Category Archives: TheSlipTrail

Our new newsletter distribution method: The Slip Trail Blog has the latest news, articles of interest, and anything that we want to communicate to keep in touch!

Bill Armstrong Grant: New deadline, March 15

by Daisy Kates

The TurquoiseTrailSchool_StudentPreparesTileForMuralBill Armstrong Grant, named after a late member of the NM Potters and Clay Artists, is an annual grant of up to $1000 that supports ceramic art education. Over the years awards have been given for funding workshop instructors, supplies, equipment, mural projects, etc.

For example, in 2015, the Dixon Elementary school received a grant award for a cultural enrichment, hand’s-on program, “Pueblo Pottery of the Region”, and the Silver City Clay Festival received assistance with staffing for a Jack Troy salt glaze workshop. In 2014 the award paid for a clay drum-making workshop for the q-Staff theatre group in Albuquerque, and in 2013 the grant monies contributed to the fabrication and installation of a tile mural at the Turquoise Trail Charter School and to the purchase of glazes for a high school ceramics program. In the past we have provided funds for a new potters wheel for a non-profit arts organization, workshops for special needs populations and many other worthwhile projects.

All applicants need to have 501(c)3 status or be an educational institution in New Mexico. The grant application process is not complicated and details can be found on the NMPCA website, Click on Programs…Grant. Site visits are made whenever possible to research the proposals and final decisions are made by the Board. A new deadline of March 15 is now in place, and the decision for the award will be made by June 30.

Please let any organizations or schools that you think might benefit from funding related to ceramic art education know about this grant. You can refer them to the NMPCA website for information.

Notes from the Editor:

Daisy Kates and Penne Roberts have served for many years as the Armstrong Grant Committee.  Their role is to evaluate and prioritize the applications, and make recommendations for award to the Board and membership.

To give you an idea of the kind of programs supported by the Armstrong Grant, here is a list of several years of past awards.

The winner of the 2014 Bill Armstrong Grant was the q-Staff Theatre in downtown Albuquerque. They requested $500 for the materials, tools and firings needed to hold a workshop in making clay drums which will were then used in various theatrical performances. The drums were designed in such a way that they can also be used as wind instruments. The participants will be theatre group members as well as associated group members.

There were two awards provided for the 2013 Bill Armstrong Grant. The primary recipient was the Turquoise Trail Charter School (on North 14, south of Santa Fe). An award of $1,000 was given to the school for the fabrication and installation of a mural in an outdoor courtyard titled “Our Natural Environment.”  A secondary award was granted to the Atrisco Heritage Academy High School in the South Valley of Albuquerque. They received $300 to assist with the purchase of glazes for their ceramics program.

3 organizations received awards in 2011  Tarnoff Art Center, Rowe, New Mexico for the purchase of a potter’s wheel.  Off Center Community Arts Project, Albuquerque, New Mexico for a handbuilt clay class.  Manzano Mountain Arts Council, Mountainair, New Mexico for a handbuilding class.

In 2010, no organizations applied for the Armstrong Grant.  Instead, the organization sponsored two attendees to the NCECA Symposium on Critical Ceramics in the fall of 2010.  One student and one adult were chosen from applications for the scholarships.

Grant Recipients were  1) Placitas community mural project entitled “Protect Our Wildlife Corridors” by Pathways for assistance with a large ceramic wildlife mural; 2) McCurdy School Art Department, and School for ceramic art supplies and equipment for their art studio; and 3) Potters’ Guild of Las Cruces for a workshop.

The 2008 Bill Armstrong Grant was awarded to Ghost Ranch for improvements to the ceramic workshop space. This grant was used to create a level flooring surface in the Pot Hollow work area.

The 2007 Bill Armstrong Grant was awarded to The Camino de Paz Farm School. The school was awarded $500 to hold a six-week (once a week) micaceous pottery workshop that was taught by local artist/potter Camilla Trujillo.

Access Art Studio at The Art Center at Fuller Lodge, Los Alamos

Pojoaque Boys and Girls Club for purchase of wheels. NMPCA coordinated purchase, receiving a special price on two new wheels.

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

Natural Clay with Paper

Using Natural Ghost Ranch Clay and Paper Pulp in Short Workshops

Barbara Campbell Collects Clay at Ghost Ranch, NM
Barbara Campbell Collects Clay at Ghost Ranch, NM

Artist and Teacher, Barbara Campbell, teaches workshops at Ghost Ranch.  Barbara, who has been supporting herself as a potter for over 40 years, has been teaching workshops and classes at Ghost Ranch for 9 years.

One of the popular activities at Ghost Ranch is to utilize the natural clay deposits that abound in the arroyos and canyons of the Ranch.  Barbara says:

“For several years now I have been experimenting with Ghost Ranch clay.  I have dug it here and there around the ranch, but like most all earthenware clay I find it to be tough and short unless it is aged for a few years.  With classes being so short and students liking the idea of digging their own clay, I needed to come up with a way to make the ranch clay more workable on the day it was dug.”

Barbara discovered paper clay at her friend’s Judy Nelson-Moore workshop at Santa Fe Clay.   Read an article Judy prepared about paperclay.   Learning about the strength and enhanced working qualities of paperclay gave Barbara an idea about how to make natural clays work better.

“Once I decided to add 20 to 30% paper pulp, the clay became very workable and it was a quick and easy fix. Sometimes when looking for clay I take students to different parts of the ranch and we get different colors (they all fire out the same more or less), because it is fun to work with colored clays.  On the ranch I have found  yellow ochre, green, many shades of red and rust, gray, crocus martes, very deep burgundy, and even bluish clay.

“When I teach Jan Term, my students are college kids, usually sophomores through seniors.  In the summer months I have students that range in age from 14 to 80 or more if they are spritely.  Some of them are seasoned potters and others are rank beginners so it is always challenging to keep it simple for the beginners and make it challenging for the veterans.

“The advantage of working with the paper/ranch clay mix is that it is quick to make, easy to use and quick to dry.  We are doing a from the ground (literally) up to completion of a firing in five days.  It is tricky, but I am finding that it can work. I don’t have to bisque very high which saves time and since we are either doing a pit firing or a fume firing, it is relatively simple to get things from the bisque kiln into the finish kiln.  The cooling times are also quick so it is possible to do the whole thing in a snap.

“Once my students are assembled, we all take a plastic bag and a spade and walk down to the arroyo.  We walk along the arroyo until someone says “Is that clay”?  Sometimes we decide to get a bit from the first batch or all from the first sighting, but sometimes we hike further afield to gather different colors.  I am sort of getting familiar with where these small deposits are located.  When everyone has a few pounds of dry clay we head back to Pot Hollow and begin processing the clay.

Pots Made From Natural Clay at Ghost Ranch, source:  Barbara Campbell
Pots Made From Natural Clay at Ghost Ranch

“It is a very simple process.  We dump all the clay into buckets…..if we have different colors we use multiple buckets, but if it is all more or less the same we just use one bucket. We slake the clay down and then strain it through screens into another bucket.“Meanwhile someone is taking cheap toilet paper and blending it with water using a hand mixer.  When the paper is pulverized into the water… looks a bit like cloudy white oatmeal, and the clay is a clean sieved slurry then we take two to three scoops of the clay and add one scoop of the paper pulp.  Using the hand blender we mix it together.  Once it is smooth and perfect looking we pour it out onto plaster bats to about 3/8” thickness or so.  I made lots of plaster bats for this purpose and usually there are enough to accommodate 8 to 10 students.

Usually this process takes most of the first morning so while the clay is setting up, everyone goes to lunch.  Barbara  stays in the studio and monitor the dryness, turning the clay over when it is time.  By the time the students return from lunch, the clay is ready to wedge up and use. The clay is soft, plastic and thoroughly usable at this point.  Great transformation from dirt to plastic clay in a short time.

Ghost Ranch natural clay pots
Pots made and fired at Ghost Ranch from natural clay

Because all the students have had to carry the dry clay and then mix it up, most of the pieces are small.  People tend to make things like jewelry, incense burners, seed pots etc.  We fire them in a fuming atmosphere or in a modified pit firing.  No glaze is used, but often we burnish.  Sometimes the terra sig used is a different color than the original clay just for fun, but also made from ranch clays.

Most student reactions range from awe and wonder to plain satisfaction at making something they have dug from the earth.   Most of the students are thrilled to have something dug from the soil of the ranch to take home with them.  One college age student said she had never before known that clay came from dirt!

Information about Barbara Campbell:  Barbara took her first pottery class at CSU in Colorado.  She graduated from CCA in California in Ceramics.  Two undergraduate years were in Eronguarico, Michoacan Mexico building a pottery department for an international program for CCA.  She went to NYC after graduation and began teaching ceramics at Cooper Square Art Center.  Then, she went to  California and set up her own pottery studio and began making a living as a potter.   About 37 years ago, she bought a house in El Rito, NM and moved her pottery where she has continued as a professional potter.  Barbara volunteers for the New Mexico Potters and Clay Artists (NMPCA) as the Ghost Ranch coordinator.  See more about Barbara’s ceramics.

Barbara is teaching workshops at Ghost Ranch this summer (2015) using Ghost Ranch clay:

Working the Magic of Ghost Ranch Clay, July 6-12
Cancelled:  Clay to Lift the Heart,  July 13-19

Have an experience you’d like to share about Ghost Ranch or natural clay?  Please leave a comment below.

Barbara Campbell Collects Clay at Ghost Ranch, NM
Barbara Campbell Collects Clay in the arroyo behind Pot Hollow at Ghost Ranch, NM

NMPCA President’s Letter

The President’s Letter has been a long standing feature of the NMPCA Slip Trail newsletter and serves to keep members informed as to NMPCA activities and requirements.  Here is the latest edition by President Leonard Baca:

Hello fellow potters, artists and connected souls!

2015 Annual Meeting of NMPCAAfter a busy winter, I just got into the studio last month, and look forward to having more time to be creative. Talking to fellow members and following them on facebook, everyone’s schedule is in full swing, with special projects, creating new work and getting ready for summer shows.
Check out the calendar to see what we have coming up this year. If you have been keeping up with the eNews, you know that The Celebration of Clay is August 14 – September 19, so get ready! Gloria Gilmore-House is this year’s coordinator, and Judy Nelson-Moore has graciously offered to be the co-coordinator. Check out the wonderful articles about this event in The Slip Trail! I hope every member will display a piece in this year’s show. I have enjoyed helping out in the last three show, and will continue to support our members.

Last year we did not have a V-camp workshop at Ghost Ranch, and the regulars who attend, (myself included) felt something was missing. Giving back through volunteering is an extremely rewarding experience! Barbara Campbell has set up the V-camp this month from May 15-17. It was a big hit the first week it was posted in the eNews. Check the website for available openings soon, as they are filling up quickly!

Also this year, we’ll be having our fall workshop at Ghost Ranch, September 11-13. Debra Frits will be this year’s presenter, sharing with us her incredible techniques that make her work so unique and special. Participating in the workshops and being with other members is one of the events I especially enjoy each year, and one of the main reasons for becoming a member.

What else would you like to see? I, for one, would like to see other types of social events, to get together to talk and share, one in Santa Fe and another in Albuquerque. If anyone has any ideas, I’d love to hear them. Let’s brainstorm and make something happen!

One of the big changes in The Slip Trail this year is that it has become an online blog. The format is different, but you can still print articles to read and take with you. You can search and view past articles, and the photos just seem to pop out at you! As members, this is your group. We want to know what you’re doing, what gallery shows you attended, and what amazing works you have seen, so please share! Last summer, Sara D’Alessandro had a talk about her sculptural work at CNM. It is amazing to see what she has accomplished, and to witness the changes and inspiration in her work as it has evolved. Please tell us what you have going on, and always be sure to send us your announcements so we can share them with other members.

If you missed last Month’s Clay Olympics, you missed a good time! Casey Pendergast and Andrew McCollom did a great job facilitating this event. I will be posting some photos on the upcoming eNews, as well as on our facebook page, so stay tuned!

Before I close as year has passed by and and on June 6th is the annual meeting. I plan to make some call this week and see if any members would like to join the board. The annual meeting will be in Albuquerque at Business Printing Service, 4316 Silver Ave SE, Time is 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, We will have a full write up on the eNews and post it on facebook.

Leonard Baca does No Hands Throwing at Clay Olympics, 2015, NM Clay
Leonard Baca does No Hands Throwing at Clay Olympics, 2015, NM Clay

Leonard Baca, President


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.