Rickie Barnett was a studio assistant in 2014-2015Read More
“Every communication is either an extension of love or a call for love” -Anonymous
Born and raised in Oak Park, Illinois I graduated from the Illinois State University BFA program in 2014. This provided a foundation in clay and woodworking that pushed me to pursue further studies. I utilized a summer staff session at Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts to explore handbuilding. This informed my Post Baccalaureate program at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado where I made a switch to mixed media wall installations. Since then I have had the honor of participating in: A short-term residency at Taos Clay Studios in Taos, New Mexico. Assisting in the development of, and teaching of a workshop for Women’s Empowerment, complete with kiln-building and marketing classes, in Kerala, India. A short-term assistantship with Cook on Clay in Coupeville, Washington. An assistantship at Ceramistas Seattle (a.k.a. Rat City Studios) in Seattle, Washington. In 2016, I completed a bicycle tour from Seattle, Washington to Los Angeles, California as a means of recuperation and reflection. Interning for Sunshine Cobb at Sidecar Ceramics, I currently reside in Sacramento, California. I am focusing on finding what’s most important to me: Balance in the studio. Outward and inward exploration. Biking and not forgetting to eat.
Making is a part of who I am, whether I like it or not, and is my way of remaining honest in a society that rewards masks and fictitious personalities. Leaving the studio alone, on foot or by bicycle, each new place I explore inspires me by the relationships I witness and engage in, no matter how brief. Abstracting the participants and paring the encounters down to simple but repetitive marks or faceless, disproportioned figures, I am able to expand upon my observations and learn lessons that I may then apply to my growing list of, “how to be genuine in a fearful world.” Recreating the simplicity and complexity that is the human experience, while taming my anxious mind, is best achieved by moving between processes and materials in the studio. The clay’s sensitivity at varying stages speaks to my own sensitivity as well as my interest in the ability to adapt to human error. Red, low-fire clay is representative of my desire to create a warm and sustainable lifestyle.
January 2016 I joined what was then Ceramistas Seattle as an assistant for 6 months. My experience there reminds me that being honest and conscientious are quite possibly the most important things to practice in art and in life. Rocky, sums up my experience better than I am able to:
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place. And I don’t care how tough you are. It will beat you to your knees and keep you permanently there if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life, but it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. Now if you know what you are worth, go out and get what you are worth, but you gotta be willing to take the hits and not point fingers, saying you ain’t where you want to be because of him or her or anybody. Cowards do that, and that ain’t you. You’re better than that.”
“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.
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.
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.
Vanessa Norris is a ceramic artist best known for her functional tableware. Central to her work is her interest in what captures the attention of the viewer, purposely incorporating designs and/or textures only visible from closeup. Parallel to her ceramic practice, she writes poetry that often pairs with a body of work or specific piece, allowing the viewer/user to approach her work with a different level of understanding.
Vanessa graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and Design with a BFA in Ceramics in 2016. Since then, she moved to Washington state and took on a year long assistantship for Deb Schwartzkopf at Rat City Studios. She is an Artaxis member, has exhibited in many states across the US, and has been featured twice in the Exposure section of Ceramics Monthly. Vanessa currently lives and works in Boston.
At the core of Cloud 9 is perception, and that starts with how the work is viewed from far away versus up close. I make voluminous, buoyant--almost “Seussical”--forms and incorporate white designs on a white clay body. Visually, white does not stand out against gallery walls or amidst colorful pots in the kitchen cupboard; it is a common color for cheap, manufactured ceramic tableware. This perception lends itself nicely to adding unexpected, tactile elements to my pieces--present only for those who choose to stop, to touch, to probe deeper. I am interested in the difference between looking and seeing; the interaction (or lack of interaction) is as much a part of my work as the work itself. Placing meaning within the structure of an object commonly thought of as “purely functional” is my way of elevating the status of pottery to that of an art form and separating the curious from the satisfaction seekers.
Poetry is another important part of how I process. It is a conversation I have with myself--another way of cementing what I cannot yet vocalize, and it acts as the grout that holds the shards of my practice together. Though I do not always show my pots and poetry together, this particular body of work felt incomplete without its poetic counterpart. Paired with the recognizable iconography of the cloud, the verses provide the blueprints to enter the language of my work, allowing space for reflection on the role cloud idioms play in our understanding of the world and our relationships. There is no fast track to understanding the small nuances of the everyday. They are what make a life, after all. For those who take the time, tableware provides an intimate way to experience art.
Experience at Rat City Studios
Freshly graduated from college, I picked up my life and moved to the opposite side of the country to assist Deb at Rat City Studios. It was quite the move, and though I had never been to Seattle, I had my sights set on working for Deb since I heard about her program a year or so prior.
The year put forth many opportunities to grow. I rekindled my love for writing and photography to complement my practice. Though I am neither athletic nor an early riser, I woke up at three in the morning and biked six miles to my part-time job nearly five days of the week. I watched and learned from Deb, soaking up the triumphs and pitfalls that come with being an artist. And I made a home there--in the pages of my sketchbook and in between each line of poetry. My time at Rat City Studios came and went, but the year will echo and reverberate in my brain, pushing forth new ideas long after I’m gone.
I have returned to Boston for the foreseeable future to pursue opportunities here. This summer, I divided my time between teaching at Indigo Fire, instructing a high school summer intensive course at MassArt, and being a teaching assistant for Kyla Toomey at Harvard Ceramics. I had access to those facilities to continue making my work, so I was able to create new pieces for my portfolio and sell through various venues. This fall, I plan to continue making/teaching at local ceramics studios. I am also embarking on a new path with my partner, Gustavo Barceloni. We are in the process of setting up our own ceramics space called Dirty E Studios in Everett, MA. The first step in the process is to raise the funds necessary to hire an electrician and insulate the space, among other things. To accomplish our goal, we will be launching an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign on September 8th (the link will be posted on my website and Instagram on that day).
If you need me, you can find me working on the new studio, at an open mic poetry night, or sitting by the Charles River esplanade--still with clay covered jeans and my head in the clouds.
Canne Holladay was born and raised in Birmingham, AL. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Auburn University, with a Bachelors of Fine Art degree concentrating in Ceramics. She recently transplanted to Seattle, Washington to be a 2016-2017 studio assistant for Deborah Schwartzkopf at Rat City Studios. Her artwork has been featured in many exhibitions in her home state of Alabama and across the country.
Holladay is reflected in her work through her fascination with small aspects of life: from discoveries made in the dirt as a child, to the observation of how a person is the sum of the many individuals with whom they surround themselves. In addition to working with clay she enjoys spending time with loved ones, knitting, sewing, and baking.
Through my process I create intrinsic aspects of life that are frequently unseen. In life, I’m constantly connecting the dots, to find my place as both an individual and a maker. As a potter, I examine the big ideas of interconnectivity and tactility. My work is informed by humans, both how they interact with and depend on one another. I find human elements in the malleability of clay; it is impressionable, temperamental, forgiving, and requires great time and patience. The form of my work takes shape as a vessel representing the body and it is adorned with decorations inspired by the tissues that give the body life.
Microscopic images are used as metaphor in my work to draw a parallel between the details and patterns in life and the mundane act of living. I frequently utilize dots as cells, and curving lines as a study of the curves of the body. A cell can be defined as “any one of the very small parts that together form all living things.” This microscopic foundation of the body inspires a dialogue about the macroscopic function of life.
I am facilitating the consideration of how my functional objects uniquely relate to individuals. Each piece is created as an individual object. I consider how its form and adornment relates to its function, and how the external action of using the object relates to the body’s internal reaction. For example, a cup, as an intimate object should fit the curve of the hand as it transports liquids to the mouth, exciting senses of touch, smell, and taste. Upon entering the body there is an internal reaction as digestion begins and the fluid is filtered throughout the body. These layers are meant to be uncovered through use, as one might uncover more about a friend over time.
My work is intricate and dynamic, much like life, and I create to foster relationships.
Studio Connection/experience: Canne Holladay worked at Rat City Studios as a 2016-2017 Studio Assistant to Deborah Schwartzkopf. During her time at Rat City Studios she worked on a number of projects such as shelf construction, casting and pressing bricks, changing kiln elements, and printing t-shirts. In her own practice, Canne took the year to develop intimate sized functional work fired to Cone 6. Throughout the year the studio often had a form of the month, which encouraged everyone to explore forms like butter boxes, jugs, pitchers, teapots, and shakers. Canne used these challenges to expand her repertoire of form, think about how many pots work in a group, contemplate how curves and symmetry are important in her work, and to consider her patterns on different types of forms. Her year in Seattle at Rat City Studios was eye opening about what can be done and what must be done to work in and contribute to the field of ceramics.