Friday, October 11, 2013

In the Studio with Nicole Aquillano

I had the pleasure of meeting with Nicole Aquillano inside her studio in Boston, MA.  We all admire her pieces at Crimson Laurel Gallery on a daily basis and it was such a privilege to chat with her in person & be walked through her process.

For those familiar with Nicole's work, you know the beautiful architectural drawings inlayed on the surfaces of her porcelain forms. But before she even gets to draw on her work, she goes through many steps to achieve her ideal form.

After sketching and designing her shapes, she turns plaster positives on the wheel & carves her form in the plaster with giant trim tools.  She only has a 5-10 minute window before the plaster sets and can no longer manipulate it effectively.  Once she has created her design in plaster, she creates molds that can be reused to create multiple forms.

From there she pours slip in to her newly created molds derived from her plaster positive. Everything then gets wrapped up so it stays wet enough for the ready drawing phase.

Click here for more specific step by step photos of her process.

How do you come up with the forms you want to create?

"I am always really proud of my forms because I'm not taking an already existing form & making a mold from someone else's design.  Instead, I actually think about what I want the form to be like.  I'll go through my collection and pick out my favorite cup and think 'what is it that I love about this cup? Is it the height, the diameter, the shape or the way the handle fits?' From there I start sketching shapes that incorporate what I think makes a successful form.  So before I make anything, I'm putting a lot of thought into the form and do quite a bit of sketching."

Click here to read Nicole's Artist statement. 

Tell me about the drawings on your forms?

"It will take me about a week to draw on everything and I use a dolan knife ( similar to an X-acto blade) to scratch in the image.  I do the whole drawing by hand, sometimes using photographs for reference, unless it's something like my childhood home which I've now memorized how to draw.  I then inlay underglaze, let it dry & wipe it away so it stays down embedded in the clay. I'll fire it once, bring it out, and then apply the glaze over top which draws the underglaze out from the inlayed drawing, giving it that runny effect with kind of like a bluish tint..."

I love your runny effect.

"Thank you, it took me a long time to figure it out."

Did you know this was the effect you were looking for or did you stumble upon it?

"Well, it was kind of an accident actually.  I was going through grad school, and I was trying to explain the feeling that I wanted to convey, this longing for home...and I felt like everything I tried was a little bit short of that.  I had a cone 6 glaze which I had on some work and I didn't like the way it turned out, so I threw it in the kiln and fired it to cone 10.  When it came out, I realized it was exactly what I have been wanting to say."

Do you ever miss throwing each piece on the wheel?

"I still throw every once in a while.  If a show wants me to make a certain thing, I'll throw it...but I cast pretty much everything now.  I used to throw everything and I loved it, but it was really physically straining.  My wrists hurt all the time and my back was frequently hurting.  I thought to myself...I'm only 30 some years old, how am I gonna make it?  Also, casting is better for the consistency thing's nice to be able to create the same form over and over, especially when you start to get into wholesaling and people want 20 of the same form."

Let's backup a little...I noticed you were on a different path before your ceramic Engineer, Carnegie Mellon...

"Yes, I actually moved here (MA) for my job as an engineer.  Then, you know how things happen in your life where you realize life is too short? I thought,  I need to do what I really want to do.  So I ran a marathon, which was always on my list and I was thought, 'you know what...I need to love what I do for work and I've always really loved making stuff out of clay.'  It maybe seemed ridiculous and my parents were like, 'what is wrong with you?' but I went for it.  I just took continuing education classes over and over again at MASS Art and MFA & built up my portfolio.  It took me 6 years but I finally had enough to apply to grad school, I got into RISD, graduated a year ago, and finally quit my part time EPA job about 4 months ago."

I am so inspired!! It's wonderful you are doing what you love.  That being said, do you ever have days where you have to drag yourself to the studio?

"Well, I work all the time.  My husband and I have our one break where we make dinner together every night, and I come back downstairs and work till midnight and I wake back up at 7...
But honestly, it's never feels like work. I love everything about it. Sometimes I just get physically tired... like a day of doing mold stuff can wear me out.  I mixed clay yesterday and this morning I woke up and was like,..'uhhh...I hate mixing clay!' but only because it can be physically draining There is also a lot of business behind it, which you never really know until you have to do it.
But it's honestly nice to have a break from the physical part of it to do that...

Well, we love what you are creating and wish you luck in your career.  Keep up the great work!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Eric Rempe: Art Educators Spotlight

We are delighted to welcome the talented Eric Rempe for a special exhibition of his work this September.

Rempe grew up in Lancaster, PA where he developed a deep appreciation for the earth and the natural landscape surrounding him.  It was there, during his high school days, that he first touched clay.  25 years later he is an established ceramicist, showing both nationally and internationally, a full time high school ceramic teacher, and the first to receive the Bill Griffith Art Educators Fellowship from the Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts.

Rempe states that he is "attracted to the connections that my finished work makes with other people.  Making strong functional pieces that become a part of someone's life is an underlying motivation in my work." Feeling that connection to someone else's life not only drives his ceramic work, but it is also what makes Rempe such a cherished teacher.  "My students often ask, 'What is the best piece that you have ever made?' I've never felt like I had a best piece.  The simple conclusion for me, and the reason I continue to teach, was that my best pot would never make a difference in the life of someone else the way that my teaching can on it's best day."

So, it's no wonder that Rempe was chosen as the inaugural recipient of the Bill Griffith Art Educator's Fellowship.  The fellowship was created "to change lives in unexpected ways for the K-12 art teachers and indirectly for their students by providing them an opportunity for immersion in the creative and inspiring atmosphere that is Arrowmont." The fellowship is a four week residency in which Rempe received his own studio, housing and meals, a one-week workshop and the ability to visit any workshops that are in session. Often teachers are pulled away from their own studios by the demands of being a full time teacher.  "It's an interesting problem," states Rempe, "because one of the best ways to inspire ceramics students is to show them new techniques and possibilities with clay."

Having 4 weeks to concentrate on his work "allowed me to realize some of the ideas that have been bouncing around my head for months or, in some cases, years" says Rempe.

"Creative energy could be found in all corners of the campus at all times of the day...ideas came faster than I could make them.  Countless numbers of my students in the coming years will benefit from my time at Arrowmont.  I was immeasurably changed as an artist and as an educator," he states.

We certainly are thrilled for Eric Rempe for receiving this fellowship and are honored to be carrying his work.  Please come to enjoy his completed works in person at Crimson Laurel Gallery.
The pieces will be available for sale online at beginning September 16th.

View Eric Rempe's Website

Thursday, August 29, 2013

99 BOTTLES: Chatting with Curator Jason Bige Burnett

What inspired you to curate the 99 Bottles Show?
"99 Bottles is an extension of the show Interpreting the Cup I did with Crimson Laurel in 2011. I wanted to use the same criteria that I used for that show by starting with an object we are all are familiar with, one that can reach a wide audience from those that are already ceramic enthusiasts to those that might discover a new fascination with the material. The other reason I wanted to curate the show was that I feel like ideas in the studio go beyond what it is I can make, so I try and have practices that extend beyond the studio walls. When an idea pops up or creates some sort of sense of humor, excitement, or energy for me, I think “what can I do to formulate this idea more?" Bottles have a long history of being used to hold spirits, sodas, even shampoos & perfumes. But beyond that, part of the inspiration for the show came from the whimsical ideas of spin the bottle, finding a message in a bottle, bottling up our emotions, etc.  Just thinking about the tune of “99 bottles of beer on the wall” or for someone who has been a camp counselor or might appreciate being young at heart, might think of “99 bottles of bug juice on the wall.” So there is so much play with this one object."
How have you defined a bottle for your artists? Were there specific guidelines or could they interpret it however they wished?
"Before I invited the artists, I had to do research on the bottle. It turns out, what defines a bottle is very specific. The bottle is a container with a body & neck where the neck must be narrower than the width of the body. Bottles also come with a closure at the top & occasionally some are adorned with a handle, whether it’s to hold on to or to hold a cord that attaches to the closure. So each artist had to stay within the traditional definition of the bottle, as well as stay between 5 inches & 2 feet in height. There’s not a whole lot of room for play, which made for a great creative challenge for the artist. They had to think about the outside of the bottle or about the different elements of the bottle. Not all artists put enclosures on their bottles and I think that adds an interesting twist to it. Other than those guidelines, I wanted to keep it open for the artists since some of them are purely functional ceramic artists & some of them are sculptural ceramic artists."
How did you come up with your list of the participating artists?
"With Interpreting the Cup, I wanted to show how the cup, something that everyone is familiar with, can be viewed very differently depending on the maker. There were over 80 artists in that show, so I wanted to narrow that down to less than half that. I wanted to focus on finding artists that had unique styles or that were uniquely different from each other, representing also local and national artists while maintaining a great caliber of work. Because it all stems from one object, I wanted to curate a show that could really show a vast variety of bottles that ranged from symbolic to purely functional. From a ceramic sense, I wanted to represent different atmospheric firings like wood firings, salt firings, or electric firings. It was also important to feature different materials that contemporary ceramic artists are using today, whether it's the use decals, multi-firings, or different senses of imagery. So it stems from that as well as taking the time to really select artists whose pieces will work well together and compliment each other."
Can you give us a few specific examples or do we have to wait to see the show?
"Yes, absolutely. One of the great aspects of this exhibit is there seems to be similar thread of using surface techniques and yet the outcome can be so different.
For example, David Bolton's (see below) achieving his patterns through atmospheric firing
Whereas an artist like Rob Pullyn (see below) is achieving his surface through incision and staining.
We also have some very graphic artists like Jeremy Kane (see below), whose commercially inspired bottle is hand thrown with a use of decals.
And then we have artist Ted Suape (see below), who achieves his surface design through drawing and painting on his surface."
The complete list of participating artists are:
David Bolton, Cynthia Bringle, Jason Bige Burnett, Peter Callas, A. Blair Clemo, Josh Copus, Frank James Fisher, Yoshi Fujii, David Hiltner, Matt Jacobs, Jeremy Kane, Kathy King, Joshua Kuensting, Max Lehman, Matt Long, Courtney Martin, Shadow May, Forrest Lesch Middleton, Richard Nickel, Kelly O'Briant, Shawn O'Conner, Rob Pullyn, Jeremy Randall, Justin Rothshank, Akira Satake, Nancy Selvin, Joey Sheehan, Ted Suape, Brian Taylor and Lana Wilson.
If you are in the Bakersville area, the opening for 99 Bottles is Sept 7th, 6-9pm. If you are unable to make the opening, all bottles go live for sale at 12:00am, Sept 1st on our website at

For more information on our upcoming 99 Bottles Exhibit, click here.

To learn more about our guest curator, Jason Bige Burnett, click here.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Crimson Laurel Gallery Opens the 2013 Season With Three New Exhibitions !

On March 1, 2013, Crimson Laurel Gallery in Bakersville, NC will open "Animated Lines:  Ceramics by Deborah Schwartzkopf"  &  "In the Mix: A Ceramic Artists Forum".  

Deborah Schwartzkoph
The processes Deborah Schwartzkopf uses yield complex forms defined by animated lines and soft planes. Multiple parts are pieced together.  At times she combines wheel thrown and hand built parts and at others a singular method is used.  The slab parts are patterned and laid over bisqued clay molds. She builds these molds with reclaimed clay and shapes them with the wheel or by coil building. According to Deborah "Pots are a place where I embrace abstraction of emotions and communication in form.  Birds are starting places in my study of stance and expression. I want to capture their expressions of precision and breath­­. The awkward pelican and elegant, buoyant loon embody curious shapes I mesh with geometric, sensual, and architectural elements. On the surfaces of my work, I merge our culture’s signals and nature’s placement of hue."

"In The Mix" -  Contemporary Practices in Ceramics
2013 marks the second year of the Ceramic Surface Forum sponsored by the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN. The forum is made up of invited artists that represent many facets of the field such as graduate students, professors, studio artists, and art center facilitators and directors. Participants are chosen based upon their handling of the material through a variety of decoration and construction processes, firing ranges and functions. For one week in the winter these artists engage in discussions, collaborate, research, and take risks among their peers and friends. "In the Mix" is an exhibit that highlights these artists, their work and their continuous commitment to the ceramic field. Participating artists include Benjamin Carter, Elisa DiFeo, David Eichelberger, Carole Epp, David Lee Gamble, Tracy Gamble, Rachel Garceau, Alex Irvine, Elizabeth Kendall, Roberta Massuch, Richard Nickel, Kelly O'Briant, Sandi Pierantozzi, Nathan Prouty, Adams Puryear, Emily Reason, Shawn Spangler, Natalie Tornatore, and Lana Wilson.
The exhibitions will open on March 1 and remain through April 25.  Please join us for an artist reception Saturday, March 2 at 6pm. The exhibitions can be seen and purchased online beginning Friday, March 1 at midnight.  For more information call 828-688-3599 or online at ;