Interview with Grace Markley-Reiter: An Accomplished Ceramicist

 

I met Grace Markley-Reiter in a great LinkedIn group for ceramic lovers. ūüôā http://www.linkedin.com/groups/ceramics-1153897?goback=%2Emid_I63190422*4105

I sent Grace an invitation for an interview and she happily accepted. She responded so¬†kindly saying, ‚ÄúI’m glad to help you in any way I can. That’s what I love about the potters and ceramicists I’ve met in my journey; in fourteen years I haven’t met one who wasn’t able, happy, and willing to help or offer suggestions or share their experience or tools. I believe that’s a common trait among potters.‚ÄĚ

This is SO true!!!  All the potters I’ve met have been amazing people…each so beautifully unique in their own way and all sharing a common trait of kindness. I love it! This was another quality that originally drew me to the art of ceramics.

‚ÄúAlmost everything we come into contact with today is mass-produced. The sheer joy of making something by hand, working with the clay itself, is a constant source of inspiration to me‚ÄĚ ‚ÄďGrace

Read through our interview below to learn more about Grace, her love for ceramics along with more of her beautiful quotes that she has kindly shared with us.

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V: When did your passion for ceramics spark?

G: I can’t pinpoint an exact time, place, or date, but it began for me fourteen or fifteen years ago. I was new to the area (north Atlanta) and I was looking for something to do in the evenings after work. I knew I wanted to do something creative, and found a local arts center with affordable classes that fit my time schedule. I have always been incredibly creative, having spent about the same amount of time working as a prop and set designer in theatre and film/television. I had always wanted to learn ceramics and the art of throwing on the wheel, but never made the effort to look into it. I wanted to take a creative major, like ceramics, in college, but opted instead to do what I thought I SHOULD do, rather than what I was guided to do. This class at the arts center gave me the opportunity to try my hand with clay. I took a beginning hand-building class, and I was hooked. My instructor was a skilled artist, which made me like the class even more. She used to take leather hard slabs out to a firing range and would shoot a .45 at them. She would finish them by glazing them in odd ways with collage elements and displaying them with the shards of the bullet hole facing the viewer. Weird, but wonderful.

V: Which do you prefer: Kick or Electric wheel?

G: I prefer an electric wheel. With a kickwheel, I find I have to concentrate too hard on the momentum of the wheel rather than forming the work. I do 50% wheel and 50% hand building with slabs.

V:  Do you sculpt?

G: No, not as a rule. I’ve done a few pieces of sculpture, but prefer making functional ware.

V: What is your favorite clay…stoneware, porcelain, etc..?

G: I work with stonewares, mainly 378 and 181. Lately I’ve been hooked on Phoenix, which has a fabulous plasticity for throwing or hand building. It also fires to a buff color, which gives greater true color with glazes. I’ve done quite a bit of work with low fire earthenware clay, called 104, which is a lovely, buttery terra cotta. I really admire the work of Liz Zlot Summerfield and her wares in low fire clays, and she inspired me to work with this type of clay. For monoprinting, I use porcelain slip.

V: What is your favorite glaze?

G: That’s a tough one! I’m not sure I can give a straightforward answer because there are so many from which to choose. At the studio where I do my work I use a combination of Cone 6 electric glazes called Nutmeg, Karen’s Starshine, and (yes, this is really the name!) Men In Tights. The name of this glaze cracks me up – it’s the color of the tights the actors in the old 1950’s Robin Hood movies used to wear. I also love a color called Acid Green, which fires to a satiny sheen in electric, and to a low gloss matte sheen in a Cone 10 gas kiln. I also love working with underglazes (Amaco LUG’s.) Using them gives me a chance to experiment with my painterly side. When using the underglazes I’ll typically fire the color in at bisque, then use a matte transparent glaze called Dixon to vitrify the work and make it food safe. I use this process when I create a series of the same image using a monoprinting technique (see “Paul Andrew Wandless” on the web.) I greatly admire the work of Akira Satake, who does a process called “Kohiki,” where you slather porcelain slip onto a dark stoneware. Once the porcelain sets up a bit, you lift the dark slab and smack in down on a table. The porcelain cracks, revealing the dark clay underneath. When I do this work, I’ll typically use a Cone 6 glaze on the inside, and use only iron oxide on the outside, which intensifies the texture of the cracking.

V:  Do you sell your work?

G: I do sell my work. I’ve been selling through a couple of local gallery/art stores, and through the community center where I teach. I’ve had a couple of solo and group shows where I’ve sold as well. Right now I continue to build my inventory, since my husband and I will be opening a small teaching studio and gallery in the next year. The bulk of my sales have been through commissions as a result of people seeing my work, and wanted something custom. In the near future, I’ll be taking my work online for sale. It’s important not to “under price” your work. It can be a tough call to set a price, but if you think about trips to the studio, electricity for kilns, wheel, lighting, the cost of equipment and tools, studio space or membership fees costs for clay and glazes, and then add the value of your time into it – it adds up. I’m always pleased to see my beginning wheel students begin to understand why someone would charge $25 or $35 for a coffee mug, as they learn what goes into creating a simple, finished functional piece! I try to take the stance that I want my work to be accessible, while not undervaluing my effort or originality.

V: Do you love or hate raku?

G: Although I haven’t done much Raku firing recently, I absolutely love the process. Fire, flames, sparks, general mayhem and conflagration – can’t think of many better things to do on a cold autumn evening. The process of watching the kiln, then seeing that perfect point where the temperature is just right and the glaze bubbles up, slicks back down, and poof! Open the kiln and start the hectic process of getting everything out into the right containers with the right combustibles. The issue I have with Raku is that the work isn’t vitrified or food safe, and since I specialize in functional ware, this is a problem. But occasionally I’ll do some work just for Raku; mainly wall art slabs. I’m really interested right now in “Naked Raku” and Saggar firing. A.J. Argentina does fabulous work with Saggar firings. I also really like the effects gained in a pit firing, using dog or cat food, copper wire, old rotten food, etc – great flashing and coppery appearance.

Best of luck! ~Grace

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Please take some time out of your day to view Grace’s¬†¬†beautiful work¬†at www.art101.com/singinghands¬†… you’ll be glad you did **

Thanks again so much Grace *

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