Porcelain has captured me –
hands and heart…
I love its feel, its fluidity and its ability to pick up detail and texture. By squeezing, folding and bending it intensely, I push its limits. It challenges me to capture its sensuousness while dealing with its rather finicky temperament. Although trained to throw on the wheel, I have chosen to focus on hand-building techniques. These allow me to work asymmetrically, and employ a wide variety of techniques to form and embellish my work. Because porcelain readily records each touch, I must combine a clear intention and tender touch in order to retain its freshness and fluid quality. Porcelain rarely tolerates “do over’s.”
I believe that authentic art of all kinds requires honed skills and aesthetic sensibilities in combination with openness to accepting unanticipated happy accidents. Although I always come to the studio with an idea in mind, I find my most successful pieces often take shape when I carefully watch and feel what the clay does and respond to it. My goal is to combine technical control and an acceptance of serendipity in my own work. Working with porcelain is a dance between the clay and my hands. When it is working, it feels like the synchrony between the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers. The clay, at times, takes the lead, and I need to follow… fortunately not in high heels and backwards.
I actually never tried my hand at clay until I was a senior in college. Experiencing an acute case of “senioritis”, I determined that I needed a fun and easy course in my final semester of school. As a fine arts major, with a double major in biology, I had worked largely in stone and cast bronze so I signed up for a pottery class at the University of Massachusetts to take it easy. And as it has happened to so many others, I was instantly hooked on clay. I saw the field of ceramics as a potential marriage between art and science. And it offered the potential of making a living working with my hands, head and my heart.
Although I knew I wanted to make art, I felt that I did not know enough about the world to do truly meaningful work. After college, I worked in New York City in a retail store on Lexington Ave., spending every lunch hour in a different room of the Metropolitan Museum, which was located one block from my work. I then traveled in Europe and eventually wound up working on a kibbutz next to the Jordon River in Israel, working as a nanny for a family in Tel Aviv and finally spending a year at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. At the time, the ceramics studio at Bezalel was located in the first floor level of a bombed out brick factory that was entered by walking through the tunnel kilns and climbing up through a trap door in the studio floor. There were students from around the world there and the studios were covered in bright orange dust from the raw lead they used in their glazes. Thanks to a person from the ceramics department at Alfred University who kindly who sent information about the dangers of lead, that situation changed while I was there.
After a year at Bezalel I moved to Duluth, Minnesota to join my long-term love, and now husband of 47 years, Emil Angelica. In Duluth I studied with Glenn Nelson and completed an MA in ceramics at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and then earned an MFA in ceramics at State University of New York-New Paltz. I was trained in Duluth in the Japanese pottery tradition and at New Paltz I focused on purely sculptural forms, most of which were framed around social commentary. When I returned to Duluth after my MFA, I worked as a part-time instructor of ceramics at the University of Minnesota and ran a studio for several years from which I sold work through galleries throughout the country.
Then came an over 20-year hiatus from clay comprised of working largely in nonprofits, education and arts administration positions and raising a family. I loved being a mother and I really enjoyed helping others reach their own artistic goals through my work, but I knew I had get back to the studio myself. Life’s demands, however, did not make it possible until the fall of 2007 when my daughter left for college and I left a full time administrative position at a Minnesota-based university. The result is that I have come full circle in my working life. I am back working in the studio with a vengeance and am back to building my career as a ceramic artist who is still madly in love with clay.
When I returned to the studio, now eleven15 years ago, I also cleared out our basement, which held many of the sculptural pieces I had made in graduate school and in the ensuing years. The work was good, but there it was in the dark basement unseen and taking up space. I dumped all but a few pieces into the trash and decided to start fresh.
When I chose to re-activate my ceramics career, I decided that I would create sculpturally oriented functional work. I made this decision for several reasons.
- I want the scale and price of my work to be accessible to people who appreciate art, but are not necessarily wealthy arts patrons.
- I would like my work to primarily reside in homes or offices rather than in museums.
- I want my creations to be sculptural, but I want to add the challenge of designing them to be used for living rather than simply for viewing.
- I would like people to live intimately with my creations by handling them and making them part of their celebrations, rituals and everyday pleasures.
- And, only half jokingly, I add, “I do not want my children to have to clear out a basement of sculptural work after I die.”
At present I am a studio artist and teacher at The Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis. I enjoy being around the energy of other ceramic artists who do a variety of work. Northern Clay also offers many opportunities to meet artists from around the US and the world who provide new perspectives and friendships that enrich my work and life. In 2012 and 2013, I was privileged to receive a Jerome Foundation Emerging Artist award and the Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant. With the support of these two awards, I was able to spend 6 weeks studying the high desert in New Mexico and working in the Santa Fe Clay studios. I had been taken by the land forms and colors in the Southwest for many years, and the grants gave me the time and resources to study them closely and make ceramic work that tries to capture the power of the forces of wind and water in sculpting and changing our earth. Here in Minnesota, a land richly clothed with plant life and water, the same forces are at work, but in the high desert where plant life is minimal, these forces are very visible and very beautiful. The work I am making as a result of my time there is still in the functional realm, but tries to incorporate the rhythms, colors and textures of the high desert.
After the 2016 elections and ensuing changes resulting from a new administration I felt I needed to find a way to merge my work in clay with my social concerns. Since much of my career outside of clay was working in or teaching people in the nonprofit sector, I have begun to use some of my time in the studio to create interactive installations that raise funds for non-profit organizations addressing social needs. Thus far, these pieces have been well received and have continually raised money for nonprofits. I feel that these installations bring together the several formative parts of my career and life.
I am incredibly lucky to have a family and live in a community in which the arts are highly valued. My husband, Emil Angelica, is a writer and loves to attend theater and other arts performances with me. He is the owner of CCG Partnership and provides consulting services to nonprofit and governmental organizations in Minnesota and beyond. His alter-ego is Sam Sector III–nonprofit detective, the lead character in his funny, continuing cliff-hanger about non-profit issues. It can be found on the CCG website ccgpartnership.com.
The cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are arts-rich, and have wonderful artists and organizations that support young artists. This, I believe, is one of the major factors that resulted in both of our children becoming artists too.
My son, Ethan, is a culture-space freelancer in New York City, after a decade-long career as a professional actor. He was formerly the Director of Creative and Consulting at Museum Hack, a start-up dedicated to engaging museum visitors in novel and interactive ways. Ethan now runs his own consulting firm, Angelica & Associates, where he works with cultural organizations to build new audiences through storytelling and interactive experiences. He’s also a licensed New York City tour guide, and a member of the Live Interpretation team for the New York City zoos, where he can regularly be heard as the voice of the Central Park Zoo Sea Lions for special events, emceeing the sea lion show or mingling with penguins and sharks at Coney Island’s New York Aquarium. In addition he teaches in the Arts Administration masters program at Baruch College.
My daughter, Carmen, lived in Los Angeles for 11 years working as an independent writer, director and performer focusing on comedy. She wrote and performed for Cracked for several years. She produces short comedic films and sketches, does stand-up comedy and was featured as a New Voice at the 2019 Just For Laughs festival. In 2020 her directing was nominated for a Webby. In late 2021, she moved to New York City and currentlycarmenangelica.com works as a segment director at the Daily Show with Trevor Noah.Carmen’s website address is carmenangelica.com. Ethan’s website is ethanangelica.com.
In 2013, after losing our beloved Golden Retriever, Kugel, and determining it was impossible to live without a dog in our home, we added some happy chaos to the household by adopting a bonded pair of Goldens. They are Cayenne, a happy, ball-crazed, 13 year-old, red colored Golden. The world is her oyster and for a tummy rub she will be your best friend forever. Her elder “brother,” Rika, passed in 2021. He was a Zen master of the canine set. He gladly sat and pondered deep doggie thoughts until he spoted a squirrel, rabbit or chipmunk, at which time he became a super-hero with a deep, ferocious bark. His dark side was that he is an unabashed cheese-stealing scoundrel, should “fromage” of any sort be in his olfactory range. Cayenne and we miss him a lot. Despite tumbleweeds of fur, massive holes in our lawn, and dog shaped sags in our couch, there has been nothing better than their joyful welcome and madly wagging tails whenever we enter the house.