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Steven Branfman Workshop

Raku Spectacular - 2008

Steven will take participants on a journey through his process for creating raku-fired work from start to finish. Day one will feature Steven's wheel throwing and vessel forming techniques, surface manipulation, glazing, and firing. Participants will receive information on inlaying colored glass, texturing, expanding forms from the inside, application of dry clays to wet surfaces, trimming with chucks, and much more.

Participants will spend the second day glazing and firing their own bisque. Glazing techniques covered will include dipping, pouring, brushing, spraying, layering and resist. Steven will address a variety of post-firing options including different smoking methods, naked clay, controlled cooling, horse hair, copper mattes, and fuming. Participants will learn about firing techniques including combustion theory, kiln control, and atmospheric manipulation.

Class size 16. All experience levels welcome.

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Artist talk w/slides
May 2, 7:00 pm
Free to the public
Two day Workshop
Hands on with firing May 3-4, 2008
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
This workshop has passed and is no longer available.  Check out some of our Upcoming Workshops

Steven Branfman Bio

Steven Branfman (born 1953, L.A. California) grew up in N.Y.C. and credits a rich cultural childhood as being the influence that led him to an art career. He was further influenced by a dynamic high school art teacher particularly in the area of sculpture. Branfman studied art at Cortland State University, New York with Gerald Diguisto (sculpture) George Dugan (drawing) and John Jessiman (pottery). He received his graduate degree at Rhode Island School Of Design working under Norm Schulman and Jun Kaneko. He says of RISD, "The time spent at RISD was the most influential and important experience in my development as an artist. The teachers were dedicated, the students were serious, and the atmosphere was exciting and productive."

Branfman has been an independent studio potter since 1975. In 1977 he founded as his studio, The Potters Shop which has become a nationally known studio, school, and artists workspace, and he now enjoys an international reputation as a potter, teacher, and writer. He is the author of two books, Raku: A Practical Approach, and The Potters Professional Handbook published by Krause Publications and The American Ceramic Society respectfully. Steven has delivered numerous workshops and presentations and his work has been exhibited in many one person and group shows throughout the U.S. Steven has been the subject of, and has authored many articles on clay. Articles about, or by him have appeared in Ceramics Monthly, The Crafts Report, Clay Times, Boston Globe, Studio Potter, and Pottery Making Illustrated, among others. His clayworking techniques, examples of his work, and personal profiles appear in many books on pottery and ceramics as well as Who's Who In American Art and Who's Who Among America's Teachers. Steven's time is spent working in his studio, The Potters Shop and School in Needham, writing, traveling to present workshops and demonstrations, and Thayer Academy in Braintree MA. where he teaches pottery. Steven and his wife Ellen live in Newton, Massachusetts.

"My concern is to make good pots, pots that hold up to thousands of years of ceramic history. My work is about vessels and the characteristics that make the vessel come alive: volume, texture, color, and scale. One of my objectives is, through my vessels, to preserve the connection between contemporary ceramic expression and pottery's origins as functional containers, not to transform and abandon it. Though my forms are not functional as in domestic ware, they do suggest function and are certainly containers."

Steven Branfman Artist Information

Steven Branfman Personal Statement

Art has always been a part of my life. My mother was a graduate of The Julliard School studying piano, bassoon, and spent some time drawing. Her grandfather, a Russian immigrant who lived with us when I was a child, was a tailor of fine clothing. My Great Uncle, also from Russia and with whom I was very close, painted landscapes while he made his living as a house painter. My uncle was a talented painter and musician. My parents saw the value in art and took me and my siblings to museums, concerts, Broadway plays, and to our chagrin forced us to take music lessons. Despite all this, I was more interested in athletics than arts and went to college to become a physical education teacher. That career path didn't last very long.

There was never a conscious decision to do art or to become an artist. It's not the kind of activity one decides to do. It's more like something that gets done because it has to. My movement towards art was natural and I knew it was right. Clay entered my life as a random encounter in 1971. John Jessiman, my teacher, was an Alfred grad who was a wonderful potter and teacher. He mesmerized me with his fluidity and ease with clay. After seeing him throw I decided I wanted to be a potter. At Rhode Island School Of Design, Norm Schulman was unforgiving, rigid, and set in his ways. I learned alot from Norm and the whole scene there. The year spent at RISD was the most influential experience in my decision to work with clay.

I've been involved with clay full time since 1975 making pots, teaching, writing, and operating my own studio. From my earliest introduction to clay I have always been fascinated and excited about the wheel. It is not one, but all of the components of that tool that hold and keep my interest; the speed, fluidity, and in particular, the sense of growth I observe and control during the process. My aim and ambition is to make good pots. My work is about vessels and the characteristics that make the vessel come alive: volume, texture, color, and scale. One of my objectives is, through my vessels, to preserve the connection between contemporary ceramic expression and pottery's origins as functional containers, not to transform and abandon it. Though my forms are not functional as in domestic ware, they do suggest function and are certainly containers.

Steven Branfman Technique Notes

Raku technique and process has held my attention for over 30 years and throughout this time the primary attraction for me has remained the never ending variations of applied technique, the spontaneity of the firing process, and the always present degree of surprise and serendipity in the results. Raku is a practice that offers the best of all worlds for me. The method is deeply rooted in tradition and I approach it with the utmost respect for the technique and it's origins. And while it's origins serve as a constant reminder to me of where the craft has evolved from, it's contemporary incarnation is very different. So, I can work simultaneously in a traditional method where all the rules have been established, and a contemporary technique where the rules are constantly in question. Raku firing is fast by its design and spontaneous by my nature. When the piece is ready to be taken from the kiln there is alot of chaotic appearing activity for a very short time. It does, however, require exacting cooperation between myself, my equipment, my assistants, and the fire. Though there is always a degree of surprise, the success of the work depends on my ability to command and predict the variables of material and fire. It is like a dance that when choreographed well flows into a statement of beauty. It feels good when done right!

I enjoy the challenge of working large, not just to achieve size but to arrive at the correct scale for a particular piece. My largest pieces are done using a variation on the Korean coil and throw technique. Thick coils are attached to the rim of a leather hard form. The throwing continues and the coils are pulled up to continue the form. There is almost no size limitation and to avoid getting swept away by technique I must always be in touch with my intended form and design. The actual Raku firing of large work presents its own challenges and it is the search for answers to all of these questions that often result in new creative directions and discoveries for me.

My kiln of choice is top loading and LPG fueled. My firing area consists of 6 kilns, all recycled and rebuilt defunct electric kilns. I do not do multiple firings where preheating of the ware is necessary. I fire from a cold kiln with a slow firing cyle (3-5 hours). The cooling phase is also slow and controlled and this has all but eliminated breakage. Kiln atmospheres vary and include oxidation, reduction, salt, and soda.

By it's very nature art work is a reflection or portrait of ones self. An artists work must create a dialogue and speak to the viewer. An artists work must be honest and must come from within the artist. There is no art without emotion, without dedication, without passion. My most successful work is that which I feel the most intimate with from the initial idea to the completion of the piece. Whether you want to admit it or not all art is portraiture and some pieces make you look better than others.

Steven Branfman New Directions

I have been involved in the raku technique and process for many years and throughout this time the primary attractions for me have remained the never ending variations of applied technique, the instinctiveness of the actual firing process, and the always present degree of surprise and serendipity in the results.

My work has always been about form and my vessels have matured in concert with my personal aesthetic vision. Integral to the development of successful and satisfying shapes is the importance of their surfaces and how those surfaces contribute to the understanding, interpretation, and effectiveness of the finished ware. Shapes grow from the bottom up and the inside out. Volume, pressure, breath, and interior presence must be expressed and communicated.

To this end, my pots often have distorted surfaces that are highly textured through incising, carving, pressing, and combing. The incorporation of dry clay applications, grog, and sand into the surfaces are also techniques that have contributed to the aesthetic growth of my wares. My forming method of expanding the ware from the inside out without touching the surfaces alters, personalizes, and imparts movement and life to the shape. A technique that holds alot of interest for me is the use of inlaid and pressed glass as both an element of color and texture. The use of glass has proved to be both an aesthetic and technical challenge.

Efforts to achieve mastery of a palette of glazes is a challenge that in and of itself leads to discoveries of color, texture, surface, and form. Though my ware is fired in the cone 010-07 range, I use glazes of different maturing temperatures including so called "raku" glazes, standard low fire recipes, mid range and high fire stoneware and porcelain formulations as well as commercial glazes varying in temperature and style, underglazes, overglazes, slips, engobes, and oxide washes. Also contributing to color and texture are slips and dry clay and glaze mixtures that are often applied to the wet clay surfaces during the forming process instead of the usual application on bisque ware. Glazes are brushed, poured, and sprayed in multiple layers of varying thicknesses. I fire in electric and fuel fired kilns with oxidation and reduction atmospheres. Low fire salt and soda firing and fuming has also become more important to my work.

Post firing technique is important yet is often overlooked as a creative influence on the finished wares and this too is an area that occupies much of my creative energies. It is frequently treated as a rigid procedure that must be followed according to certain instructions that are not variable. It is, in fact, greatly variable and the method of post firing treatment will greatly influence the wares. I will vary the type of combustable material, the amount of material to use, and the length of time the ware is exposed to the material. Compressed air, water, and fuming sprays are all part of the post firing phase.

Steven Branfman Inspirations

My work comes from a tradition of functional vessels. When I began my career I was drawn to the concept of pottery being both utilitarian AND sculptural/decorative and I made purely functional pots; bowls, plates, cups, teapots, pitchers, etc. As my work and career matured I drifted from fuctional work and concentrated on decorative pots though always maintaining my comittment to the functional object and the vessel form.

My choice of shapes and the wheel throwing methods I use to form my vessels have to do with the concept that pottery forms have a volume and an inward pressure that defines the shape. Pots are formed from the inside out and the bottom up with the interior negative space defining the outward appearance. My surfaces further help to define the shape with textures that expand and grow with the shape during the forming process. I don't see the surface of my pots as canvases that sit on the surface to decorate, but rather as a skin that defines and communicates what is underneath. The inspiration for my surfaces come from my observation of the visual images and tactile objects around me: Rock faces, landscapes, tree bark, raw earth; the colors of sand, sky, oceans, sunsets; the patina of copper; lava rocks, worn concrete sidewalks, the green mold that grows on shingles and fence posts; grass, moss, coral and more.

Steven Branfman Resume

Rhode Island School Of Design, M.A.T. 1975, Graduate Honors
Cortland State University B.A. 1974
Select Exhibitions:
Jeannie Tengelsen Gallery, Dix HIlls NY, Creations In Clay 2007
Lexington Arts And Crafts Society, Lexington MA, The State Of Clay 2007
Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton MA, RISD Routes; Contemporary Craft By New England Alumni, 2007
American Museum Of Ceramic Art, Pomona CA, Raku Origins, Impact, And Contemporary Expression, 2006
Ruth S. Harley University Center Gallery, Garden City NY, All Fired Up Ceramics Invitational, 2006
North Carolina Pottery Center, Seagrove NC Norm Schulman: Master Potter, Master Teacher, 2005
Gallery At Keramikos, Haarlem The Netherlands. Steven Branfman: New Work In Raku, 2005
Guilford Handcraft Center, Guilford, CT National Ceramic Biennial, 2005
New Hampshire Institute Of Art, Manchester NH. National Ceramics Biennial 2004
Lexington Arts And Crafts Society, Lexington MA, The State Of Clay 2004
Thayer Gallery, Braintree MA. Steven Branfman Bowls, Bottles, and Bowls Art Faculty Exhibition 2004
BAAK Gallery, Cambridge MA. Steven Branfman, Raku Vessels. 2004
Thayer Gallery, Braintrtee MA. Father~Son, Student~Teacher 2004
Guilford Handcraft Center, Guilford, CT National Ceramic Biennial, 2003
Maud Bowen Carter Gallery, Ashburnham MA. Steven Branfman: Raku, Variations On A Theme 2002
Karl E. Mundt Gallery, Madison SD. One Man Show 2001
Whipple Gallery, Marshall MN, Steven Branfman, Raku Potter 2001
AmFac Exhibition Hall, Honolulu, Raku Ho'olaule'a Juried Exhibition 2000
Weisman Art Museum. Minneapolis MN, Building A Collection: Ceramics From The Weisman Art Museum 2000
Carnegie Cultural Arts Center, Luverne MN, Steven Branfman New Work In Raku 2000
Lexington Arts And Crafts Society, Lexington MA, The State Of Clay 1999
Arts Festival Gallery, Lancaster PA, Pacific Tides: The Influence of the Pacific Rim on Contemporary American Ceramics 1999
Colorado Mountain College Gallery, Glenwood Springs, Ceramics At The Millennium 1999
Escuela De Artesanias, Mexico City, Haciendo Raku con Steven Branfman 1998
Currier Art Gallery, Manchester NH, New Work In Raku 1998
Thayer Gallery, Braintree MA, Potter, Poet, Painter Three Person Show 1998
Dowd Fine Arts Center, SUNY Cortland NY, Seven Alumni Artists 1997
Vermont Clay Studio, Montpelier, 2+2=6: Six Internationally Recognized Raku Artists 1996
Thayer Gallery, Braintree MA. Steven Branfman & Students 1996
Art Complex Museum, Duxbury MA. Art By Choice 1995
Thayer Gallery, Braintree MA. One Person Show 1995, 1994,
Kreft Center For The Arts, Ann Arbor MI. Raku, National Invitational Exhibition 1995, 1994, 1992. Guest Juror 1995
Fisher Gallery, Farmington Valley Arts Center, CT. Bowls National Invitational 1992
Guilford Handcrafts Center, Guilford CT. Three Person Show 1991
Starr Gallery, Newton MA. Great American Crafts Invitational Exhibition, 1990
Signature Galleries, The Artful Goblet Invitational Exhibition, 1990
Wenniger Graphics Gallery. Provincetown MA. One Man Show, 1989.
Brockton Art Museum, Brockton MA. Rhode Island School Of Design Alumni Invitational Exhibition, 1989
Fitchburg Art Museum, Fitchburg MA., Artful Crafts Invitational Craft Exhibition, 1989
Signature Galleries, Massachusetts Craftspeople Invitational 1988, One Man Show, 1985
Brockton Art Museum, Exhibition Of Permanent Crafts Collection, 1987
Pacchetto American Artisanry, Newton MA. One Man Show, 1987
Concord Art Association, Concord MA. Juried Summer Competition, First Prize for Crafts1986
Susan Mcleod Gallery, Sarasota Fl. Group Show, 1985
Society Of Arts And Crafts, Boston MA. Group Show, 1985
BAAK Gallery, Invitational 1984, Two Man Show, 1983, 1981
The Craftsmans Gallery, Scarsdale N.Y. RISD: Leadership In Crafts Craft Invitational, 1983
Select Collections:
American Museum Of Ceramic Art, Pomona CA.
Museum Of Art, Rhode Island School Of Design
Schein-Joseph International Museum Of Ceramic Art, Alfred University NY.
Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton MA.
Everson Museum Of Art, Syracuse NY.
Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum. Minneapolis MN.
Central Carolina Community College, Sanford NC.
Concordia College, Ann Arbor MI.
Cushing Academy, Ashburnham MA.
Pennock Art Collection, Thayer Academy, Braintree MA.
Walnut Creek Civic Arts, Walnut Creek CA.
Canadian Clay And Glass Association, Toronto.
Books Authored:
Raku: A Practical Approach Second Edition, Krause Publications 2001, Hanusch Verlag 2002 (German Language Edition)
The Potters Professional Handbook, Krause Publications 1999, American Ceramic Society 2003
Raku: A Practical Approach , Chilton Books, 1991
Select Articles and Essays:
Raku Glazing: An Alternative Look, Pottery Making Illustrated, June 2007
What Is A Raku Glaze, Pottery Making Illustrated, August 2006
Lineal Identity: Passing It On, Studio Potter Journal, June 2004
Hal Riegger, Teacher And Friend, Ceramics Monthly, October 2004
The Potters Shop, Studio Potter Network News, October 2004
Inlaid Glass Technique, Pottery Making Illustrated, May 2002
Teaching Ceramics; The Essentials Of A Program, Studio Potter Journal, June 2002
Raku, A Western Perspective, Journal of the International Raku Symposium Korea, Biseul Art Center 2001
Make It In Clay, Mayfield Publishers, 1997 contributing writer
Studio Options: Finding A Space Of Your Own Clay Times Magazine, March/April 1997
The Mystery Of Raku Clay Times Magazine, July/August 1996
Is Craft Education Relevant To The Prep School Curriculum Lecture, Assoc. of Art Teachers of N.E. Prep Schools, April, 1994
Raku Basics, Pottery Making Illustrated, Supplement to Ceramics Monthly, January, 1994
Are Handmade Objects Important In Our Lives, Lecture, Osgood Lecture Series, Thayer Academy, March, 1993
Raku, The Firing Process, Studio Potter Journal, Dec. 1991
Creative Identity, The Potters Shop, Ceramics Monthly, Sept. 1989
Select Bibliography:
Fired Up With Raku, Irene Poulton, Crowood Press, 2006
Raku, Second Edition, Tim Andrews, Krause Publications, 2005
Advanced Raku Techniques, American Ceramics Society, 2004
Alternative Kilns And Firing Techniques, James Watkins, Lark Books, 2004
The Craft And Art Of Clay, 4rd Edition, Susan Peterson,Prentice Hall Publishers, 2003
Ceramics: Mastering The Craft, 2nd Edition, Richard Zakin, Krause Publications, 2001
Raku At Amatlan, Hilda San Vicente, Ceramics Monthly, January 2000
The Craft And Art Of Clay, 3rd Edition, Susan Peterson,Prentice Hall Publishers, 1999
Steven Branfman Leads Raku Weekend, Clay Times Magazine, January/February 1997
Make It In Clay, Charlotte Speight, Mayfield Publishers, 1997
Potter Adds New Twists Using An Old Technique, Boston Sunday Globe, September 10. 1995
Search For Art Ends At Potters Wheel, Boston Sunday Globe, March 20, 1994
Steven Branfman, Ceramics Monthly, March 1986
Who's Who In American Art, Marquis Publishers, 2005-6
Who's Who In American Art, WW Bowker Publishers, 1989-
Who's Who In America, Marquis Publishers 2005.
Who's Who Among America's Teachers WW Bowker Publishers, 1999-
International Design Journal, Korea, Article, September 1988
The Guild, Designers Resource Book, Kraus-Sikes Publishers. 1988, 1987, 1986
The Japanese Influence In American Crafts, At Home Section, Boston Globe, May 16, 1986 feature story
People In The Arts: Newton, Newton Cultural Arts Commission 1986
Steven Branfman, Raku Potter, Folio Magazine, Nov. 1985 feature story
Folio Magazine, April 1985 cover photo
The New England Handcraft Catalogue, Globe Pequot Press. 1984
Service And Solvency: The Potters Shop, The Crafts Report, Jan. 1983 feature story
Hands In Clay, Charlotte Speight, Mayfield Publishing Co. 1995, revised edition 1999
Raku Pottery, Second Edition, Pebble Press, 1991
American Craft Magazine, Jan. 1985, Oct. 1985
Select Teaching:
Thayer Academy, Braintree MA., Pottery Instructor 1978-Present
Lasell College, Newton MA., Artist In Residence, Pottery Instructor 1985-1988
Walpole High School, Walpole MA., Pottery and Crafts Instructor 1976-1978
Manitou Wabing Arts Centre, Parry Sound, Ontario Canada, Art Department Head and Pottery Instructor 1975-77
Workshops and guest lectures presented at (partial list): Honolulu Academy Of Art, Concordia College MI, Munson Williams Proctor Institute NY, Colorado Mt. College Steamboat Springs, Medina Arts Center MN, Wesleyan Potters CT, El Camino College CA, Vermont Clay Studio VT, El Olvido Ceramica Mexico City, Guilford Handcrafts Center CT, Triangle Potters Guild NC, Hofstra University NY, Farmington Valley Arts Center CT, Lexington Arts And Crafts Society MA, Boston Architectural Center MA, Horizons Summer Craft School MA, Fitchburg Art Museum MA, Rhode Island School Of Design RI, California Association Of Clay Artists, Oak Ridge Art Center TN., Walnut Creek Civic Arts Center CA, Ceramic Designers Association Of Virginia Beach, Fusion: Ontario Clay And Glass Association Toronto, Carleton College MN, Syracuse Ceramics Guild NY, Lee Arts Center VA, Kalkspatz: German Potters Association Munich and Doerentrup Germany, Lehmhuus AG Basel Switzerland. Atelier Cirkel Brasschaat Belgium, Keramikos Haarlem Netherlands, Toepferhus Albinen Switzerland.
Select Panels and Symposia:
Raku Origins, Impact, And Contemporary Expression, Presenter, panelist, American Museum Of Ceramic Art, Pomona CA 2006
All Fired Up, Potters Council Regional Conference, Presenter, Garden City NY 2006
Getting Published, National Council On Education In The Ceramic Arts Panelist, Baltimore MD 2005
Potters Council Regional Workshop: Throwing Techniques Presenter, Mendocino CA 2005
Ceramic Arts Roadshow & Symposium Panelist and Presenter, Riverside California 2004
Goshogawara International Wood Fire Festival Invited Panelist and Presenter , Aomori Japan 2003
Potters Council Regional Conference: Firing Practices Invited Panelist and Presenter, La Crosse WI 2003
Raku Refire Madness X Presenter, Luverne MN 2003
Teaching Ceramics In The Secondary School NCECA Topical Discussions, Moderator 2001
The Artists Life And Lifestyle, Arts First Young Artists Symposium, Panelist, Boston MA 2001
Ceramics At The Millenium, Steamboat Colorado Arts Center, Panelist Steamboat Springs CO 1999
Balancing The Act-How To Make A Life In Ceramics, NCECA Topical Discussions, Moderator 1999
The Business Of Crafts, Rhode Island School Of Design Panelist, Providence RI 1998
A Career In Crafts, Massachusetts College Of Art, Panelist, Boston MA 1994.
Career and Lifestyle Strategies For The Fine Arts Graduate, Rhode Island School Of Design Seminar Presentation 1993
Life After RISD, Rhode Island School Of Design Panelist 1993
The Potters Shop And Potters School, Needham MA, Founder-Director 1977-present
Clay Times Magazine, monthly column and feature writer
National K-12 Ceramic Exhibition Foundation, Founding Board Member
Potters Council Of The American Ceramic Society, Founding Board Member
Studio Potter Organization Past Vice President, Board Of Trustees
Studio Potter Network, Goffstown N.H.: Advisory Board
Rhode Island School Of Design Boston Area Alumni Chapter Founding Member, Founding President
Rhode Island School Of Design Alumni Executive Council, Past Member
Cortland College Arts And Sciences Advisory Board Founding Board Member 1999-2002
Books Authored:
Raku: A Practical Approach Second Edition, Krause Publications 2001, Hanusch Verlag 2002 (German Language Edition)
The Potters Professional Handbook, Krause Publications 1999, American Ceramic Society 2003
Raku: A Practical Approach , Chilton Books, 1991