Earth Transformed: The 2018 Clay Studio National Biennial

A National Biennial Exhibition at the Clay Studio, Philadelphia until July 15, 2018



The Clay Studio, founded in the mid-1970s as a collective of artists has been expanding since then into a major resource for individuals, Philadelphia’s communities and her schools for instruction  and artistic development and exhibition of the ceramic arts.

The Clay Studio provides a grounding in creation out of earth. 

Earth of several kinds. 

Hand, eye, mind. 

Form, function, decoration, size, weight, feel, meaning. 


This exhibition of work chosen by this year’s juror,  Beth Ann Gerstein, executive director of the American Museum of Ceramic Art, shows wonderful examples of the possibilities of the art from all over the United States.

Artists whose slow, thoughtful work is the opposite of and one of the salves to our nervy, quick flashing, proto-communal activity in virtual worlds.

Here is the work of some of these artists.





TXT 1, porcelain, 2018, Adam Chau


In the midst of chaos, as the ceramicist Terry Saulin notes,  these artists have taken up opportunities to create markers of their experience in and insight into our world.  Transforming earth.


Creation of order, abstraction, calculation

reflection on relationships between people

commentary on the natural world, on our urban environment, and the particular place we call home

creations to mark personal evolution


homages to the function of the ordinary items of our everyday life


and the concentration of light.   





Motion, porcelain, 2018.  Leah Kaplan



Earth transformed. 

The ceramic art has, of course, several functions. 

The most precious for, I imagine, many of us, is the symbolic one: this art is a metaphor for the process of transforming the earth. 

It is the artistic process which is the symbol and metaphor of this transformation. 


Transformation from a place of the intermittent war of our species, from need and cruelty into a place of peace and flourishing, a place, from the title of another of Terry Saulin’s pieces now in the annual juried exhibition at the Woodmere Museum, for which no battle is required.  An ideal, a goal.





Ceremonial Vessel, 2018, terracotta, glaze, mulberry paper, guache.  Stephanie Kantor: Clay Studio Resident Artist, 2018

An evocation of Springtime, the artist has made an altar for fertility and abundance.


Given this metaphor, I could not but be touched and made hopeful by each of these works. By the effort, thoughtfulness, and skill.  



It remains to thank the Clay Studio for their work bringing this art to the attention and hands of more and more people.





 Saggar Fired Box/ Kimono Prints 2 and 3, stoneware, 2018.  Patty Kochaver










Plugger, ceramics, 2018.  John Shea

The artist explains that a plugger was someone who removed the center of a coin for the purposes of counterfeit.  Not a total counterfeit but enough to deceive.

Similarly, the artist has created a piece to allow us not to know at any instant whether we are looking at the form or at the surface or at the play of deceptive light.




 For All Debts, ceramic, 2018. Mimi Logothetis








Greed Has Two Mouths to Bite, white stoneware, 2018.  Emily Duke.

The source of this piece lie in interviews in southern Georgia in the mid-1970s with hoop snakes.  These led the artist into a creation about greed, luck and mortality.






Tipsy maybe?  Unwise Baby, earthenware, 2017.  Hannah Pierce




Cupola Jar, stoneware, 2018.  Seth Green





Carpenter, earthenware, underglaze, 2018.  Richard Nickel

A portrait of the artist’s father soon after his death.




Embryotic Spur, 2018, ceramic, underglaze, graphite, acrylic.  Blanca Guerra-Echeverria.

The artist reviews the growth cycle of the human embryo as miraculous as it is a commonplace.




Something to Carry My Guilt In, 2018, terracotta, stoneware, linen, polyfill.  Casey Whittier.

A concentrated masterpiece of the artist’s goals, effort, anxieties, fears in the form of a facsimile of her backpack.  This is made of chain mail of strong war memory and of vulnerable ceramic manufacture.









Patternscape:  Urban Facets, ceramic, 2017.  Tiffany Schmierer

A gorgeous visual density and complicated texture as a show of our close interconnection with each other and our urban world (Oakland and San Francisco in the life of this artist).




Conversation, stoneware, 2016.  Kit Davenport




 Sense of Place, porcelain, 2018. Stephanie M. Wilhelm




Roots and Ropes, porcelain, 2018.  Jackie Brown



Handhelds, 2016, reduction fired stoneware.  Raymond Rorke.

The artist found an old and rusted horseshoe when he was digging in his garden one day.

Holding it and looking at it brought him into that long human memory, partly in the mind and partly in the fingers, of the things made, touched, used by our species.  Brought to the fore, as the artist points out, today with the use we make of our intelligent tools.

Knolling, the artist explains, originated in the practice of a janitor in Frank Gehry’s Knoll furniture design shop.  Each night, the janitor would neatly arrange the architect’s drafting tools.  This activity has been taken up by others in the artistic community.

Touched my heart:  not only because of what is implied about what the janitor understood but also because I remember the reverence with which my teachers spoke of the skill and very great beauty of the Acheulean handtools of our distant ancestors. Pointing at one and then another  and then another; and then starting all over again.






Network, ceramics, 2018, Andrea LeBlond.





 Awe/Agency, 2017, porcelain.  Nicole Gugliotti (video not included here).

The artist has also long worked in reproductive health services. She seeks to make sure that the choice and experience of women who have chosen to have abortions be fully heard. 

They are not even though choice has huge popular support (70%) primarily because there is a political establishment, national and state, who is not for choice.



Black Covered Jar, colored jar, 2017, coloured porcelain.  Justin Donofrio



 Abstract Form II, earthenware, 2018.  Rebecca Zweibel




Intergenerational Hands, porcelain, 2018.  Nikki Lau.

The artist commemorates three generations – mother, mother’s mother and herself – who live and have lived by the use of their hands to highlight the inequalities which exist in our society where certain people have access to every kind of media and others are never heard.

The colours of the United States whose economy has allowed immigrants to sustain our lives and those of our families in distant places; and  thread the colour of the blood which links the generations and flows on.





 Train Tracks, porcelain, tile.  Tiffany Bailey




Experience Objects, 2017, slipcast earthenware.  Mark Goudy. 

Handmade stones of the  kind found on beaches and stream beds to express the artist’s interest in design, process, form and pattern and the processes of nature itself.





Landscape 10, ceramic, 2018. Matt Ziemke






McCall Clover Plate Set, stoneware.  Colleen McCall





Bump, 2018, wood, salt-fired stoneware, NC clay slip, iron oxide. Takuro Shibata.

The artist notes that natural processes – local clay and wood firing with its flying ash – are important to him because they cannot be fully controlled. 

I quote the artist’s wish because it runs against the grain of our noisy, imposing civilization and I thank him:

I hope, the artist says, the pieces I create will blend it into nature and people’s daily life with harmony.





Beauty. Not only.




Coyote, ceramics, 2018.  Chuck Johnson



 Dryad, ceramic, 2018.  Laura Kastin









3 thoughts on “Earth Transformed: The 2018 Clay Studio National Biennial

  1. La céramique a un statut particulier dans notre culture parce que la Bible dit que l’Homme a été modelé dans de l’argile.
    Au moment de la conception du texte la poterie était sans doute le produit le plus sophistiqué de son temps.

    1. Oui, c’est vrai. Meme peutetre parmi eux qui ne connaissent pas la Bible.

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