16th Annual It’s Only Clay – "Special Jurors Exhibit”

In memory of Bill Gossman (1953 - 2020)

In its 16th year, It’s Only Clay (IOC) will feature the work of past IOC jurors. The exhibit focuses on each artist’s unique vision and aesthetic. Unlike previous years, artists will have stock available for immediate purchase from the exhibit floor.
Exhibit Slideshow →
Bill Gossman portrait by Gregory Harp
Bill Gossman portrait by Gregory Harp

Read more from the Star Tribune >>

Artist Statement

I strive to create forms that are full of life and communicate a sense of wholeness. The universal elements of earth, air, fire and water, and shapes from nature are the sources of inspiration for the forms I make and the decorations I use. I incorporate patterns found in nature in a rhythmic manner in the decoration process; a straight line or curve of a horizon, the positive and negative spaces created by a tree in winter, the intersection of water and the beach, or the repeating patterns found on a leaf or bird feather, the patterns of clouds in the sky or a collection of water worn stones from a stream.

The medium of clay is very responsive and records each and every touch. Whether it is a touch of the maker’s hand or a touch from the river of flame during the firing, there is evidence of it all on the clay. I am conscious of placement of the pieces in the kiln before the firing as the loading is an important step of the process. I think of my kiln as a collaborator in the process. It is so much more than an organized pile of bricks and has its own personality. Indeed, the kiln behaves much like a living and breathing form during the firing and I treat the kiln as one of my partners.

Process is what all my work revolves about. All the work, from the building and maintaining of the kiln, wood preparation, clay and glaze preparation, making of the forms, loading and firing of the kiln, taken as a whole is what gives me creative nourishment. The end result is what we, as artists, are judged by, but without the process the end result has less meaning for me, the artist.

Pottery is functional art. I try to make beautiful pottery. Sometimes I think I do. I realize that I am my own toughest critic but I still keep chasing the beautiful. Just so that I may one day hold it my hands.

Bob and Cheryl Husby

Artist Statement

The salt glazed pottery we produce results from the ideas we developed collaboratively over the past thirty plus years

These pots are wheel-thrown and altered with hand-built additions.  The elastic qualities of porcelain contribute to the surface detail and manipulation of the forms.  We try to balance the sculptural aspects of the pottery with the intended use. 

A light salt glaze reveals rather than conceals the detail of the throwing and applied decoration.  The additions and textures are tactile as well as visual.  Using stamps and extruded pieces of clay as decorative elements, we combine current and historic symbols. 

It is our hope that the user will appreciate the spirit of joy in which these pots were made.

Linda Christianson in her studio

Artist Statement

Having made pots now for about 40 years, I am surprised that it is still both a hopeful and troublesome effort to make a decent pot. The qualities that I search for in my work are fairly straight forward. I am interested in a pot that does its duty well yet can stand on its own as a visual object. Woodfiring offers a  quiet surface that I am after. These pots are not sculpture; they seem to act more like engaging tools than anything else.

Artist Bio

Linda Christianson is an independent studio potter who lives and works in rural Minnesota. She studied at Hamline University (St. Paul, Minnesota), and the Banff Centre School of Fine Arts (Banff, Alberta, Canada). She exhibits nationally and internationally, including on person exhibits in London and St. Louis. Her pieces are in numerous public and private collections, including the American Museum of Ceramic Art and the Glenboe Museum.

An itinerate educator, Linda has taught at colleges and universities, including Carleton College and the Hartford Art School. She received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the McKnight Foundation. Her recent writing appeared in “Studio Potter” and “The Log Book.”

One of her goals is to make a better cup each day.

Christianson Pottery website >>

Guillermo Cuellar making a baker lid

Artist Bio

Potter Guillermo Cuellar was born in Venezuela and currently lives in the St. Croix Valley of Minnesota. He became a studio potter in 1980 after studying Art, French, and Geology at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, IA. From 1984 to 2006 he spent a month every summer working alongside potter Warren MacKenzie in Stillwater, MN. His experience with this friend and mentor informs his studio practice to this day.

Cuellar is a full-time potter working from his home and studio in Shafer, MN. In recent years he has given workshops at Penland School of Crafts in Spruce Pine, NC; Taller Huara Huara in Santiago, Chile; Grand Marais Art Colony in MN; and Adamah Clay Studios in Spring Green, WI. During the past year he had two young studio residents working in his studio, funded by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.

Since 2009, Cuellar has been a host studio on the St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour. www.minnesotapotters.com He was featured on the TPT series Minnesota Original in 2012 and participated in the documentary Minnesota Potters: Sharing the Fire, which explores mentorship in Minnesota.

Cuellar’s work has been exhibited across the United States, Venezuela and abroad in England and Chile. His work can be found in several galleries in MN and other states. He sells directly from his shop in Shafer, MN and online through his website.

“Historical, functional pottery is a never-ending source of inspiration for me. I believe quiet beauty can be found in simple utilitarian objects and that the best of these pieces go beyond representing a single maker, time, and place.

I love the sensual flow and rhythm of hands on clay as I work on the wheel. I enjoy making series of pieces, altering them with each expression. I’m inspired to make pots for the home, those used to arrange flowers, contain kitchen stores, and prepare and share food with family and friends. The interplay between the physical, creative, evolving process and my imagining the eventual use for a piece is a daily source of inspiration.”

Guillermo Pottery website >>

A. Leila Dencke portrait

Artist Statement

The elusive and enigmatic communications of form have been the focus of my work. I create objects which may evoke memory responses or instill a meditative state based on various stimuli which have influenced me. These range from my appreciation of the beauty of the cosmos to my empathy for the Zen rock gardens of Japan. I have chosen to work with abstract minimal forms which have a simplicity and similarity about them and can also elicit a sense of strength and timelessness. I create work in 3 distinctly different modes including functional wheel-thrown stoneware and porcelain, abstract minimal sculptural forms, and the third is work which I refer to as a hybrid of the two: functional forms with a sculptural stance. I find each type of work to be rewarding and challenging. With the hybrid forms I am trying to create pieces which can serve a function and yet be able to stand on their own as sculptures beyond the function they serve. Many of my sculptural works are reminiscent of ancient objects of function such as ax blades or stone tools. These speak to me in an inaudible way and I hope to convey some of their strength and elegance in my interpretations of them with my soda-fired pieces. Recently, I have been working on a series of vessels which draw inspiration from the forms of older Minnesota farm structures, many created by immigrant Scandinavian farmers in the area around where I live in Scandia. The corn cribs, coffin cribs and silo forms are very powerful in their simplicity and directness and they present elegant forms in the landscape.                     

Having lived and studied in Japan for over four years, I have been strongly influenced by my regard for the Japanese aesthetic, especially in respect to Zen gardens, vernacular architecture and pottery. I am striving to create objects of contemplation which I hope will elicit sensitive and evocative images for the viewer. The various referential images include archaic relics, axeheads and arrowheads, megaliths, architectonic forms, ancient bronze bells, jade blades, and so on. The enigmatic nature of my forms involve not only the physical characteristics of ‘what they are’, but also includes the sensuousness and presence which they project. In this regard, these forms are dealing with a kind of spirituality and transcendence of time. Many dichotomies exist side by side in these pieces. They refer to the human figure and yet are abstract minimal forms. They hark back to a kind of primitivism and also speak of modern times. There is a megalithic quality about them (with an implied weight) and yet they elicit an uplifting sense. Scale is ambiguous in that they could appear to be larger than life, but are actually quite an accessible size.

In reaction to the raucousness of contemporary society, I seek to provide an island of tranquility and grace for the beholder to contemplate. A return to nature in an unnatural way, as the Zen garden, skillfully articulated, speaks of a kind of universality of nature and humanity. By referring to relics of ancient cultures, I hope to make the viewer aware of our own existence in time and how we relate to the past. We are but an insignificant part of the whole, and as such we must bear in mind our responsibility to humankind by preserving our earth, atmosphere and cultural heritage.

Artist Bio

Andrea Leila Denecke has spent a number of years studying and working in Japan as well as living in other parts of the United States, but in her heart she is at home on the St Croix River. She grew up alongside the river south of Osceola, WI and those formative years spent canoeing and exploring, have influenced her greatly. She continues to call the river her home, but now across it, in Scandia, Minnesota.

Her studies in Japan include working with a potter in Mashiko as a student of the Experiment in International Living while at Cornell College. Many years later, she returned to Japan under the auspices of a Rotary Foundation International Vocational Fellowship, to study at the Tekisui Museum of Art, Ceramic Art Research Institute in Ashiya for several years, where she graduated with honors. Leila’s work and aesthetic have been greatly influenced by her studies in Japan, her interest in vernacular architecture and her appreciation of the simple beauty of ancient objects.

Leila received her Master of Fine Arts Degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where she focused on abstract minimal sculptural forms. This investigation served her well as when she returned to Minneapolis from Louisiana, she was selected to be one of two Minneapolis sculptors commissioned to create large monuments for the Sister City of Minneapolis in Japan: Ibaraki City. Her sculpture “Stele Mississippi” is the focal point of the garden alongside the Ibaraki City Central Municipal Library.

In 2001 Leila was one of two American and one Japanese ceramic artists to be invited to be Artists – in – Residence in Seto, Japan at the Seto Ceramics and Glass Art Center. Her work is in the collection of the Seto Museum of Art.

In Minnesota, Leila’s work is part of the permanent collections of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Minnesota History Center, the Northern Clay Center, Bemidji State University Margaret Harlow Ceramic Collection and her fountain is in the lobby of the United Hospital in St Paul.

In addition to living and working in Japan for over 4 years, Leila was invited to participate in an International Teabowl Festival in MunGyeong South Korea in 2015.

Just recently, Leila was named the McKnight Fellow for Ceramic Artists for 2020. One of two fellowships awarded for the year.

Leila has been recognized for her accomplishments by the McKnight Foundation, the Jerome Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant. She has been awarded the prestigious McKnight Fellowship for Ceramic Artists three times and also received a McKnight Residency Grant. The Franconia Sculpture Park/Jerome Foundation supported Leila with a residency to create a large sculpture at the park.

Abstract minimal sculptures, wheel-thrown stoneware and porcelain pottery and “hybrid vessels”: functional forms with a sculptural stance, are all part of Leila’s repertoire. She has developed her own unique process of imbedding granite into the surface of her work which produces patterns in the clay. Most of Leila’s work is fired in a soda kiln to stoneware temperatures.

Leila Denecke website >>

Karen Kraemer

Artist Bio

I grew up in Minneapolis and received a BFA in glass working from St. Cloud State University in 1986.  After blowing glass in Colorado, Minnesota and Wisconsin, I moved to West Virginia, where I began to work in clay and pit firing it in my yard.  I moved to Carbondale, Illinois and did graduate work in ceramics, receiving my MFA in 1996. Then I moved to Victoria, British Columbia and spent two years making pots, gardening and traveling. Duluth became my new home in 1998. I teach at local colleges, and my studio, the Duluth Pottery, as well as selling work in galleries and at art fairs.  The Duluth Pottery has moved to 1924 W. Superior Street in Duluth, smack in the middle of the new Lincoln Park Crafts District on the same block as Frost River, Bent Paddle Brewery, and the new OMC Smokehouse! We have a great fine clay gallery, tile showroom, and have more room for making pots and events of all sorts. 

I enjoy working in pottery and tile, because they bring art to the table and every day use.  Clay is a great medium for expression.  I love that I get to be part of a long line of potters through history that portray our culture.

I make functional pots and tiles that are meant to celebrate the day. They are Maiolica, an in-glaze hand painted tin glaze technique. My individual wall pieces and compositions of tiles are hand built and decorated with colorful, loose brushwork. I draw from every day scenes and objects for my imagery.  Capturing the color and movement of the moment is my aim, from the garden the room, or out in the woods. The forms are simple, so they work well in the hand and the kitchen.

Duluth Pottery >>

Butch Holden in his studio

Artist Statement

In my first ceramic experiences during a workshop at the University of Minnesota in Duluth (1974), the instructor, Walter Hyleck, challenged my classmates and I to make a container for ideas.

I can’t stop!

The form and surface of my ceramics compel closer inspection to markings, colors, shapes, patterns, and textures. Associations and meanings are evoked but not specifically described. Sources are distilled from nature and geometry, but I try to avoid being blatant. Groupings of ceramic forms multiply interpretations and allow me to bypass the size constraints presumed with this medium.

Ceramics is very much like gardening. Planning, preparing, and fulfilling tasks with much optimism for a favorable outcome – and when it occurs, a humble recognition that I was allowed to assist.

Artist Bio

John (Butch) Holden received his BA in art from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and his MFA degree in ceramics from Indiana University, Bloomington.

He is currently a visual arts professor in the Technology, Art and Design department at Bemidji State University, where he has taught since 1983. He has exhibited in local, regional, and national competitions, and also has had many solo exhibitions. In addition to having juried many shows, he has served on numerous art grant panels.

Matthew Krousey portrait

Artist Bio

Matthew Krousey received his BFA in ceramics from the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities. He is a current host of the St Croix Valley Pottery Tour. In 2018 he received both an Artist Initiative Grant through the Minnesota State Arts Board and an Essential Artist Award through the East Central Regional Arts Council. Matthew also recently participated in a panel discussion with Craft in America at the Library of Congress as part of the Veterans History Project. Krousey says his aim is to create a historical record of the vanishing natural world around him. “I use imagery of Minnesota’s native flora and fauna on ceramics to bring awareness to the viewer of the environment I know and love.”

M Krousey Cermanics >>

Marion Angelica working in her studio

Artist Bio

I am biology/art major, arts administrator, academic and returned ceramic artist.  Although trained to throw on the wheel I now exclusively hand-build all of my work.  I feel that hand-building, and in particular using soft slabs and coils, gives me  great  flexibility in creating form, using texture and reflecting the luscious nature of wet clay in my fired work. My work is made of Grolleg porcelain fired to 2300 degrees F.  While known to be temperamental, porcelain has lovely qualities.  It accepts even the most subtle textures and allows glaze colors to be rich and brilliant. With tender handling and careful drying, it can be cajoled into a wide variety of forms.  I have fallen in love with this media, with both my hands and my heart.

I create functional ceramic work that has a strong sculptural sense.  I have chosen to do this for several reasons. 

  • I would like my work to reside in homes or offices rather than museums.
  • I want my creations to retain sculptural elements, yet I want to add the challenge of designing them to be used for living, rather than simply for viewing.
  • I would like people to live intimately with my creations and make them part of their lives’ celebrations, rituals and pleasures.

I am currently a resident studio artist and teacher at The Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis, MN.  I returned to the studio in 2006 after over twenty-five years of working in arts administration, education and nonprofit consulting and I am incredibly happy in what was my first and is now in my final career.

Marion Angelica website >>