Category Archives: Celebration of Clay

An annual show of NMPCA member work, The Celebration of Clay exhibitions are held in various locations around the state.

Celebration of Clay 2016

The NMPCA has been holding a “Celebration of Clay” exhibit for…nobody is sure quite how long…15-20 years in my memory.  This year’s exhibit is one of the best we have ever had.  The quality of the work is high, and the setting and arrangement make for a good looking show.  The Celebration of Clay committee would like to thank everybody who participated in and attended this year’s Celebration of Clay. The opening reception and the member guest reception were well attended and gave everybody the opportunity to meet and socialize.

Most of the comments I heard were praises on the quality of the work and how exquisite the gallery looked. A Thank You needs to be extended all the members for their work on setting up the space and the forty members who enter a piece, or pieces, in the show. Other comments I heard were how to get more people to see the show, please extend an invitation to your friends to see the show before it closes this Saturday. A preview is available at


An article  on September 8, 2015, in the Rio Grande Sun by Bob Eckert, eloquently shows and describes many of the pieces of the show. Read the full article here.


The theme for this year’s shows is “Confrontations”. Judging for Best of Show and for the three Merit Awards was based on craft, creativity and correlation to the theme. Confrontation may be interpreted in many ways: as social criticism, as comment on the human condition, or as the tension between opposites: near & far, solid & fluid, fire & ice.

The beauty, quality, functionality award Sponsored by the Porcelain Vessels course at UNM, while any of the other awards can certainly be function pieces, this award is reserved for the functional piece that the jurors feel is the best.

This year’s show Juror was Andrew Connors, Curator of Art, Albuquerque Museum.

People’s Choice Award The piece receiving the most votes through opening night paper ballots, ballots collected at the gallery through the Member Guest reception and during on-line voting is given the People’s Choice award. While no monetary value is associated with this award, the piece is featured on the homepage of the NMPCA websites at and The People’s Choice award is a popular way for everyone to enjoy the exhibit.

This year’s awards are shown here:


See a view of the entire show at

Leonard Baca and Sara D’Alessandro, Show Co-Chairmen
Judy Nelson-Moore, show committee

“Confrontations” A focus on the medium of clay as thought provoker

The choice of “Confrontations”, for the theme for New Mexico Potters and Clay Artists’ annual Celebration of Clay exhibition, shifts the paradigm to focus on the medium of clay as thought provoker and away from the paradigm of function.  The tradition of fired clay in human history is long and essential.   An easily accessed material, ubiquitous around the globe, is worked many ways and provides necessities such as pottery, building materials, and liquid containment.  The plastic quality of unfired clay promotes spontaneous expression.  When working small this is akin to playing with dolls.  Clay can convey gesture directly into the material and record it.   In some cases it can even record the intent of the gesture.   This spontaneity is the initial seduction of clay for most clay artists and invites a non-verbal release of ideas.

In our fast moving society there is little time for contemplation, a necessity for rational thinking and decision making.   Thought is often reduced to a quick reaction (fill in the correct bubble).  Images in the public realm are always accompanied by text telling us:   think this, or buy that, etc.   The maw of media reduces dialogue to oppositional sound bites; hammering away at rational thought process and clarity, pulverizing the possibility of real social dialogue and promotes stasis.   Monoculture thinking is not thinking.  It is no surprise we often find ourselves at a loss encountering an image with no text or title directing our thoughts.    When words fail to address essential issues, image presented with no text has wonderful potency because it engages different parts of our cognitive skills.    Asking difficult questions of the viewer, rather than solely presenting beautiful objects (I love beautiful objects, by the way) which sooth the viewer, is needed to stimulate thought and is needed for art to be meaningful and engaging.  Sometimes a jolt is required to enlarge dialogue.   This is what the theme “Confrontations” hopes to elicit.

Margit Morawietz
Margit Morawietz

Here are three entrees, types of cups, for consideration; each approach the theme differently.   Cup, a vessel of vital function, represents comfort and domesticity.  We may even go so far to say it is a symbol of culture, present and past.  The cups offered by Margit Morawietz present an immediate confrontation:  Does one want to drink from either of these cups whose throats’ dark interiors harbor mysteries and perhaps house creatures.   How can one drink from such a cup?  A straw could be used as a work-around.  These disfigured cups still hold liquid but have limited use and are the source of no comfort.  They communicate viscerally corruption, frustration and distrust.

Betsy Williams
Betsy Williams


The second set of cups are stoneware with a white slip by Betsy Williams.  The theme is explicit on the outside as a design, a form of signage.  The theme is offered at an intellectual remove.   The message is secondary to function in the same way of pictured tee-shirts.  The tee-shirts may be crass and the cups are elegant but the relation of function and use of message are the same.  Williams’ cups calmly reassure the observer of the continuum of culture.

Allen Gresham - Happy Accident
Allen Gresham – Happy Accident


The third example is a cup by Allen Gresham.  This well-formed cup has been savaged to the point of no function.  Although potters know this slicing is performed to check wall thickness and uniformity and the artist has labeled this as “Happy Accident”, the resulting image presented is contrary to the title.  This cup can hold no liquid; it can warm no heart.  Here is an example of clay’s ability to display intent.   Anger and a desire for retribution are communicated.   No cultural or domestic assurance is here.

All works exhibited in this exhibition are hand built and are unique.  This show is “artist choice”, by that we mean points of view may have teeth because they are unfettered by usual market considerations (that works required to be:  cute; within a certain price range; not able to offend anyone) are offered.

Juror on the theme of the show is Andrew L. Connors, Curator of Art at the Albuquerque Museum, with credentials thick in folk art history.

All opinions expressed here are mine and not necessarily those of the juror or the Board.  Rebuttals in the form of an article gratefully accepted by the Slip Trail.

Submitted by Sara Lee D’Alessandro,

See pictures of the works in the Celebration of Clay Show and vote for People’s Choice award starting September 1.

Conversations in Clay

“Did you hear what she said?”

“Mama, are you sure this is where lace giraffe babies come from?”

What can you tell me about austerity?”

“Do you get the feeling we’re being followed?”

Darla Graff ThompsonThese are just a few of the conversation starters enacted in clay in the upcoming Celebration of Clay.  This special themed exhibition will have it’s opening August 14 at 5 pm in the Fuller Lodge Art Center in Los Alamos.  There are over 40 entries by both individual artists and two-artist collaborations.

Melissa Lowry Mosley Try your hand at connecting the pieces with the conversations and then come to the show and see how you did.  These are just a few examples of the entries.

The NMPCA holds an exhibition every year in various locations called the “Celebration of Clay,” where members submit their work to showcase the variety and depth of ceramic art being created in our state. This year’s award jurors, Ken Nebel, Monika Kaden, and Debra Fritts, will select recipients of cash awards, including Best of Show, Awards of Merit, and the UNM Arita Porcelain Department award for Beauty, Quality and Functionality.Monika Kaden

The coveted “People’s Choice” is given to the most popular work in the exhibit.  Join the fun and cast your vote for your favorite at the gallery or on‐line at

Elaine BieryThe cash awards will be announced at the opening reception held on August 14 from 5‐7 pm. The “People’s Choice” award is announced following the closing at

The Fuller Lodge Art Center is a community organization dedicated to promoting the visual arts in Los Alamos through artistic opportunities for all ages through exhibitions, classes, fairs and sales. Currently it supports over 100 local, regional, established and emerging artists. The Art Center is located in Fuller Lodge at 2132 Central Avenue in Los Alamos, NM, and open 10 am ‐ 4 pm Monday through Saturday.

Joretha HallFor more information about the annual Celebration of Clay exhibit,

This article by long-time NMPCA member and roving reporter, Phil Green.

Click thumbnail images to see larger photos and find out who is the artist.

Pack your Work

This article discusses how to pack your work for upcoming NMPCA shows, and might have some ideas for generally packing your work for galleries, shipping or other shows.

The description of this packing is geared to meet the requirements of the NMPCA Celebration of Clay (COC) show.  Show committees have adopted this method for the last 2 shows and for 2015.  It makes it easy for volunteers to organize, transport, and return work to members.  While it may take more time and effort than you are used to doing for your own gallery or show, it is needed for the group situation.  These instructions also apply to participation in the 2015 NMPCA booth at the Silver City Clay Festival (SSCF).

Here’s a description from the Celebration of Clay Call for Entries:

  • Work must be delivered in a sturdy box with generous cushioning. Mailed work should be double boxed. Do not use tape on the wrapping material when packing your artwork.

  • Tape or tie one copy of artwork label to work, with your signature to validate the insurance valuation price or value declared to the Art Center.

  • Place in box one page bio/artist statement for the COC binder and business cards.

  • On outside of box affix prominently a photo or sketch of artwork and another artwork label.

Ever  wondered what this really means?   Here’s an example of preparing a piece for the SSCF…this same example could apply to the COC.  Click on the illustrating photos to see more detail.

Step 1:  Finish the work, measure the dimensions, give it a title, and decide what price to put on it.    Write these things down.

Step 2.  Register the piece for the show.  For the 2014 Celebration of Clay show that is here: and for the NMPCA booth at the 2015 Silver City Clay Festival it’s here:   Read the instructions for the show, fill in the registration, and pay for the entry through paypal or send a check.

Step 3:  Take a good digital image of the piece and prepare a file according to these instructions.  Use the digital image for the COC People’s Choice Vote. Use a larger pixels size for publicity photos.

Step 3.   Prepare the paperwork to go with the piece:  For the Celebration of Clay, print the artwork label sent in the confirmation email.  For the SSCF booth, print and fill out 4 copies of the “invoice” form from the link in the confirmation email.  For both shows print a small picture from your step 3 image for the outside of the box.

Materials gathered to pack a sculpture for the NMPCA:  inner and outer boxes, tape, bubble wrap, packing paper, extra cardboard...oh, and the piece with it's label attached.

Step 4.  Get a box/boxes ready.  I like to double box my work, but you might consider packing small works with plenty of bubble wrap in a single box.  When double boxing,  make the inside box 1-2″ larger than the piece, and the outer box 1-2″ larger than the inner box.  A single box should have at least 2 inches packing space on all sides.

I find that my pieces never fit the boxes I have, and I also am very reluctant to buy new boxes.  I like to reuse the shipping boxes I have for environmental reasons.  This means I generally end up rebuilding the boxes.  The picture above shows the materials gathered to pack the sculpture shown.  The inner box on the left was sized OK as is, and the outer box on the right was cut down and combined with another box’s cardboard.  The two boxes in the first image at the top of this article were both rebuilt.  Note that I use lots of tape to put the boxes together.

Step 5.  Pack the piece (with label attached) in the box.    Use clean packing, although it can be used.  Best to use bubble wrap or unprinted newsprint or packing paper.  If you must use packing popcorn, tie them up in a plastic bag so that they can be removed easily and won’t spill everywhere.   In courtesy of the volunteers who will unpack the box, don’t put a lot of tape around the packing that you wrap around the piece.  That takes a long time to undo.  Just wrap bubble wrap or paper around the piece.  If essential to close, use a little blue masking tape, as that is easy to remove.

Showing the inner box with the sculpture wrapped in bubble wrap (no tape), placed inside the outer box with extra cardboard underneath as padding and packing paper and bubble wrap slid down between the inner box and the outer box to keep the inner box from shifting.

This picture shows the sculpture wrapped in bubble wrap in the inner box, placed in the outer box with extra cardboard underneath and with wadded up packing paper around the edges to keep it from shifting.  Extra cardboard or packing paper is placed on top before the box is closed.

Outer box has been sealed with easy-to-remove blue masking tape.  A label with contact information and description is fixed to the outside, along with a small picture of the piece to aid in finding the box when it is sold or returned.

Step  6:  Close up the box.  Using clear tape, affix the label and picture of the piece to the top or front of the box.  Use blue masking tape or some other easily removable tape to keep the box closed.

When you are done, the piece should be secure, not rattle or move within the box, with at least 2 inches of packing all the way around the piece.  If shipping, wrap the box in plain paper to provide a clean surface for the shipping address.


Every Pot Has a Story

At the upcoming NMPCA exhibit, Conversations In Clay, we look forward to seeing conversations showing of all kinds of clay work:  functional, decorative and sculptural.  Our NMPCA membership includes people working in all modes of ceramic expression, and the conversations should be lively!

Gloria Gilmore-House brings to our attention remarks made by Mark Hewitt in a Ceramics Monthly essay, June/July 2007 titled Functional Pride: Putting the Fun Back into Functional Pottery.  Some of his words bring to mind conversations we have about functional pottery:

“I am a maker of mugs, pitchers and plates, among other things.  I do not want to make nonfunctional pots. …My pots are expressions of my individuality; they illuminate the world; they rage against it; they fascinate me with their myriad details…We hold collective creative dreams in our hands, fighting against the forces of uniformity, providing insight, hope and reverie.  Our pots become part of people’s lives, where they accomplish more than the task at hand.”

The entire article is a rich source of functional pottery conversation.  Read the article online on Mark Hewitt’s website.

Here are some examples of conversations focusing on functional work overheard on recently,

Esther Ann Smith (Santa Fe)

Esther Smith Jar
The act of creating ranks among food, sleep, touch, and love; without it, I would fail to thrive. Thus, I make work that excites me and makes me feel truly alive.

Betsy Williams (Rinconada/Dixon)

Betsy Williams Lidded Jar
At the center of what I do is the conviction that the best pots have the capacity to communicate something essential and ineffable about the human spirit…  In my work, I aspire to a balance between subtlety and self-expression, minimalism and warmth, delicacy and usability, tradition and originality.

Theo Helmstadter (Santa Fe)

Theo Helmstadter, Tea Set
The pots I make are reduction-fired stoneware – durable, dense, darkened, designed to be picked up & used. A good pot is one you keep getting to know – one you encounter again & again for the first time.

Sandra Harrington (Questa)

Sandra Harrington Ginger Jar
I like for my work to be part of every day living. I am inspired by line, by found objects, by nature, and by creative problems originating in my imagination. I have a deep respect for pure and traditional forms…

Joey Serim (Santa Fe)

Joey Serim, Teapot
I aim to make bowls, cups, plates, teapots, pitchers, flower vessels that will lift the users’ spirits when seeing them, touching them, using them in their everyday lives. I would like my work to bring more pleasure to our daily routines and encourage us to be more mindful and present in those moments.

Deadline for entries to Conversations in Clay exhibit is July 14.  Register online at

Conversations in Clay Jurors

The 2015 NMPCA Celebration of Clay all-member exhibition has merited several posts on this newsletter. The theme is Conversations in Clay and the exhibit will be located at the Fuller Lodge Art Center (FLAC) in Los Alamos, New Mexico.  The dates of the exhibit are from August 14 to September 19, 2015.  See the Celebration of Clay website.

With this post we announce the award jurors for the show.  These three outstanding individuals will decide which of the pieces that members submit to the show will merit special recognition with an award.   The awards to be given are Best of Show, $250, 3 Awards of Merit, $50 each, and the UNM Arita Porcelain Department award for Beauty, Quality and Functionality, $100.  Award winners will be announced at the opening reception on August 14.

The three jurors are:

  • Ken Nebel, Director, Fuller Lodge Art Center
  • Monika Kaden, Sculptor, Santa Fe
  • Debra Fritts, Sculptor, Abiquiu

Here is an introduction to the jurors.

Ken Nebel

Ken Ken Nebel PortraitNebel is a long time Los Alamos resident who has the great good fortune at the age of 31 to say that he has been working at the Fuller Lodge Art Center for over half his life. Ken holds a BFA with an emphasis in Illustration and a Minor in Art History, and continues to pursue his craft through ongoing studies in a variety of media and an active creative life. Ken’s life long passion for sharing art with his community makes owning Village Arts, the local framing and art supply store, directing the Fuller Lodge Art Center, and facilitating the Los Alamos Life Drawing Group a natural fit.

Monika Kaden

MonikaKaden_PortraitwWorkMonika grew up in the former East Germany, where she trained with a strict classical Eastern European arts education. In 1988, before the Berlin Wall came down, she escaped with her two sons to Holland and found her way to the U.S. She studied first at The Gerrit Rietfeld Academy in Amsterdam/Holland and at Alfred University in Alfred, New York, where she received her Master of Fine Arts degree.

When Monika was selected as Artist in Residence in 2000 by The Santa Fe Art Institute, she had no idea how it would impact her life.
Once she was immersed in the rich culture, history, and landscape of New Mexico, she realized she had found her own sense of place.

Her unique, classic contemporary style is a mirror of her diverse experiences and was further developed in New Mexico with inspiration from the round, earth-connected forms of Native American Culture and the festive, colorful Hispanic Culture.

Kaden’s art exhibit the freedom and joy that Monika felt while creating artwork in the open environment of New Mexico. Here,
integrated into the multicultural communities of Northern New Mexico, she is filled with joy as she creates art with no limitations, no
boundaries, and no barriers.

Debra Fritts

DebraFrittsPortrait2wWorkDebra Fritts is a studio artist working in Abiquiu, New Mexico.  She received her undergraduate degree in Art Education from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and continued graduate studies in ceramic sculpture, painting and printmaking.  Debra  conducts master classes and workshops nationally.

Debra enjoys national recognition for her work in ceramic sculpture through invitational exhibitions and awards, museum exhibitions, gallery representation, private collections and publications.  Her sculptures were included in “Form and Imagination”, honoring women ceramic sculptors at the American Museum of Ceramic Art, Pomona, California and in the permanent collection at the Fuller Museum in Massachusetts and in the Georgia Artist Collection at Georgia Southern University.  Debra’s sculptures have been displayed at SOFA Chicago, SOFA New York, and Palm Beach 3 along with gallery presentation throughout the U.S. Her one of a kind sculptures are hand-built and multiple fired with a painterly glazed surface.  The work is a continuous story of awareness and the celebration of daily living.

The NMPCA is particularly fortunate with these three people who are not only jurors but are participants in the NMPCA community.  Ken has been a long-time friend of our members, inviting us to participate in shows at FLAC.  The FLAC has an excellent ceramic art studio with classes.

Monika has taught classes at the FLAC that members have enjoyed and she will be joining us at the Spring 2015 V-Camp at Ghost Ranch to help maintain Pot Hollow.  We look forward to getting to know her better.

Debra has been a member of the NMPCA shortly after she moved to Abiquiu from North Carolina and will be the presenter at our annual 2015 Ghost Ranch workshop in September.   Members enjoyed her short presentation at a past NMPCA New Mexico Connections workshop.

Members:  Don’t forget the deadline to submit your entry to the Celebration of Clay is July 14, 2015.  Find out all the details and register your entry at

One additional award, the People’s Choice Award, will be announced at the end of the show and is awarded to the piece that receives the most votes from the public through the internet and in-person voting.