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Renee Lieber


What clay body do you use?

" Generally, I work in Cone 5/6 B-mix Stoneware and slips.  I have worked in a wide range of clay bodies including: earthenware (red and white), raku type clays (more open bodies), higher fire stoneware (cones 5-10) and porcelain.  Firing methods:  Low fire, high fire, smoke fire (primitive/pit), gas, electric, salt, wood/ash, vapor."


Primary forming method?

"Typically, my work is wheel thrown (functional ware), although I use handbuilding techniques for construction and add to thrown forms.  Occasionally, I create plaster molds for use in simple, repetitive shapes and embellishments. I love subjects dealing with nature.  I use lines, shapes, forms, textures, and color for expression.  There is a certain aesthetic with craftsmanship involved in the merging of materials.  I believe this is evident in my work whether purely functional or sculptural."


Primary firing temperature?

"Presently, I am firing clays and glazes to cone 5/6 in my home studio. "


Favorite surface treatment?

"Favorite surface treatments include a variety of textures (from nature and heirlooms – like lace and crochet).  I love:  rolling fabrics and rubber mats over clay slabs, carving leather-hard surfaces and adding slipped pieces for embellishment.  I like a clean line and shape (not too fussy).  I love studying ancient pottery – particularly shapes of Asian, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Sumerian, etc.  Recently, I’ve created large ceramic slab bowls that resemble the earliest evidence of Babylonian water transportation (circular shapes that were made of woven plant fiber and coated with tar and oils that were “punted” across the rivers). "


















Favorite Tools?

"I love handmade and machined tools – including but not limited to: bamboo and wood, African hair combs, chopsticks, guitar strings (metal/wrapped), trimming tools, etc.  I even use some of my grandfather’s planing tools (to “shave” the clay) and add texture. "





Describe your studio environment.

"I have worked in many studios (from New York to New Orleans and beyond), museum schools (such as Glassell), university school settings (LSU, Texas Woman’s University, Alfred University, Penland School, etc.).  I have maintained some sort of home studio through the years – that is where I do my best work. I've taken the laundry / mud room, not too large, but fitted with shelves, sink, and a table to roll out slabs."


































How/Where do you market and sell your artwork?

"I market my work through Clay Houston (Clay Crawl and Popup markets) and have had some shows at craft galleries in New York and Houston.  Presently, I have pieces in the Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas, TX. and Artspace 111 in Fort Worth.  I sell my work out of my home studio and on commission basis."
























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

"I feel a sense of energy and excitement when working in natural clay, whether hand building from slabs and coils or “throwing” a piece on a potter's wheel.  The plasticity and malleability of clay provides for this; while surface slips and glaze treatments offer an unending sphere of possibilities. There are great feelings of satisfaction in producing a piece that reflects a soul: be it playful or serious in tone. There is The ever present sense of awe in opening a cooled kiln of fired works. I am motivated through sharing of ideas and information between students, teachers, and fellow studio artists.  There is such diversion within this medium. I love studying ceramic art from antiquities to contemporary works from many cultures.   After 50 years of working in this medium, I suppose you could say that it has been a good marriage!"              




















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

      "I have done some retail, secretarial (bookkeeping), and grant writing from time to time; yet, I have always made art.  I received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Fine Arts with teacher certification, K-12.  Although I have had other skills and interests (travel, photography, writing, music, etc.) Art Education has been my mainstay and allowed me to be productive in the studio. "














      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 have been an Art Educator for many years (since the early 1980’s).  I have encouraged many students, friends, and family members to practice their art skills, take an interest in what is going on in the art world through reading books, periodicals, and going to museums and galleries here in Texas and abroad. I have guided  students through  art competitions entries – some with great success.   Art scholarships and awards can pave the road for an exciting career in Ceramics (or other media) . Attending workshops to get further exposure and consolidated information can be helpful and inspirational.   I think developing a skill set and exhibiting good craftsmanship is quite necessary for success.  I apply the same goals for myself today. "
















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

          LESS IS MORE.  LEAVE IT ALONE.  Or…GO GET THE HAMMER and DO IT OVER AGAIN!!"

          What's the best advice you've given as a teacher?

          "YES:  READ, SKETCH, WRITE, and PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!! Stay OPEN MINDED."

















          Social Media:

          FaceBook:  Renee.Lieber1

          Instagram:  bayou_argileart

          Bio:

          • Early Years spent in LOUISIANA and TEXAS (1960’s forward):  I have been motivated to work in clay from about age 10 (I grew up in Shreveport, LA).  My parents took me to purchase clay from Marshall Pottery (Marshall, TX) where I gawked mostly at large men with huge muscular arms creating beautiful forms out of 10-20-pound mounds of clay.  The idea of a woman making clay forms at a treadle wheel fascinated me.  I had to find a way to do it!  After completing LSU undergraduate studies (BFA in Painting and Printmaking), a close family friend in Shreveport, Sylvia Gallagher, (self-taught studio potter), recognized my passion for creating art.  She correctly suspected that I might have some talent via potter’s wheel.  She mentored me and several other young graduates through establishment of a craft alliance in Shreveport, La. (mid 1970’s). She invited many well-known craftsmen/women to lead studio workshops.  Some of these included:  Paul Soldner, Cynthia Bringle, John Atlee, Joe Bova, Joe Baker, and many others.   She encouraged us to research, study, practice, and scavenge anything we could to build successful, serious craft businesses.  She drove me to Little Rock, AR to learn how to make pinch pots with Paulus Berenson, a beautiful soul and author of: Finding One’s Way with Clay.   In Shreveport, I built a gas kiln (used fire bricks generously donated by a local Libby Owens glass plant manager) with two other women and began producing functional pieces for galleries and craft fairs.   It was hard work in every way.  Although my skills were at first limited, I began to absorb as much information as I could through workshops, seminars, (including but not limited to: Big Creek Pottery in Davenport California, Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina, and finally graduate studies in Ceramics at Texas Woman’s University (MA in Ceramics and Metals) in Denton, TX.   John Brough Miller was my professor; he was a genuinely nice person and a walking encyclopedia of studio techniques.  His background: Cranbrook Academy – Michigan.  This professor was passionate about large scale metal sculptures, clay and glaze (chemistry), tearing apart and rebuilding kiln structures, and welding (required for Master’s studies).  He encouraged my interest in primitive firing methods: smoking thrown and hand built forms using terra sigillata (oxide slips) and adhesive products. He assigned me a space in kiln yard to build a firing pit and gave me a cow for dung (just teasing!!). We used all firing methods and temps.  My graduate thesis show was held at the Front Room Gallery in Dallas, TX.  and at Oklahoma State University Art Gallery (in conjunction with my mother’s fiber art pieces).  I did some silversmithing along the way. 
          NEW YORK: (1976-78) Alfred University (in upstate NY near Corning) was the “Cordon Bleu” for serious Ceramic students.  It was there that I researched (clay, slips, and glazes, forming and firing methods).  What wonderful studios and libraries!! I truly loved Academia and the luxuries it afforded of equipment, tools, and glaze resources.  Although I had completed a master’s degree and knew that my head, hands, and heart were committed, I needed the financial assurance that would come from having teacher certification.  I could not leave my job in NY, so I asked my mother (best mentor and cheerleader) to pick up my diploma in Denton, TX.  Within the next year, I discovered ways to subsist as a potter in NYC without starving.  This included: a group of potters who invited me to share a warehouse space in the fashion district, a fulltime job at MACY’s Herald Square department store as demo potter (educating street people and celebrities alike about Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and other folk pottery).  Within one year, I completed my teacher certification (K-12) at Hunter College plus required and fun student teaching.  Several high-end craft galleries in SOHO and on Madison Ave. sold my wares.  I was carving- though not starving!!HOUSTON:  The passion continues:  back in Houston around 1980 when (while teaching         Art for Glassell Junior School and HISD), I enrolled in Glassell Advanced Ceramics – a sort of “post graduate” studio experience with Bill Dennard, later with Shane Tidmore, and Jeff Forster.   Both Sharon Dennard (Bill’s wife), and I (by my husband at the time) were pregnant in sync: she, teaching art somewhere in Houston and I, sitting at the potter’s wheel as though I had a watermelon in my lap!  I often wondered why my choice in glaze treatments turned temporarily to pastel colors!  I was happy:  teaching, making pots, and very pregnant!  What else could I ask for?  Around that time, Charles Gallagher invited me to join the first group of artists at Diverse Works (in a semi-dilapidated building on Travis St. near Market Square).  I created and sold my work out of a store window there as well as:  Contemporary Art Museum, ME’s Gallery, Lawndale, Center for Contemporary Crafts. I sold my work also through the Houston Potter’s Guild Shop (Janis Ross: potter and CAMEO founder).

          Fast forward:   30 year art education career, 30 or more years of taking classes at Glassell, selling work here and there, and finally, retirement – to get me back into production! I have been involved at least fifteen years with Empty Bowls (and the committee) and the Houston Food Bank.  These experiences have humbled and inspired me.  On occasion, I teach for Houston Center for Photography at Texas Children’s Hospital (sometimes using a bit of modeling clay to illustrate a technique or to inspire a subject).

          Most recently, I took a sculpture class (again at Glassell) with Susan Budge, who challenged me to “push the boundaries”- seriously working larger and more sculpturally, using old and new methods, giving consideration to construction, limits of kiln size, and firing challenges.

          It is here that I set up a last studio (Bayou Argile Art) in a home that I share with a lovely man who is kind, patient, and thinks I should pay more attention to glaze color and application. (He had a 45 year career in Geology).  I love clay, I love reading and learning from books and first hand from other studio artists.  I love sharing my enthusiasm, knowledge, and hopefully inspiring others to create.   I feel honored to be part of Clay Houston and am happiest when I am involved. 

          Oh… and I’m the mother of: a wonderful daughter, a son, and great son in law) and I have three precious grandchildren.  We are all so fortunate to be safe and healthy during this time of pandemic, turmoil, and tumult.  Let’s keep the wheels of love and peace turning!

            clayhouston

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            PO Box 667401
            Houston, TX 77266

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