Gail Russell

red wine bottle holder gail russell

GAIL RUSSELL

porcelain-by-gail-russell

I have worked in porcelain for most of the 40 years I have studied and made pots. I chose porcelain for many reasons; its history, its durability, the light reflective nature of a white body, and even for its sound. My interest in clay, in art, began early. However, I only first observed someone throwing on the potters wheel when I was a senior in high school – it was Les Miley, from the University of Evansville. I was immediately captivated by the process of throwing, and went on to earn my BFA in ceramics under the guidance of Mr. Miley. College summers were spent learning about salt glazing, and more about kiln building and firing in New Harmony, IN, at U of E’s summer ceramics workshops. My junior year was spent at Harlaxton College, the U of E’s extension campus in England. While there, I was able to visit the studios of many prominent British potters, the Wedgewood pottery factory, as well as many major museums in England, Scotland and Ireland. Two months of travel throughout Western Europe, between semesters, provided the opportunity to see first-hand hundreds of ancient and modern pots and other arts in countless museums in many countries, including Greece. Finally deciding on exactly what field to major in was difficult, with my interests being strong in art, geology, and biology – I feel I combined them all with a focus on ceramics. Following undergraduate school, I was studio assistant to potter Richard Studley, in Hingham, MA, near Boston. It was a chance to observe and absorb much about the realities of making pots for a living. Graduate school at the University of Illinois followed, under the direction of Don Frith and Don Pilcher – two of the best. Following graduate school, two trips to the Yucatan Peninsula to do construction work in Mayan Indian villages also provided the opportunity to visit several major Mayan ruin sites, and local potteries. Travel to Japan in 2002 was a major career highlight, visiting many museums, potters, temples and shrines of a country of major influence on me and my work.

  Gail was honored to be one of the workshop presenters for the inaugural Zanesville Prize Conference in Oct. of 2014.  The highlight of this new event is an international exhibition of contemporary ceramic art, with a top prize of $20,000.  The 2015 conference/exhibit will be held at the Zanesville Museum of Art, Sept. 25-26.  For more information about the 2015 workshop, and exhibition entry information, go to zanesvilleprize.org.
To view the segment featuring the 2014 Zanesville Prize from WOSU’s “Broad & High” television series highlighting local artists and events, go to http://wosu.org/2012/broadandhigh/zanesville-prize-contemporary-ceramics/.

Most of my work is thrown on an electric potter’s wheel, in porcelain. Some pieces may take a week or more to complete.  Pieces are fired in an electric kiln.  Some of the glaze designs I have developed require several layers of glaze, oxides, more glaze, and sometimes even plant materials, which burn out during the firing to produce a small amount or trail of ash, creating a special dot or line on the final piece.  Hence some glazing processes have become more and more complicated, and I find it takes longer and longer to glaze a load of pots, but I love the process!  I hope each owner of one of my pots finds enjoyment in it, be it visual, spiritual, culinary, artistic – preferably a combination of all of my pots finds enjoyment in it, be it visual, spiritual, culinary, artistic – preferably a combination of all of the above.