Category Archives: General

Celebration of Clay – A Great Tradition

Not too many years after I moved to New Mexico, I became aware of the great quality of the Celebration of Clay shows put on by the NMPCA.

See some pictures from the 2002 show here.  And the 2003 show at the Harwood Art Center here.  The review of that show by member Betsy Williams cited the “stunning” quality of work.

These shows are not juried…or are what I call “self-juried”…and yet have consistently shown excellent quality work, exhibiting a variety of approaches to creating with clay.    While it is not easy to find a venue for a self-juried show, while I have been on the board (off and on for the last 9 years), I have supported the decision to keep the Celebration of Clay as a non-juried tradition.  The self-jurying has arguably resulted in great quality shows and retains a spirit of mutual support and cooperation instead of competition.  The Celebration of Clay show has provided an opportunity for the public to see something of what ceramic art is about within the state of New Mexico and our region.

The reason the quality of work at the Celebration of Clay is high is entirely due to the members meeting or exceeding their own standards from year to year.

Now, in 2012, the Celebration of Clay will be held at the Ghost Ranch Museum, on the grounds of the Ghost Ranch Conference Center in Abiquiu, New Mexico.  We are happy to have a location in Northern New Mexico to display our work to, and look forward to having the members of the International Academy of Ceramics view the work when they visit Ghost Ranch.  This show will be held in September, 2012.

Members:  continue the tradition!
Pick your very best work and register for the 2012 show.

View detailed call for Entries.

Members:  Select your best work and register before July 31.

NMPCA Local Albuquerque Meeting

On Sunday, Jan. 15 we gathered for our first local Albuquerque meeting. Twenty artists attended including our guest presenter, Kathy Cyman as well a few people who were not members of NMPCA. We began our meeting with refreshments and socializing. People brought photos of their work that were collected as they arrived, then we each selected a photo and tried to match the photo with the artist. It was a really great way to get people up out of their seats to mingle and get to know each other. We gave away some fun door prizes too. Kathy Cyman gave a wonderful presentation about her work in Arita porcelain and her travels to Japan. She brought some beautiful examples and let us actually feel the pure, wonderful porcelain clay. A couple of the guests expressed an interest in joining NMPCA. All in all it was a teriffic day. I heard several people ask when we would be having the next one. I would encourage members from other parts of the State to organize a meeting in your area. It’s a great way to connect with other local artists. I learned so much and enjoyed my time with people who share a love for clay.

A Visit to Jan Term at Ghost Ranch

Just came back from a visit to the Jan Term at Ghost Ranch.  I went up to help our NMPCA Board member and Ghost Ranch coordinator, Barbara Campbell, with a fume firing for the students.  I came away so encouraged by seeing these young people of high energy, integrity, and intelligence.  It was the last day of activities and Barbara had designed so many incredible projects that the students did so well!  One of the most interesting projects was the creation of a totem pole where each student created a piece and the final stacked sculpture will be permanently installed at the top of the stairway down to Pot Hollow.  The imagery on the pieces was inspired by the student’s reaction to the environment of Ghost Ranch.   We’ll all get to see the totem when we visit later this year!

I also visited the archaeology and solar energy groups, and they were doing equally amazing things.  The archaeology students had found a bone in the 2002 site that the instructors felt was a significant find.  How terribly exciting!

Albuquerque Empty Bowls

This year’s Albuquerque Empty Bowls event will be held Sunday, Sept. 25 at Project Share, 1515 Yale SE, Albuquerque, New Mexico

This event, which is held in many cities and towns around the country, aims to reduce hunger.  It is an enchanting event…potters make ceramic bowls, restaurants make wonderful soup, people come and buy a bowl, have some soup, and listen to lovely music.  The cost of the bowl is donated to charities engaged in reducing poverty and hunger.

The sponsoring organization, Project Share, in Albuquerque.  Among their programs are a hot meal program, a food box program, Adopt-A-Family Holiday Program and a clothing bank.

Website Changes

I’m working on changing the websites so that the public website ( becomes merged with our membership website (

In the process, I found a tool for displaying pdf files that will greatly enhance our enjoyment of the Slip Trail newsletter.  See a sample by clicking here  and click on the link from the NMPCA site or click on the image to go directly to the magazine display.

NMPCA July Slip Trail Magazine Display
Magazine display of the Slip Trail

A little bit of good

Fires everywhere, storms brewing in the Gulf, temperatures soaring in the Southwest…we need rain!

So, I got some pictures from Daisy Kates of the wheel we bought for the Tarnoff Art Center in Pecos/Rowe through the Armstrong Grant.  It is nice to be able to post about something positive.  See the Tarnoff Art Center website and maybe you’ll want to take one of their interesting workshops!

Coming Out of the Art Closet

I never thought to be doing this…coming out of the closet, but finally I have decided to confess my secret.  So, here on the blog, and witnessed by my fellow NMPCA members, I am going to reveal my story:  I don’t sell much clay work.  And, I don’t feel this lessens my work or my stature as an artist.  I have been thinking about how and why I find myself in these circumstances for quite a while and have decided to set down what has led me to this state.

For several years now, I haven’t had regular gallery representation, just a few pieces here and there.  I used to be in a few galleries and had good success.  I also used to do temporary shows/sales events and had success there, as well.  Despite these previous circumstances, a confluence of events over the last several years has led me to a place where I don’t sell much of my clay work.  I hope that by telling my story I will help other artists who don’t sell much, either.

So how did this happen and what is the effect on my art?

Of course, since I don’t sell art, I have to make money in other ways.  I haven’t yet found a method of not bringing in money and still eat, dress, and have a warm, safe place to live.  I have chosen to make money through computer software work, and I am fortunate to have been able to do so for over 45 years to fuel my passion for the clay.  I used to feel like a divided person, devoting considerable energy and time to business and at the same time, considerable energy and passion to the clay work.  Increasing age has blunted the feeling of divisiveness, and I now feel a nurturing relationship between parts of my life, and I credit my art with bringing about this integration.

We refer to different “worlds” … The art world, business world, civilized world, natural world, everyday reality. We fragment and compartmentalize our lives. My art is an expression of my dreams and visions as I attempt to balance and integrate these separate frames of reference. 

I feel I am flying in the face of cultural stereotypes and conventional measures of the successful artist.  I have encountered people who think you are not a “real” artist unless you work at it all the time (to the exclusion of other money-making endeavors).  To that idea, I simply say hooey.  I am also going against the desires of marketing/gallery thinking by NOT making a cohesive “body of work.”  Instead, I make different kinds of things, sometimes widely different, when I feel moved to do so.

When I was selling work on a regular basis, I felt pressure.  I would try to analyze what it is that people wanted to buy and what price they would pay for it and try to make something to meet these expectations, and still feel good about what I was making.  I was always getting strange requests…make me another one like that only in pink.  I would also get strange feedback about the work, like “Your work is too colorful”  “not colorful enough”  “Too painterly”  “Not painterly enough” “Looks like the work of the devil.”  When receiving some feedback, I would either say I don’t DO pink, or I would dutifully struggle to make something in pink.  I never tried to get the devil out, though…actually I try to cultivate that aspect of my work.  I even incorporated into one of my artist statements these sentences:  “Pieces … are like “demons” of change. Joseph Campbell talks about how “demonic” originally meant the dynamic aspects of life…

With the falling away of commercial sales, I don’t have to worry about other people’s perceptions of my work.  I can focus on my best voice and inner demonic, and concentrate on making the work that I was put on this earth to create.  OK, so that makes its own kind of pressure and struggle, but it feels like this is the right kind of imperative.

Conventional thought would say that an artist who doesn’t sell must not be making art that is any “good.”  After thinking about this, I reject it as an absolute valuation of my work.  By external measures, I get positive reinforcement of my art:  I have won several awards for my pieces and I continually get positive feedback about my work.   By internal measures, I find my work now more meaningful and a fulfillment of my best self.  Certainly, the work that I make by my own and other’s evaluations is just as “good” as work by artists who are making more conventional sales.

I have always been somewhat of a rebel against what I am “supposed” to do.  I was “supposed” to have children…well, I decided not.  I was supposed to keep pursuing promotions in the business world until I rose to the highest level…well, despite success in the direction proscribed by society, I dropped out of corporate life to become an independent software consultant.  So, I guess it should come as no surprise that I am unwilling to do the kind of things, make the kind of work, promote myself and the art in the ways that would lead toward more conventional artist success.

This doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t be happy to sell my work.  I would like to find “happy homes” for my pieces.   If a buyer or gallery approached me to say that they want to buy/represent my work as it is, I would be happy to see that my communication to the world reached sympathetic viewers.    And it is true that I would like my art work to be better known…so that it is not like a tree falling in the forest with no one else around to witness.  Also, I would like to relieve the pressure on my heirs so dispose of so much work after I die.

I applaud other artists who successfully sell their work…I even buy it as much as I can.  However, for myself, I have come to a sense of peace about my current lack of conventional artistic success and bask in the mental richness of possibilities in making the art…so much clay, so many ideas!

Judy Nelson-Moore, Santa Fe,, 2008/2011