Farewell Post by Clay Art Center’s first Community Arts Director

Hello and Goodbye: Two Sides of the Same Coin

I have always avoided saying goodbye when possible. The idea of loss and grieving is one I think most people are uncomfortable with. But as I leave Clay Art Center bound for Philadelphia I have the truly joyful task of introducing Kelly O’Sullivan the NEW Community Arts Manager.

kelly-osullivan1In 2011 I was lucky to meet and hire a bright new teacher who has grown so radically in the last five years that she is a force to be reckoned with. Kelly O’Sullivan, who has joined CAC’s staff as our new Community Arts Manager, is a masterful teacher and sensitive artist and I can leave confident that she won’t just continue with what I have done in the community arts programs, but she will achieve so much more and offer so many more people the same solace.

Kelly is by no means a new face to CAC and her many talents can be seen through her artistic journey as a ceramics major at SUNY New Paltz to her Community Arts Fellowship here at Clay Art Center and now with her recent masters degree from Pratt Institute in Creative Arts Therapy. I sat down with Kelly to talk about the transition and share how this journey has shaped her experiences.

“Being the Community Arts Fellow here allowed me to explore what I had just discovered in grad school and challenge myself, to push my skills, and gain confidence in my vision.”

“My favorite experience was getting to know the community of other residents and CAC artists and build real connections with them. And of course, as a community arts teaching artist, I loved working in Port Chester Public Schools, it really felt like you were making a difference no matter how hard the circumstances or the environment. I thought working with the elementary students here was amazing, but it was always difficult seeing how much they miss out on while other kids across Westchester have more open access to the arts.”


“ I really hope to grow my artistic practice here at CAC in the coming years which involves translucent porcelain and creating waste molds. There is an organic process and a flow to my work that has a strong connection with nature.  I also look forward to meeting new teachers and beginning to expand the Clay as Therapy programs at Clay Art Center. I think there is such a benefit to the programs that are more than educational, they enrich the soul, and that is what brings us all to clay to begin with.”

And so I am signing off after 8 years at Clay Art Center. While technically this is a goodbye, I really feel like I am leaving so much of myself here at CAC. As the Community Arts Director I had the incredible opportunity to meet thousands of individuals  – young and old – whose lives were forever changed by the humble material we call clay.This world would be so different without a place like Clay Art Center and it’s a group of the most passionate, dedicated and kind people I have ever met who have committed their lives to teaching others. When I first started at Clay Art Center eight years ago I would walk into a school and hear a chorus of “Clay Lady, Clay Lady” following me into the classroom. I remember being so embarrassed when the local paper published an article with my picture and the big inscription “The Clay Lady” scrawled across the top. But now, so many students later, I wear it like a badge. It is my courage when I try something new; it is my pride when someone admires our work or compliments a mosaic; and it is something I will carry though my life as proof that I was part of this community; that we were friends, comrades, and shared our grief, joy and creativity together.

Clay Art Center has been the place I go not just to work, but to be free from loneliness, despair, and the stresses of life and I will never forget it. I hope you will all join me in looking at our stellar community arts programs. There really isn’t anything like them on the east coast!  In so many ways you all have helped to make these programs possible. I am leaving with a full heart, and will be back often to see how community arts is flourishing. If you want to take a next personal step to help sustain and support the development of our community arts programs, I encourage you to make a donation, of any size, to keep clay in the hands of those who NEED it most.  A gift from you to our community arts programs would be such a gift to me!

Thanks for all the great years and though I won’t be seeing you in the studio I know you will help keep the creativity alive!


Ariel Edwards

FRESHLY FUNK: Lauren Skelly online gallery and Q&A

Lauren Skelly answers some of our questions about her solo show (running July 23-September 17)


Q: How has your work evolved over the years? Can you describe your process?
My work started in vessel making with Yuki at Haven Art. At Adelphi University, I studied with Anti Liu, Bill Shillalies, & Puneeta Mittal, my work grew from vessel to sculptural forms inspired by the idea of a pot. In a workshop at Peter’s Valley, Robert Brady — pushed me to think about the possibilities a pot/form had, I experimented with textures on the surface, and the glaze application. The following semester in college, I started taking the same approach to making in clay, being open to the process. I became inspired by Walter McConnell, and his wet seascapes, that I made wheel thrown, smooth orbs that I connected to make ephemeral sculptures, giving them a life cycle. The end result was the work would fall apart and have the opportunity to become apart of something else through becoming reclaim clay. From there I branched out in more hand building at RISD. Through a material science class with Frank Bosco I became intrigued with break some rules, not firing the dense mounds of clay, allowing for crazing in the right places and realizing I wasn’t breaking any rules, I was giving purpose to these traditionally unwanted surfaces. The rocks I was forming, taught me a lot about making, and the firing process — I remember being afraid to fire, but Larry Bush & Rick Haynes, walked me through it, most of the time no casualties. When there were they quickly became apart of something else. The work was evolving through multiple firings, and yet I needed more. I started making floral corals, on the side. Eventually they were all that I made. I remember talking with Patrick Purcell, about all  these things I was making in clay — his advice was to put it all together, which at the time I thought was not possible, but without this piece Stacked wouldn’t be here. My work has evolved every time due to openness to opportunity. From a vessel to an orb to conglomerate to floral corals, to installations and pieces that invite all forms.

Q: Do you think living in New York is integral to your practice?

I believe living in New York has given my opportunities, that are key to my process.  New York offers access to a variety of landscapes from commercial, to nature, to institutions/museums, to cityscapes, and within nature. These places offer inspiration, in the form of color relationships, gestures/composition, and textural elements. I’m lucky to be close to some of the world’s best art, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, the Frick Collection, and the Whitney to name a few, these places offer a variety of art, which allows for great research into color, composition and material. New York has embedded me with a taste for art and to make art.

Q: What trends do you see popping up in the ceramic scene in the NY Metro area?

The New York Clayscape evolves constantly, I find conversations in  domesticity, decorative arts and technology to be emerging recently. I’m intrigued by 3D printing as a process for vessel making, specifically the work of Shawn Spangler and Bryan Czibesz, together they have collaborated on vessels made using 3D printing and bright colors.

Q: What is your favorite piece in the show?

My favorite piece is the show, is Stacked, it combines a variety of processes I use for making, wheel, hand building, flocked bits, multiple fired parts and with florals.

Clay Art Center Partners with TD Bank to Bring Change

by Ariel Edwards, Community Arts Director Clay Art Center

There aren’t many opportunities to change the world these days that would cost less than the change in your pocket, but lo-and-behold here it is!   The Bring Change campaign designed by our partners TD Bank gives you the chance to give vulnerable children a free summer scholarship to clay camp.   As the value of a penny is less than what it takes to make these days this is an incredible feat.

Children like Joshua, Giovanni and Mattias will have an enriching art experience while making new friends and learning from professional artists in a safe environment.   Camp opportunities not only help to sharpen artistic skills but they give children the chance to build confidence, feel empowered and make social connections in the world around them.

So bring your change to Clay Art Center today!   We are collecting change in several places throughout the center until July 22nd when TD Bank will match your donations dollar for dollar (or penny for penny).

Help us bring change-and clay-to deserving children in our area!

Clay Art Center is a nationally recognized non-profit center for the advancement and practice of ceramic arts offering exhibitions, clay classes for adults and children, studio spaces for clay artists and outreach programs in the community.  It is located in the heart of Port Chester at 40 Beech Street, Port Chester, NY 10573. Gallery and SHOP hours are Monday through Saturday 10am-5pm or by appointment. For more information or images, please contact Dominique Mason, Communications Manager of Clay Art Center at dominique@clayartcenter.org or 914-937-2047 x226

Pushing Boundaries at Clay Art Center

Interview with Jose Tlaczani Clay Art Center Community Arts Resident

By Ariel Edwards, Community Arts Director Clay Art Center

When I first met Jose nearly two years ago his sincerity and the sense of something burgeoning just below the surface left a big impression on me.  Now after his year-long residency that “something” has become a steely and colorful force that drives him to create ceramic artwork about identity and sexuality.

Jose is part of a unique residency program, funded by the Westchester Community Foundation, that provides opportunities for emerging young artists interested in developing teaching skills and giving back to the community.  With the culmination of his residency and his exhibition on display until July 15th, Jose shares some thoughts on his experience at Clay Art Center, his personal and artistic development and how important it is to share through the arts.

Q.Do you see a progression in your artwork since the beginning of your residency?
Jose: I think everything I made has a purpose. Someone in the beginning of my residency told me that the process is important and not to throw anything away. That helped me to see how things grew from the beginning and helped me get to the body of work I created today. Coming to Clay Art Center I felt so lost and out of place, I felt like my work was still awkward. Clay Art Center has given me a place and a deep appreciation for clay. It has also helped me to rediscover how much I love to draw.

Q: What does the work in this exhibition mean to you?
Jose:One of my mentors told me “Stop pretending art is hard” which is a lyric from a song that I listen to a lot now. That helped me to think about why I was making these sculptures. My work really became the story of my identity and how much it has changed in this past year. In 2015 I came out to my family and left my religion as a Jehovah’s Witness. The artwork I made became a way to share this experience with my family and the people important to me. I am who I am and I’m proud of that.

Q: Do you think this is especially important after the tragedy that has just happened in Orlando?
Jose: Yes definitely, that really has taught me the value of life and to really live each day like it’s your last. And, like making this artwork, not to let fear keep you from continuing to live your life.

Q: What are some reactions viewers have had to your work?
Jose: During the opening an older man I had never met approached me and asked me about the work.He asked “Why do you have to let the world know about this, it isn’t anyone’s business?” After I explained why it was important he gave me a hug and thanked me. It made me realize that there is kindness out there even from total strangers. It is so hard putting yourself out there, the whole time I was making the work I was thinking about how people would see it. At the same time, who cares, it is what I want to make and that has really freed me. This body of work gave me purpose and made me feel more accomplished than I have felt in a long time.

Q: You mentioned your mentors, was that an important part of your residency?
I had a lot of mentors. I think the studio manager Rob Zili has really helped to guide me this year. I had a late start in ceramics and didn’t really know what it meant to be an artist. He would leave me sticky notes in my space and we would have conversations that helped me develop a deeper idea of what this means. It also helped me realize that there is someone there behind me and that I still need support and that is okay. Everyone has been such a great guide, not just about art but about my life and where I am going.

Q: What is next for you?
Jose: I really want to continue teaching community arts classes. I have also applied to be a flight attendant at my job at the Westchester County airport. I really want to travel and see the world so that I can expand how I work and make art.

Come and see Jose’s work and share his experiences at Clay Art Center now through July 15th in the main classroom.

This residency is funded through the Emily and Harold E. Valentine and Evelyn Gable Clark Scholarship Fund of Westchester Community Foundation.

Clay Art Center is a nationally recognized non-profit center for the advancement and practice of ceramic arts offering exhibitions, clay classes for adults and children, studio spaces for clay artists and outreach programs in the community.  It is located in the heart of Port Chester at 40 Beech Street, Port Chester, NY 10573. Gallery and SHOP hours are Monday through Friday, 10am-6pm and Saturday 10am-4pm or by appointment. For more information or images, please contact Dominique Mason, Communications Manager of Clay Art Center at dominique@clayartcenter.org or 914-937-2047 x226

BRING CHANGE. Sponsor a Smile.

Clay Art Center partners with The Lily Palmer Fry Memorial Trust and the TD Bank to transform the lives of local kids in need.

by Ariel Edwards, Clay Art Center Community Arts Director

Joshua in studio

Joshua is not your average 14 year-old.  In fact he is something else altogether.  Joshua has been involved at Clay Art Center for more than five years when he first entered our classrooms to give something back to the community during our annual Empty Bowls workshops.  Not something you find every young adolescent aspiring to!  Since then Joshua has put his creativity and ingenuity to the test as he fearlessly jumped on the wheel and never quite stopped.  I look forward to seeing him in the classroom each week, and better yet during the summer where he participates in intensive, week-long camps that sharpen his skills, introduce him to new friends and professional teaching artists.  This experience is invaluable for Joshua at an age when many kids are watching TV on the couch.  Joshua is able to further his artistic dreams each summer thanks to generous donors like you.  Clay Art Center’s Sponsor-A-Child campaign reached more than 35 students last year, offering a record number of full-day summer camp scholarships.  This year we are aiming higher! With matching grants from The Lily Palmer Fry Memorial Trust and the TD Bank, your dollars will reach more kids like Joshua who are inspired and catalyzed in our classrooms.

Today I have 23 scholarship applications on my desk and everyday sees more kids who don’t have the means for this incredibly enriching arts experience.  With limited resources to fill this need Clay Art Center is asking you to help change the lives of these children for the better by donating to our Sponsor a Child Campaign.

You can have a transformational impact on a kid like Joshua, who without a scholarship to Clay Camp, will not have a challenging, safe and creative summer camp experience like his peers.  Help us meet our goal of reaching $10,000 and providing scholarships to the bright, creative and funny kids like Joshua. You can make a difference starting today!

Clay Art Center is Fired Up about its brand new kiln, Audrey!

On Saturday, June 4  Clay Art Center celebrated the inaugural firing of  its new Bailey Studio Deluxe Auto-Fire shuttle gas kiln “Audrey”  with a ribbon cutting for “Wheel of Flame” donors and CAC Artists, who made the acquisition and installation a reality through years of volunteer work and contributions to the Audrey Greenwald Memorial Equipment Fund.

Jim Bailey and Rob Zilli

Jim Bailey, Owner of Bailey Pottery with Rob Zilli, Clay Art Center Facilities Manager

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After over a year of trials, tribulations, modifications and improvements, we are thrilled  that the new Bailey Shuttle fully automatic gas kiln, lovingly named “Audrey”, is finally going LIVE! We deeply appreciate the support and patience of the Clay Art Center community while we made all the necessary improvements to the kiln room, which both allow us to use this beautiful new kiln, and help make Clay Art Center a safer environment.

To gear up for this exciting new piece of high-tech equipment, Jim and Anne Bailey joined us on May 19th to give staff and CAC artists a superior training and demonstration session.  We all learned a lot about the science of reduction firing – no longer the mysteries of reduction firing – and how to program the kiln.  Previously, our Studio Manager Rob Zilli worked tirelessly with Jim Bailey to test fire and adjust the kiln and the program, so that it will fire just right for our cone 10 glazes.

Special thanks to Jim & Anne Bailey, who did a fantastic write up on their blog about their time with Clay Art Center.  Read on: Article by Jim Bailey, maker of the Bailey Studio Deluxe Auto-Fire Kiln Audrey

Here’s to the start several years of successful firing, folks!  Thanks again!

Clay Art Center is a nationally recognized non-profit center for the advancement and practice of ceramic arts offering exhibitions, clay classes for adults and children, studio spaces for clay artists and outreach programs in the community.  It is located in the heart of Port Chester at 40 Beech Street, Port Chester, NY 10573. Gallery and SHOP hours are Monday through Friday, 10am-6pm and Saturday 10am-4pm or by appointment. For more information or images, please contact Dominique Mason, Communications Manager of Clay Art Center at dominique@clayartcenter.org or 914-937-2047 x226