Thorly James: Studio Assistant 2012

Thorly James

 “We can only love what we know, and we can never know completely what we do not love. Love is a mode of knowledge.” –Aldous Huxley

I studied sculpture and life drawing under one of my first artist heroes, Philip John Evett while I was a pre-med student at Trinity University. Both art and science drew on my sense of wonder, my desire to closely observe, and the joy of integrating ideas. I went on to study architecture at UW where I particularly liked the hands-on design labs, and classes considering the social and psychological effects of our environment.

My husband and I raised two sons, and I taught art to children pre-K through 9th grade in the Seattle area.  I’m a marine naturalist, and a perennial wildlife enthusiast, working to help endangered species. I combine my interests in life and social sciences with a love for natural materials to create sculptures that tap into and awaken the beautiful, emotional animal alive in each of us.

Artist Statement
My work has been shown in juried and invitational shows throughout Washington state, and in Miami, Florida. I live and work in Burien, close to the Salish Sea and just South of Seattle. I welcome visits to my home studio by appointment.

Thorly James

I’m awed. I feel alive and connected to everything-that-is when I lose myself in the natural world. That feeling caries over into my work. I enjoy the tactile experience of cool clay, literally earth, in my hands. It’s a way for me to stay grounded and embodied even as society races toward the digital and virtual. I make sculptures that emerge from attention to what I love. Creating work that has three-dimensional, physical presence is my affirmation that every being has a right to occupy space.

I make sculptures that tell stories of human and non-human animals. I hope that, by looking into and through the eyes of these figures, we recognize a part of ourselves; that we consider our interconnectedness, including our conflicts, strength, and fragility.

Experience at working with Deb
I was a resident making sculpture at Seward Park Clay Studio, and a recent graduate of Artist Trust’s professional development program when I saw Deb’s call for an assistant. I knew I stood to learn a lot about clay and glaze handling in a production studio, but most importantly, I was able to witness her big-picture vision for a do-what-you-love career that included the growth and development of a community of clay artists.

I had attended and admired her tight, informative presentations and workshops. The natural world is my biggest source of awe, inspiration, and concern. I appreciate that her forms and glazing are inspired by shapes and color patterns in the environment from tugboats to birds.

There were no “typical” days assisting Deb, but we always started early, bundled up, hot tea at hand; and had a complete break for lunch served on handmade dishes. While we enjoyed music or podcasts, I might be cutting patterns from slabs, shaping those pieces over bisque molds, or making glazes, painting walls, mounting shows, packing orders, spreading mulch, updating mailing lists, or photographing pottery. What still shines most brightly for me is Deb’s discipline, drive, synergizing, and love for what she does.

Deborah Schwartzkopf

Rat City Studios is the workspace of Deborah Schwartzkopf, Seattle based studio potter and instructor. Her mission is to engage and build community through clay – one person, one neighborhood, and one experience at a time. In service to this pursuit, she offers studio assistant positions for emerging artists, connects people through social events, instructs classes and workshops, and maintains a lively career in the ceramic arts!