Studio #9 on the Studio Tour
10 Winding Branch Ln | Pittsboro, NC 27312
Interview by Zoe Allison
Z – How long have you lived in Chatham County?
M – We moved here two years ago. I just juried into the guild this year.Z – Do or did you have a career other than art?
M – I worked as a biochemist for 15 years, but I got to the point where I just wasn’t happy working in the environment of a big company. We moved from California, and we went to all the biotech hubs in the USA to get a feel for the areas. If the art wouldn’t support me, I needed my science background. When we found this area we just loved it. Pittsboro was the perfect choice. And I chose to be an artist.
Z – Did you learn ceramics once you left your biotech career?
M – No, it’s been a hobby of mine for 15 years and I’ve been selling on etsy. I had learned a lot so I knew what I was getting myself into.
I created several products especially functional things so I potentially have a product
for any buyer. Cups, soap pumps, mugs, oil lamps, glasses, candle holders. Over there are Ichibana and saki sets.
Z – Can you describe your procedure?M – With my chemistry background, I enjoyed approaching this in a very scientific way. This isn’t your average glaze. It’s very runny so every piece gets fired on a pedestal to catch run off glaze. Crystals form in the kiln so the glaze has to be molten and have a perfect balance of zinc and silica. This bowl is 5.5 hours to get the crystals to grow that big. One glaze likes stoneware but every other glaze wants porcelain. I get it at Star and now a place in Durham for the clay.
My first fire the clay goes through is a bisque at cone o4, then I move into a hard 11 at over 2,000 degrees. From that super hot temperature the crystals melt. I bring it down to get it sluggish.
Z – Can you observe any of that through kiln?
M – Some people have cameras but everything is bright yellow anyway. Everything is ranges of yellow. Radiant heat.
Z – Are there materials you can use to learn?
There are groups from all over who do this type of crystalline glazing, and I take classes regularly.
Z – Do you make anything as the result of someone’s request?
M – I don’t often do commission, and any gallery I’m bringing to, take what I have. I didn’t change jobs to have another boss. I have this right now and it works really well. People expect artists to be quirky so why not take advantage of that.
Z – Can I ask the price range of your pieces?
MW – One of my goals next year is to throw a $1,000 piece. The most expensive this year was $500. I make pendants ranging from $10 – $20 and they’re really easy to buy. The more free form pieces are more expensive.
Z – Where can people get your work?
M – I’m trying to make a living wage so I sell through craft fairs and etsy. I sell at Seagrove Pottery in Cary and Zola Craft Gallery in Durham.
Z – What sets your work apart from other potters?
M – Other crystalline potters tend to create more masculine pieces. Mine are more feminine with curving, graceful lines. I don’t know if that doesn’t appeal to them but it appeals to me.
Z – What inspires your creations?
MW – For me, plants and animals inspire my creations. Curves and shapes of a new flower, a leaf that just opened up, the youth in plants and animals – it’s just gorgeous. I look out my windows at gardens everywhere. The forms of plants inspire me. I also really like a bright palette. I love the ocean colors, blues and greens. My mom is also an artist and sometimes she works in my studio with me. She’s a watercolor artist and lives in Fearrington. She’ll apply to the guild next year.
It is nice to be part of bringing art into people’s homes. This will be my first show for the Chatham Artists Guild.
Z – How has your experience been creating art in Chatham County, compared other places?
MW – I was part of a potters guild back in California. This has exceeded my expectations. I’m finding Chatham County Artists Guild much more inclusive, kind, and willing to help people out. We’re all on the same team and pulling for each other.
For example, I learned we have a mentor. They say, “call me anytime.” That’s astounding. North Carolina in general has been so friendly and warm. The level of kindness is really surprising.
Z – Are there aspects of Chatham County that inspire you?
M – There’s plenty here; the plants‚ I haven’t gotten over how gorgeous it is just looking out the window here. It’s beautiful here and springtime, April, is inspiring and almost overwhelming. There’s such rebirth.
Z – What is exciting you most about your current creations?
MW – This year I’ve spent a long time on this particular base glaze. With my science background I’m used to 98% failure so I’m patient about moving through those failures, knowing I’m moving forward. I went to a workshop outside of Barcelona. I’ve been working with that glaze because I get gorgeous crystals from it. Big, luscious crystals are coming out with this glaze. I’ve been experimenting with it a lot and I’m really feeling happy with it now.
The shapes are most important to me. The glaze is secondary and carries the piece forward. That’s what makes it special.
I do all my work in porcelain. There’s something so white and pure, you get a more defined picture right away.
Z – Have broader changes in the community had an impact on your work?
MW – I can’t think of any that have impacted my work. Changes in a mine impact my work. You purchase from one batch, they get deeper into the earth and it’s different. Changes in the strata of the earth affect me and my pottery. I’m an introvert and concentrate on my immediate surroundings.
Z – Is there anything you do to inspire the youth of the community?
MW – I do work with my son and his friends. He hasn’t expressed much interest in pottery but likes other art forms. My family has a ton of artists, graphic designers, inventors, and painters. I come from a creative background and I like to foster that for my son.
Z – Is there anything you want to say that hasn’t been touched upon?
M – There is one thing I’ve noticed in my change from CA to here. On the East coast, people value craft and hand made so much ore. It’s a very healthy part of our culture, that we value the hand made more than the plastic out here.
Z – Do you plan to continue your learning phases as a potter?
M – I take classes every year. I make sure to take a class from some body in the world and learn from an expert in the pottery realm.
I try to be a good listener. People want to talk about themselves. I like to listen and hear their stories. I want to hear about what inspires you, what you want to do in your time off. We all have bits of our day that are no fun. I just don’t like to focus on that. Be focused on what’s going on right now with a positive slant if possible. Then be whatever your emotion is. My mom said that emotion is life. That’s what living is, just experience what comes your way.
Just don’t focus on the negative. During the studio tour I’m going to do a demonstration from 2 to 4 every day of the tour. Everyone is curious about how I get the narrow necks. I use a chop stick. I’d make them all like that but you need to make functional work too.
Z – I see you have some ribbons hanging near the shelf there.
M – I got best in show at Center Fest in Durham, NC in September 2017 , Thousand Oaks Arts Festival in California, and
Illustrious Artist Festival in Chapel Hill, NC this year.