Article by Tomas Wolff, Mountainair, New Mexico about the NMPCA workshop at Ghost Ranch, September 6-8, 2013: Contemporary Pueblo Pottery with Jody Folwell
Jody Folwell has been described as an important innovator in pueblo pottery. According to experts “Her revolutionary work of the 1970’s changed the surface of the Santa Clara pottery.” Her daughters, Susan Folwell and Polly Rose Folwell are also following the family tradition and are considered avant-garde potters in their own right! (To see some of their current work check out the website: kinggalleries.com/santa clara.) Of course, in spite of her fame, she is still a very down to earth woman, who, when she dons her colorful printed design apron looks like the grandmother we always wanted. Her full head of silver hair drawn back from her tan face and soft brown eyes makes for a warm expressive presence which envelopes us with love and attention.
It was with no hesitation, then that some thirty clay aficionados (members of NMPCA), showed up at Ghost Ranch last week (September 6-8) to learn something about this fabulous woman, Jody Folwell, and her techniques and philosophy of clay. And most of us learned much more then we expected!
Sure, we learned how to burnish a clay surface by sanding, painting with slip and rubbing for hours with a smooth stone, and how to fire with wood and cow manure, but we also learned how important the process of working with clay determines how truly successful we are.
Here is Judy Nelson- Moore’s take on it:
“I was a recalcitrant student this last weekend, but a glimmer of what Jody was trying to show us started to come through in the middle of the night. It was not exclusively about how to burnish or how to make perfect little pots or do difficult carving. It’s how to get into a rhythm with your hands, the materials, the tools and the very air around us. It’s about making the most perfect thing we are capable of at this time and not accepting anything from ourselves but the best. It’s about making our own way and putting ourselves into what we make.”
Of course, it helped that this workshop was situated in Pot Hollow at Ghost Ranch, which is probably one of the most beautiful places in New Mexico! Majestic Kitchen Mesa with its red sandstone base topped by a brilliant white layer of gypsum rose a hundred feet above us. Willows and cottonwoods lined the arroyo next to us casting shadows which cooled and protected us. Under the Pot Hollow studio shed we all buzzed with activity like mud wasps building their nests (they actually use mud coils which they exude from their mouths).
Some of us will admit that besides the beautiful environment and the expertise and knowledge of our wonderful workshop teacher, Jody, we were also there to meet and share our love of clay with other artists in the group. We worked elbow to elbow burnishing, carving and hand building and then firing using a wash tub, wood and cow manure. During meals we all sat around large circular tables in the dining hall and told our stories of travel to exotic places and creative moments in our lives. The weekend was a truly momentous time filled with interesting activity and interaction.
Judy sums it up well with these words:
“Jody, thank you for taking the time and effort to teach us. I hope you will consider the NMPCA to be your friends and that you will continue to share your great wisdom with our recalcitrant selves in hopes we will eventually get it. You humble and honor us and we thank you!”