Let me start with the image, then the story and the plan…











This cup is the start of a collaboration between me and Jeff Campana. Jeff’s studio is right across the hall from mine here at the Bray, and we have been discussing some possibilities about mingling our processes.

We started with a simple enough step, using one of my molds, and some slip that Jeff already had mixed of his claybody, he poured  a cup and took it through his process of dissection/reassembly and glazing. That’s the cup in the picture. In another test in the same kiln, he also found out that his glazes fit my clay body.

With so many similarities in our materials, and immediately finding some technical success, we’re going to push on and see what we can come up with.

There is also another, larger, more theoretical point to doing this. Beyond doing it just to see if we can (which would be reason enough), or just to see how it will change us (another completely valid reason), I feel this type of searching is part of why we are both at the Bray. This type of thing is why our studios are in the same hallway, and its our job to take this opportunity to its fullest potential.

Stay tuned, more to come soon.

Solo Show online

My solo show at MudFire Gallery, just outside of Atlanta, opens today. The show, titled “Pursuing Perfection”, is was online.

MudFire has really done a fantastic job with presenting the show. They also did some original writing about my work, which I very much appreciate. Here is a blurb, hope you enjoy the show…

“Nicholas Bivins is on an aesthetic quest for a personal definition of perfection in his studio pottery. He is exploring a tension between being handmade and looking handmade, between a geometric precision and evidence of the hand.

Nick’s show includes a few of his signature sets, as well as individual functional pieces such as cups, pourers, bottles and more. His minimalist designs are intended to help studio pottery continue forward as relevant in our contemporary society.”

Mudfire and Philly

I’m very pleased to announce two shows that are now up online for your viewing pleasure.

First off, a solo show at MudFire Gallery in Decatur GA, called Pursuing Perfection. I couldn’t be happier with all the effort that Mudfire (thank you Erik and Luba!) has put in to this show for me. They have dome some really fantastic writing as well, and that seems to be a rarity these days. I put in 28 pieces total, that includes 2 sets. Prices span the range from the high end at $720 for Toasting Cups (8), to the low end of $38 for a Liquor Cup. Please follow the links above to see the show.

Secondly, I am part of Cups and Coffee at the The Clay Studio in Philadelphia. I generally don’t release too many of these types of cups because they are such a main component to the sets I make and I don’t want to become a cup making machine, but this show was just too perfect of a fit not too. I also included a new piece, called “Brew”, which is a pour over filter, cup, and saucer set. Here is the announcement to the show…

Finally, to close out this post, on the show horizon are the Strictly Functional Pottery National, and the New Sales Gallery Artists Preview at Northern Clay Center. Stay tuned.

Fellowship Show

This past year has been a fantastic whirlwind of an experience as an artist-in-residence at the Bray. I have been extremely fortunate to have received the Matsutani Fellowship, which culminates with the Fellowship Show that opened last Thursday. Here is the link to the show on the Bray webpage. There are a few pieces available for purchase.

Some images of the layout, and a few of the finished pieces…





In receiving the Fellowship, I felt I had a responsibility to honor the opportunity I was being provided. I was given the time, facility, community, and funds to further develop my work. So I really tried to run with it, and push as hard as possible. This push is what lead me to start working with the CNC-Router, Automotive Paint, and now Rubber. Its my hope that all of this effort is visible in the work on display.

I’ve discussed the CNC/Auto Paint process in prior posts, so I won’t go in to that now. The use of Rubber is the latest development, and all of the pieces in the show have it. Here are a few birds-eye view shots…



Casting Silicone Rubber into the recesses where the pots fit is my effort towards taking the function of the trays as far as possible. The rubber isn’t visible when all the pots are in place, but once a piece is removed, the colored rubber is revealed. When the pot is returned to its home, the feeling on how the pot meets the tray is very smooth and cushioned.

I’ve expanded upon the observation of what it feels like to return a pot to its place in the tray, with how the entire tray meets the pedestal/table it is set upon. I’m doing this by casting the feet on the underside of the tray out of a Urethane Rubber. I switched to using Urethane Rubber because my supplier, Smooth-On, recommended it for durability. The Urethane Rubber is a Shore Harness of 30, which means very soft. Its a little hard to see, but in the detail photo below you can see how the foot compresses just a little bit under the weight of the tray.


The end result is that the trays become self-leveling, with never rock, and will not slide. Its also a very similar feeling to how the entire tray lands on a surface as compared to how it feels to replace a pot in its recess.

And finally, as part of the show the Bray published a full-color catalog. Susannah Israel was brought in to serve as the Jental Critic. She interviewed all five of the Fellowship artists, and then responded with this splendid essay.

Bivins Fellowship Essay by S Isreal.

So that’s the Fellowship Show. The show will be up at the Bray until September 10th, hope you can stop by to see it.

Bray Float

Why does summer in MT rock? Float trips. Another reason why I love being at the Bray so much is because we do things like this. Quick background… every summer the Bray organizes a float trip down the Missouri river for all of the folks involved with the Bray. We had an absolutely awesome time. The weather couldn’t have been any better, and I think I divided my time equally between rowing the boat, swimming in the river, and basking in the sun. The day after I can definitely feel all the rowing and swimming, but that is just a reminder of how much fun was had. A few pictures…


This past week I was out in Maine at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts for their summer conference. This year’s conference was titled “Design: Shaping the World and the World Shaping Us”. The conference also had strong tendencies towards architecture.

If you’re not familiar with Haystack, its a pretty amazing place. This summer is their 50th Anniversary, so its been around for a good while. Its located on Deer Isle in Maine, right on the ocean. Actually, I could gently hear the ocean from my bed when I was falling asleep at night. Instead of me paraphrasing, if you’d like to learn more about Haystack, and all its history and mission statements, follow this link to their website.

The architecture at Haystack is significant, to say the least. Designed by Ed Barnes….” It was recognized as an outstanding example of Modernist architecture by the American Institute of Architects in 1994 with the presentation of the organization’s Twenty-Five Year Award. It is one of only forty-one buildings in the country to achieve this distinction. Others include Rockefeller Center, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Guggenheim Museum, and the East Building of the National Gallery. In 2006 Haystack Mountain School of Crafts was added to the National Register of Historic Places as a building of national significance.” Quote from the Haystack website.

Here are a few pics that I took while I was there…

Main deck
Everything is connected by planked walkways

All the buildings and walkways are floating above the ground, and as Robert Campbell pointed out, this is Barnes’ effort to have the architecture respond and respect the environment it is placed in. The view from the lower deck is pretty fantastic.

The coastline is beautiful, which leads down to this perfect little beach.
The water was cold, but sure felt great! One sidenote, by swimming here I was in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans in the same week.

A big highlight for me, as a lot of people, was Robert Krulwich! When I mentioned to him that I’m a studio artist, he knew where I was headed. It became apparent to me very quickly that someone else in my position, with at least 10 hours a day available to listen to things and a thirst for more information, has told him how much they love RadioLab. He gave a great talk entitled “The Shape of Things”, where he referenced some of my favorite ideas like the Fibonacci sequence, gave some fantastic quotes..James Watson discovering the shape of DNA “this shape is too pretty not to be true”, and discussed patterns and rhythms. I asked a question during a panel about my favorite Radiolab episode, Desperately Seeking Symmetry, and it seemed to tie in quite well with a discussion about patterns. He was discussing the role and abilities of designers, as being the people who are able to observe patterns and trends that the rest of us may not be consciously aware of. Then with that knowledge, disrupt the pattern enough so that we notice it.

Speaking of being consciously aware, Chris Staley was also in attendance, and brought up a wonderful concept that had been passed on to him. I’m unsure as to who this originated from, but I think its very good. The four stages of creativity are:

  • unconscious incompetence
  • conscious incompetence
  • conscious competence
  • unconscious competence

So, to say the least, I got a huge amount of information from the conference, and am still processing it all. If you ever have the opportunity to attend Haystack, I would highly recommend it.

What a blur

The last two months have been a complete blur of activity, and I just haven’t been spending as much time on the computer. A quick summary of everything that’s been going on…

I gave a brief mention in a prior post that I went down to Santa Fe Clay for a one-day workshop with Mike Jabbur and Tara Dawley. The workshop coincided with our 3-person show ‘Decorum’, that will be up until July 23rd. So if you’re in Santa Fe, I hope you can stop in. Tara did a great job at taking pictures and did a write up on her blog, you can see that here.

After getting back from Santa Fe, it was studio madness getting ready both the summer show here at the Bray and the Red Lodge show that were both up during the 60th anniversary celebration. Here are images of the two new pieces I put in the Bray show…

As you can see from the aerial photography, I’m now casting colored rubber into the footwells of the trays. The running joke that a fellow Californian made to me, was that the pieces are now earthquake rattle proof. This wasn’t exactly what I had intended, but sometimes I think we just can’t help to deny our roots. Anyways, I have been thinking about the reveal aspect of using these new trays I’ve been making. What happens when the pot is removed from the tray? This rubber solution first provides a bit of a surprise in terms of color. Then it furthers the line of questioning about what materials are used. Finally, the rubber changes the feeling of placing the pots back into their intended places. I have a lot more to say about this topic, that I will get back to in another post.

Moving forward, I also made two wall pieces for the Red Lodge show that was held down at the Bolder Avenue Arts Center. I couldn’t get high quality images in that space, so I will have to post those at a later time. The pieces were “Plates (8)”, and “Tumblers (8)”.

After finishing and installing both shows, the 60th Anniversary Celebration was upon us. It was an absolutely fantastic experience. I got to see a lot of old friends, and make some new ones. I had never been to a live art auction before, and this was almost unbelievable. After all was said and done, the gross was a little over $510,000 for the Bray! The Volkus went for $125,000, the Kaneko for $55,000, and in my opinion the most exciting lot of the evening was the Shaner that went for $22,500.  Totally awesome. The auction was on Friday, then the Bray Bash was on Saturday. The Big Sky Mudflaps played a rockin’ show, and we danced the night away. After talking about how much fun we had, Nicole and I also realized another reason why this community is so great. On the dance floor at the same time, there were old people, young people, every race your could think of, men dancing with women, women dancing with women, men dancing with men…and nobody cared. Everyone was just dancing their hearts out after a long week. Here are a couple pics from the dance floor, and one of me and Nicole.

After the event ended, I think everyone was ready to unwind a little bit. Nicole and didn’t really have much of a chance, since we needed to move apartments. I like moving just as much as the next person, so that was really a chore I was not excited about. However, our new apt is totally sweet, overlooking downtown Helena with a view of Mt Helena directly behind it. Huge upgrade to the street level place we lived in this past year.

After/during the move, my Dad came to town which also coincided with my birthday. Being the very generous and gracious people he and his wife are, they helped me and Nicole finish cleaning our apt. What great people! The reward was that I was able to go fishing all day with my Dad on my birthday, then went out for an awesome steak dinner at place out in Clancy called Chubby’s. One good photo, one average cell phone photo…

What an awesome time! It doesn’t seem to stop either. Nicole and I fly to LAX tonight to meet up with her sister and her fiance, then we’ll all head down to San Diego to meet up with her family for a serious 4th of July party on Ocean Beach. I keep saying to myself in somewhat disblief, ‘this is my life?’.

After SD, back in Helena for a couple quick days, then I’m headed out to Haystack Mountain School of Crafts for a Design/Architecture conference. I am very fortunate in being awarded a fellowship do go to the conference, so that is just going to be great.

That’s the “quick” update. Thanks for reading, catch ya on the flip side.