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I remember, as a child, playing with my friend on a terra cotta hillside, in Northern Ontario. We used a bucket of water to sculpt clay people and animals, allowing them to dry in the sun. That was my introduction to playing with mud. When it came time to choosing which college major I should decide on, I narrowed the options to fine arts or teaching elementary school children. My heart was vying for fine arts but I decided that I might make a satisfactory living as a teacher.
I started taking pottery classes since 2001, and I discovered that I was finally following my passion. I had raised four children and found that I suddenly had more time on my hands. This meant that I could do things for me. I was always doing some kind of crafts or sewing projects. I love creating things with my hands because I love to see the end results. I enjoyed sculpting with clay for about three years, but I have since moved on to making utility ware on the pottery wheel. I find that making anything with clay is very therapeutic. I am in my Zen mode when I am in the studio. I usually try to picture the people or person I am appealing to when I shape and glaze my pottery. Sometimes it’s very feminine or very masculine, but generally inspired by nature.
Rena Hamilton is a potter, wife, dog lover, cook, gardener, and outdoor enthusiast. She is planting roots and building community in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Rena studied at Ohio University earning a BFA and MA in Art Education. Rena was a secondary art teacher for more than a decade and now works with future educators at Northern Arizona University while maintaining a home studio practice. When not working in the studio or at the University, Rena can be found exploring the high desert via mountain bike, back country skis, or motorcyle.
Rena has exhibited throughout the U.S. and has work included in private collections in the United States, Australia, and Canada. Rena founded the Flagstaff Potters’ Guild in 2011 for area potters to share resources and information while building community and promoting our work.
From Rena: I am delighted to create pieces that are used in moments of celebration and daily rituals; whether it's a gathering of closest friends and family sharing good food and drink or a quiet contemplative moment alone with a morning cup of coffee. I hope my pottery brings joy, beauty, and a touch of humanness while serving nourishment in the homes where they reside.
I don’t remember throwing my first pot, or why I decided to take a ceramics class in high school. It was an unlikely choice for a nerd such as myself, but it was also the late ‘60s and I must have felt the pressure to do something different. Clay entranced me and led me to continue. I spent the next 5 years exploring throwing functional ware and admiring production potters, imagining myself to be the village potter of some long ago time. But eventually I listened to my dad. His mantra was “There are vocations and avocations”. Pottery did not count towards the former. Instead I became a dietitian, studying my other favorite topic, which was food. Being an RD (Registered Dietitian) has served me well, and I have often thought of developing a line of dishes called “Nancy’s Diet Dishes” which would teach people about more rational portion sizes!
In 2002, I returned to making pottery, my dad being long gone. I know I will spend the rest of my life playing with clay. For me, clay satisfies almost every aspect of my character and interests. I can imagine myself the primitive village potter, filling one of man’s most basic needs, while at the same time exploring the latest technology in kiln design or pursuing my interest in chemistry by creating a new glaze. I can interact with an outgoing, earthy group of potters as we communally fire the wood kiln, or spend solitary time in my studio. I can study everything from geology to cookware design. What other vocation, or even avocation, has so much to offer?
Nancy Kuefler RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist/Potter
I first became interested in tilework as part of a kitchen remodeling project many years ago. My vision was to add character, a sense of place, and bring a sense of the beauty of the natural environment into my home with handmade accent tiles. Although I didn’t find the perfect tile at the time, the search ultimately led me to enroll in a tile-making class at a local pottery studio. This began an utter obsession with clay.
I find the tile “canvas” an irresistible lure for incorporating detail, texture and the vibrancy of color. My inspiration is drawn primarily from the outdoors and the beautiful place I live. A walk in the woods or a drive down the road often sparks a new idea for a tile. I am also inspired by the many subtle aspects of design in various formats, whether it be the texture and pattern of a rug, the lines of a wrought iron fence or the color palate of a stained glass window. The possibilities are all around and always vying for my attention.
My technique has evolved through a process of trial and error and self-directed study. I enjoy infusing my tiles with detail and am always exploring new avenues for expression. My path has taken me from the first classes at the local pottery studio to my own home studio within sight of the San Francisco Peaks.
My current focus is making decorative accent tiles for use as freestanding art pieces or to be incorporated in permanent indoor installations. My hope is that my tiles will bring a touch of character, a sense of place, or a sense of the beauty of the natural environment into a room.
I first started to appreciate every day pottery when I was living in Japan and then furthermore when I started practicing Japanese Tea Ceremony, where beauty has this fleeting meaning, almost impossible to describe. Japanese esthetics combines profound grace with natural patina and aging. I took my first Ceramics class hoping to learn to make my own ceramic utensils for Japanese Tea Ceremony. Of course, the making of the Tea Ceremony utensils proved to be a lot more difficult than I expected. But the escape that the potter's wheel provided was also much stronger than what I had anticipated. I was hooked on mud within a few days!
I enjoy all the different steps of pottery-making. I mainly use the potter’s wheel for forming my pieces, followed by the trimming, adding the attachments, decorating, glazing, firing… Because I want to create functional art, I pay attention to the rims and handles of bowls and mugs, so they feel comfortable to people’s hands and lips. I add texture to enhance visual and tactile experiences with my pottery. I have to confess though - I enjoy surface decorating the most. You see, I did not know I could draw until I tried it on my pots. Usually, when I decorate, I turn off the radio, the music… and get lost in a world of subtle life that exists only in corner of my imagination. The brush becomes the magic wand to bring it to life. Decorating allows me to quiet my mind, to find peace. And I hope I can bring that feeling to the homes of the people that buy my ceramics.
By the River Pottery
I spent my childhood near the gulf coast of Texas. I learned to water ski and skateboard at a young age. When I was thirteen I began to surf at Surfside beach. I have always appreciated nature and art. Now I am enjoying snowboarding as much as anything I’ve ever done.
After attending college for a year and a half I was required to take a certain amount of studio courses to fulfill my teaching degree requirements. I took ceramics and fell in love with clay and the people who also love it. It wasn’t long before I changed my major from teaching to ceramics. I was in Denton at the University of North Texas, the farthest I had ever been from the coast. I developed a way of altering my pottery that reminds me of sitting in the ocean waiting to catch a wave. My longing for the waves made its appearance in my ceramic work. I worked for a production potter for a year after receiving my B.F.A. in ceramics from UNT. I decided production work was not for me and that I wanted to go back to school. I had some of the best times in graduate school over the next three and a half years. I received a Master’s degree in ceramics and moved to St. Petersburg, Florida to be a resident artist at St. Pete Clay Co. I made some great work and friends there, but wasn’t in love with the area. After two years in Florida I moved to Flagstaff, Arizona and spent four years as an outdoor guide. I made pottery, but I always had to transport it to a kiln. At the International Wood Fire Conference in Flagstaff I met a guy with a wood burning kiln in New Mexico. I would drive three hours and spend a few days out there with no running water or electricity in a sand bag house, tent or my truck and fire the kiln. I moved to Colorado in June of 2010. This was the first time I’ve had a fully functioning studio at my home. I missed Arizona and moved back to Flagstaff in October 2011 with the girl I love, Emily, who helps inspire me. I make work on a daily basis and have a kiln at my old house in Flagstaff. I now have my old job back as a guide at Pink Jeep Tours in Sedona.
I feel my work is a celebration of the ceramic process. I like to exploit the natural qualities of clay and hope that people can recognize that it was once a malleable material. I strive to create unique work with lots of character that functions exceptionally. Expressing myself through clay is one of the best parts of my life and I hope you enjoy the pieces.