Shirley Cadmus POTTER
How did I get started in clay?
Ceramics was a required course for art majors at JMU. I put it off as long as possible! I had never even touched clay before.. I was not interested in making mugs and bowls.
At some point in my studies, the art dept gallery featured a very skilled woman who made organic large sculptural as well as wheel thrown pieces. I was so intrigued that one could produce artistic forms as well as wheel thrown fabulous works. That woman, originally from Hawaii with Japanese roots was Toshiko Takaezu!! A true artist and very skilled with painting and weaving, as well as clay. I was enthralled with her work. I signed up for ceramics the summer before my Junior Year.
It turns out that my professor, David Diller, was very good friends with Toshiko, having been classmates at Penn State and Cranbrook University. They had been influenced by their professor, Maija Grotell, who was highly trained in Finland and came to the US in 1927.. A pioneer, she totally established Cranbrook as major center for ceramic Art Education. She is known as one of the key female figures in the world of Ceramics. Strong as an ox, she was able to throw 50 pounds of clay on a kickwheel! I tried for years to achieve that but never had much luck over 35 pounds.
Toshiko had a studio in or near Clinton, NJ and my mother had a friend who knew her! It was a treat to visit her studio and chat..I also had the opportunity to take a couple days off from teaching to attend a weekend workshop at UNCG. In addition to demonstrating her super tall wheel/coil combination technique, stoneware firing, and glAZE TECHNIQUES, she had brought a huge bag of Jersey soy beans and cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner for us!!! A total treat.
So, Takaezu, Diller and Grottel were all VERY influential. Their large simple classic forms motivated and really appealed to me.. I was hooked!!!!
During the summer session graduate students were working hard and long on very advanced pieces.. I worked along side them and learned a lot from them as well as from my class. From then on it was overnighters in the Ceramics lab, waking up Dr Diller on Sundays, learned to make glazes, stack and help fire the gas kiln, and pugged a good share of the clay.