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Featured Artist Patty Ceglio

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We love having Patty Ceglio’s ceramics at 1+1=1 Gallery. It’s about time she was our “featured artist” on the website!

Patty continues to grow and evolve with her artwork — exploring the sgraffito technique and new ceramic forms. She dives ever deeper into her work/play to integrate her love of the environment with the urge to create art with her hands. Lately she has been working on a series (what better way to dive deeper, as an artist?) on trees. Every time I see one of her tree works-in-progress, I get more excited for the show coming up in June. I interviewed her for this featured artist post (see below.)

 

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Last year, I made a visit to Patty’s studio and took some photos. As I watched her decorating a bowl, I realized I would never have the patience to work this way. She carves each line individually, thoughtfully, with great care. Brushes off the tiny flecks of leather-hard clay with a soft paintbrush or her breath then turns the bowl a few degrees and carves again. Such patience!

 

This past February, Patty graciously spent several hours at the gallery during our Hygge Open House week, demonstrating her sgraffito technique.  She even let everyone try their hand at carving on the piece. Here are a few pics from that demo:


Patty’s tree series is opening up new doors for her. She has started working more sculpturally — an evolution from her early purely functional pottery.

 

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Here is a link to photos of some of Patty’s past work — we will post pics of her newest work as soon as we have some!

So, I interviewed Patty to find out what makes her artistic heart tick so sweetly

1+1=1: What made you want to become an artist?

Patty Ceglio: There wasn’t an option, really. Having an artist’s soul – you are an artist. What you do is create. And make art.

1+1=1: How did you get started as an artist?

PC: Third grade. My teacher used her magic wand and granted me a scholarship to take Saturday lessons at the Toledo Museum of Art. I spent so many hours in those amazing galleries – our instructors were students from the University of Toledo. Beyond that – I had an incredible high school art teacher – and art was a “major.” My undergrad BFA had me in the studios endlessly. All of that established my solid live-and-breathe-with-art foundation.

1+1=1: What is your favorite medium/technique? Tell us something about your medium — what is it? How do you do it? How did you learn about your medium and what are pros and cons?

PC: I currently work in ceramics, though I adore life drawing as well. They each require consideration of form and line, which makes them more similar than you’d really think. I’ve been throwing on the wheel for many years. While living in Gardiner, I’d drive to Livingston to take classes in their Adult Ed  sessions to keep my hands in clay. Upon moving to Helena, I was delighted with the “bonus” of having the Archie Bray community classes available to me almost year round. I have a studio in my house, complete with a potters wheel.

The body of work you’ll see in the June “b&w+1” exhibit at 1+1=1 Gallery, includes decorated porcelain and white stoneware. Some are decorated with underglazes after the initial bisque firing, and some are carved in the leather-hard stage, prior to the first firing. These pieces may be sent through several firings to secure the underglaze before the final glaze firing. Both methods of decoration involve surface decorations which include calligraphy and incorporate meaningful words from wilderness stewards, poets and writers. I weave a story with the art and inspiration. In keeping with the black and white theme, all pieces share the white clay body and the black decorations. As a element of surprise and to reflect a bit of Montana’s “big sky” with this tree series, I include a lovely light blue interior of the pots.

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1+1=1: Your work has a very distinctive style. How do you make sure you stay honest and true to your own voice in your work?

PC:  Passion and life experience drives my work – the act of creating with clay, whether on the wheel or hand built, allows risk taking and development of a vision, with a beginning and an end. Top to bottom. Start to finish. This provides a vital balance, as my day job involve work that is in constant motion. The black and white, line quality, and calligraphy are unique to me, as is sharing sentiments that speak to me. I, in turn, share that with my audience.

1+1=1: What do you like best about sgraffito?
PC: Sgraffito is ritualistic – healing – meditative. Each stroke of the tool impacts the clay in a unique way, making a mark and encouraging movement to the next.
1+1=1: What are your current fascinations?
 PC: Trees. We are so lucky here in Montana – and Helena – to have a plethora of mature growth trees of all shapes, sizes, and species. Wherever I go I am delighted and intrigued by limbs, growth patterns, bark, roots, their dance with the sky, their connection to the earth, to each other and to human kind.
1+1=1: Are there other artists in your family?

PC: My grandmother was creative in crafty ways – my mom is a sleeper pencil sketcher. She’d work her Sunday Paper Crossword puzzles in pencil, and occasionally I remember seeing sketches of faces along side her work.


1+1=1: Are you influenced by other artists? Which artists do you admire?
 PC: I recently visited the Brickyard on the campus of Arizona State University. While there, I was surrounded by ceramic history and works and wonders. I was drawn to the work of Jason Walker and Elaine Coleman. They both are highly decorative potters, Jason in surface illustrations and Elaine with accenting sgraffito with celadon glazes. I’ve since learned that Jason was a resident at the Bray – I love this big small world.
1+1=1: Are you a full time artist? What other jobs have you held or do you hold?
PC: Being a full time artist would be a dream! I have worked in Yellowstone National Park, in the Human Resources, and have a unique melting pot of a large corporation, non-profit, mom and pop, and web-based businesses. My current role with CoolWorks.com connects employers who offer Jobs in Great Places to adventurous job seekers. I get to wave a magic wand every day.
1+1=1: How do you market your art?
PC: I sell my art at the 1 + 1 = 1 Gallery, of course! I’m grateful and honored that my work is appreciated. If I could find a way to add more hours to a day I might need another outlet for more of my work.
1+1=1: Inspirational words are often part of your work. What fascinates you about the written or spoken word and how do you think quotes contribute to viewers understanding of your creative intentions?
PC: I’ve written in journals for most of my life – a vehicle for written word expression that ebbs and flows alongside my more visual expressions. I’ve collected meaningful quotes almost as long – these have helped with calligraphy projects along the way, as well as keeping me well stocked while writing hundreds of employee newsletters through the years. Living in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem for thirty two years instilled a deep appreciation for wise and wonderful words that help souls connect to nature.
1+1=1: What are you working on now?
PC: Currently I’m working on refining a specific celadon glaze recipe to use with my sgraffito work.
1+1=1: Do you have a daily routine … maintain regular studio hours?
PC: With my studio at home, I dip in and out easily. With pottery, there are several states a piece can be in – freshly thrown or built, needing to be trimmed, bisque fired, decorated, glazed. The “production line” is not exactly fluid – but it keeps me hopping!
1+1=1: How much work do you produce in a week or a month? A year?
 PC: My work takes on such a personal angle that it’s not easy to push production to the next level – and not with a full time job and with an 1886 Victorian home in a constant state of renovation (that’s a whole other version of creative endeavor).  I’d venture to say that I average 5-6 pieces a month, but that can vary based on the level of decoration each requires.
1+1=1: Does having an exhibit coming up give you a push, or more motivation to be in the studio?
PC: I am grateful that this current body of work was developing well before a show invitation came about. That allows the work to progress rather organically.
1+1=1: How long does it take to finish one of your sgraffito pieces?
PC: Small cups may take an hour or two – sgraffito requires attention to the clay’s level of moisture. Carving must take place at just the right time, or the tool can’t work in the most beautiful way and the underglaze may create more mud than line. Some of the larger pieces have up to 6 or 7 hours in the decoration process. With sgraffito – it’s a labor of love. All that work goes in before the first firing – the clay is in it’s most fragile state as greenware.  There’s trusting the process and monitoring the drying process with tender care and attention to detail – and then there’s the faith that the piece will survive the firings. As with all pottery – the artist is hesitant to become attached to any one piece. Production potters may have an easier time doing that. With my work, I’m connected to each piece in a variety of ways throughout the creative process – and each becomes a very personal statement.
1+1=1: Have you ever felt like you’re in a creative dry spell? What did you do to break free?
PC: Dry spells can come when there’s no bandwidth left for creativity to enter. Different times of the year may be more of a challenge than others. I generally dive into reading, day dreaming, writing, walking.
1+1=1: What inspires you? 
 PC: Have you heard that an artist’s brain is like having 400 browser windows open at the same time? Uh, yeah. I’m rarely at a loss for inspiration. People, place, nature, life, moments, experiences.
1+1=1: What else do you love to do besides making ceramics?
PC: Being out in nature and appreciating each of the four seasons, spending time with my sweetie. Staring at a space in the house and formulating a vision for what I can do to honor the historic integrity, while developing creative solutions. My 8 year old Border Collie makes sure there’s play time every day. Volunteering in the community – at church and with Helena Local CSA. I take creativity to the kitchen every day – one could say I never make the same dish the same way twice. (What was that question about being a rule breaker? I can’t follow a recipe to the letter, ever.)  Quilting, carpentry, photography, knitting, reading, biking, cross country skiing, gardening. My daughters and extended family, plus vibrant circles of friends from different chapters of life and travel. I do actually sleep. Just in case you are wondering.
1+1=1: Do you have any tips for artists who are just starting out?
PC: Do what you love and dance, dance, dance. Dance with the devil you know and the devil you don’t. Express yourself in creative, authentic, colorful, meaningful ways – however you are able. Sometimes creativity is expressed in a look, in a meal, in your relationships – all those moments in time keep your right brain engaged and inspired. Feed your spirit. In that, your work will be informed by your life, and vice versa. Connect to people who support you and who challenge you and who stump you and who adore you. Find places where creativity is talked about and engage whenever possible.

We think the Cool Works team is lucky to have Patty Ceglio — and she’s lucky to have that cool job! In doing her “job” she has amazing travel opportunities. No wonder she makes such amazing ceramics. Check out the video about how Patty got started with Coolworks.com and what she does with the team.


Patty is one of four artists featured in our 2016 June-July exhibit titled “b&w+1.”

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