Margaret Bohls’ work in hand-built porcelain encompasses both intricate, architectural constructions and spare, fluid forms. “Many of the sources for my work lie within the long and complex history of ceramics,” she states. “Chinese and Korean celadons, Iranian tin-glazed earthenware, and designed pottery of the Modernist era; these are just a few of the historical genres that have inspired the development of my work.” Margaret, a former professor of ceramics at the University of Minnesota and frequent visiting artist and lecturer throughout the country, is also thoughtful about more humble clay practices. “I have a curiosity for the culture of hobby ceramics and its connection to the women’s tradition of decorating on porcelain that has existed in the United States since the 19th century.”
Margaret holds a BFA in ceramics from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence and an MFA in ceramics from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. She was a resident at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena, MT and has been a visiting artist at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN. Her work is regularly included in juried exhibitions nationwide. In 2001, Margaret was awarded a prestigious McKnight Artist Fellowship. In 2011, she relocated her studio from Minneapolis to Lincoln, NE.
Chuck Solberg is a nationally recognized clay artist based in St. Paul. Working with stoneware and porcelain clay, he creates functional tableware and large, sculptural pieces. The larger pieces are frequently constructed from separately thrown clay sections that are joined together and then distorted by paddling. The seams and joints from this construction process are left exposed to visually break up the surface of the piece. “In both functional and sculptural work,” states the artist, “my goal is to accent the inherent spontaneity and raw beauty of clay. Wood firing achieves this objective. Flame and ash flow through the kiln leaving unexpected patterns and rich surfaces.”
In the 1970s, Chuck was an associate potter at Abe Cohn’s Potters Wheel Studio in Wisconsin. In the 1990s, he earned a BFA in ceramics from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MFA in ceramics from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. He established his own studio in 1995 and in 1996 was awarded a Jerome Grant in 1996 for his work with saggar firing. Over the years, he has served as an instructor and workshop leader at schools and art centers nationwide. Chuck’s work is included in the permanent collections of the Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis; The Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul; the University of Wisconsin and numerous private collections.
A talented keyboardist, Chuck has toured professionally with Luther Allison, shared billing with legends including Miles Davis, played with BB King’s band, The Shirelles, Muddy Waters, and Chuck Berry, among others. He currently serves as The Grand Hand’s “house band,” providing live music at gallery openings and events.
“I work much like a jazz musician, improvising on a theme, not knowing where the improvisation will lead. The construction and firing of my work is unpredictable and spontaneous. I strive to keep these qualities in the finished pieces. Someone asked Duke Ellington, ‘What is jazz?’ He replied, ‘It’s the sound of surprise.’ To paraphrase Ellington, I want my work to have the look of surprise – the look and feel of spontaneity.”
Black Tea Pot
Jason’s work has been in demand at The Grand Hand since the gallery was founded in 2004. At that time, he had just completed two years of work and study with potter Robert Briscoe in Harris, MN. “This was not a traditional apprenticeship,” states Jason. “I didn’t work on any of Bob’s pots and he did not pay me in money. I had a space in the studio to work and in return I helped Bob with studio tasks. The benefits far outweighed the responsibilities.”
While the artist’s forms retain the plasticity natural to clay, he describes them as solid, monolithic and substantial. Although his work is often bold and sculptural, it is fully functional at the table and is microwave and dishwasher safe.
Jason is a graduate of Bemidji State University and maintains a studio in St. Paul. He regularly participates in art festivals across the country, including the Sun Valley Center Arts and Crafts Festival in Idaho and the annual Minnesota Potters of the Upper St. Croix Valley Tour. His work is represented in the collections of the Weisman Art Museum and Anoka Ramsey Community College and in the Margaret Harlow Collection at Bemidji State. The potter and his work are featured in the recent film Minnesota Potters: Sharing the Fire and the upcoming “Crossroads” episode of the Craft in America series on PBS.
Louisiana potter Andy Shaw’s porcelain tableware is pleasingly homogeneous yet – unlike traditional matched dish sets – each piece is a bit different from its mates. The artist varies the patterns of his plates, bowls and cups to create functional pieces that work for both formal dining and casual meals.
The artist states, “Whether your choice is a salad of mixed greens or a buckwheat noodle, coconut milk stir-fry with shrimp, snow peas, and red pepper, I have designed these pots to complement the colors and textures of your cooking and home furnishing preferences. The reserved vibrancy of color and the simplified forms allow the tableware to adapt to place. The patterns of stripes and grids respond to anticipated, incidental domestic patterns created by sunlight and shadows through window panes, stair railings, and over floorboards. My designs in clay collaborate with your designs of home. Through this blend the pottery develops a substantial, intimate presence in your home through practical and aesthetic utility.”
Andy earned his BA in history before becoming an apprentice to Patrick Eckman at Basin Creek Pottery in Montana. He was a special student in ceramics at Penn State University and received an MFA from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. Andy has been an instructor at Andrews University in Michigan, Alfred University, Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, Baltimore Clayworks, and Arcadia University, Pennsylvania. Currently, he is an assistant professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. His work has received multiple awards and been published in Ceramics Monthly, Studio Potter, and in Garth Clark’s anthology Shards.
Monica Rudquist works primarily in porcelain and is known for the distinctive spiral shapes she achieves. “I love forming a piece of clay on the wheel while it is in a fluid state and I am compelled to create forms which retain this fluidity and gesture,” the Minneapolis artist explains. “I am curious about how far I can push the clay. I test these limits by cutting and recombining thrown forms. This begins a dialogue with the clay that spurs more questionsand responses to the developing form. I choose to work with traditionally functional objects because it introduces the possibility of creating sculptural forms that relate to people on a personal level.”
Monica holds a BA at Macalester College, St. Paul, and an MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI. She has earned awards at the 57th Street Art Fair, Hyde Park, IL; the Minnesota Craft Council Festival, St. Paul; the Uptown Art Fair, Minneapolis; and Art Fair on the Square in Madison, WI. Her work is represented in collections including those of the Minnesota Historical Society and the St. Paul Companies. Formerly a teacher at the Edina Art Center, Edina, MN and St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN, she is currently a ceramics instructor at St. Catherine University in St. Paul.
“My work employs the physical process of layering which describes a sense of growth of the pot, both inward and outward. The addition and subtraction of the material leave a record of time in the work,” states potter Steven Rolf. “As a maker of one-of-a-kind functional objects, I use the premise that I transmit feeling through the subtle touch in working. I feel that in order for the user to ‘get it’ they must also touch the work. Therefore, my pieces are not metaphors for landscape and feeling, but rather they are the landscape and they embody the feeling.”
The artist holds an MFA from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute, and a BS in broad area arts from the University of Wisconsin River Falls. He apprenticed under Wang Hui Ming, a master painter and wood engraver.
Steven has been a studio potter in River Falls, WI since 1998. In 2006, he participated a residency at the Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts in Newcastle, ME. The artist lectures and teaches workshops throughout the country. His work, regularly exhibited nationwide, was recently featured in the Onggi Expo Uslan Korea in Uslan City. Steven’s pottery is represented in collections including those of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, CA, and, the artist notes, in “numerous kitchen cupboards.”
Jude Ryan Reiling came to clay through study of drawing, painting and photography. An artist who is not afraid to explore new directions, her current work is a series of sculptural sketches of robed figures, often holding birds and vessels. Over the years, Jude has produced notable series in functional carved porcelain and wood-fired vessels decorated in Japanese graphics. She explains, “Although working in such diverse ways may be unusual, it is part of my commitment to following a creative muse without severely editing the direction.”
Jude’s sculptures are textured with rolled and carved patterns that stem from the artist’s love of graphic design. She employs a variety of clay bodies, firings and finishes in this work. Although they are related and present beautifully in groups, each one-of-a-kind figure has a personality of its own – a cocked head, hands folded, a bird perched on the shoulder. Jude strives to have each evoke “an internal world of human emotion: wonder and hope, the solitary and the sad.”
“I am interested in exploring the brink where my own emotion meets matter and is communicated,” she states. “I like the fact that the figures have a universal, mythic quality. Most seem feminine although that is not always important to me. To create the sculptures I think of rituals, experiences and emotions that are both personal and universal. I express them using concrete symbols and precise gestural form.”
In 2008 and 2009, Jude, a Minneapolitan who maintains a studio in Hudson, WI, created figures in collaboration with floral artist Sue Bagge for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ annual Art in Bloom event.
Intrigued by how sensory awareness affects the experience of visual art, Kelly Jean Ohl uses texture and sound in her sculptural ceramic work to promote engagement with the senses. “This is my way of acknowledging that the work was meant to be touched. It’s part of the experience,” she states. Many of Kelly Jean’s pieces function as rattles. They remind people of things they have found on the forest floor, touched in a tide pool or viewed under a microscope. “My ceramic pieces aren’t any of these things in particular,” the artist explains. “They are small abstract objects that reference many biological entities without being any one specifically.”
Kelly Jean starts her surfaces with applied textiles, kitchen utensils and household tools. Each piece is hand carved, burnished and sanded, going through multiple firings as layers of hand-painted oxides are applied. “Texture is a great way to invite the viewer to use their senses other than sight to experience my work, not only to look but to touch and listen and explore the work in ways we are often not encouraged to,” says the artist. “When someone picks up one of my pieces they see the detailed carving, feel the unique tactile quality of the surface and then also realize that the piece makes sounds.”
Kelly Jean holds an MFA from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor and an MA from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She has won multiple grants for her work, which has been featured in several solo exhibitions. Her clay pieces are included in the collections of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, Ann Arbor and the Touchable Art Gallery at the Duke Eye Center, Duke University, Durham, NC. Her work appears in the books Create the Space You Deserve, Jill Butler and The American Ceramic Society’s From Mud to Music. Kelly Jean lives and works in Lanesboro, MN.
At their Ann Arbor, MI studio, Nawal Motawi and her staff of talented artisans carry on American tile-making traditions, crafting beautifully made work from locally-produced clay and signature glazes mixed on-site. Nawal, who opened the tileworks in 1992, studied sculpture and ceramics at the University of Michigan and learned tile-making techniques at Pewabic Pottery in Detroit. She acts as chief designer while her brother Karim, who recently left the company, assisted with establishing studio and process innovation. Nawal’s aesthetic influences include the work of early 20th century decorative artists such as Mary Chase Stratton, Lois Sullivan, and Dard Hunter. In 2007, Motawi Tileworks formed a partnership with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to produce a line based on historic Wright motifs, and, in 2008, added designs by Japanese wood block artist Yoshiko Yamamoto.
Tiles from Nawal’s studio present handsomely as is or in Motawi’s bespoke solid oak frames. Karim has stated: “Motawi tile has a warm rustic charm that is impossible to achieve with mass production. So we make our tile the old fashioned way. We pore over the histories of old tileworks seeking design inspiration and production techniques. More than once we have looked at an old photograph and said, ‘Aha! That’s how they did that!’ And now that’s how we do it too.”