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Anna Mayer

What clay body do you use?

"It depends on what I’m making. Since coming to Houston I have used Armadillo’s Buffalo Wallow a lot as a kind of general-use clay body. I love its warm peach color in the bisque ware stage, and find it pretty easy for hand building. I also like Aardvark’s Obsidian, which I use for my Mourning Ware series. It’s harder to work with, but the deep metallic charcoal color is totally unique. I am trying to wean myself off this clay because of its high manganese content.

I also use found clay or, more specifically, what I refer to as “gleaned clays,” that I source from sites where clay has surfaced due to human activity. One example is the iron-rich clay from construction sites in Houston.

Primary forming method?

"I used to slab build or build with extruded hollow forms almost exclusively, but now I primarily coil. Because I teach ceramic sculpture (at UH Central campus), I am often revisiting the various hand-building techniques for class demos, so I am frequently reminded of the techniques I’m not using regularly. For instance yesterday I demonstrated hard slab construction and got excited about its potential."

Primary firing temperature?

"These days it’s mostly Cone 5, but when I’m doing raku-related processes or pit/barrel, it’s low fire all the way, of course!."

Favorite surface treatment?

"For the last few years I have been embedding crushed porcelain dinnerware and the gleaned clays for my Mourning Ware series, so I’m a bit partial to that. I’m interested in the connections between ceramics and geology; I gravitate towards ways of working with clay that emphasize its rock-like aspects. However I recently made some planters and other garden accoutrements and got really into glazing. I’m not sure how long that will last, though. I also love sgraffito at the moment–I made a logo of sorts with the word “OIL” written frontwards, backwards, vertically both ways, and have been carving that graphic into small objects. They’re not really sculptures yet, but I guess maybe I’m working up to it."

Favorite Tools?

" My metal rib and the standard wooden modeling “knife” that comes in the beginner’s pack that the Ceramics Store sells! I love that wooden tool–I have some that I broke in half so I can get into tighter spots to merge coils and compress joints. I’ve also been using plastic tires from toy cars–the tread makes an evocative surface texture that references petroculture. Other must-haves for my work flow are mats for the concrete floor and the ability to roam around while I take a break from standing."

Describe your studio environment.

"These days I work mostly at my home studio, which consists of two (or three during busy times) rooms in my house. This set-up is comfortable and productive (and covid safe). I work in a variety of materials as well as ceramics, including fiber. At the moment I’m doing a lot of latch-hooking as well as ceramics, so I move between rooms and modes quite fluidly. I also produce some work at the UH Ceramics Studio, which I manage as part of my faculty position in the School of Art. I really enjoy the communal nature of that workspace, and feel very lucky to be helping culture and structure it for our students. In my experience, sometimes shared ceramics studios can be inter-personally complicated and eventually unproductive (see @craftequity), so it’s a great opportunity to have a hand in creating a different kind of environment."

How/Where do you market and sell your artwork?

"I come to ceramics from training in sculpture, conceptual and feminist art, and performance, so I have mostly shown my work in art world institutions and organizations. In Los Angeles, where I lived previously, I exhibited a lot with artist-run galleries, as there is a strong culture of that in LA. I’m always interested in how my work can enter into non-art-specific realms, as well. Over the summer I was part of an interdisciplinary residency for which I did collective research with an engineer from Imperial College in London. This January I’ll be showing the latch hooks I mentioned at the Jung Center in Houston, an organization devoted to psychoanalysis and its potential for facilitating self-discovery and spiritual growth."

What sparks your creativity? What drives you to work with clay?

"I got interested in ceramics because of its incredible history; whenever I scratch the surface I find super interesting objects that facilitate communal life and bridge realms of existence and consciousness. As a feminist I value domestic history and want to participate in so-called “women’s work”, both of which come up when talking about ceramics.
Being in relationship to people sparks my creativity. Sometimes anger is a spark! And sometimes love.

Did you come to ceramics from a different career? Tell us about your journey to a ceramics career.

      "After a very short-lived career in book publishing, I started making art in my early 20s. However I didn’t work with clay until several years later. Despite all my formalized schooling I’ve actually only ever taken five classes in ceramics–-I’ve acquired many skills through trial and error (emphasis on the error!). Throughout my life as an artist I’ve done a lot of different kinds of paid work, including flower design for massive weddings, waiting tables, temping in doctors’ offices, and managing an international community art and ecology project. Now I am an artist-educator at the college level, which has helped expand my exploration of the field of ceramics–I’m always acquiring new technical skills so I can teach them, and I also focus on looking critically at the art historical canon, learning more about non-white artists and lineages, and trying to create more access points for the numerous techniques and theoretical approaches to ceramics for my students. One of the most important parts of my job is to learn for myself who has been under-recognized or outright excluded from the field, and to make space for other narratives and visions."

      How have you have taken your experience as a well-established maker in the field and passed that knowledge along to your other artists?

      "I do a lot of this as an artist-educator, obviously, and then I also try to advise friends and colleagues as needed–just the other day a friend came to the studio and I gave her a crash course in soft slab building. I enjoy this, and always love seeing how different people handle clay so very differently!"

        What’s the best advice you’ve been given by a fellow maker, mentor, or teacher?

          My best friend is the amazing artist Jemima Wyman, and she has long advocated for artists making work that is exciting and engaging to us, making work that keeps you coming back to your own studio. Outside support or opportunities might wax and wane, but if your work is fascinating and meaningful for you, you will be able to keep making it through the inevitable roller coaster of visibility and invisibility."

          Website URL and other social media platforms:


          Instagram: @annawmayer


          Anna Mayer's art practice is sculptural and social, with an emphasis on hand-built ceramics and another molten material: bronze. Her methodology emerges from site- specific analogue firing projects and critical engagement with pre- and post-petroculture. Mayer revels in the fact that ceramics historically have been used to create highly functional items as well as wildly symbolic objects. Her work is part of this lineage, with equal concern for the future and a dramatically shifting climate—ecological and political.                                                    

          In early 2021, Mayer opened a solo exhibition at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. She recently had solo exhibitions at A-B Projects, AWHRHWAR, and Adjunct Positions, all in Los Angeles. Other exhibitions include NCECA's 2021 Annual (invited artist), Hammer Museum (CA), Glasgow International (UK), Ballroom Marfa (TX), Commonwealth & Council (CA), and Kendall Koppe (UK). She has a 16-year collaborative practice with Jemima Wyman called CamLab.                               

          Mayer is Assistant Professor of Sculpture at University of Houston.


            PO Box 667401
            Houston, TX 77266

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