Teaching Together at Lake Logan - A Dialogue Between Alice Ballard and Janice Mason Steeves

• Wednesday, July 26, 2017 •

It's always stimulating for me to connect two artists who will teach workshops at the same event. I enjoy putting together artists that share a common thread; in their work, their philosophy of teaching, their subjects or with their materials they use. In planning the upcoming October 25 - 30 Lake Logan Workshops-Retreat with Ceramic Artist, Alice Ballard and Painter, Janice Mason Steeves, we have planned some collaborative sessions when both teacher's classes will learn together from these master artists. Lake Logan is such a choice location for these two artists to teach together. They each consider nature and place in their personal work as you will read in their dialogue below

Janice Mason Steeves in her Studio

JANICE: I'm looking forward to teaching a workshop at Lake Logan in North Carolina from October 25th-30th alongside Alice Ballard. Alice is a ceramic sculptor. You can see her work here:

Although we are teaching separate workshops, we will work together for part of each day, so students will have some experience with both teachers.  Our workshops are called: Considering the Natural World as Source.

Alice, I'd like you to tell me a little about your work and how you teach.

Alice Ballard in her Studio

ALICE:  I am so excited to be working along side Janice Mason Steeves. You can see Janice’s work here:   Not only do I see wonderful opportunities to share what I will be teaching to her class but I get to be a student as well, as I learn about how Janice works with cold wax and oils along with the source of her ideas and inspiration! This is the richest of all ways to teach and to learn.  

In answer to Janice’s question I would say my work is a reflection of my relationship with natural forms. These forms come to me on walks in my garden, hikes, the grocery store or appear as gifts from friends who share my fascination with the beauty inherent in Nature’s abundant variety of forms. It is often the metamorphosis of nature’s forms, as they change from season to season, that attracts me. I am endlessly drawn to that universal world in which differing life forms share similar qualities.

Alice Ballard - Ceramic Wall Pod

As for my teaching style, I encourage everyone to take a deep breath, slow down, to be “open” to the possibilities... Creating art should be a joyful and fun experience or process, an experience which is all about learning to work with your medium and to open your senses to all the possibilities without fear of taking a chance...It is the process after all that is at the heart of art making that drives our ideas forward... 

Janice, my question to you is how you have come to choose cold wax on oils as your avenue for self-expression?

Janice Mason Steeves - Painting, Oil-Cold Wax Medium

JANICE: I came to cold wax medium at the same time I was moving into abstraction. I had been painting representationally for 25 years, and felt my work needed to change. I found Rebecca Crowell’s work in cold wax and oil in Santa Fe and contacted her about taking a workshop with her. She had just started teaching at that point. I was delighted to meet her and to take her workshop. The medium spurred me into working abstractly, especially because the main tool Rebecca used was a 6” bowl scraper, which meant making large shapes. The only trouble was that I had no idea how to paint abstractly. So, I bought books on the foundations of art and design, and gradually taught myself. I developed a workshop to help students learn about the structure of abstract painting much more quickly than I did. So I teach the fundamentals of abstraction, along with techniques of cold wax painting.

I also am influenced by the world around us, particularly landscape, and especially light. I try to incorporate that influence into my work in an abstract manner. I agree with you Alice that creating art should be a joyful experience and I encourage play. That’s how I begin each new series, by playing, trying out new ideas, experimenting. 

Reflection - Lake Logan, NC

For the joint sessions in our workshops, I’ll begin each morning with a short contemplative coming together. Then I'll ask students to sit outside for 20 minutes, quietly and separately, coming in at the end to do 4 quick, small paintings in oil and cold wax. At the end of the week, we’ll gather as a group to discuss the questions I ask the students to contemplate as they sit outside, and to look at the resulting work.

Tell us how you’ll teach your joint sessions, Alice?

ALICE: My plan for our combined classes is to close each day with participants making a small meditation bowl in clay.  The meditation bowls will be made by pinching a small amount of clay into a form.  The form the clay would take on would be in response to something meaningful encountered during the course of each day…...

JANICE: I'm very much looking forward to working with you Alice. I think this is a very exciting idea. I love the idea of working collaboratively for part of each day.

To find out more information about these workshops and to register, contact:


Meet Ceramics Artist Gay Smith - updated!

• Sunday, April 16, 2017 •
Gay Smith, aka Gertrude Graha m Smith, nicknamed Gay, is a studio potter and teaching artist who singles fires her porcelain ware in a soda kiln near Penland, NC. Her grant awards include a North Carolina Arts Council Visual Arts Fellowship in 2008/9, and Regional Artist Project Grants in 2009/10 and 2012/13. She’s held artist-in-residencies at the Archie Bray Foundation and at Penland School. Her teaching credits include workshops at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts , Penland School, the Harvard Ceramics Studio, and the Findhorn Foundation in Northern Scotland. Her work is represented internationally, and is in many collections including the Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC and Yingge Ceramics Museum in Taiwan. She’s been featured in Ceramics Monthly magazine, and her work is included in numerous publications including Making Marks and Functional Pottery by Robin Hopper, Working with Clay by Susan Peterson, and the Lark series of 100 Teapots, Vases, etc. Currently she serves on the Board of Trustees at Penland School.

Enjoy this live interview with Gay in her studio in Bakersville, North Carolina.  

 Click Here .  Video created by  Julie Boisseau, 2013.

Gay Smith is teaching the workshop, "Looking Lively: Soft Altering on the Wheel" at Cullowhee Mountain Arts, June 11 - 16 where Gay will

Gay will guide students to work with exciting and easily utilized methods of altering the forms and surfaces of freshly thrown pots. "Working with soft clay makes pots look fresh and sassy, like they can jump up and dance," says Gay. Everything from basic throwing techniques to shaping pots into squares, ovals, triangles; to texturing surfaces using faceting, fluting, and impressing are on offer; lids too. Finishing touches, like handles and feet, will be added as a means to enhance and complete your pots. Gay will work with each Individual's interests. Each person's work will receive attention in order to take the next creative/technical leap. All levels of skill from beginning on are heartily welcome. We’ll engage in lively conversations ranging over our interests, technical questions, making your pots your own, passions, raw glazing/single firing, and firing a soda kiln. 

Spaces are still available, more...

What Matters

• Sunday, May 22, 2016 •

May 22, 2016

Founding and operating a non-profit that serves the arts is plain hard work. Non-profits have small staffs and each person must wear many hats. Countless records must be kept, communications maintained, board meetings to orchestrate and follow through on.

 All of our wonderful programs come about after hundreds of details have been managed and put in place. It takes a score of volunteers to fill in the gaps we cannot cover. If we were not all steered by our Mission, “to serve artists and writers of all levels to grow and expand in their creative efforts.” the work would seem overwhelming.

I am reminded of What Really Matters at unexpected moments when someone, like many of you, takes the time to let us know that what we do has made a difference in your life.

Please let me share with you two wonderful stories that were sent to me recently from two who have taken workshops with CMA:

North Carolina poet, Janet Joyner, sent me a letter letter this week this news


"Janet Joyner's varied poems include lyrical descriptions of the natural world and draw deft portraits of people and the complicated connections between us. Waterborne is threaded with vivid images and insights." 

"Sometimes they are splendid, such as fallen leaves in such a mass / it seemed the sky had turned sea/and spilled the sun at our feet ; sometimes wry, as when the wife of God begins by saying, I could have told you it would end / this way, and ends by suggesting that God Give the grasses another chance ; and sometimes tragic, as in her extraordinary poem, What the Egg Knows, showing us the kid hung on a fence post to watch dawn die over Laramie, how he is no different from you or me, like any creature swimming or striding / in search of his bliss." 


   --Ellen Bass, author of Like a Beggar, The Human Line, and Mules of Love

Sylva artist, Melba Cooper, had this to say about her art works that emerged from her study bees and colony collapse:

“In 2008, I felt shocked awake when I became aware of the serious nature of the colony collapse. I begin to make some representational paintings of bees and beehives. About that time I had several health challenges so painting was a healing place for me to go each day of my recovery. I began to focus more on the deep healing place of the hexagon patterns of cellular structure. My paintings begin to zoom into the interior of the hive. I felt connected and well. I wondered if I could incorporate beeswax into my paintings. In answer to that question, Norma Hendrix, the director of Cullowhee Mountain Arts (CMA), guided me to master teachers in cold wax abstract painting. For the past two years I have been able to study with Janice Mason Steeves, Rebecca Crowell, and Lisa Pressman. I found this medium provided me an informed abstract intuitive approach to painting. I felt freedom of “flying just for the feel of the wind” and the touch of the paint.”

Now, 100 plus paintings later, and Melba has just exhibited her show “Pollination” at The Circular Church in Charleston, SC,
April 1 – 3, which then traveled to Beaufort, SC for an exhibit at the Charles Street Gallery, April 8- 29.
Both exhibit were highly attended.