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pottery

Flowers are hand-painted on a bowl by Donna McGee.
Potter Donna McGee in her studio

The Reboli Center for Art & History’s September Artisan of the Month, Donna McGee, designs and creates one-of-a-kind functional and decorative pieces in stoneware and earthenware, and puts her signature mark on each piece with her original drawings of fields, flowers, farm life and faces.

“Her unique vases, bowls, pots and platters often feature scenes from the views outside of her studio windows. The Reboli Center is thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase the pottery of Donna McGee, whose work is so distinctive and appealing,” said Lois Reboli, a founder of the Reboli Center.

For most of her life, Donna has focused on art. Since her youth she has been a frequent visitor to museums and galleries, than first as an artist and now as a potter. She studied art at Southern Illinois University and has a Bachelor’s of Science in Re-creation, Art and Society. In her twenties, she went to Europe and studied clay at the Jacob Cramer Centre for the Arts in Leeds, Yorkshire, England.

According to Donna, “I took one class in pottery in college and hated it. A couple of years later, I took another class and decided that this was what I wanted to do. I am mostly self-taught and have always had confidence in my drawings and creativity – that is what propels me. I make pieces that are both functional, as well as decorative, because I am a realist and want my work to be used.”

Once she calculated that she made about 1000 pots per year. While her work is her own, she does take some commissions.  Her process involves making the item either wheel thrown or slab built, and then painting the background color on it while the clay is still wet. After the first firing, she paints the details, applies a transparent glaze, and fires the piece again. “My work is known for its variety of drawings and paintings,” she added.

Donna McGee’s work is on display during the month of September and admission to the Reboli Center for Art & History, 64 Main St., Stony Brook is free. Hours are Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. For more information, please visit the Center’s website at www.rebolicenter.org or call 631-751-7707.

 

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Photo from Brick Clay Studio

SUPPORT OUR LOCAL ARTISTS

The Brick Clay Studio & Gallery, 2 Flowerfield, St. James will present a Fall Outdoor Pottery and Craft Show from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. All participants are local artists presenting unique and original works. The Gallery Shop will be open to browse the handmade pottery made on the premises. Please join them in reconnecting with the artist community. Admission is free. For more information, visit  www.thebrickstudio.org or call 833-THE-BRICK.

The Reboli Center for Art & History in Stony Brook is pleased to name Mary Jaffe as its artisan of the month for March. “Mary is known for her handmade functional ceramics. Her pottery has such clean and elegant lines, which are reflective of the landscapes of the east end where Mary lives and works in Bridgehampton. Her work is beautiful and inspiring,” said Lois Reboli, founder of the Reboli Center and wife of the late renowned artist, Joseph Reboli, for whom the center is named.

Artist Mary Jaffe in her studio

Jaffe earned her BFA in Ceramics from Long Island University in Southampton, NY. She did post graduate studies at the Instituto Allende in Mexica, the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina, and a five-year apprenticeship at a production pottery studio.  For the past 20 years, she has been teaching children’s pottery workshops in her local community and at the Clay Art Guild in Watermill.

According to Jaffe, “As a studio potter, I am continually experimenting with and exploring the subtle properties and abilities of the material. I specialize in wheel-thrown pottery with inspiration from the horizontal lines of the landscape and natural forms of seashells and gourds. The finished works are reflective of the process, where the softness and fluidity of the raw clay is expressed in shape and texture. On occasion, I explore altered forms in collaboration with my artist husband.”

Mary Jaffe’s pottery is for sale in the Reboli Center’s Design Shop. The Center, located at 64 Main Street in Stony Brook, is free, and open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Masks must be worn, and social distancing is required. For more information, please call 631-751-7707.

Lois Reboli, president of the Reboli Center, noted that, “The Center is adhering to CDC, New York State and Suffolk County coronavirus guidelines, which limits the number of attendees at one time and requires all visitors to wear a mask and socially distance. Please be assured that staff and volunteers will wear masks, and do continuous cleaning and sanitizing.”

Photos courtesy of The Reboli Center

Turquoise vessel with coordinating wooden lid

Artist statement: ’ When I was a young man, I decided I would prefer to have some sort of pastoral life.  Working in my home pottery studio, “my island of calm, amidst the insanity of Long Island,” has afforded me some of the serenity I was seeking.’    Russell Pulick

By Irene Ruddock

Russell Pulick has been creating fine stoneware pottery for 45 years. He has been an instructor and studio manager at the Art League of Long Island for the past 18 years. Along with fellow potters, Russell recently celebrated the opening of a new clay studio and gallery in St. James called The Brick Clay Studio & Gallery where he is the studio manager and technical advisor. His beautiful pottery can now be found on four continents. 

How did you become interested in pottery?

 I took computer programming in college. I also took a pottery class and I was hooked! I wound up getting in trouble for arriving late to my programming classes and all covered in clay!  

 What are the properties of clay that you like?  

I love the plasticity of clay. It is this quality that can make it so much fun to work with. You can take clay anywhere, as long as you do it carefully. You are limited only by your imagination.

Starting from the initial idea, can you walk us through the process of creating a piece?  

The clay is first wedged (kneaded) to remove all air pockets. The next step, for a wheel “thrown” piece, is centering the clay. This is one of the most difficult and important steps. If the clay is not centered, a symmetrical vessel cannot be created. The clay is then shaped by hand, with the aid of a few specialty tools. Each piece needs additional work, such as trimming, adding handles or covers, or texturing. The pottery must then be completely dried, bisque fired, glazed and then glaze fired. I use brown, speckled stoneware clay and fire to 2232 degrees in an electric kiln. 

What is your method for glazing? 

Turquoise fluted tea pot

I make all the glazes myself, using recipes I have compiled by combining various minerals, chemicals and water. Different chemicals create specific colors and textures. Most pieces are dipped into a vat of glaze.

How do you decide on the design for each piece?

In general, I do not do surface decoration, so I try to make graceful, voluptuous shapes that are pleasing to the eye. Then I add a simple, beautiful glaze on the surface. This becomes my sole decoration on the piece.

What qualities make a great ceramic piece? 

For me, a graceful, elegant form makes a great piece.

What do you regard as more importantan esthetically pleasing piece or one that has practical function?

While all my pottery is functional, I still consider the aesthetic value to be most important, but of course form follows function. 

Is there a favorite type of piece that you like to design?   

Ceramic vessel with wood lid

I love making containers. I also love wood so it just seemed to make sense to incorporate the two. So for the last dozen years or so, I have been making wood covers for my clay vessels. 

What or who has influenced you in your artistry? 

I have been influenced by Chinese and Japanese pottery. I admired the work of Shoji Hamada, known as a national treasure in Japan. I also admired the English potter Bernard Leach. When I started to do pottery 45 years ago, there was no internet and the local libraries had only a few books. The books are where I learned about Hamada and Leach. I fell in love with their simple and elegant work.  

I see that you participate in many craft shows. What are some upcoming shows where one can purchase your work? 

I will be exhibiting at the Montauk Historical Society on July 15 and 16 and Aug. 12 and 13. On Sept. 2 and 3, I will be at the Montauk Lions Club and on Aug. 25 I will be at the Art and Craft Fair in Shelter Island. Lastly, on Sept. 24, my pottery will be shown at the West Islip Country Fair. A list of future shows are on my website, www.pulickpottery.com where pottery can be purchased directly.  

Where can someone take classes with you?

Cobalt Blue Jar with turned wood (Goncalo Alves) cover

I teach at the Art League of Long Island in Dix Hills. Classes are open to beginners as well as those more experienced with clay. We have a wonderful group of students and everyone has a great time as they learn how to make pottery. You may sign up for my classes at www.artleagueli.org.

Is there one piece of advice that you could give your students and others interested in pursuing pottery as an art form?  

I want them to know that anyone can learn pottery; it requires only patience and tenacity. I call it stick-to-ittiveness! 

What else would you like readers to know about you?  

Besides teaching, I also repair kilns and perform basic preventive maintenance for dozens of schools, universities and private clients. 

Tell us about your latest adventure. 

I am very excited to be a part of the new studio and gallery, The Brick Clay Studio & Gallery, 2 Flowerfield, Suites 57 and 60, St. James. It is a wonderful place for learning, creating and selling ceramics. Please check out our website at www.thebrickstudio.org. Setting up this new studio has been a wonderful adventure and all are welcome to stop by to see what we are all about!