Archive for December, 2012

Comments Off on Ditto… Thinking “Ghost” are you?

Ditto… Thinking “Ghost” are you?


It is hard to believe that the steamy Demi Moore – Patrick Swayze potter’s wheel scene in the movie Ghost is over 20 years old. It isn’t so difficult to believe that fans of that movie can still tell you what the reference to Ditto means. So, imagine that I am cruising the art and craft galleries in Anchorage one day and discover a lovely display of pottery at Arctic Rose Gallery & Art Center. I pick up an interesting looking mug, flip it upside down, and carved into clay is the single word, Ditto. If that just gave you Ghost cold chills stay with me. If it didn’t, simply believe that I was in that gallery to keep the single degree temperature outside from chilling me!

Jenny Ditto -

Jenny Ditto – Anchorage, Alaska

As it turns out (no potter’s wheel pun intended…ok, well maybe), “Ditto” is the signature of Anchorage clay artist and entrepreneur Jenny Ditto. My discovery of her work began with a Google search of clay studios that I might find within walking distance of the Westmark Hotel in downtown Anchorage. Midnight Potter Studios comes up in the search but it is several miles from the hotel. I called the studio anyway, convincing myself that a cab-ride adventure might do me good. Jenny let me know of an upcoming, weekend open-house in her expanded studio space and let me know that I was welcome. I am so glad that I ventured out…but not so sure that walking back to the hotel in 12F temperatures was all that smart (but that is another story).

To me, Jenny the artist-entrepreneur is where the world of clay arts is headed. Talk to most clay artists and they will tell you that being consistently productive and adaptable to market trends is hard work and not always as profitable as they would like. Bills, on the other hand, are relentless. Passion to keep the fires going drives an entrepreneurial spirit that leads clay artists to expand into teaching wheel-throwing classes, collaborative projects with other artists, partnering to share space/expenses, and being extremely creative/frugal with the resources available. Jenny Ditto is about all of those things. Jenny’s vision includes a cooperative studio space downtown where multiple artists produce, teach, display, and generally expand the arts community. I love that! Note to any angel-investors reading this: Funds provided to Jenny Ditto’s project will be fruitful, I’d bet Demi Moore’s potter’s wheel on it! *grin*. I definitely vote for downtown, if nothing but selfishness to avoid defrosting my toes again. Jenny would welcome your help, even if it is something as simple a donating a Gleco trap for a sink.

Be sure to visit Jenny’s web site: Midnight Potter Studios

Allow me one last, goofy, Ghost movie reference. If you’re ever in Anchorage and tell Jenny, “I love clay”…she can honestly reply, “Ditto”. Yes, I did go a long way to say that…so shoot me 🙂

Meet Wendy Gingell


I may have been freezing my rear end off while stomping around the streets of Anchorage over the week of Thanksgiving, but there were a number of people who warmed up my stay and made all that walking well worth it. My last few days in Alaska coincided with the Craft Weekend at the beautiful Anchorage Museum. Among a host of artists and authors at the event was Wendy Gingell, a ceramic artist who is a relative newcomer to Alaska.

Wendy Gingell

Wendy Gingell – Anchorage, Alaska

It took about two seconds to see Wendy’s smile as I introduced myself to her at the show. Wendy is a gracious hostess and shared great information on her graffito style and glazing technique. Her work is focused on function. Mugs, plates, and bowls are all handmade and include Wendy’s special touch of designs lightly carved through a layer of underglaze. Wendy’s passion for clay-art and craftsmanship shows in her work as well as her conversation…and it is contagious. I suspect that her students get hooked on clay like so many of us who are fortunate to have teachers like Wendy.

The Anchorage Museum shop displays some of Wendy’s work…and, in my opinion, would do well to include more. She shows in several places across the lower 48 and has a web site that is well worth perusing: You can follow Wendy on Twitter here: @WendyGingell and find her on Facebook here:

I understand that there are days in Anchorage when the temperatures actually gets above 19F…I might have to check into that some day. In the meantime, I’m confident that any visitor to Wendy’s studio or any of her shows will receive a warm welcome and a terrific impression of her work.

Comments Off on Dealing with Old Axiom-Idioms

Dealing with Old Axiom-Idioms


In the many hours of lab work that go along with getting a degree in architecture also came a bombardment of idiom-axioms that apply to the design process. Many are attributed to famous architects. Other idiom-axioms, I think, were just annoying things that my instructor would say for lack of something original in the way of a critique. You may have heard, “Less is more” and “Form follows function”…those still rattle around in the back of my head. I’m OK with those iconic-architectural skeletons. Those quotes take on different shades of meaning when applied to clay art rather than architecture.

Runner-Exercise Mug Trophies

December 2012 – Mug “Trophies”. High fired stoneware with stains & glaze in reduction…approximately 6″ tall.

When working on a personal assignment this semester, another old idiom/axiom floated to the surface: “Good is the enemy of the best”. This generally speaks to process more than it speaks to results in terms of design. That first sketch of a project might contain glimmers of brilliance (good), but additional development with an eye toward uniqueness often leads to “better” and “best”. I have experienced this on many levels in my years on a personal level as well as a collective/collaborative level. In a Google world, it is humbling to sketch up something that appears to be world-shattering-unique, only to discover that another individual has already done something similar and posted it online. But that is where the Good-Best uncomfortable dichotomy comes into play. Yes, I look at those sketches or the results of other artists and ask, “Is there another level above this? Is there a best that would be the enemy of these (good) results? Is there a twist, parody, derivative that will take me there?”

There are many questions that I ask myself when reflecting on sketches that have been set aside to mature or mellow. What once looked like a great idea becomes something better simply because of the original glimmer of good. So, enemy might be harsh, considering that good isn’t all that bad. But when it comes to striving toward best, a shot of reality harshness, be that from a humbling Google search, a mellowed sketch, or constructive criticism may be what it takes to be unsatisfied with good.

What may be the most difficult lesson to learn is that the trash can is your friend when good sketches push you toward best designs.