Sam Gibsh

Voyage by Sam Gibsh

Sam Gibsh was born in and grew up in Haifa. He obtained an engineering degree in California and earned an MBA at Tel-Aviv University.  He then moved to Boston and worked at an engineering firm for about a decade.   Gibsh abandoned his engineering career to become a full time ceramic artist, and moved back to Israel.  From 2000 to 2006 he was enrolled at the Giveat Haviva Ceramics School in Israel. He also spent five summers at the HCP Studio (2002-2007) where he learned tile-making techniques, methods of glazing, firing and mural installation, particularly from Wasmaa Chorbachi and Nancy Selvage.

In Israel for most of the year, Gibsh owns a ceramic studio located near the port in an old district of Yaffa (Jaffa), overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.  His tile work is inspired by features of Yaffa’s old urban landscape; including the steeple of St. George’s Catholic Orthodox Church, clock towers, the lighthouse, Ottoman sabils (fountains) and other historic elements of the ancient port.  In his tiles Gibsh blends natural elements of the region: the water of the bay, palm trees, animals, and birds, with the historical features of the port. 

Sam GibshIn 2007, Gibsh was given a commission by the city of Tel Aviv to create a ceramic mural of 16 square meters to be installed on the outer wall of a new Christian-Muslim high school in Yaffe.  This new school brings back the old tradition of the Ottoman period when many Muslims were educated in Christian schools. In a slide show Gibsh gave at the Studio last summer he described his conception of the mural project as “A Voyage Through Yaffa.”  His training in engineering and construction proved useful.  He explained that the most demanding part of this project was the installation of the mural over the school’s external concrete wall’s surface. Gibsh, prompted by his engineering expertise, requested a careful testing of the wall for strength which did need to be reinforced before the mural could be safely installed.

~Maria Luisa Mansfield, excerpted from Tile Makers in vol 1. number 2, Fall 2008 of Sgraffito the Harvard Ceramics Programs newsletter

Rosanna Bonnet

Rosanna Bonnet Tile

Rosanna Bonnet was born in Santo Domingo de Guzmán, the capital city of the Dominican Republic and the oldest continuously populated city in the New World. 

Bonnet began her artistic studies in architecture and later switched to graphic design, attending the Altos de Chavon School of Design in the Dominican Republic. She then attended the Royal Academy of Arts of the Hague for one year.  After several years spent back in the Dominican Republic organizing and running a business in serigraphy, she decided to move to the United States for political and economic reasons. 

In 2002 Bonnet worked in a small Medford, MA ceramic studio.  In the spring of 2004, she spent three weeks of intense work at the studio of Frank Giorgini, a ceramic-tile artist in upstate New York.   He recommended her to Nancy Selvage, and she took classes at the HCP Studio in July, 2004, soon becoming part of the staff.  In the fall of 2005, Bonnet began to travel and work in a number of studios including Giorgini’s in NY, a private studio in Geneva, Switzerland, the Tribecca Potters Studio in New York City, and finally as Artist in Residence at Altos de Chavon in the Dominican Republic. Bonnet returned to the HCP Studio this summer and presented a talk and slide show on her recent work. 

Rosanna BonnetThe beautiful old district of Santo Domingo de Guzman, with its Spanish colonial architecture, has been a source of inspiration for Bonnet’s artistic work.  Her favorite ceramics art form is tile, where she says she feels comfortable playing with its surface and creating murals. Her birthplace, with its turquoise waters, lush flora, and abundant sunlight, is reflected in the colors and patterns of her tiles.  Her work is infused with natural themes of orchids, sunflowers and vegetation motifs.   Her hope for the future is to work with architects or to form part of a team involved in interior design.

~Maria Luisa Mansfield, excerpted from Tile Makers in vol 1. number 2, Fall 2008 of Sgraffito the Harvard Ceramics Programs newsletter

Shawn Panepinto

Iraq Map

Shawn Panepinto joined the ceramics program 30 years ago when it was affiliated with Radcliffe College.  Now she teaches classes, manages registration, the semi-annual show and sale and the myriad details of running the studio.  Her presence in the studio can be felt in every corner.  From the time she arrives in her office, people engulf her with questions about anything and everything.  She listens to each, points people to resources, gives or denies permission, resolves quagmires of all sorts and gives advice – which is invariably right.

Panepinto is a graduate of the Ridgewood College of Art (NJ) with concentrations in graphics and commercial art and the Boston Museum School with a dual major in ceramics and painting. One of her early teaching jobs was for the Prison Art Program at Framingham State Prison. Panepinto describes herself as an ‘emotional’ artist as opposed to an ‘intellectual’ one, using her emotions as a source of inspiration. 

Panepinto creates large sculptural pieces, as well as smaller, more functional objects, exploring textures and glazes, generating startling and unexpected contrasts between surface and subject.   Often her forms are humorous or suggest a certain jauntiness. She surprises the viewer with her choice and juxtaposition of color, a palette influenced by her training in painting. She pushes the imagination and shows a gift for the dramatic, revealing her childhood desire to be an actress.

An exhibition of her class’s work at the Fuller Craft Museum in 2007 was a celebration of her 25 years of teaching excellence.  Her sculpture, “U.S. Map of Iraq,” for this show, her largest work to date, exposes the deep and personal emotions aroused by our current involvement in that arena.  Forty-six human heads of textured porcelain are placed along upright rods in an arrangement that mimics the map of Iraq. Tiny impressions of human faces are embedded in each head; the combination of heads and faces represent U.S. soldiers and Iraqi people who have lost their lives.  

Panepinto is a creative teacher.  She generates a safe and nurturing space where people feel challenged to work beyond the edge of their comfort level.  Her class twists and turns around new ideas and techniques.  Each class is usually begun with slides of work from outside sources, illustrating the infinite possibilities of the medium.  In the fast-paced, playfully humorous and highly demanding environment, students exceed their own expectations as they discover their own creative ideas and imagery.

Shawn PanepintoPanepinto’s final class is a banquet, often using tableware made especially for the occasion.  She turns the studio into a magical place decorated with her inexhaustible supply of lights strung around pipes and over the tables.  The sense of celebration is in proportion to all of the hard work and anxious moments during the semester.  The evening cements the bonds built during the weeks of class during which everyone is focused on the common goal of achieving new heights.

~Liz Golbus, excerpted from vol 1. number 2, Fall 2008 of Sgraffito the Harvard Ceramics Programs newsletter

Please come to the 5th annual Ceramic & Painting Show and Sale by our Ceramics Program participants: Laine Gifford, Holly Dickerman, Gretchen Mamis, Jae Ok Lee.

The show is at the Twin Ash Farm Barn in Sudbury, MA on Saturday – Sunday, July 18 – 19, 10 am – 6 pm.
5th Barn Show 1

Ghafar Mohiudin

Ghafar Mohiu­din, Lecturer of Ceramics Design at the University of Gujrat, Paki­stan, worked with us at the HCP Studio for four months this spring. Mohiudin received a grant from the Pakistani govern­ment to learn our methods of slip casting, glazing and firing in various modes. He is participating in the Mold Making and the Glaze Chemistry classes and assisting in a third class.

Ghafar MohiudinIn 2004 Mohiudin graduated from the National College of Arts in Lahore with a Bachelor of Design degree and has had further ex­perience and train­ing in various art forms, in theater, and in graphic and web design. His work in ceramics reflects this diversity by incorpo­rating disparate elements from his background. One of his sculptural installations appeared in the show Clay Clan-I in 2007 at the Alhamra Art Gal­lery in Lahore. A spotlight mounted in the center of each surrounding clay wheel and a mass of wires tangled at the base are reminis­cent of both the theater and the wired world of electronics. Mohiudin’s cup form reveals his design experience and is one that he hopes to translate into a mold.

~Suzanne Garen-Fazio, excerpted from vol 1. number 3 spring 2009 of Sgraffito, the Harvard Ceramics Program newsletter

Wasmaa Chorbachi Tiles

Dr. Wasma’a Chorbachi, artist and expert in Islamic Art and History, bridges Mesopo­tamian and contemporary Western cultures. She was born in Cairo of Iraqi parents and lived in Baghdad during the early years of her life. “My earliest recollection of my love for clay and the excitement of firing a piece of clay goes back to when I was five years old. During promenades on the banks of the Tigris River, I discovered that these Meso­potamian clay deposits were the greatest toy. The making of the piece and the material transformation with its sense of magic, over­whelmed my imagination. After that, I often ‘played’ with clay and found that it brought me joy and peace of mind,” Chorbachi writes. Educated in the best Islamic, European and American traditions, she earned her Ph.D. from Harvard with a thesis on The Meet­ing of Science & Art in Islamic Civilization: Design in Islamic Architectural Decoration.

Chorbachi recently taught a course entitled “The Arabesque and Islamic Geometric Pattern Design” to M.I.T. archi­tecture students. She also teaches a practi­cal course at the HCP Studio on the structural rules of pattern formation, along with the fabrication of tiles and murals, low-fire tech­niques of decorating and glazing, and luster firing. Students are attracted to the topic of pattern forma­tion because it shows how the simplest design can be­come a complicated tapestry with only a few fixed moves of the design elements.

Chorbachi works in the Islamic calligraphic tradi­tion, primarily in clay, but also through painting on large pieces of silk. The central theme of Chorba­chi’s surface design is Ara­bic calligraphy, a prayer or a poem, which is surrounded by textural patterning. Inscription is the dominant feature of Chorbachi’s plates, tiles and murals in which the background is expressed in extraordinary textures, patterns and colors that refer to her ancestral land. These surrounding decorative areas remind us of the traditions of ancient Mesopotamia and the first attempts of humans to create a written and numerical system on clay tab­lets with an angled wooden stylus.

Wasma'a ChorbachiChorbachi’s work retells the an­cient Islamic story within a contem­porary context and holds its own side by side with its origins as can be seen in various exhibits and mu­seums throughout the world where her work is shown.  To see more of Wasma’a’s work, click here.

~Raquel Wharton Rohr excerpted from vol 1. number 3 Spring 2009 of Sgraffito, the Harvard Ceramics Program newsletter

Alice Abrams

Alice Abrams Sculpture

Alice Abrams trained in theatre arts as an undergraduate at Tufts University and as a graduate student at New York University. She was introduced to clay in a local art center in 1970. “The hobby grew into a passion,” said Abrams, who has been associated with Boston area ceramics programs during the past 35 years. As stu­dent, teacher, exhibi­tor and curator, she has become a well-known figure in the ceramics community. Currently she maintains studio space at the Lexington Arts & Crafts Society, where she has been a member since 1974, and at the Harvard Ceramics Program Studio, where she has been a participant for 20 years.

Abrams’ ceramics reflect her warm and in­fectious sense of humor and her emotional attachments to nature and family. A signature form for Abrams is the buffalo. Every piece is one of a kind. Each bison is hand formed and finished by firing in raku or in a sag­gar box with organic materials and metal oxides. “Making buf­falos gives me a way to honor my mother,” Abrams explains. “As a child in the Midwest I accompanied her on many western road trips during summer holidays …. The buf­falo serves as a symbol for my attachment to a courageous woman who discovered a new life and taught me about possibilities across the horizon.” 

Humor is another constant in Abrams’ cre­ations. One aspect of her current work is focused on food sculpture, reshaping the vocabulary of nutrition with clay. Abrams describes this idea as, “adding some spice to nutritional concepts to make them more palatable.” One such sculpture is a plate of donuts on lettuce titled I Will Just Have a Salad. Another is Food Pyramid, con­structed of three layers of peanuts — over 1200 in number. Abrams hand-builds these sculp­tures, using low-fire clays and glazes as mate­rials, and slabs, coils and molds for forming. She also incorporates rods and glue and other tools. Abrams is eclec­tic in her choice of clay, glazes, firing modes and temperatures, as well as in her forming techniques. She works with low-, medium- and high-fire clays and glazes and finishes in oxida­tion, reduction, saggar or raku firings. She hand-builds functional plates, platters and boxes as well as the buf­falo and food sculptures.Abrams is also skilled at wheel-throwing, using this expertise to form bowls and lidded jars, mugs and other vessels. Consistent with this diversity, she employs a wide range of techniques for decorating her work.

Alice AbramsAlthough widely divergent in construction and finish, Abrams’ body of work contains themes that are recognizably hers, most notably the shape of her thrown forms and the nature of her hand-built pieces. Threads of continuity can be perceived throughout, along with a de­sire to stretch into new territory. Consequently it is common to see herds of buffalo roaming among mugs, platters and bowls, or plates of ceramic cupcakes, in her display at the semi-an­nual Show and Sale of the HCP Studio.

~Suzanne Garen-Fazio excerpted from vol 1. number 3 Spring 2009 of Sgraffito, the Harvard Ceramics Program newsletter