Ceramics series at Alki Elementary

Alkiceramics_6Artist-in-Residence program for Alki Elementary, Fall 2013

Theme: Patterns in Nature

Photo credit: Karen Hinkey

In this all-school ceramics series, students grades K – 5 explored clay through three classroom sessions.  We looked at photos of patterns in nature for inspiration.  The petals of a dahlia, the veins on a leaf, an intricate spider web, the ripples when you drop a pebble in a pond.  This theme is an easy link to science and the study of the natural world.

In the first session, students learned reductive techniques such as stamping and pressing tools into the clay to make patterns.  Grades 3 – 5 also learned additive techniques, using “slip & score” to attach clay to clay and create shallow relief.


In the second session, while the tiles were drying and being fired in the kiln, we worked on a different clay project, learning hand-building techniques to create 3-d creatures and gargoyles.

Nicole holding a clay gargoyle clay gargoyle

Students learned to create and combine pinch pots to create a hollow vessel for the creature’s body.  Then they practiced using slip and score to make wings and other details.  This lesson is very much about the process over the product, as we used an air dry clay.  Here is a terrific discussion on process vs. product by Ann Wynne at A Room for Art.

clay creatures

This clay is nice because it’s a soft, malleable clay, which makes it easy for little hands to explore.  And they love, of course, that they get to take it home right away (YAY!) instead of waiting for a couple weeks while it dries and is fired in the kiln.  We talked about how air dry clay is not as strong or long-lasting as kiln-fired clay, and we worked on making our sculptures as sturdy as possible.  (No skinny little wisps that will break …  )  This lesson was about the experience of plunging your hands into a ball of mud, squishing it, squeezing it, trying some techniques, and transforming it into something imaginative and wonderful.

Alkiceramics_8Finally, in the third session, students glazed their bisque-fired tiles and all 400 tiles were schlepped to Seattle Pottery Supply for the final glaze firing.

Many thanks to Alki PTA, Principal Shannon Stanton for her tremendous support, Karen Hinkey for making everything run smoothly, and Pam Naspinky Bigatel for running the kiln, and to all the many parent volunteers who helped in the classes.  Thank you for supporting the arts in public schools!

ceramic tile  Alkiceramics_10 ceramic tiles



Mosaic column at Lakeridge Elementary


mosaicThis project started as an after school program for youth-at-risk.  Nadine Smith and I team-taught a 13-week program in drawing, painting, collage, ceramics, and mosaic for students in grades 1 – 5.

mosaic columnUsing the students’ work as a starting point, we created a design featuring orca whales (the school mascot) and an underwater scene of Puget Sound.  The kids made clay seashells, fish, and starfish, and we incorporated these ceramic pieces into the design to add some texture and dimension into the mosaic.

We did the tile-work in our studios, and now we are installing panels of tile-work onto the column.  Once all the panels are up, we still have a lot of work to do, seaming, cleaning it up, and grouting.

It’s going to be beautiful when it’s finished.

mosaic columnmosaic column

mosaic column


mosaic column

Patterns in Nature at Cougar Ridge






Artist Residency in collaboration with Shari Kaufman and students at Cougar Ridge Elementary.  Many thanks to Cyndi Moring, Jackie Tanner,  PTA, parent helpers, and wonderful staff.  Thank you for supporting the arts in public schools.

For more about our process, see here and here and here and here

Tile installation at Cougar Ridge

CRinstallation5I keep wanting to rearrange the tiles.  All 640 of them.  And 192 filler tiles.  That’s 832 tiles on 8 boards, 3′ x 5′ each.

CRinstallationBig thanks to the many volunteers who helped us install the tiles on the boards.

Next step will be grouting and then the boards will be framed.

It brings so much color to a gray hallway, which now has become a beautiful gathering place as parents and children walk to and from the playground.  They stop and look at the tiles.  I hope they will continue to look closely and discover not only their own tile, but the beauty of all the children’s patterns in nature.

For more about our process, see here and here and here

The Flock Moves on to the Audubon Center at Seward Park

Photo (2)Plumage at Gallery 4500 was a great success!  What a nice mix of artistic styles and media, all celebrating birds.  The show comes down May 9, so go see it if you haven’t yet.

songbirdNext, the flock moves on to the Seward Park Audubon Center May 13 – June 14.

I will be showing new work!

Hope you can come to the Artist Reception June 6, 6 – 9pm


Artwork title: “Songbird”

Mixed media on wood

22″ x 24.5″

PLUMAGE Artists reception was magnificant!

Thanks everyone for a fantastic opening reception at Plumage! In spite of a rainy night, lots of folks came out to celebrate. (You know who you are!)
Big thanks especially goes to Mary Peterson and Kim Brayman who curated and organized the show, hung the art, etc, etc, etc. It’s a ton of work putting together a show like this, and Mary’s energy in connecting all of us artists and lining up multiple showings for this group is so inspiring. Here are Mary’s reflections on the event and photos from the show.

Funky Fibers

Curating this show of 10 artists has proven to be one of the highlights of my art career thus far! Planning the reception was equally exhilarating. We were honored to have 3 high school student from Roosevelt High for our musical pleasure, Omari, Nan and Alix . The art spoke to those who came and people engaged with one another over lovely food and wine! Once again a reminder of how art does allow us to “commune” with one another and connect . An aspect that too often is missing from our screen watching world. Here are a few highlights from the show! ENJOY!

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garden of light

A thing of wonder at West Woodland Elementary.  Can you tell what it’s made of?*WP_000864

The artist at West Woodland had this piece installed high above the entry, in a bright window.  It catches sunbeams and casts coloful shadow patterns like Dale Chihuly’s glass sculptures.


(*Plastic water bottles!)  What a beautiful use of recycled materials.

Riders on the Wind Series

Check out Mary Peterson’s super fun “Riders on the Wind” series! See this and more at Plumage, a group show of local Seattle artists at Gallery 4500.  Come to the University Artwalk on Friday and check it out!


Funky Fibers

These bird Avengers are back from  fighting the war on waste! Battle worn they have lost limbs but not courage!  Made from recycled plastics that friends have passed onto me rather than the earth! I call this series ‘Riders on the wind’. They are defenders of the earth!

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I call this painting doghair

artworkphotoshoot It’s the deadline for submitting my titles for the upcoming Plumage show.  I’ve been trying out different titles on post-it notes and putting them up by the paintings.  Sometimes I have to keep changing them out until I find the right title.  I think I may have. (see below)

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Now that the varnish is dry, and the titles have been sent off (no changing it now!), it’s time for the portfolio photo shoot.

Artwork documentation is not my favorite part of working as an artist.  Thank goodness the art world has finally entered the digital age, but even so, it’s hard to take portfolio-quality pictures of artworks.  It’s quite a technical skill, compared to my artistic process which is loose, free, and spontaneous.  I’d be brilliant at it if it could be blurry, in-motion, extreme glare, out-of-frame, etc.  Unfortunately, artwork photography has to be precise, in-focus, centered, no weird shadows, neutral backdrop, accurate colors, etc.  It has to be exactly right.

But, no matter how great the photos are, it’s always better to see mixed media artworks in person.  This series, inspired by trips last summer to Yosemite and the Enchanted Circle in Northern New Mexico, is soon to debut at Plumage, a group show celebrating birds.  If you’re in the Seattle area, the opening reception is part of the University District Art walk, April 19 at Gallery 4500. 6-9 pm.  Hope to see you there!

followingwideFollowing Wide, mixed media on clayboard, 14″ x 18″

Any Number of ThingsAny number of things, mixed media on clayboard, 14″ x 18″

tuolumnemeadows Above Tuolumne Meadows, mixed media on clayboard, 14″ x 18″

Carry On Carry On, mixed media on clayboard, 14″ x 18″

abovetiogapass Finding Tioga Pass, mixed media on canvas, 24″ x 36″