Meeting This Wednesday Evening
Talon Smith sees the world through the lens of community. For over a decade, this Pittsburgh potter, who identifies as non-binary, has developed their artistic vision and technique within the network of fellow artists and mentors. “I’ve had an idea for a number of years now,” they say, “of creating a network of potters in Pittsburgh where people can talk and share and get answers to their questions.” Talon’s friend and fellow potter Katy Ostronic of Katy Lynn Pottery joined Talon, along with other friends and colleagues, to refine the vision which has evolved into a group they are calling “Ceramixer.” Like a social mixer, the group meets regularly at different venues and features a variety of topics.
Talon studied ceramics at Carlow University. “I took the long route to my degree,” they explain, “eventually earning my BA after ten years.” They were a co-op member at The Union Project, a local community project devoted to changing lives through art, and currently works as a general laborer to help offset the cost of their ceramics and dirt bike habits. They share studio space with Garick Tai Lee and Sam Berner in Polish Hill, where they concentrate on wood-fired pieces. “Everything I’ve learned, I learned through a mentor,” they say. “I started an MFA program at Edinboro University, but I realized even though I want to teach, I don’t find the academic environment and its bureaucracy a good match. I realize I prefer teaching in the community studio environment, outside of academia.”
Talon’s hands-on approach extends beyond their artistic life. A resident of Pittsburgh’s Polish Hill neighborhood, they have taken on the role of community organizer with the Polish Hill Civic Association. Talon and their partner Augustin helped Polish Hill’s Green Team remediate invasive species in the Melwood Parkwood and restore the space with over 100 trees. The organization is establishing an edible food forest with native species like witch hazel, serviceberries, and fruit trees.
The Ceramixer project came to life last fall when Talon and Ostronic joined forces. Ostronic had already kick-started an entrepreneurial clay group and sought out Talon when she learned they had a similar vision.
The pair began to plan the first Ceramixer with the assistance of another local potter, Jonathon Eberle. “We knew that Jonathon had been wanting to have some people in to see his and his father’s (venerable Pittsburgh potter Ed Eberle) new space and work,” Talon says, “and we thought that would be a good first gathering. The first Ceramixer was a success, with over twenty attendees. A second meeting was put together by local potters Audra Clayton and Kyle Houser and showcased the work of Darrin Simmons at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and Media. Attendance swelled to forty participants.
Talon says that the meetings confirmed their conviction that artists need to form communities and talk to one another. “We need to all get off our little islands. Every opportunity I’ve had has come about by talking to other people,” Talon explains. That talking continued, as Talon reconnected with potter Luke Doyle, whom they had known years ago. Doyle, Talon, and Ostronic discussed showcasing local potters in a gallery show and imagined a “Pittsburgh Ceramics Collective” that could publish a newsletter, sponsor an Instagram page, post events, and organize shows. Talon says, “We envision a diverse space that serves all kinds of ceramic artists. People take so many different paths – craft fairs, online sales, fine art galleries, academia, personal pleasure – and we want to provide space for everyone who loves to talk about this thing we are obsessed with - a 30,000-year-old art in a digital age.”
Talon, Ostronic, and Doyle are continuing to organize their ideas into a plan. The ceramixers are up and running, with a monthly schedule of meetings for the next year. The juried invitational gallery show will take place at ClayPlace @Standard in August. The first of what they hope to be many pop-up shows will be at Ketchup City in June. In a few short months, the Pittsburgh Ceramics Collective has come together in community and expanded opportunities for Pittsburgh clay artists to thrive and grow.
Plan to attend a Ceramixer:
All mixers will run from 6:30 p.m. through 8:30 p.m.
March 2, 2022 – Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild
May 19, 2022 – Studio Party, Polish Hill
June 10, 2022 – Radiant Hall Studios
See Talon Smith’s work at www.talonsmithceramics.com
See Katy Ostronic’s work at www.katylynnpottery.comSee Luke Doyle’s work on Instagram @doyleceramics.