Decadent Design for the Soft Surface Workshop with Ben Carter

It is an honor to listen to an artist talk about their work, their process, their inspirations. I love hearing ideas about process or inspiration put together in a way that I think ‘I have never heard that before’.  And the bonus: it makes me think differently about something going on in my own work.  This experience with words is analogous to teaching a beginner to throw.  We all use different words to communicate the process. I imagine that for most us these words come from our teachers who taught us to throw.  Learning to throw is hard and, I think, even harder to explain in words.  At some point the student must experience the process for themselves.  Sometimes, it takes a new teacher to use slightly different words for a student to understand.  When a beginner realizes how to use their body, their hands, when they experience the feeling of the right amount of pressure they get that “ah ha” moment and voila they can center the clay.

Yesterday while listening to Ben I was having lots of “ah ha” moments.  I have always thought that a mug should have a flat bottom like a coffee can.  Ben makes the bottom of his pots, even his mugs, with a natural curve.  He sees the whole interior as one plane as opposed to a horizontal and vertical space.  It sets up the pot for his decoration.  For me the “ah ha” moment came when he talked about arches and strength.  A catenary kiln arch is so strong that it is hard to take down.  The same could be said of a curved arched bottom of a mug – it is stronger.

I came away with another gem.  In talking about his desire to create soft surfaces, Ben said the tension created by the rib is released by pushing into the surface.  He is creating and releasing tension.  “Ah ha!”  I think about creating tension but not releasing it.  And then there was the description of form language.  A pot should have the same form language and not have a foot speaking Chinese, a rim speaking Staffordshire and a belly speaking German salt.  I smiled as I visually conjured up a pot with these three languages. “Ah ha!”  Thanks Ben.



Santa Fe Continued

After spending 5 days in the studio it was time to explore Santa Fe.  We started at the Spanish Market – mostly religious themed crafts.  I have been to Indian Market which includes all the crafts, each pueblo has their own style and no two are alike.  The younger generation are making within the tradition and at the same time developing their own voice.   I find that very exciting.  We visited Shiprock Gallery on the Plaza and saw top of the line jewelry, weaving, and pots.  We lunched at Cafe Pascal and I had a magnificent plate of Huevos Rancheros.

We returned to Museum Hill to visit the Museum of International Folk Art.  Amazing collection from all over the world.  Here are some images of my favorite objects.  I didn’t write titles or countries down – sorry!


Last Day Mark Pharis Workshop

Today the studio was both hushed and full of activity. Some participants were cleaning up and leaving early, some finishing last minute details, settling up bills (mine was very high I have a very supportive husband!), and saying goodbyes.  I didn’t take any photos today but here is one from earlier in the week of the group!

Participants of the Mark Pharis Workshop at Santa Fe Clay

Participants of the Mark Pharis Workshop at Santa Fe Clay

Susan and I ended the day on a “Behind the Scenes Tour” of the Georgia O’Keefe Home and Studio.  We saw the room where she stretched her canvases, her bedroom next to the studio (now set up as a bedroom) and the fall out shelter in addition to the regular tour.  It is really a magical place, no wonder she waited 15 years until she could buy the house.  Georgia O’Keefe’s bedroom is on the corner of the house.  The two outside walls have enormous plate glass windows with a view overlooking the valley.  She could lie in bed and look at this view.  We were not allowed to take anything up to the house with us – no photos allowed – but I found this one on the internet.


Georgia O’Keefe House, bedroom



We had a wonderful dinner at the Abiquiu Inn.  Highly recommended.


Day 3 Mark Pharis

Susan and I began our day at Starbucks.  Here is the promised photo.

On the way back I took more photos of the Railyard Garden.

Mark gave Susan an assignment to draw her teapot life sized and he would show her how to make a template for the teapot.  He took a compass, found the half, quarter, 1/8th and 1/16th.  From this 1/16th measurement he made 1/6 of the teapot that Susan could use to make the entire body of the pot.  Ingenious!

Later in the afternoon Mark cut a square template from 1/4 inch masonite.  Using a jigger saw he cut a square hole.  He placed the square template on a bucket, laid the clay in the template and let gravity do it’s thing.

We ended the day with a slide lecture by Mark.  I love hearing someone talk about their work.  It is like receiving a gem.  On abstraction – Working on soy bottles allowed Mark to explore abstraction because there is no history in his family, life or in Minnesota of soy bottles.  In the growth of a vision one can have a small epiphanies along the way which changes the direction of the art work.  When do we learn about pots as kids, what is our history, what do we eat, how does that affect the way we think about form.  Pots create social context they are about humanity.

More tomorrow.  Esther told me not to post this so late because no one sees it at 12.24 EDS – sorry honey posting now!  Good night.

Day 2 Mark Pharis

Up early and by 645am Susan and I were on our way to Starbucks!  I was asking questions and she said “you are making me talk too much”!!  I laughed to myself, we both talk too much!  The Starbucks is predominantly a drive in and has an open air seating area.  I will get a photo tomorrow.

We walked through the Market, it is open on Tuesday and Saturday mornings and is located in front of Santa Fe Clay.  The produce was so fresh and delicious looking I wished I had a kitchen.  I brought some fried hot peppers and tried to talk the owner to cook up some of those small sweet peppers to no avail.


Onto the workshop.  Mark cleared up some confusion from yesterday how to make a template and where the right angle should.  Most challenging for the non-math inclined which I include myself.

My attempt at being Mark!  I threw the slab and cut the form out using a template.

Charlotte Lindley Martin being Mark Pharis!

Charlotte Lindley Martin being Mark Pharis!

Day 2 Santa Fe, Day 1 Mark Pharis

What a fun day we had.  Mark showed us how to make templates out of paper to build our pots.  The paper was problematic so we ended up using tar paper.  Thanks to HP Bloomer for buying it for us.

Mark said the join of the two slabs is the beginning and the ending of the pot.