Posts Tagged ‘pottery’

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


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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

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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

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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

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Dennis McLaughlin Pot

Denny McLaughlin is one of the more recent additions to the Harvard Ceramics Program staff. He was born in southwest Minnesota and lived there for most of his life. About five years ago during a transitional period he moved to Boston. Having taught a class here in 2003, he was familiar with the Harvard Ceram­ics Studio and its community. Within a very few years he has become a central figure at the Studio. Midwestern to his core, McLaughlin has a deep and resonant voice, a huge, warm and open smile and a pioneer spirit that en­courages exploration and promotes possibility.

McLaughlin started his university studies as an art major concentrating on two-dimen­sional work at Southwest State University, Marshall, MN, but with his first course in ceramics in the spring semester of his sopho­more year he switched his focus. After gradu­ating from Southwest State he spent one year working in the pottery studio at Marylhurst College in Portland, Oregon, and earned a Master’s degree in ceramics from Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS. He then returned to Minnesota where he started his family and his career as a production potter.

A friend helped him open his own pottery studio and taught him to balance his atten­tion between the business of selling and the production of the pottery. Consequently his customers were welcomed into his working area where they were educated in the process of producing pottery. His charismatic personality and passion for what he was doing guaranteed that no one left empty handed and would almost certainly come back for more.

He also organized spring and fall events, drawing large crowds. An annual event called “Harvest Gathering at Birch Coulee,” held on the first Sunday of October, cel­ebrated the harvest season and the regional arts and crafts. The event, located next to the historic Birch Coulee Battlefield, attracted thou­sands of visitors. When McLaughlin goes home people still ask about the harvest gathering. His pottery produc­tion in Minnesota spanned close to 20 years.

McLaughlin’s artistic sensibility was in­fluenced by his undergraduate and graduate ceramics professors, in particular under­graduate professor Gordon Dingman, whose work was similar to the work of Bernard Leach and Warren MacKenzie. McLaughlin combines this sensibility with the explora­tion of indigenous clays and glazes, produc­ing work that is strong in form and delicate in surface. He favors stoneware clays, because of their potential for varied interactions with glazes, and ash glazes for their interplay with the clay. He is precise, efficient and fast, has a broad vocabulary of forms, and each is as fresh and fluid as if he’d made only one.

Denny McLaughlin“I draw my inspiration from all work and traditions,” McLaughlin says when asked to define the sources of his artistic style. McLaughlin’s work is predomi­nantly functional, mostly wheel-thrown or formed in molds he makes, and is decorated with slip trails, sprigs and glazes he creates. Although not process oriented, he enjoys direct in­volvement in process, and even built a wood-burning, climb­ing kiln as a graduate student. McLaughlin brings all of these skills to his teaching. He is able to demonstrate processes step by step. The skills he teaches al­low his students a greater free­dom and spontaneity flowing from con­fidence in the ability to control the clay. McLaughlin’s seriousness of purpose and attention to detail complement his genu­ine warmth and his passion for his work.

~Liz Golbus excerpted from vol 1. number 3 Spring 2009 of Sgraffito, the Harvard Ceramics Program newsletter

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Japanese Art historian, Andrew Maske, and Hamada Tomoo (grandson of Japan’s National Living Treasure, Hamada Shoji)  discuss recent tea bowl scholarship  with an audience of 70 students and art professionals at the Ceramics Program.


Hamada, Tomoo demonstrated glazing and gave a presentation about his family legacy in Mashiko. He is the grandson of Hamada Shoji, “National Living Treasure” and THE major figure of the mingei folk-art movement.

“Hamada, Tomoo’s pots utilize essentially the same materials as those of Hamada Shinsaku(his father) and Hamada Shoji (his grandfather) – glazes like reddish brown kaki, brown tenmoku, cobalt blue, white rice straw ash, bluish-white namako, green seiji, black kurogusuri, creamy nuka, translucent namijiro, and runny-green wood ash, all used to cover a speckled tan clay dug and formulated right in Mashiko. Unlike his elders, however, Tomoo has become much more daring in the use of unconventional shapes, extensive application of overglaze enameled decorations, and surface textures. In particular, his tiered fl asks (HT21) are very progressive, and unlike anything seen before in a mingei genre. It is clear that Tomoo has been looking beyond the works of his forebears, examining works from the early English Arts and Crafts movement, and even from art nouveau.” — Andrew L. Maske

*This program was presented in conjunction with an exhibition at
the Pucker Gallery, 171 Newbury Street, Boston, MA
from June 13 through July 20, 2009.
“Hamada: Three Generations of Japanese Potters”
Opening Reception: June 13, 2009, 3 – 6 pm
Potter’s Event: Sunday, June 14, 3 – 5 pm
RSVP to justine@puckergallery.com

“The world of traditional ceramics in Japan naturally places great emphasis on lineage. Lines of potters that began in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century are now in their fourteenth or fifteenth generations. A lineage of only three generations may seem insignificant by comparison, but (the exhibition at Pucker Gallery) by the Hamada family makes it clear that it is not the length of the line that is most important, but rather the quality of the work.”— Andrew L. Maske

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“So You Think You Can Throw. . . a Dinner Party?”

The name of Shawn Panepinto’s class, listed in the course catalog, gave those who enrolled a good idea about what was going to be in store for them in the Spring of 2009.

The focus of the class was, as the title suggested, preparing to give a dinner party on the last day of the semester that would include members of the class and their invited guests. The preparation included each student making 2 place settings (2 dinner plates, 2 salad plates, 2 bowl shaped containers, 2 drinking vessels, and one luminary for the table), and it also included planning a menu and then preparing the food.

The class divided into five teams each choosing a country or a region that its pottery and menu selections would represent. After lively debate, the teams announced their choices: the Caribbean, Spain, the Middle East and North Africa, the Southwest United States, and China. In addition to the place settings and food, each team also created a centerpiece, chose appropriate music, and decided on drinks to be served with the meals.
The culmination of the semester would be, of course, the dinner party itself! The guest list included many spouses and family members who had heard about classes and about studio activities for years, but had never actually visited. There was anticipation and excitement.

So… with a lot of work, a lot of preparation, and a lot of collaboration, it seems this class can indeed throw a dinner party!

Here are reactions to the party from some of the guests and the participants.

Last evening, the studio was literally transformed into a multi-cultural wonderland. Guests were escorted inside to help celebrate the semester-end of Shawn Panepinto’s advanced class. Dressed up in white linen, with spectacular lighting and exquisitely decorated tables displaying handmade dinnerware, it was barely recognizable. Many hands worked tirelessly to create a truly special event that featured homemade cuisine from China, The Caribbean, the American Southwest, North Africa, and Spain. Full menus were prepared and presented by members of the class, and served on handmade dinnerware inspired by those same cultures. From appetizers to desserts, with amazing main courses in between, guests were treated like VIP’s. Shawn had put together a slideshow that featured most of those in attendance, who, along with their work, were shown in memorable situations from the past. Many spouses were there (some for the first time), Cathy McCormick and her husband Dewey Dellay attended, Shawn and Delaney were presented with gifts and accolades, and Nancy Selvage put in an appearance just to finish the party on a high note.
To say that a good time was had by all would be a huge understatement! A memorable celebration of a memorable class!
(Jim Anderson, guest)

A feast to the eyes. (anonymous guest)

The food was all wonderful. (Austin de Besche, guest)

Martha Stewart, move over, you’ve got competition. Candlelight flickered in ceramic luminaries in the Main Studio as Shawn Panepinto and her 25 students greeted 35 guests on Wednesday evening, May 6, for the culmination of her Advanced Ceramics class. The course, titled “So, You Think You Can Throw a Dinner Party?” challenged her students to throw, both ceramically and literally, a gourmet dinner party in which every single place setting, serving platter, candle holder and centerpiece was to be made by them during the semester. The class had been divided into 5 teams for the two term project. The Fall semester focused on an exploration of tableware ceramic technique. During the Winter/Spring Semester, each team studied a region of the world to find artistic inspiration and a culinary theme. They created complete menus for each of the 5 regions and began to design the serving containers for the native dishes they would be cooking. As May approached, the teams added party planning to their duties; they designed the invitations, and organized the decorations, flowers, music and entertainment. The last week was a flurry of kiln firings and human activity as the class transformed the studio into a colorful banquet hall. The night of the party, guests were feted to delights from China, the American Southwest, Spain, the Carribbean, and the Arabian Mediterranean countries. The visual spectacle of 60 original handcrafted place settings was stunning. So, did the class succeed at Shawn’s challenge? As one of her students, I would answer, “Yes ( we can!)” Perhaps that’s why the lifesize cardboard cutout of President Obama was standing in the doorway. The class extends joyous thank you’s to Shawn, for guiding us “soup to nuts” through another creative endeavor. The party may be over, but the place settings will be on view at the Show and Sale. Put it on your calendar, May 14-17. (Alice Abrams, participant)

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