Tag Archives: Clay

Meet the Artist in Residence: Betsy Foster

Betsy Foster, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the months of February and March 2020, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Betsy some questions about her work and studio practice:

Betsy Foster studio picture

artist in her studio

Q: Tell us about your background.
I’m from Henrietta, New York (about 35 minutes west of Clifton Springs).  I’ve been making artwork for around 15 years now!

In 2011 I graduated with my BFA from Alfred University, and in 2019 I graduated with my MFA from The Ohio State University. My concentration for both fine art degrees was ceramics.

I just moved back to the western New York area this past summer when I finished my Master’s. In addition to my studio practice I teach as an adjunct instructor at SUNY Fredonia.

Q: How would you describe your work?
My practice revolves around the manipulation of ceramic material and carrying out repetitive actions to accumulate multiples. I am drawn to the tactility of clay, of leaving marks in the surface whether they be my fingerprints or that of a tool. The surfaces of my ceramic sculptures and paintings are usually abstracted patterns like grids, lattices, or polka dots stretched or overlapped. I change these patterns on the surfaces to create something different each time.

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Pinnacle Pair, 2019. ceramic, 5 feet x 4 feet x 2 .5 feet.

Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
Nearly every ceramic form I build starts out as a series of sketches done in my studio, a sort of planning process. Two-dimensional sketches become three-dimensional form. I sketch the piece again after it is completed, continuing that cycle of sketching and building, each time abstracting and changing the form, pushing against its specificity. My sketches originate from fuzzy thoughts, or flashes of memories steeped in nostalgia. I’m tapping into these feelings as I explore how my paintings, sketches, and ceramic forms can exist together.

Q: What are your goals for this residency?
For my time in the residency, I want to explore the relationship between my paintings and ceramic forms. Having gone the better part of this year without a kiln, I’ve been creating paintings with freeform abstract swatches of color. My work from early 2019 and late 2018 dealt with purposefully distorting patterns across a surface, but with access to a kiln once again I am interested to see how my time working solely in paint has influenced how I glaze ceramic forms. My plan is to create ceramic pieces that have painting counterparts. Being back where I was born and raised in Rochester, NY for the first time in many years has everything steeped in nostalgia. I plan on tapping into these feelings as I explore how my paintings and ceramic forms can exist together, merging surface textures and colors, as sources obscure and abstract in the back-and-forth of two-dimensional paintings/sketches to three-dimensional ceramic forms.

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September Display Case, 2019. ceramic sculptures and paintings installed in a hallway case. roughly 10 feet x 3 feet

 Q: Do you collect artwork?
Besides work from a variety of mediums from friends of mine, I have a collection of ceramic cups, mugs, and plates. As someone in the ceramic community who used to solely create pottery, I have a huge appreciation for handmade cups, mugs, plates, etc. With a few exceptions, I only use handmade ceramic to eat off of! I have gotten most of it from The Clay Studio’s gallery, they are located in Philadelphia (but you can also order online!) NCECA, the annual ceramic conference, is also a place I’ve picked up a few of my favorite pieces. For me, there is a sensitivity, a contemplation, and an awareness present while using handmade objects every day.

Q: What is the most useful tool in your studio?
I want to say my hands, but I think that’s too cliché. I’m going to say a banding wheel. When building ceramic pieces, I need to be on all sides of it and being able to spin the piece around on something has probably saved my body from aches and pains! Alternatively, for bigger work a dolly from the hardware store (so I can put a large wooden board on wheels to move around) has definitely been a life saver!

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That Pink Painting, 2019. Acrylic paint on canvas, 3 feet x 3 feet.

Q: Where are your favorite places to see artwork?
I would say anywhere that I’m traveling where I haven’t been before. If I’m in a new city I usually make a quick stop at a museum or gallery. I frequently drive around for concerts, and I love to make an overnight trip so I can pop into a museum in the morning before a drive back to give me a lot to reflect on during the drive. My more recent favorite was The Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh. A second runner up response would be the museum I used to work at – The Philadelphia Museum of Art. They have such an amazingly huge collection that they rotate frequently so if you stop in, a lot of the galleries are different than that last time you were there.

Q: What’s next for you?
I’d like to get a kiln to establish my own studio here in western New York so I can continue to create ceramic pieces in my studio practice. And I’m hoping to continue teaching!

Q: Where else can we find you?
Website: betsy-foster.com
Instagram: @betsy__foster

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Cylinder Composition, 2019. Ceramic, brick, acrylic paint, 6 feet x 5 feet x 1 foot.

Q & A with Kala Stein

The Upstate New York Ceramics Invitational at Main Street Arts will feature functional and sculptural ceramic work by 13 artists from the region. This invitational represents some of the most exciting contemporary ceramic work being made in upstate New York.

The exhibition will be held July 11–August 29, 2015.
Online purchasing will begin in mid-July.

Kala Stein

Canadice ceramic artist Kala Stein

Kala Stein

Q: Where are you from originally and where are you now?
A: I am originally from Springwater, NY and relocated throughout the east in my late teens and twenties when I was studying ceramics. I returned to the Finger Lakes area when I began graduate school at the NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University.  I now live in Canadice, NY in a refurbished 1959 sleep away camp that my husband and I operate as summer vacation rentals. Link: Woodland Retreat

Q: When did you realize you wanted to be a ceramic artist?
A: When I was studying graphic design at SUNY New Paltz I missed the labor and dirt-under-the-finger-nails, back to the land, lifestyle I had grown up with, on a small homestead in Springwater, NY. I found this type of work and intensity in the ceramics studio where the magic of throwing a bowl from a couple of pounds of clay seemed aligned with the wonder of growing food from seed or raising livestock. The collective experience of the ceramics studio was intellectually and socially engaging for me and by my junior year in college I was at the point of no return.

Q: Did you make other types of artwork before finding ceramics? Do you currently make other work?
A: I am working on designing and building a small, efficient home with my husband. It is a work in progress where we have incorporated reclaimed materials, hand-harvested and milled woods, sensitivity to the landscape and sustainable lifestyle.

Q: Do you have an artistic hero or an artist you look up to?
A: 
There are so many! I especially admire Betty Woodman and her work not only as a pioneering female artist but also as a world traveler and recognized master craftsman and avant-garde thinker.

Q: What is your largest source of inspiration?
A: I am inspired by many, many outside sources of natural beauty, antiquities, and timeless design but ideas really flow for me when I am able to focus in the studio for lengths of time, analyze my work, and visualize new moves and directions to explore. There is no other inspiration or motivation like this- when momentum is in motion, time falls away, and ideas flow freely.

Q: Do you look forward to opening the kiln? Or do you wince at the thought of something going wrong in there?
A: Both!  Clay is full of dualities and surprises. The kiln is the physical manifestation of this. Before I open the kiln, if there is nothing to wonder or worry about, I know I am not my pushing my work or myself as I should.

Q: What is it like being a ceramic artist in Upstate NY?
A: Being a ceramic artist in Western NY is at once lonely and full of company. I am an anomaly in my community because I have a rural studio in a small town, I share this position with Robin Whiteman whose studio is next door. Since I am linked with clay artists in Rochester, Buffalo, Canandaigua, Corning, Syracuse, Alfred, and everywhere in between, I always have a support network and inspiring acquaintances.

Q: Is there anything strange or unique that people might not know about you?
A: I am an obsessive multi-tasker and proponent of efficient, careful, conscious existence. Something else people don’t know about me–I lived in a teepee the first 6 months of my life in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia!

Kala Stein

Kala Stein

Kala Stein

Kala Stein

Kala Stein

Kala Stein

Where can people see more of your work/follow you?
Website: www.kalastein.com
Instagram: @kalasteindesign
Summer Vacation Rentals: Woodland Retreat

Check out the previous Q & A with ceramic artist Jody Selin.

Q & A with Ashley Lyon

The Upstate New York Ceramics Invitational at Main Street Arts will feature functional and sculptural ceramic work by 13 artists from the region. This invitational represents some of the most exciting contemporary ceramic work being made in upstate New York.

The exhibition will be held July 11–August 29, 2015.
Online purchasing will begin in mid-July.

Ashley Lyon

Hornell ceramic artist Ashley Lyon

Ashley Lyon

Q: Where are you from originally and where are you now?
A: I was born and raised in Southern California, Orange County. I left at 18 and moved to Seattle for Undergrad, then to Montana and Colorado for residencies and then back to Washington State for 2 years before moving to Virginia for Graduate School. Following Graduate school I moved to NYC and then 3 years ago I moved to Hornell, NY for a teaching position. I currently live in Hornell.

Q: When did you realize you wanted to be a ceramic artist?
A: I took a lot of ceramics courses in high school, they invented independent study courses for me because I had already taken everything the school offered and I still wanted to pursue it further. In college I tried to focus on something else- I thought perhaps I would become a doctor or a scientist or a writer. When it came time to declare a major the advisor pointed out to me that I had the most credits in art courses despite my desire to become something other than an artist. So this convinced me I should probably just do art. I had to decide between a painting major and a ceramics major because they would not let me do a double major- so I picked Ceramics because at the University of Washington the most exciting things and interesting discussions seemed to be coming from that department. Anyone could major in ceramics whether or not they were using clay- many people were not using clay and this just added to the richness of the program- you could still be a ceramics major by embracing a process that had more to do with the “sensibility” or an approach to clay without actually using it. This completely shaped how I think about it and use it in my own work today.

Q: Did you make other types of artwork before finding ceramics? Do you currently make other work?
A: I make and have made many other things: drawing, painting, videos, photography, textiles. My main other medium that I exhibit professionally along with my ceramic objects is photography.

Q: Do you have an artistic hero or an artist you look up to?
A: There are many, many artists I admire and look up to, I consistently admire and learn from the work of Juan Munoz and Robert Gober. Upon seeing each of their works for the first time I immediately knew and understood all of it- it was a feeling in my gut and my heart that was incredibly inspiring.

Q: What is your largest source of inspiration?
A: I can’t really describe a singular source of inspiration. My impulse to make a piece comes from many things, places, people, and images. Sometimes it is something I’ve seen on the internet, sometimes it is something someone says or something I’ve read, sometimes it is something I’ve witnessed randomly on the street, at a bar, at a restaurant, anywhere really. Sometimes it is a special person or a special object but it can also be something completely banal or someone I don’t know. The main thread is that I tend to start with objects, images, or moments that I have had an intense empathetic connection to. My pieces change and shift significantly as I make them in the studio. Chance, accidents and mishaps are a large source of inspiration and influence upon the final artworks.

Q: Do you look forward to opening the kiln? Or do you wince at the thought of something going wrong in there?
A: A lot of my work is never fired because it is built to become a photograph, but because I embrace accidents and mishaps I have a very neutral relationship with the kiln when I do fire a piece. I look forward to opening the door but rarely do I see what I expected. This is exciting.

Q: What is it like being a ceramic artist in Upstate NY?
A: I have made my work in many places across the country and internationally so making in Upstate NY does not feel particularly distinct for me in relation to my work. I do love it here. I feel good in my soul when I am struck by the natural beauty of everything around me; the seasons, the growth, the colors, the textures. This does not have a direct influence upon my work but it does influence my happiness in life.

I own a large building (a re-purposed Methodist church) that I have remodeled over the last 3 years with my partner Ian McMahon to be our home and studio and an art center. This building was affordable for us to purchase and remodel because it is located in Upstate New York. This is perhaps the most significant influence of location upon my artwork. I have complete access to a very large affordable space, which has been a dream studio for making large-scale sculptures and photographs.

Q: Where else are you showing your work this summer or fall?
A: Nothing planned or scheduled yet! I will be teaching a ceramic workshop at OxBow this summer and am looking forward to that. I am deep in the throws of applying to everything under the sun… and am excited for what the next year may hold in store for me!

Q: Is there anything strange or unique that people might not know about you?
A: I am Co-Founder and Co-Director of an artist-run exhibition center in Hornell, NY: The Belfry.

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Where can people see more of your work/follow you?
Websites: www.ashleylyon.com and www.belfryarts.com

Check out the previous Q & A with ceramic artist Bethany Krull.

Q & A with Bryan Hopkins

The Upstate New York Ceramics Invitational at Main Street Arts will feature functional and sculptural ceramic work by 13 artists from the region. This invitational represents some of the most exciting contemporary ceramic work being made in upstate New York.

The exhibition will be held July 11–August 29, 2015.
Online purchasing will begin in mid-July.

Bryan Hopkins

Buffalo ceramic artist Bryan Hopkins

Ceramic artist Bryan Hopkins

Q: Where are you from originally and where are you now?
A: Philadelphia, PA; Buffalo, NY

Q: When did you realize you wanted to be a ceramic artist?
A: After taking a ceramics class in college to fulfill an art requirement.

Q: Did you make other types of artwork before finding ceramics? Do you currently make other work?
A: no, and no

Q: Do you have an artistic hero or an artist you look up to?
A: No hero. I love the work of Bodil Manz.

Q: What is your largest source of inspiration
A: The vessel.

Q: Do you look forward to opening the kiln? Or do you wince at the thought of something going wrong in there?
A: yes and yes.

Q: What is it like being a ceramic artist in Upstate NY?
A: Similar to anywhere else I have been, only colder.

Q: Where else are you showing your work this summer or fall?
A: Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, and on Objective Clay.

Q: Is there anything strange or unique that people might not know about you?
A: I have an obsession with bicycles that borders on addiction.

Work by Bryan Hopkins

Work by Bryan Hopkins

Cups by Bryan Hopkins

Cups by Bryan Hopkins

Bowl by Bryan Hopkins

Bowl by Bryan Hopkins

Work by Bryan Hopkins

Work by Bryan Hopkins

Where can people see more of your work/follow you?
Websites : www.hopkinspottery.com and www.objectiveclay.com
Instagram: bryanshopkins