631) from Laguna Clay. It is sold at other supplies under the name #550 as well. My liner glaze starts out as Tom Coleman’s TC-103 clear that I tint to my liking. This glaze is a great clear as well as a great base that takes color very well. I’ve tinted it using Amaco underglazes as well as traditional combinations. I paint my work using Amaco velvet underglazes. I really enjoy the ability to mix them up and create new colors relatively quickly. All my work is fired in oxidation to cone 10 before each piece is completely sanded. I use diamond sanding pads from 3M up to 800 grit on the surfaces of all my work. It is at this stage when my pots start to come to life. Although this takes up to an hour for one pot, I get a lot of enjoyment during this process because I get to thoroughly get to know each pot individually before I pack it up.

Sanding pads after three years of use

Sanding pads after three years of use

I am currently without a website, but I hope to rectify that within the next year. For the time being, people can easily find me on Instagram @Sam_._Lopez where I routinely share my studio practice and daily shenanigans. In the next year, I hope to dial in my pots a bit more and continue growing as a maker as well as an instructor. Teaching ceramics has been such a great learning experience this last year and I look forward to continually growing and learning from my students. For now, I feel extremely thankful to be a part of the clay and craft community that seems to be growing more than ever.

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“Mug”, included in the exhibition (click for more info)

"Cup", included in the exhibition

“Cup”, included in the exhibition (click for more info)


Sam is one of the award winners in our second annual “The Cup, The Mug” exhibition (juried by Peter Pincus). Stop by Main Street Arts to see Sam’s work through January 4, 2018 or buy his work  onlinestore.mainstreetartsgallery.com

 

 

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.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Ryan Caldwell

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


“Ryan Caldwell received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with emphasis in Ceramics and Sculpture from Washburn University. Ryan was awarded the Charles A. and Margaret Pollak Art Purchase Award in 2015 from Washburn University Art Department. He has been juried into shows at Mulvane Museum of Art for five consecutive years, and multiple  national shows around the country. He has received awards for his work such as second place in a juried show at the Topeka art guild, the “out of the box” purchase award, and a honorable mention equipment award at the KC clay guild tea bowl national. His work is in art collections small and large. Including The Mulvane Art Museums permeant collection. He currently lives and works in Topeka, Kansas.”

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Throughout the past 5 years of making utilitarian work alongside sculptural ceramics my process has evolved and incorporated new elements and techniques. I would like to guide you through the creation of my tea bowls and other drinking vessels.

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I use Aardvark’s Cone 10 porcelain in conjunction with a fine white casting slip from Crane Yard Clay in Kansas City. The techniques I use are pinch/coil within plaster molds to create uniformity in size and shape. This video shows me using this technique for a larger mug form.

After I create the body of the form, it is set aside to set up. Then, I hand carve a foot using one of my favorite tools, an old cheese cutter. Once these have reached the leather hard stage I use Amaco Velvet Underglazes to paint the bottoms with bright eye catching color. Doing so brings interest to a part of the piece that is most of the time ignored.

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When the underglaze is fully dry I coat the inside and outside with a super white casting slip.

After they are fired to a cone 08 bisque I use a stencil to draw on circle patterns with a pencil.

These circles are then glazed with a brush and waxed overtop. This allows me to dip the pieces into  glaze without destroying the pattern created.

The glazing of these forms can range from simplistic to very gestural and loose. I combine store bought Amaco celadons with my own formulated glazes. These are then fired in a Skutt kiln to cone 6 oxidation. For a final bit of elegance I apply Duncan bright gold luster to the rim. This is done with a heavy application so that it flows over the edges created beautiful golden drips.

goldapplyThese are fired to cone 018. Then cleaned, photographed and packed away for shows or storage.stacked-cups-2016

This has been a glimpse into my studio practice. Thank you for letting me share my passion in life with you. If you would like to see more, please visit my website www.caldwellceramics.com. My main form of social media is Instagram. You can follow me and my work @caldwellceramics. For more information or any question please feel free to contact me. Don’t forget to always keep making, keep experimenting, and keep having fun.


Stop by Main Street Arts to see two cups by Ryan Caldwell 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). Ryan’s work is available in our Online Gallery Shop (available cups pictured below): store.mainstreetartsgallery.com

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by printmaker Katherine Baca-Bielinis.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Rachel Donner

Rachel’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 grew up in Taos, New Mexico and attended college at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado. Santa Fe, New Mexico has been my home for just one and a half years. I moved here from Cincinnati, Ohio where I had just done a yearlong artist residency at Core Clay. I was ready to get back to the southwest and move closer to family and friends. Though I took a job as an assistant to a local clay artist, I set up a studio and worked diligently in all of my spare time. By the end of December 2015 I was ready to take the leap and quit my job. As I write this, it is just about my one-year anniversary with “Rachel A. Donner Ceramics”.

Rachel Donner Ceramics

Rachel at work in her Santa Fe Studio.

The following is a brief description of my process:

Functional pottery is the primary art form I indulge in. Sketching, repetition, trial and error, and real world observation fuel my design choices for form, surface, and function of the pots I make. I use the potters wheel to form the pots and then decorate them during the leather hard stage. One of my favorite forms to make is cups. There is something infinitely satisfying about making cups. With every cup I make, despite the simplicity of a cup, I find new details, subtlety, and exploration within each one.

Rachel Donner Ceramics

tools for inlay

After throwing and trimming, the first layer of decoration is inlay. I use an xacto blade to make lines or hole punching tools in varied shapes (square, triangle, circle, or flower). Using Amaco Velvet Underglaze, I inlay color into the thin lines and wipe away the excess with a sponge.

Rachel Donner Ceramics

ready for color inlay

Rachel Donner Ceramics

inlay before the excess is wiped off

Rachel Donner Ceramics

craft punches for making paper stencils

Next comes the paper stencils. I cut out different basic geometric shapes with craft punches (made for scrapbookers) using plain, cheap printer paper. Dip these stencils in water and they adhere perfectly to leather hard clay. Then, I paint on the main color of underglaze over the stencils and after three coats, peel off the stencils and clean up the lines and foot of the piece. This completes the green stage. After bisque, each piece is coated in a translucent glaze and then fired in an electric kiln to cone 5.

Rachel Donner Ceramics

part way through the stencil removal

Rachel Donner Ceramics

a nearly finished bowl next to a pile of used paper stencils

I love clay because it is alive. Every step of the way you have to be there to take it through the process. To quote my artist statement, “Creating something out of clay is like healing a wound.” There is never ending mystery and growth when working with clay.

Rachel Donner Ceramics

cups by Rachel Donner

Rachel Donner Ceramics

cups by Rachel Donner

Rachel Donner Ceramics

detail of cups by Rachel Donner

Instagram is one of my favorite social media platforms and I use it regularly to show all parts of my process, even the failures (follow me @666_tinka). From beginning to end and everything in between, it’s really fun to share what is happening with your fellow makers in the sweet online clay community. I also have a website at www.racheladonner.com.


Stop by Main Street Arts to see two cups by Rachel Donner 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). Rachel’s work is available in our Online Gallery Shop: store.mainstreetartsgallery.com.

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by furniture maker Patrick Kana.