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Elenor Wilson, illustration by Zoe Pappenheimer, 2016.
“Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.” ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Open form by Aysha Peltz.
Occasionally, I have the opportunity to spend time with other ceramic artists who are also mothers . . . I always leave those conversations feeling stronger . . .
Wave Jar with Lid, 1985. Carved stoneware with celadon-type glass. 17 ½ x 10". Photo courtesy of ServisArts.
Ruth Rippon's story parallels the rise of vessel-based ceramics in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, clay’s evolution into sculpture, and unconventional pluralism.
Hertha Hillfon. Untitled, 1965. Stoneware, 26 inches tall.
Was Hertha Hillfon an artist who made pots or a potter who made art? Among the many messages to be derived from her work is that making distinctions between art and craft is beside the point.
Heidi Kreitchet preparing to stoke the kiln at Pottery West, Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Kelly McLendon, 2010.
Since the 1960s, women in the United States have been wood-firing against the odds. They have persevered through such challenges as discrimination, child-rearing, marriage, divorce, education, apprenticeships, aging, and the intense physical effort that it requires.
Magnusson's kiln and shed in winter.
So, I built one! With the help of a long-time friend and mentor from Taos, we designed and built a two-chamber kiln with thirty-five cubic feet of stacking space; the front chamber is a “mini-anagama” for ash and flash, the back chamber is a single-arch noborigama, designed to use with soda.
Shelley Schreiber. Platter, 2016. Wheel-thrown porcelain with colored slip, underglaze and  glaze, Cone 10 reduction, 1 x 12.5 in. Photo by artist.
During college, I lived in Mexico, learned to speak Spanish fluently, and after I graduated, I was an intern on Capitol Hill. I then went on to earn a master’s degree in international studies. I kept my Soldner kick wheel in my dorm room, and brought it with me to wherever I was living from then on.
Janis Mars Wunderlich
In preparation for this article, I interviewed ten female ceramicists to learn more about the challenges they face and what they do to balance the different parts of their lives. Their challenges . . . might be applicable to your own lives and careers.
Karen Karnes’s chop mark, c. 2010. Photo courtesy of The Marks Project (
I drove down a long road through winter woods, and at the end found a simple wooden building with a kiln out back. In the doorway stood a woman in her forties, welcoming me, but also, it seemed, guarding her space. The potter was Karen Karnes . . .
Bech Evan's mug by Bunzy Sherman
I asked Bunzy if I could buy one of her mugs as they were coming out of the kiln, and she was incredulous. “Why would you want one of my mugs?” she asked. I disappeared and returned, waving a twenty-dollar bill in front of her, demonstrating my seriousness.
Earthenware lantern, handbuilt and decorated with acrylic paint. 3 x 3.5 x 3.5 in. Photo by Jaya Kumar K.
It would be considered socially inappropriate for the women to do business on their own with the male potter. They would need to bring a male relative along—yet another obstacle to their production and self-sufficiency.
Jenkins at an exhibition opening, 2015.
Sallah Jenkins has been working, making, and teaching in Baltimore communities for decades. Through her work, she not only earned money to support her children but also paid homage to her heritage as an African American.
Kit Cornell. Bowl, 2016. Porcelain, Exeter clay glaze. Reduction fired to Cone 10. 4 x 8 in. Photo by Jacques Cornell.
As I developed as a potter—slowly, while raising a family—I became aware that women in other developed western countries had access to state-sponsored child care and other modes of support for making career and family life sustainable.
Ashwini Bhat. Photo by Hollis Engley, 2016.
The cooperative and social nature of wood-firing gives me plenty of access to community. Still, over the years, artistic restlessness has spurred me to collaborate with artists in other mediums...
Leanne McClurg Cambric and her family. Photograph by Katherine Scherer.
This is a conversation between Kari Radasch, Elizabeth “Beth” Robinson, and me, Leanne McClurg Cambric, who documented it. We [. . .] have had a running fifteen-year dialogue about our struggles to balance our personal and professional lives.
Elspeth Owen. Vessel, 1987. Pinch pot, Earthstone clay fired with oxides and seaweed, approx. 8 x 5 x 5 in. Photo by author.
Elspeth Owen is very much concerned with the tactile qualities inherent in her forms while she is making them. She is less interested in the finished pieces, and the idea of putting them behind glass so that they can’t be touched is an anathema to her.
Olgu Sümengen Berker. ’10.4’ 2015. Colored chammotte clay, fired to 1120 C., 14 x 16 x 11 in. Photo by artist.
As two ceramicists from a similar social and educational backgrounds, Korkmaz and I are creating works that question life from our individual perspectives.
Jessica Steinhäuser. Franconian Kachelöfen, 2016. Glazed clay and refractory brick 32 x 32 x 87 in. Installed in Barrie, Ontario, Canada. Photo by Dean Palmer Photography.
Like most worthwhile journeys, Jessica Steinhäuser’s career as an award-winning ceramic artist began with a leap of faith.
Explicit Content
Jessica Stoller. Untitled (Slip), 2016. Porcelain, glaze, china paint, lustre, 12 x 10.5 x 7 in. Photo courtesy of the artist and P.P.O.W Gallery, NYC.
Young females working primarily in clay and with feminist themes, are rare. Does this have something to do with younger female clay artists and their involvement with Fourth Wave Feminism?
Neerja International. Jaipur blue pottery beads for making accessories.
By describing the historical development of this pottery tradition, and the women who have made contributions to it, I hope to provide a context for understanding the contemporary changes that women are bringing to this pottery technique.
Kristin Muller's wood stack - fuel for her kiln.
"Wood-firing is not just about what you want to get out of the fire, but rather, what you bring to it." Kristin Muller gives advice to aspiring and beginner wood-firers.
Susan Zimmerman, Untitled (Ceramic Abstract) No. 132, 2012.
Susan Zimmerman discusses her discovery of the interplay between clay and sunlight through photographing her work.
Hands of Amy Smith and her daughter, at the potter's wheel.
Kate Fisher discusses the challenges of being both an artist and a mother, and how it led her to develop her website,
Gunda Stewart, tenmouku teapot with cane handle.
Looking at the work of Stewart and her knowledge of wood firing, it is easy to believe that she has been doing this for thirty or forty years. Stewart is quick to correct anyone who thinks so.
Flower Power, by Julie K. Anderson (2017).
In Steamboat Springs, Colorado, the locals use this term to describe the period between winter and summer. Mud season is time to work in the clay studio.
Authors from this issue recommend further reading on ceramics, feminism, anthropology, craft, history, and just about everything else.