The Upstate New York Ceramics Invitational at Main Street Arts will feature functional and sculptural ceramic work by 13 artists from the region. This invitational represents some of the most exciting contemporary ceramic work being made in upstate New York.

The exhibition will be held July 11–August 29, 2015.
Online purchasing will begin in mid-July.

Colleen McCall

Elmira ceramic artist Colleen McCall
Colleen McCall

Q: Where are you from originally and where are you now?
A: Born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas. Settled in Elmira, New York now.

Q: When did you realize you wanted to be a ceramic artist?
A: After a summer working as a scenic artist in a hot warehouse in downtown Kansas City I realized that I never wanted to paint again. Creating 2-D illusions on 20 by 60 foot theatrical back drops made me want to work more than ever in three dimensions.  I immediately switched from a painting concentration to ceramics my first semester of college.

Q: Did you make other types of artwork before finding ceramics? Do you currently make other work?
A: My ceramic education was strictly sculptural.  During graduate school I made life-size hollow torsos inspired by the classical ideal, phrases in modern dance and gesture. It wasn’t until my daughter was born that I started making dishes for her and her friends as a way of keeping my hands in clay.  Periodically I revisit my sculptural work but for the most part I am focused on creating highly decorated functional ceramics.

Q: Do you have an artistic hero or an artist you look up to?
A: Without hesitation Andrea Gill, I have always admired her many abilities as an artist, mentor, parent and spouse.  My ceramics work today is certainly influenced by her playful use of pattern and color. While Andrea was never my advisor during graduate school, she kept silent watch over my two years in the program.  At the conclusion of my MFA Thesis show she presented me with a handwritten critique of my sculptures complete with affirmations of my talent and character. That note set me forth on my path as an artist and as a person. Additionally, Andrea set me up with my first residency at the Harvard Ceramics Program which allowed me to continue making my life-size work.

Q: What is your largest source of inspiration?
A: When choosing forms, patterns and colors I try to stay true to that defiant three year old in me. The same little girl who would never match her Garanimals clothing. The matching shirt would have an applique of fabric from the proper corduroy pants. Boring. Effortless. With my pottery I like to encourage individuality.  The collector has to make it their own through unique combination or in collaboration with other cherished items.

Q: Do you look forward to opening the kiln? Or do you wince at the thought of something going wrong in there?
A: I’m always unloading the kiln with gloves on.  Not sure if that means I’m always excited to see what’s happened or just behind on a deadline.  For the most part the kiln opening is joyful.  I work with mostly commercial clays and glazes that are formulated to be dependable.

Q: What is it like being a ceramic artist in Upstate NY?
A: There’s a lot of opportunity in Upstate New York to exhibit, sell, teach and collaborate. Folks are generally eager to support the arts and appreciate the connection and richness that handmade ceramics brings to their daily lives.

Q: Where else are you showing your work this summer or fall?
A: The Ithaca Artist Market again, hopefully. No word yet which issue of Pottery Making Illustrated my article will be in. I’ll keep you posted.

Q: Is there anything strange or unique that people might not know about you?
A: I never intended to make functional ceramics but now that I do it seems so perfect.

Bowl by Colleen McCall
Bowl by Colleen McCall
Basket Bowl by Colleen McCall
Basket Bowl by Colleen McCall
Red Sampler Tray by Colleen McCall
Red Sampler Tray by Colleen McCall

Where can people see more of your work/follow you?
Instagram: colleenceramics
Website: www.colleenmccallceramics.com

Check out the previous Q & A with ceramic artist Ashley Lyon.

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