Just the Facts

Grolleg porcelain

Primary forming method
Wheel throwing

Primary firing temperature
I fire to cone 9/10 in reduction

Favorite surface treatment
leave a lot of (finely sanded) unglazed porcelain. I also use several
celadon and celadon-type glazes, as well as a transparent wash with
accents of satin black glaze.

Favorite tools
I have three
tools I don’t know what I’d do without. My red Sherrill Mud Tools rib,
my Bison trimming tool, and my wheel. Having a drying box is also
extremely helpful, especially in the dry southwestern climate.

Most-used piece of equipment
use my wheel for every pot I make. While I also have ribs and other
various tools that I use on each piece, the wheel is my primary tool in
the studio; everything starts there.

This article appeared in Ceramics Monthly magazine’s June/July/August 2010 issue. To get great content like this delivered right to your door, subscribe today!

studio is in my apartment. I have a 14×20-foot room that is primarily
studio space, but I also use it as my living room and office. My
apartment is just a few blocks from the Railyard district where Santa
Fe Clay is located. The studio has its own entrance and a sink, but is
really just a converted bedroom. Two windows and a door provide pretty
good light during the day, and it has great hardwood floors. It’s a
challenge keeping things clean, because I really don’t want to track
clay all over my house. I sweep pretty much every day, and mop two or
three times a week. I like this work; it’s a good time to reflect on
the pots I’m making. Other than two photographs hanging on the wall,
there is no art in my studio—no postcards, no posters, no paintings,
and no pots other than the ones I’m making (with the exception of the
cup I’m drinking out of). There’s an abundance of visual stimulation
everywhere I look—at work, when I’m out with friends, in galleries,
walking down the street. When I’m in my studio I like a clean slate.

like loud music when I work. I have rather eclectic taste in music, and
I like that I don’t have to consider anyone else when I turn on my
stereo. There’s a space—a mental space—
I try to find in the studio. I
find this space when I simultaneously enter the states of deep thought
and not thinking at all. Good, loud music helps. Most of all, I enjoy
the solitude of a home studio. While I appreciate the social aspect of
community ceramic studios, I feel like I’m most productive and creative
in my own space.

Not having a kiln in my studio is frustrating.
Every pot gets carefully packed and driven to Santa Fe Clay to bisque
fire, then back to my studio to glaze (it takes me a few weeks to
glaze), then back to Santa Fe Clay for the glaze firing. It’s nerve
racking, but so far there haven’t been any casualties. But my apartment
is wired for an electric kiln, so I’m considering making that purchase.

paying dues (and bills)
I am the studio director at Santa Fe Clay. This job has
responsibilities that include firing kilns, technical maintenance of
the studio, administering programming such as classes and workshops,
managing studio monitors, as well as helping to curate and install
gallery exhibitions, etc.

I took several ceramics courses while in college at Virginia Tech, in
Blacksburg, Virginia, though my degree is in graphic design. After
college, I did a year and a half residency at Red Star Studios in
Kansas City, Missouri, followed by graduate school at Ohio University
in Athens, Ohio, where I graduated with an MFA in ceramics. I spend 40–45 hours a week working at Santa Fe Clay, and probably
another 30–50 hours a week in my own studio, depending on how close I
am to an exhibition deadline.

It’s difficult to work a full-time job managing a studio, then another
full-time job as a studio artist, and still ?nd time to take proper
care of my body. I try to remember to spend time stretching before and
after making pots. Also, I stopped making my own clay. While I think
it’s a good skill to have, making quality porcelain without a pugmill
is time consuming and hard on the body. I’m affording myself the luxury
of commercial clay, but I recycle every ounce of it. As for health insurance, I just try to be very careful.


Lately I’ve been reading several things at the same time, having
various books to read depending on my mood. I am currently reading The
Hunchback of Notre Dame, by Victor Hugo; The Autobiography of Mark
Twain, edited by Charles Neider; and Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, by
Pierre Cabanne. Generally I read a lot of ?ction, a lot of 20th century
American novels. Vonnegut is my favorite.

I think I’m most creative when I’m in the midst of my work cycle. One
idea leads to the next. At the end of the night, I often have something
I need to draw in my sketch pad for the next day. In the long run,
however, it’s healthy to step away. Spending a couple days out of town,
whether to visit family and friends or to see some interesting place
always helps me recharge to get back in my studio. I think working at
Santa Fe Clay also helps. Not only am I surrounded by great work in the
gallery all the time, but for eight hours a day I can’t be in my
studio. I think about the work I have going at home, and I always leave
work excited to get back to my own studio. Teaching is another great
way to stay creative. I generally don’t demonstrate my own work in
community classes, and I experiment a lot while teaching. Every now and
then something from a demo will resonate, something I might not usually
have done. It’s really exciting when this happens. I also take breaks
from throwing every few hours. I like to play guitar for 20 minutes or
so when I feel myself getting burned out. It’s a good way to clear my


Most of my work is sold in galleries. My primary gallery is Santa Fe
Clay, where my work is beginning to develop a following. A lot of pots
get sold right out of the kiln. My main career focus right now is to
expand my gallery network. I had pots for sale at Northern Clay Center
this past winter, and I always have some work at Red Star Studios. My
website also brings in a fair amount of sales. Although I always
thought of my site as an online image database, rather than a sales
gallery, people email me asking for prices. I need to make this easier
for customers, so an “available for purchase” page is coming soon. I am
yet to join any local studio tours since moving to Santa Fe, but I’ve
only been in my own studio for a few months, so perhaps in the future .
. . .
Shipping work to galleries around the country is expensive, but so it
goes. I think I prefer to spend the money shipping work and splitting
sales with galleries in exchange for the extra time in my studio. I’ve
never been comfortable in the art fair environment. Self-promotion is
not my strong point. I just try to make the best pots that I can, and
hope that the work will speak for itself.

Online exposure has been huge for me in terms of growing my market and
finding new ones. People find my website and get in touch with me. It’s
also the best tool for keeping friends, family, and collectors up to
date with my latest work. Since I manage my own site, it’s very easy to
update. I like how immediate the web is. My website is linked to
friends’ websites, and vice versa, and this has proven to be a great
system. I also submit packets to various galleries for exhibition
opportunities and apply to a lot of juried shows. The most disappointing thing about the Internet is that there are
images of old work circulating that I wish I could remove, but there
they are.

most valuable lesson

Not unlike most ceramic artists, I’ve had my share of disappointing
firings, and of course there have been a few disasters here and there.
I’m working hard to keep from getting too attached to work before it
comes out of the kiln. It’s easier said than done, especially when
there’s a show around the corner, but I guess the lesson I’ve learned
is that it can all go wrong at any time, and I need to keep in mind why
I’m in this field to begin with. It’s supposed to be about making life
better, for me and for others. When it gets to a point that stress is
all I know, I remind myself that I’m trying to bring joy into peoples

www.mikejabburceramics.com www.artaxis.org

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