2014 — 500 Prints on Clay

Posted March 18th, 2014 by Nancy and filed in Porcelain Art Gallery 2010-11

Published in 500 Prints in Clay, Wandless

  Farm Dress Cone 5 porcelain slip.  Silk screen; textured surface with mason stains.

Nike I and Nike II

Posted December 9th, 2011 by Nancy and filed in Nike Series, Porcelain Art Gallery 2010-11
Nike I and Nike II are the first in a series.  Nike has pushed its way into the world's imagination, supplanting the goddess of victory with shoes.  And she is an avatar.  I love what she has to say about what the modern woman asks of herself.

Nikes I and II

I think of them as sisters, sharing the bones and indelible family traits, but so, so different.  I have a friend who is looking these over, and I gave her a list of all the attributes of Nike II, and it reads like the accomplishments of the A student, the good sister:  The weight of the verbs is heavy and is matched by the power of Nike's magnificent legs.  I placed a mathematical equation at the waist, indicating the dedication to accomplishment and knowledge, using the legacy of Maria Agnesi to do so.  The flower, feminine and tasteful, ready to go from the office to cocktails without missing a beat.  The skirt has a cut-out quality, acknowledging the unreal, the illusory nature of Nike, playing with the Nike that has planted itself in the public imagination, co-opting fantasies.  I love the tidiness of Nike II, and its own truth. Nike I gets me in the gut.  The skirt carries the image of Nike's legs, placed on a larger, plain shape.  Nike becomes the avatar.  The image of the legs evokes a mood both urban and nocturnal.  The surface is bombarded with those damn verbs; an infant's picture, the color of blood, is at the belly.   Both girls are going, but this one has a much more visceral motive.  (Nike I sold, week of 12/5.)  

Doll Dress, 1930

Posted November 22nd, 2011 by Nancy and filed in Porcelain Art Gallery 2010-11

Doll Dress, 1930

This could have been my mother's dress, but since the tattered little garment was found in a pillowcase with doll dresses, that's what I'm calling it.  It's certainly larger than most doll dresses.  The stitching is still visible on the hem of the porcelain version.


Doll Dress, 1930

16 1/2"H x 15 3/4"W x 2 3/4"D

Glazed porcelain with encaustic detail on the belt

Doll Dress, 1930, side view

Doll Dress, 1930, right side

Nike I

Posted October 5th, 2011 by Nancy and filed in Nike Series, Porcelain Art Gallery 2010-11
GOING This piece incorporating the skirt of Nike/Winged Victory is the first in a series.  It looks at what we imagine for ourselves and what influences our imagination, in the context of a modern woman, a working woman.  Here, the image is juxtaposed on a larger form.  Underlaying both top and skirt is a tapestry of work verbs, drenching the elements, giving them a vibration.  The top adds to the theme of Going.  It's a sketch, and the simple lines of the shape with a raw finish add to a sense of Going - even hurrying.



21"H X 8.5'W x 2"D

Surface decoration is mason stains and underglazes.


Narrative Panel: Maria Gaetana Agnesi

Posted June 20th, 2011 by Nancy and filed in Porcelain Art Gallery 2010-11
This piece consists of five porcelain elements that each represent a significant phase in the life of the eighteenth century Italian mathematician Maria Gaetana Agnesi.  The mathematical imagery was provided to me by the Spanish mathematician, Nuria Joglar, a dear friend of my sister Louisa.
Eighteenth Century Italian Mathematician

The Life of Maria Gaetana Agnesi

Beginning from the left:  Agnesi was born into a wealthy Milanese family and demonstrated scholastic brilliance and devotion to Christianity at an early age.  She was often called upon to demonstrate her talents at her father's social events.  Second from left:  Her father asked her to educate her 20 siblings.  She agreed to do so, writing Instituzioni Analitiche, a highly regarded text on differential calculus, during that period.

Close-Up, Left Side

Center:  During this period she also wrote a notable analysis of a geometric curve which now bears her name, "The Witch of Agnesi."  The term "witch" is a mis-translation which was not corrected, and is not a reflection on Agnesi. Second from right:  As a result of her accomplishments in mathematics, she received Papal recognition and an appointment to the faculty at the University of Bologna.  (It isn't clear that she accepted the appointment.) Far right:  After the death of her father mid-century, she dedicated herself to working to relieve the suffering of the poor, and ultimately took her vows as a nun.  She died in 1799.

Close-Up, Right Side

METHOD: The porcelain is about 1/16" thick.  The original surface treatment includes some impressing, including linen from my family; some images are silk screened.  The buttons are cast.  The final surface treatment is barrel firing, a post-firing reduction technique.  It is impossible to predict the specific outcome of these firings, although the use of certain chemicals and organics and placement in the barrel can influence outcomes somewhat.  In this instance, all the pieces were placed together between two grates at the bottom of the barrel, so they had very similar exposure to the fire.  The harmony of the patina with the content of the elements is in this instance especially rewarding.

Barrel-Firing the Porcelain Elements

The pieces are mounted to 1" board that has multiple layers of tinted and burnished plaster applied to the surface, derived from the technique for producing Venetian plaster.          


Posted April 26th, 2011 by Nancy and filed in Porcelain Art Gallery 2010-11

Ceramic art often revolves around renderings of teapots, from simple to complex, as:  an homage to the Asian legacy in ceramic mastery; an object offering challenges for skill development; an opportunity to make something both creative and useful; a framework for interpretive work.  I don't do teapots.  I do the dress instead.  At the recent American Museum of Ceramic Art show, Stefanie Gruenberg provided a retrospective of her work, which is almost exclusively horses, which have been her passion for several decades.  I was so pleased to see that she found a lifetime of creativity in a single form.  Dresses aren't always the centerpiece of what I'm doing, but I have an abiding interest in making them.

The form of the dress is unmistakably iconic for a vast range of female experiences, even for women who don't wear dresses.  I reference the body when I make a dress.  The shape of dresses has technical challenges for form and surface treatment that still seem limitless, even after all the years I have spent making dresses.  Dresses can be made with a range of size and complexity, which means a range of price points.  I can make small, easily rendered dresses for craft fairs, and continue to challenge myself to make larger, more intricate dresses for living room walls, conference rooms and building lobbies!

Porcelain Doll Dresses

These ceramic dresses are made from castings of the doll dresses my mother played with in the 1920s, or they carry the imprint of embroidery from those dresses.  Many are dresses that my grandmother made herself, and her stitching is visible in the porcelain.  So is the lace.  The dresses are relics of my family history as a sister, daughter and granddaughter.  I'm delighted that I can share this side of life with others.  I'm proud to say that my brother-in-law is a fan!

I'm not understating things when I say that clothing was extremely important when I was growing up.   Suffice it to say it was too important.  What I love about working with dresses now is that they become the canvas where I can comment on the substance behind the dress, provide evidence of life.  I can also provide sweet decor when I'm not plumbing the depths.  All good.

The pictures of my mother in her childhood show that she was very well-dressed.  Later on, she made her own good choices.  Her dresses were a source of joy and pride for her, even a refuge.  I finally understand that this was what she had to give her six girls.  It was the terrain where she was most confident.  Yes, she conflated surface with substance, suffering for it mightily.  But she also conveyed a passion for design and execution that I treasure.  The neat stitching at the waistband on this ceramic dress, the puckered fabric at the neck, the depth of the hem, the simplicity of the surface, the tracings of the gathered fabric all delight me.  This dress is beautifully proportioned, and it transmits information about a girl's childhood that is widely shared and treasured.  Much can be imputed onto this simple garment.  


Winter and Spring, 2011

Here is the dress as canvas.  This dress was a petticoat my mother wore in about 1928.  You can see the stitching at the hemline.  The piece alludes to the female form, and the surface decoration cannot be divorced from that association.  This dress was made just after the Japanese tsunami wrought its devastation on northeastern Japan and became a means for me to express the anguish and sympathy I feel.


My sister Kathy and her husband Charlie have a number of my dresses and they have done them the honor of placing them in custom-built shadow boxes.  They look great!  All dressed up .....

Victorious! Barrel-Fired Porcelain Dresses

Posted April 7th, 2011 by Nancy and filed in Porcelain Art Gallery 2010-11
These dresses have clear body language:  They are triumphant!  When I made them I didn't realize how much the finish could contribute to the expression.  I was delighted with the results of the barrel-firing that left these unique and dramatic imprints -- quite suitable to the design of the piece.

This piece got into the San Diego County Fair.

This porcelain piece was wrapped in plant material, sprinkled with salts and oxides and fired in a barrel.

Dimensions: 13 1/2"W x 17"H x 1"D

Height assumes a 1" opening between top and bottom piece.


Victorious IV

This porcelain piece was wrapped in plant material, sprinkled with salts and oxides and fired in a barrel.

Dimensions: 13 1/2"W x 17"H x 1"D Height assumes a 1" opening between top and bottom piece.

Riff on a Petticoat – Porcelain Wall Dresses

Posted April 7th, 2011 by Nancy and filed in Porcelain Art Gallery 2010-11

These porcelain wall dresses are made from a casting of a petticoat my mother wore as a toddler in the 1920s.

This dress is beautiful and delicate, with the glaze breaking on the ridge of the winding lines.  The piece hangs on the wall from well-attached wire affixed to the back.  Materials are porcelain and glaze.

Dimensions: 11"W x 15"H X 3"D

Rustic Porcelain Dresses

Posted April 7th, 2011 by Nancy and filed in Porcelain Art Gallery 2010-11

  I call these dresses rustic because the texture and palette I use are evocative of distant and perhaps simpler times without being overly sentimental.

Recipe Dress


Recipe Dress has an image of our family's recipe for Red Velvet Cake.  It is in my mother's handwriting and you get the flavor of a recipe, not something you can actually follow!

DIMENSIONS  10"H x 5 1/2"W x 1"D

Burlap Mosaic Porcelain Dress


This graceful dress has a burlap texture and exquisite draping in the skirt.  The bodice has a subtle mosaic pattern.

Dimensions: 11"H x 5 3/4"W X 2 3/4"D



This skirt in this piece has a palette and textures reminiscent of crops or bolts of sturdy fabric, made for hard work.  The building is one from my family history.  I know the land well, but the building has changed and I no  longer know which one it is.  The sky isn't quite as big as it once was.

The piece hangs from the back with a well-affixed wire.

Dimensions: 7"W x 12.5"H x 2"D


The blouse surface of this dress is covered silkscreened verbs that capture the activities of the work world I inhabited for many years. The skirt carries a small ceramic photo at the waistline, an image of a cabin from my childhood. The skirt has its own active qualities: sculptural movement with a surface covered in ribbed patterning and finished in mason stains and encaustic, a waxing technique.

The piece is hung from wire affixed to the back of the piece.

Dimensions:  9"W x 16 1/2"H x 2"D