Thursday, December 9, 2010

THE Second Annual Saxapahaw Holiday Open House Tour!!!

I've been so busy making art (for the Tour and Christmas commissions), I am late in posting this!

This weekend, on December 11 and 12, local artists and business people of Saxapahaw are hosting a Holiday Open House Tour. (Saxapahaw is a small village located about 20 minutes west of Carrboro and between Burlington and Pittsboro.) There'll be lots of holiday cheer, art, performances, even a tree lighting.

Here at Out of the Fire we'll have free mini classes where you'll get to play with clay and I can offer some instruction. Not as intense as our regular classes, since I'll have to circulate a bit, but you'll get to see if you like working with clay (I haven't met many people who don't), and make something wonderful. I will fire it and get in touch with you so you can pick it up. I'll even try to have it ready in time for the holidays.

We'll also have refreshments for you to enjoy while you look at art in the studio and the gallery. From one-of-a-kind sculptures (large and small) to ornaments to adorn your tree. I have to confess, I had to swipe a few to put on mine!

And, there is some garden art outside--mushrooms and toad houses, sun faces and Garden Spirits.

This winter we'll have classes at the studio, and if you sign up now, you'll get a 10% discount!

If you can't make it this weekend, don't fret--just give me a call at (336) 376-9091 and we'll set up a time for you to come for your own private tour. I'm here almost all of the time, but it's best to call ahead. Out of the Fire is on Church Road, just 3 doors down from Rt. 87, 10 miles south of the intersection of Rt. 87 and I-40. You can also get here from the Mill area, our "downtown," and from Old Greensboro Highway.

The studio is spruced up and ready for the holidays.

Here is the rundown of all of the people participating. For updates, more information and a map see our very fun interactive web site, designed by Steve Durland:

See you there!

Benjamin Vineyards & Winery – Wine tastings, including our seasonal Spice Wine, and light fare. Twelve Days of Christmas Art Show featuring more than 35 pieces, representing the work of over 20 local artists. Dec. 11 and 12 from 12 noon to 5 p.m. 6516 Whitney Rd. 336-376-1080;

The Bridge at Rivermill, Center for Fitness, Movement and Healing Arts – Open house, 15 min massage/acupressure sessions by donation Dec. 11 and 12 from 1 to 4 p.m., art showing and movement demonstrations Dec. 11 and 12 from 12 noon to 6 p.m. 1647 Saxapahaw-Bethlehem Church Rd Judith Brooks: 919-260-1430, Leigh Johnson: 919-619-6405;,

The Hawbridge School, a tuition-free public charter school, grades 6-12, will host an Open House for prospective students and their families as well as a Hawbridge Designs sale of student-designed silk scarves colored with locally grown natural dyes. Proceeds from the sale support the school's art department and its programs. Sunday, Dec. 12, 1-6pm, 1735 Saxapahaw-Bethlehem Church Road. 336.376.1122 or

Out of the Fire Sculpture Studio – Kiln opening and open studio with free mini-classes and discounts for early enrollment in winter classes. Refreshments and light fare. Dec. 11 and 12 from 12 noon to 6 p.m. 6035 Church Road. 336-376-9091. Email: Face book: Out of the Fire Clay Sculpture by Cindy Biles.

Paperhand Puppet Intervention is offering shows of Love and Robots Dec.10, 11 and 12 at 2 p.m. and 7:30p.m. at the Community Center. Tickets and more info are available @

Roxy Farm Antiques – Antiques and art show by Louis St. Louis. Join us for some Yuletide cheer with locally grown wines from Benjamin Vineyards & Winery, along with homemade holiday hors d' oeuvres. Dec. 11 and 12 from 12 noon to 6 p.m. 5768 Church Rd., (336) 264-7731.

Saxapahaw Artists Co-op is having an art show with sales of works by local artists at the Co-op Gallery, located next to the Saxapahaw Post Office. Justin Johnson, award-winning local jazz and blues guitarist, will be performing on Saturday. He will be playing originals from his recently released album "Stream of Blues," as well as Christmas arrangements from his brand new Christmas album, "Justin Time for Christmas." You can check out his music at 1610 Jordan Drive, Saxapahaw NC 27340. The gallery will be open on Saturday Dec 11 from 12- 8 PM and on Sunday from 12- 7PM. Contact Suzanne Connors (336) 693-4606 for more information.

Saxapahaw Rivermill will feature a Showroom Open House of the new Rivermill Lofts and Marketplace (next to Rivermill Salon) and mill tours, on Dec. 11 from 2-6 p.m.

Saxapahaw United Methodist Church Open House Sunday Dec 12 from 2:00-5:00 with Music, hot cider, and cookies, followed by the Annual Christmas Family Night Program from 5:00-7:00 pm with children's skits, music, soups and sandwich dinner. Non-perishable food and toy donations for the local "Food Pantries" and "Toys for Tots” are welcome. 5624 Church Road. (336) 376-3630.

Victory Calls Stables will have an Open House. Location: 3316 Sax Beth Church Road. For more information and times, call 336-376-8505; or see

Getting to Saxapahaw:

From Chapel Hill/Carrboro take HWY 54 West, approximately 13 miles. Turn left on Saxapahaw-Bethlehem Church Road. From Hillsborough, take Orange Grove Road to HWY 54 W to Sax-Beth Church Road. From Mebane, take Mebane-Oaks Road to HWY 54, travel across to Sax-Beth Church Road. From Burlington, take I-40 to exit 147 toward Pittsboro approximately 10 miles. Turn Left onto Church Road.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Masterworks - Bridget and Opal

The Carolina Designer Craftsmen show is coming up Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 26-28, see at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. I won't have my own booth this year, but will be participating in their Masterworks Program.

A Masterwork is defined by the Guild as "a piece that is superior in design, quality, originality, price and/or size to what you would normally make and display in your booth. This piece should be the same style of work that you are making now, but more elaborate and more wonderful. It could be that dream piece, the one that you've held in your heart...that you have always wanted to make."

This is my third year as a Masterwork artist. This year, my piece will be a further exploration of my body of work addressing the intimate and mutually beneficial relationship between humans and their companion animals.

The inspiration: in the last year, some of my friends developed serious health issues and are facing them with incredible optimism and grace. Their situations have touched me deeply and this piece is a tribute to them and others who live each day fully, with hope and courage

Bridget and Opal
16" H X 14" W X 11" D


The name “Bridget” means “strong” in Celtic. The opal is a healing stone representing hope. The wolf, used here to signify the long-standing relationship between humans and dogs, is a Zuni fetish for loyalty and strength. In some Native American cultures, the wolf is seen as a great healer and pathfinder on the journey of survival. As a fetish, the wolf is usually carved in alabaster or white marble. Turquoise is a symbol of faith, protection, courage, healing and balance.

By the way, you many not be able to read them in the picture, but the numbers on Opal’s tag represent my last name:



Saturday, October 9, 2010

THE FIRST Annual Alamance Studio Tour!

So far, I have not found a way to make art and keep up with things that need doing in the house, like laundry (cooking has been fairly regular), and keeping up with the social media to network and market my art. So thank you, readers, for checking in and know that if it seems I've quit writing, it probably means I'm in the studio. I have several new pieces--even have some pics.

Pathos, the first in my newest body of work.
Clay, slip, terra sigillata, underglazes.

Don't worry, they're not all sad!

I will post more soon.

These days, I've been preparing for the first annual Alamance Studio Tour, to be held at studios throughout Alamance County. Thirty-nine artists from the Alamance Artian's Guild ( are participating. Several are sharing a studio, and the studios are located close to each other--some almost clustered, so you can see a lot of art in almost every medium you can think of, without traveling very far. Since I've been a member of the Guild (when it started about 5 years ago), I've been amazed at how many talented artists we have in this area. And so many in Saxapahaw--and I didn't even know about them. And, I learned of even more as a result of helping with the organization of the Tour.

Also, in each cluster, there is a great restaurant--so you can shop, eat, and shop some more! The famous General Store is a mile away from my studio in Saxapahaw, NC (#22 on the tour). Seriously, there is no pressure--we hope you will stop by and see what we've been up to!

I'll have my garden art, several big sculptures, including new work. So new that some may still be in progress--you can rush clay only so much. You'll get to see them in various stages of creation. I don't know about you, but I love behind the scenes stuff!! I feel like I'm being let in on a little secret.

This newest work is a departure--perhaps a little edgier than previous work, and has received great reviews from hubby and my photographer, Jason Dowdle.

So come to the Studio Tour! It's a scenic, relaxing drive--Saxapahaw is a jewel in a beautiful landscape. It really is another world out here. You'll see artists in their natural habitat (well, most of us will clean up our studios a bit for you--there's natural and there's a company ready!).

Dates and times:

Saturday, October 16: 10AM - 5PM
Sunday, October 17: Noon - 5PM

For more information and a downloadable map, see

You can also find us on Facebook: Alamance Studio Tour

We have a gorgeous brochure--email me at with your name and snail mail address, and I'll send you one.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Bascom and Craft in America

Sorry I haven't posted in a while--lots going on. Unfortunately, some our our dogs have had serious health issues and that has kept me very busy. We have our hands full. Being an expert worrier, I have to confess I haven't been eating and sleeping as I should. But I have been making as much art as I can.

Anyway, this just in--a real day brightener!

Max and Gizmo was accepted into the American Craft Today exhibition at The Bascom, in Highlands, NC.

Carol Sauvion, executive director of the Peabody Award-winning and Emmy-nominated Craft in America television series, was the juror for the show. She is also the creator and executive director of Craft in America, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting the history, practitioners and techniques of craft in the United States and their impact on our nation’s cultural heritage. She is also curator, juror and speaker at institutions such as Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institute, and Getty Institute.

The exhibition opens October 2 and runs until December 18, 2010.

For more on Craft in American, see:

Friday, June 11, 2010

Shoulder Cats, in color


Shoulder Cat 1:

Shoulder Cat 2:

Both are sculpted in clay, hand built using coils and slabs. The color comes from underglazes. Each man is wearing a titanium earring.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Big Flowers, Part II (Stems) and "Little Flowers" That Aren't So Little

Segments of flower stems that will be stacked. Third graders made the leaves, Special Programs students made the lady bugs, and I extruded the stems, which are hollow.

Right now, my plan is that these flowers will be 3 1/2 to 5 feet tall.

Special Programs students also made other masterpieces, including six "small flowers," 9 inches to a foot in diameter.

Aren't they adorable? After glazing, we'll mount them on rods and pipes.

A BIG Project

I'm an artist-in-the-schools and have been fortunate enough to be hired by two schools very recently. When a school contacts me, through the annual Cultural Arts Festival in Wake County, NC, for example, I meet with the cultural arts representative and as many other people involved--art and classroom teachers, to hear their wishes. As a former biologist/anthropologist, I like to integrate our clay workshops and residencies with classroom studies, if possible or desired. We made animals and coral reefs at one school-- more on that soon.

At another school, three classes of third graders are studying flowers and pollination. The idea was a legacy project (a gift from a grade level that stays with the school). We also wanted to include students from three Special Programs classes, grades pre-K through 5. So the project had to be BIG.

An image came to mind immediately, but I still spent some time researching. For example, bees were to be involved. So I looked up the preferred flowers of bees. In class, we discussed the symbiotic relationship between bees and flowers. What bees like and why--one thing is easy access--the bee has to be able to get in and out of the flower without too much trouble. (My favorite anomaly is the snap dragon, where the bee's heavy body opens the lower lip of the flower so the insect doesn't get stuck.)

I came up with sunflowers--they have large faces and lots of parts so each student would have plenty to do. As a bonus, the tall straight stem of the sunflower means we could represent it well as a totem.

Since I like to mull (neurose?) over things, my "well-planned" project evolved as we went along. Hey, as I age and (hopefully) gain wisdom, I am learning to keep my options open. This is art, after all!

Halfway into the project we gave the students the option of giving the flowers human faces. They loved the idea. This necessitated ordering more glazes and, as long as I was doing that, brought up the idea of glazing the flowers colors other than shades of yellow.

Looking at colors available commercially, I made a few suggestions. Then Miss Ruby, the wonderful lady who helps out at the school, was my right hand woman and is now a certified clay artist herself, brought in a greeting card with images in those very colors. That closed the deal.

But I get ahead of myself. Once we got all of the parts made and semi-assembled, I brought almost everything back to my studio. Students made a lot of extra parts, including petals and bees, so I'd have options when I got everything to the studio.

It took two van loads! Needless to say, every horizontal space in my studio was crammed--including tables, the slab roller and the space under the tables.

Right now, everything is assembled, I have a few cleared out spaces in my studio, and flower parts are drying in preparation for the kiln. Here are some photos:

One of three big, happy flowers, adorned with friendly bees. Third grade students made the petals, face parts and bees. They also added texture. I tried to share the wealth of work among as many students as possible--one student made an upper eyelid, another a lower, one a left nostril, another a right--you get the idea. They got a pretty advanced lesson in sculpting a portrait!

Special Programs students made any lady bugs you see on the flower faces and stems (see next post). I rolled out the slab for the face and put the pieces together.

Another big flower. Pretty cool, huh? I'll have to go back and measure them, but off the top of my head, they are probably 15-18 inches in diameter.

Once they were firm enough to handle, I flipped them over and added a hollow clay tube and internal supports. The hollow clay pipe will house a metal pole when the flowers are installed. The flowers had to dry a bit more inside, then I scored and added slip to areas to which the back would be attached:

This process involved keeping some parts wet by spraying and covering them, while letting other parts dry out. Timing is everything!

Below is the back of a flower, documenting the class, date, and names of the artists. I also added the names of the teachers of the Special Programs classes. I plan to write something up with the names of all of the students and adults involved, for the school's use. There just wasn't enough room on the back of the flowers for all of the names!

Wet paper towels around the flower back are keeping the backs of the petals from drying out too fast. The hole in the back of the flower will allow us to secure the flower head to internal metal supports.

Once this side firmed up a bit, I flipped the flower back so it was face up, touched up things and added the rest of the petals.

To be continued.....

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Seeking the Holy Gra-yish Blue

So much goes on behind the scenes.

Since I spend a lot of time sculpting a piece, I want complete control over the colors--no "glaze surprises" (there is no such thing--too many variables--application, kiln atmosphere, but we can always hope!). As a fellow clay artist said, "When you open the kiln, it's either Christmas... or Halloween."

Now, I am trying to be more spontaneous, and do like surprises. Even get some "happy surprises" when I open the kiln. But sometimes it's Halloween. Happens to everyone in this business.

I also want consistency.

The answer is to use commercial underglazes, after testing them on small slabs of clay--test tiles. Since clay is made of a mixture of of products from the earth, there is some variation in the composition of different batches of clay. For example, the latest batches have talc that is very different from that of earlier batches. In fact, the wet clay is a different color and consistency. It still fires up white and so far works well with my glazes and underglazes. But I'll be running lots of test tiles with this new clay.

And, as when you paint a small area on the wall only to discover a color looks different in context or when the whole wall is painted, so it goes with some of the underglazes. For example, people can have very bright blue eyes. BUT, when I used what I thought would be good colors for blue eyes, I got scary looking people with laser beam eyes. Yikes! They just followed you around the room. Same with skin tones--some people looked quite jaundiced.

In future work, I might want these effects, but that hasn't been the case so far.

Also I have found that the color can change slightly if it was applied before the first firing (on greenware) vs. after (bisque) , or refired. (Some of these pieces get fired three or four times.) That's OK for a shirt, but can be disturbing for skin tones, eye colors, and even animal coat colors. So, I have been seeking blues that have a touch of lavender or grey in them. And I keep a lot of records, including when the underglaze was applied and batch number.

After many test tiles to find good colors for skin tones, blue eyes, and cat colors, I ordered more underglazes yesterday. Unfortunately, the choices are limited. Many of the colors I worked with years ago are no longer made--companies are much more safety conscious and now (a good thing!) and some of the chemicals in glazes and underglazes were not safe. And some promising colors that I recently tested, so thought were available, were not in stock. The supplier thinks they may have recently been discontinued

Needless to say, the quest continues...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Newest work--Shoulder Cats!!!

Not sure where this idea came from--although my work is getting more serious, I can't resist the temptation for a little whimsy or the unexpected. Also, we had a sweet little kitty named Puddles who, at 5 pounds, would climb up my leg, etc. and get to my shoulder. There she would ride around while I continued with daily activities.

Shoulder Cat 1 (soon to be renamed), bone dry.

Shoulder Cat 2 (also soon to be renamed), leather hard.

These have been a long time coming--so much has been going on--all good:

Applying for shows. Getting in to shows. Lots of teaching in the schools. In fact, I am just returning from the Post Office--mailed my application for teaching for two more years. That was a lot of work--included a 10 minute video of me in the classroom. Lots of editing as we recorded parts of three classes. I was glad for that--in one class, someone bumped the camera, so it was moved for much of the time. Don't you hate when that happens???

I use a Macintosh, so got a few lessons in iMovie and iDVD to get the final version of the video. Big, steep learning curve (for me) there.

For the application, we also had to include images of our work and examples of the educational materials we would provide for workshops (one-hour visit with each class) or residencies (multiple visits with each class).

Lots of stuff. But now I've been doing this for a while and am pleased with my portfolio. I've even got a nice slide show of students' work. But it took a while to create all this stuff in the first place. And to get it all together for things like these applications, since I like to add as much new stuff as I can each time.

Anyway, the two new scultpures are now drying. (A third--not a shoulder cat--is on the way.) You will find more more images of these Shoulder Cat pieces on my Facebook Fan Page:

then search Out of the Fire Clay Sculpture. I'll put a link here, but the url seems to change a lot--perhaps someone can enlighten me:

As with so much of my work, a lot of research is involved. I've found many images on the Internet. I even check out Friends of Friends' Facebook pages, and have written to theses folks to add to my collection of Shoulder Cat images.

And, I include this for your viewing pleasure, though I don't think I care to make a sculpture this extensive!

Facebook Fan Page Revisited

I am slowly joining getting a handle on social networking.

As I said in an earlier post, I love Facebook Fan Page--I get swept away navigating all over the place in Facebook, and Twitter is too brief for me (but give me time on that one). Have Linked-in page, but haven't done much with that yet. Gotta spend time in the studio!

If you check out the Facebook Fan Page, you can see photos of my work in one place, rather than having to scroll around, as you do in this blog.

Anyway, since I am still not sure how to list the Fan Page address (the url seems to be different every time I check it), if you go to

and search

Out of the Fire Clay Sculpture

you will find me.

I also have a personal Facebook page--lots of posts from friends about art and animals.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Artist Statement

I keep tweaking my artist statement--always feel it's too simplistic. Anyway, here goes with the statement for the North Carolina Artists Exhibition. Feel free to comment. Be gentle--you know how sensitive we AR-TISTES are.


My art, influenced by an educational background in biology and anthropology, reflects my interest in the interdependence between humans and other creatures with which we share the planet. Inspiration comes from a desire to understand the world from a non-human point of view. This, along with many years of experience working with animals large and small, has enabled me to interpret nuances of behavior, subtle but evident if we take time to learn these languages.

With patience and mutual trust, humans and animals can develop a bond where both parties communicate on an intuitive, or even spiritual, level. Although technology enables people (who have access) to exchange information frequently and instantly, there is still a fundamental human need for direct connection with another living creature. For many, this is provided by the companion animal who lives in the present, accepts us at face value, finds joy in simple pleasures, and offers unconditional love.

When creating a sculpture, I use coil, slab, additive and subtractive techniques. With a science background, my process is to research the subject in depth and incorporate a great deal of realism and detail. At some point my artist side reminds me to lighten up and play. This often manifests as a bit of whimsy or the unexpected—in the cases of “Caroline and Grace” and “Max and Gizmo,” the number on dogs’ tags is my name in numeric code:

2 9 12 5 19


Sunday, February 21, 2010

THE 2010 North Carolina Artists Exhibition to be held Sunday Feb. 28

Soon Caroline and Grace and Max and Gizmo will be putting on their winter coats and traveling to Raleigh for the 2010 North Carolina Artists Exhibition!

We are all very excited.

Artists were allowed to submit up to two pieces and both of mine got in!

I found out that over 400 pieces were submitted and, due to space limitations, only 67 were accepted, so I'm very happy.

Hope you can come to Raleigh to hear the Juror John Beerman's lecture and see the show!


Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010
Location: Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Juror's Lecture (Mr. John Beerman) 2:00-3:00 in the Meymandi Concert Hall Lobby

Exhibition Opening and Awards Ceremony: 3:30-5:30 in the Betty Ray McCain Gallery.

The show will run until May 4 and the gallery will be open during performances at the Performing Arts Center.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Caroline & Grace and Max & Gizmo Going to Raleigh

This just in--Caroline and Grace and Max and Gizmo have been accepted into the Raleigh Fine Arts Society Show. Opening Reception, with Juror's Lecture will be Sunday, Feb. 28.

More information coming soon!

Max and Gizmo

Caroline and Grace

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Facebook Fan Page!

I can't figure out how my colleagues keep up with all the social media and find time to create art!

Having said that, I managed to create a Facebook Fan Page for Out of the Fire. Here is the url:

You can also access it by the widget on the right side of your screen. Please check it out. (There is also a widget to my personal Facebook page). I am doing a much better job with the Fan Page--have up-loaded photos and the latest news.

I must say, I am loving the Facebook Fan Page--like a combination of blogging and a web site, and very user friendly. Way to go, Facebook! Please consider becoming a fan--I like the way the page looks--very businesslike, and I will keep it concise.

I have some more to upload on this Blog (which I also love--Thank You, Google!), but have held off, since it takes forever with my camera-to-computer system (long story). I am hoping to resolve that soon.

For now I can tell you, I recently finished sculpting a piece that I am very pleased with, and have started two more. We've had a lot of things happening the middle of that, including teaching at a school in Raleigh.

More to come!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sheer Stubbornness

In my last post, I indicated I was "incubating." That includes reading excerpts from the blogs of other artists, signing up for RSS feed and e-mail notices.

One artists is Lesli Kathman of Blackberry Lane Pottery. She makes molds of her incredible horse sculptures.

Check out her blog at:

Now I've had a little experience in mold making, but nothing like this. And I'd never say "never," but I don't see myself making multi-part molds. (I can be patient about about a lot of things--this is not one of them) Still, reading her blog has been most educational and awe-inspiring. Lesli is very generous in sharing her techniques and things that go on behind the scenes (so much about the process is not just the making of art, but preparing, cleaning up, experimenting and learning). Perhaps someday I'll get to meet her.

In her January 24, 2010 post, Lesli discusses the steep learning curve of mold making and how so many aspects of the ceramic process require a lot of knowledge and experience. Her last phrase really resonates--

"the most useful trait for someone taking up ceramics is just sheer stubbornness."

To that I would add practice, persistence, and a good sense of humor.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Incubating--Creating without Getting Your Hands Dirty. Sculpting--Getting Your Hands Dirty

The studio was idle for several days as we prepared for the holidays (way too last minute!) and took time to reflect on 2009.

The last year has been a bittersweet journey--mostly sweet, but some doors have closed. I won't go down memory lane here, except to say the healing process has been a journey. However, I do see daily reminders that things that seem to be gone are not really so, just in a different realm. There are some life experiences for which you cannot prepare, and they change you forever. Already, I have seen the influence in my art.

I haven't forgotten that many very big windows opened in 2009, not the least of which was getting the studio operational and the gallery set up!

These days I am plotting out some exciting activities for 2010, doing research for new projects, and sculpting like a fiend (can you say "long days in the studio and lots of hand cream at night?"). That's part of the reason I have not been blogging as often as I'd like.

So thank you for checking in! I promise, a lot is going on behind the scenes, including a couple of new works--the sculpture is almost done on one. It fits in beautifully with my People and Their Companion Animals body of work, but may be a surprise to those who know me. All I will say for now is, it's been in my head, and I am thrilled it's now out in the 3-D tangible clay version.

As soon as I can get my camera to communicate better with my computer, the photos will come faster and furiouser. ;-)

I the meantime, here are some angels for inspiration created by, Yes--2nd graders that I worked with just before the holidays.

Can't you just hear them singing?