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From Junk Yard to Bright Renovated Cottage: A Visit to Diana Seidel’s Studio

Posted By Diana Seidel On March 24, 2014 @ 6:18 am In Daily,Features,Open Studios | 2 Comments

seidelstudio_620It is so interesting to me to hear the paths artists follow to build their careers in clay. Diana Seidel’s is a particularly fun story. Today, Diana shares her story, from a studio in a junkyard that was built with whatever she could find to a renovated cottage behind her home.- Jennifer Harnetty, editor.





Between 1976 and 1996 I had three different studios in Garrison, New York. The first was 100 feet from the Hudson River. It was a scenic location with no running water—an outside hose was my water source. A small space heater usually kept the temperature above freezing. During my two summers and one winter there, I got to know a Garrison old-timer, Jimmy Bosco. He had lived in town since the age of four and had worked at many jobs: cutting ice, delivering coal and oil, school bus driver, and junkman. He owned about four acres on the main road through town on which he had built the Last Battle Gas Station and a diner named Bosco’s Folly. Behind the Folly were several sheds to hold his “junk” and a small house built around diamond-pane windows and doors which he had removed from one of the castles in town. By the time I knew him he was a widower, no longer owned the gas station, and the diner was being taken over by his collectibles.



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I should make clear that this was not a junkyard or diner like any other I have ever seen. Although there were some piles of various scrap far in the back, the sheds and diner were chock full of interesting items—things Jimmy had collected over fifty years. The Folly was opened and coffee made each morning by whomever was first to arrive—about four of us shared this duty. It stayed open each day until four or five in the afternoon, serving coffee, beer, and lunch and selling collectibles to any customers who happened by. Bosco offered me the diamond-pane house to use as my studio—although tiny (I would guess between 250 and 300 square feet), it was heated and had hot and cold running water. Because it was located in a junkyard, the building inspector had no hesitations to my building a kiln near the studio. The junkyard provided heavy duty galvanized angle iron (from a water tower torn down in the ‘40s) for the kiln frame and ceramic drain pipe for its flue. My future husband, Jim designed the kiln and together we built it with advice from Glenn Nelson who had retired to Garrison. After the first couple of firings, Jimmy Bosco and I built a kiln shed around and over the kiln using only materials from the junkyard.

My studio’s small size forced me to be well-organized and fairly neat in my work—a lesson I might not have learned otherwise. This was in many ways the perfect studio: secluded behind the diner but on the main road; solitude for working, but easy companionship if desired.

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I stayed at the studio behind Bosco’s Folly until Jimmy died in 1986 and the property was sold. By then Jim and I had married, had a son, and had enough extra cash that we could build a studio next to our house in the woods of the Hudson Highlands. It was a beautiful studio: large and full of light with views to the woods. It was off the beaten track but well-suited to an annual summer sale and to the pace of being a mother as well as a potter.


In the spring of 1996 we moved to Austin, Texas. For the first twelve years in Austin, I rented studio space in a teaching studio where I was also able to have my own gas kiln—an 8-cubic-foot Bailey. This arrangement was great for getting to know lots of potters in Central Texas, but wasn’t always so good for concentrating and getting work done. Five years ago I moved my studio to a small cabin next to our house—just a mile and a half from downtown. It is a wonderful, eclectic, city neighborhood—lively and diverse. The studio is about 325 square feet, divided into what had once been a kitchen/living space and a bath/laundry space. The larger room contains my wheel, a work table, a glaze bench and shelving that holds a little more than a kiln-load of ware. Bins for glaze chemicals sit below the ware shelves. The smaller room contains a couple of shelves for storing finished ware, my pugmill, and my supply of clay. I store my packing materials and boxes for travelling to shows in the loft. Miscellaneous items are tucked in every available space. More shelving and another work table would allow more flexibility but probably wouldn’t change the pace or flow of my work. I was fortunate to be able to build a small kiln shed for my Bailey kiln—a larger shed would be wonderful but is not possible in the space available. I have also created a spray booth outside next to the kiln shed. The routines of working developed long ago in the studio behind Bosco’s Folly serve me well for this small city studio. I have the pleasure of working in peaceful solitude in my own studio, with my house and garden next door and a vibrant, active city neighborhood all around.

Paying Dues & Bills

I have no formal training in ceramics. In 1972, two years after graduating from Duke University with a degree in Anthropology, I moved to New York City and took a beginning pottery class, fell in love with pottery, and built a kickwheel in the spare room of my apartment and spent most of my free time throwing. I read and studied on my own, starting with Daniel Rhodes’ Clay and Glazes for the Potter. I bought and rebuilt a burned-out Skutt electric kiln and developed cone 4 glazes. In the fall of 1975, I took an apprenticeship with Sally Silberberg in Plainfield, Massachusetts. I threw very few pots during those nine months, but I learned the necessary ins-and-outs of studio operation. That experience gave me the skills and the confidence to open my own studio and try to make a living as a potter—which I did in Garrison.

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For the first couple of years, I waitressed three nights a week and began doing all the craft shows I could get into. As my skills improved, I settled into doing twelve to fifteen shows a year, all within about a four hour radius of my home. These shows provided my livelihood both directly and in the special orders that developed from them. In 1996, my husband’s work gave us the opportunity to move to Austin, Texas. After twenty years of doing crafts shows in and around New York City, I was ready for a change. Since moving to Austin, I have worked at a slower pace doing only three or four craft shows each year and selling my work through a few different shops. Pottery no longer provides my livelihood although it pays for itself and provides a nice bit of extra income.

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