Ceramic Works, Porcelain, and Pottery by Northwest New Jersey Artisans


Here is art made from the very essence
of the earth, fired by age-old processes, and refined by a learned combination of tradition,
intellect, and emotion.

Joyce Maurus-Sullivan

Joyce Maurus-Sullivan lifts pottery, fired by last evening's class, out of her electric kiln. One by one she takes them out--an aqua bowl with cut-out hearts around the rim, a trio of tiny pots united and glazed in "chocolate"--until the stacks inside are empty. She gently files drippy glaze from the bottoms of tiny cream and sugar pots and puts them on the table to cool.

For most of her 30 years as a potter, Joyce made functional pieces used in day-to-day living; lately, she's doing more as fine craft. It's easy to imagine a magical story swirling around her vase "Fire and Ice", a recently fired decorative vessel.

Wood fired vessel by Joyce Maurus-Sullivan

Joyce has mostly used an electric kiln to fire her pieces, a fast process that keeps the colors bright and clean, until this summer when she used the two-chamber wood firing kiln at Peter's Valley. This slow-cooking kiln helps Joyce produce stunning pieces with richer effects--runny glaze skirts over soft colors, dripping ash like stardust, and sheen caused by injecting salt that vaporizes in the kiln.

Joyce makes Raku-like pottery in a gas kiln, another fast cooker. She pulls out a red-hot piece and puts it in a garbage can, "reduction can," that is filled with wood chips and closes it up. The material ignites from the hot piece and smolders from the lack of oxygen, and a metallic, crackle effect is achieved.

Large bowls and pie plates etched with fossil-like impressions from local plants are Joyce's signature pieces. Her work can be seen in her gallery and studio, Lafayette Clayworks in Branchville (973/948-3987)

Gary Genetti

In Gary Genetti's studio in the woods, there is blown glass like you've never seen. Heirloom, timeless, elegant reaching shapes of clear color. Voluptuous bowls and vases in blends of colors, some brilliant, some soft like an evening sky, with black overlays of exotic animals and rhythms. Genetti is a complicated man, much like the processes in his art. Ethics, evolution and beauty are the moving forces of the man as glassblower. Born and educated in art and sculpture in Wisconsin, he came east and pruned apple trees to make a living as he learned his craft. He is of the Woodstock generation who revived traditional crafts in response to monotonous mass production.

In '79, Genetti started blowing glass as a living. He designed products by hand for a gift market - small perfume bottles, vases, bowls and paperweights. Being featured on the cover of The Smithsonian magazine in May 2000, increased the monetary value of his pieces, allowing Genetti to spend more time developing his art. Now his pieces have evolved into art items more than giftware, and he sells all over the world. He developed a style that keeps evolving, a constant movement towards higher quality and beauty. "My work is not conceptual. It is meant to be beautiful and reflect a tradition in decorative art.Ó He uses animal images and geometric patterns that have been put on vessels forever and that cut across every culture and time period in history.

Genettti perceives a larger definition of worth that includes the environmental and human tolls of manufactured goods, including glass. "It's not just the dollar value. We don't see the real value of our lifestyle. When people pay for something made by hand, they're paying the real cost. You buy the human quality of something made by hand that was usually left to the art world, but came into the craft movement. His work reflects a respect for traditional forms of ancient Greek and Roman pottery, but is innovative by using his own process of blending colors, "incalmoÓ a contemporary technique of joining hot glass of different colors, black overlays that reveal other colors underneath (a contemporary cameo technique) and cut-aways to achieve detail. Genetti shares studio space with his wife Mena, artist and jeweler. His work can be seen at his studio by appointmentÛcall 845-258-4664 or at Port of Call Gallery in Warwick, NY 845-986-9500.

Mary Jasch

Frances Mackey

Metuchen artist, Frances Mackey, is a porcelain potter with a flair for oriental-styled pieces. She has been a potter for 30 years. "I have always enjoyed the process of taking a piece of wet clay through the stages of pinching, pulling and throwing on the wheel, thus changing the lump of clay into a pleasing shape. Add to that the magic of the fire on the chemicals in the glaze and you have the reasons I have been hooked on ceramics for more than 30 years." Her porcelain is dishwasher, microwave and oven safe.

Lisa Memoli

Memoli began working with hand-built ceramic pieces in high school art class, learned to throw on a wheel with the assistance of a part-time tutor, and learned about glaze chemistry at several state and community colleges in California, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. She found a "calm, inner focus in the simple act of centering an irregular lump of clay on the wheel, and a great satisfaction in pulling and pinching that rotating lump into a cup, bowl, vase or pitcher." Most of her current work tends to incorporate the forms she finds in the forests near her home in Hardwick. She produces a variety of hand-built decorative and functional pieces based on the flowing lines of a gourd or twig, or the graceful lines of a leaf. Besides Early American styled tableware that includes pitchers and pouring bowls in a variety of sizes, Memoli produces a line of ceramic jewelry, making necklaces by combining handmade ceramic medallions with unusual polished stone and glass beads. She also makes ceramic earrings and pins. Lisa tends to glaze her pieces using a range of earth tones to produce color combinations ranging form celadon to forest green, while sometimes allowing the color of the raw clay to show on the finished product.

Karen Copensky

Karen Copensky graduated from the celebrated Kansas City Art Institute in 1993. She is known for her ancient-looking, animal-inspired pottery. Balancing a career in pottery with the raising of her four-year-old twin girls is difficult and challenging, but the artist finds the rewards plentiful and worthwhile. "Basically I work with clay because I love the material and what I can do with it. It's taking something silent and giving it a voice. There's also the combining of my interests: animals and historical/ancient ceramics and their uses in rituals and ceremonies of the past... the combined importance of a certain vessel with a certain animal and the power of those two things in a culture and its rituals. While I have no particular culture or ritual in mind when I work, these things are what inspire and interest me. The surface treatments I choose portray ancient or well-used affects, as if the pottery is very old or has been excavated from an archaeological dig, or from the bottom of the ocean."

This story was first published: Summer, 2000
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