My studio is located in a small town in extreme southwestern North Dakota called Bowman. Bowman was a founded as a railroad stop in 1907. The population of the city of Bowman is around 1600 people, with about 3200 people in the county (also called Bowman). It is a nice place to live.
My studio is located in my backyard. A wooden sidewalk stretches from the back door of the house to the studio’s door. Built in 1987 as a place to house my father’s collection of antique motorcycles, I make sculptural work in the building now. My childhood dog, Joshua, is buried underneath the slab the studio sits upon.
I was born and grew up in Bowman. I left to go to university, and planned never to return. Plans are funny things.
My studio houses my kilns, an ancient slab roller that I would like to replace, lots of clay and storage, and my pug mill. The photo on the left shows the pugs from the pug mill. I love my pug mill. How did I get along without it? On slow or uninspired work days I pug clay – taking the scraps and turning it into usable, blended, soft clay again.
I started working in clay when I was a child, but my BFA degree is in Visual Arts-Printmaking. I love making prints. I love ink and paper and the process of working on the plates and running an edition. Somewhere along the line I thought “what if I could make prints on clay” and then I began making ceramic tiles. I didn’t know how to do it, so I borrowed a book from the public library called, Handmade Tiles: Designing, Making, Decorating by Frank Giorgini. Most of my first tiles were funky and warped. With time I learned how to make flat tiles.
Then I wanted to make sculptures. I had made small models out of polymer clay to understand the light source for my prints. How would I make those figures out of clay? I started with a bag of earthenware, bought a used kiln, and started modeling my Greyhounds in clay. My mother was a high school art teacher. She (and the instruction manual for the kiln) taught me how to fire the kiln. I liked the results, but wanted the figures to be better.
In 2006, I received an Individual Artist Fellowship from the North Dakota Council on the Arts. That fellowship was pivotal in many ways- the biggest goal being I gained confidence in my work. In 2008, I received a Bush Foundation grant. That grant provided funds to attend a 2 week workshop at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena, Montana in 2009. Attending that workshop was a big step forward. I needed to learn more about clay, to commit more of my time to the studio, and seriously dig in to my artistic practice.
My studio does not have a wall of windows overlooking a glamorous vista of a National Park. It isn’t ready for an Architectural Digest photo shoot. But it is integral to my process of making my sculptures.