Passionate about their work . . . and willing to share

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By M.V. Moorhead

Well, football season is officially over. And what do Americans turn to for weekend fulfillment in the void that follows the Super Bowl?

Why not ceramics?

On Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 24 and 25, ASU Art Museum sponsors the 17th annual self-guided Ceramic Research Center Studio Tour, a Valleywide exhibition and demonstration by more than 40 of the area’s most distinguished clay artists.

Instead of the potters bringing their work to a single gallery, art hounds come to them. It’s free to attend, and one stop on the tour is right here in our neighborhood: the home studio of Sandy Blain, at 491 W. Courtney Lane in Tempe.

“Often people will go to half the studios on one day and half on the other,” says Blain, who will be working with several of her colleagues, including Michael Ceschiat, Esmeralda
DeLaney, Sandra Luehrsen and Jane Kelsey-Mapel, all of whom will be creating new work as well as showing how it’s done.

“We all do 40-minute demonstrations each day,” she says. “We’re all professionals, teaching at community colleges and so forth. I’m at Mesa Arts Center on Mondays. I’m teaching two handbuilding classes, and they’re very full.”

Handbuilding, she explains, “means you don’t use a potter’s wheel to build the form. It’s my preferred method. I’m also more of a functional, decorative potter,” meaning that she creates items like cups and vases. “Some of the others are more into sculpture.”

Art and art education in general, and ceramics in particular, have been lifelong passions for Blain.

“I loved my art classes in elementary and high school,” says the Chicago native, who went on to get her undergraduate degree in Art Education from Northern Illinois University, and
her MFA in Ceramics from University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee.

“My first job was as a high school art teacher in Racine, Wisc.,” she recalls. “I went on to teach at the University of Tennessee for 33 years.”

And why the focus on ceramics?

Says Blain:
“As a visual arts medium, I just like the tactile quality of working with the clay, and the three dimensional quality.”

And how did Blain come to land here in the Valley?

“When I retired I had many friends out here,” she says. “I was an administrator for Arrowmont School for Arts and Crafts [in Gatlinburg, Tenn.]. I hired many of the faculty
from ASU.”

So the area became a logical retirement destination for Blain, who has lived here since 2004. How does she like it?

“I like it at this time of year,” she says promptly.

Go to sandyblain.com for additional information about the artist. For further information about this year’s Ceramic Research Center Studio Tour, go to asuartmuseum.asu.edu/ studiotour.

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