Ceramic Artists to Fire Imagination at Local Gallery

When Nancy Bishop “wedges” her clay she knows exactly where she will take the material in form, but her special glaze concoctions make the final appearance a rich surprise when she opens her kiln. “I never know exactly what the pieces will look like until I unload the kiln, which is an exciting time!”

This weekend Nancy will bring her talent and excitement to the   Fire House Gallery in Berryville from Noon until 4:00PM as she demonstrates her wheel thrown pottery techniques. In addition, Yu-Fen Chang-Pett will demonstrate slab building, a technique used by potters to form pieces with flat rolled slabs of clay. This special event is free and open to the public.

Nancy Bishop working in her studio - courtesy of Nancy Sanders Video

Nancy’s journey into the ceramic arts began in college. Her focus was on business administration, but she discovered the art as an elective and ended up spending most of her time in the ceramics department. Her passion led her to coursework at Bowling Green State University, the University of Findlay in Ohio and studies at the Detroit Metropolitan Museum of Art in Michigan.

Venturing into a new concept in the arts community in Northern Virginia, Nancy joined the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria during it’s opening year. The facility allowed artists to invite visitors to join them in their studios and observe their creative processes. The Torpedo Factory Art Center now houses more than 165 visual artists who produce artwork in a wide variety of media. “I was one of the first potters to join the Torpedo Factory Art Center.” Nancy said. “I gave pottery demonstrations to thousands of customers in ‘Studio 24’ for 28 years before retiring in 2002.” Nancy maintains a connection with the world famous organization as an honorary member.

“My medium is high fire porcelain clay which is difficult to master. The plasticity of this pure vitreous clay requires greater skill and control on a potter’s wheel,” said Nancy. “My technique involves first ‘throwing’ the forms on the wheel after which they are set aside to reach the right consistency for trimming the foot. When dry, I bisque fire them, next I glaze and brush or carve designs with colored oxides. Most pieces go through two firings, the last at 2400 degrees. ”

Her approach to color drove her to develop her own glazes to attain the final touches on her work. “Finding the perfect glaze to fit the type of clay I use took months of testing. My “Ruby” chromium red glaze was “born” in 1994.” Nancy discovered her formula after years of searching for a red glaze for electric fired kilns. The chemical make-up of her glaze is similar to the ruby gemstone, which has only a small percentage of chromium in it’s aluminum base.

Ceramic pears by Nancy Bishop

Her art retains earthy qualities yet is punctuated by the striking glazed colors she formulates herself. The majority of her creations are functional vessels ranging from vases to ornate tea pots and bowls. Her popular “pears” mark her foray into sculptural pieces and her glaze formulations beautifully capture the delicate appearance of the fruit skin. Nancy offers the “pears as individual pieces as well as sets on custom ceramic display pieces.

With over 45 years of experience Nancy refers to herself as semi-retired. A Berryville resident, she enjoys the community and the small town atmosphere it offers. Nancy told us, “I show my pottery twice a year at the Burwell-Morgan Mill Art Show, have pieces in the Fire House Gallery in Berryville and sell locally in the Midas Touch shop on Main Street.” When pressed on the semi-retired label, Nancy said, ” I shall continue to throw pottery until I run out of exciting ideas that come from within – may it continue as long as my fingers function.”

Join Nancy Bishop and Yu-Fen Chang-Pet this Saturday December 11, 2010 for an afternoon of art demonstrations and conversation at the Fire House Gallery on Main Street in Berryville Va from Noon until 4:00PM. For more information visit their website at www.firehousegalleryandshop.org

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