Please meet one of our artists!
Q+A with Elizabeth Cohen
written by Anne Newman, Photos by Lisa Neighbors
Elizabeth has been making pottery in her home studio in Wellesley since 2001. Primarily self-taught, she learned to throw on a wheel in second or third grade and supplemented her practice later in life with some adult education classes in order to access studio space. She has volunteered in the Bates School Art Appreciation and Creative Arts enrichments programs, and enjoys demonstrating wheel throwing in Annie Cilufo’s ceramics classes in the new high school studio. She spent eight years on the board of the Human Relations Service (www.hrshelps.org), a local community mental health group. In 2011, she co-founded Wellesley Women Artisans with Abby Glassenberg.
On a gloomy Monday morning in January, photographer Lisa Neighbors and I visited Elizabeth’s home and studio where she shared cups of coffee, her dog Mojo, her inspirational view, and her work. Several of her pieces animate the otherwise quiet entry hall that accesses her studio. Her monochromatic porcelain vessels reflect the organic elements that inspire them, be they functional or purely sculptural. While there are glimpses of color on a handful of pieces, it is the neutrality of the white glaze that makes the work so special, highlighting its textural quality.
Surprisingly, she said that 2014 might bring some change. She has been “pulling out old glazes and pigments” and is beginning to explore a new direction. ”It might be time to branch out of the monochromatic palette.” We asked Elizabeth to respond to some questions–her delightful responses follow.
What’s your favorite spot in town? My favorite spots in town include: Morses Pond, the conservation land areas, the Wellesley College campus, Peet’s, the libraries, the new high school- especially the performing and studio art facilities, and the book exchange at the RDF.
What’s your favorite activity in town? I enjoy walking my dog in Boulder Brook reservation behind my house.
What’s missing in town? We are missing a vibrant arts center for all ages.
Where do you find inspiration? I find inspiration everywhere: the natural world, microscopic images, landscapes, shells, bugs, bark, leaves, pods, and seeds. I get creative ideas when cutting vegetables for dinner. I keep a sketchpad with me to jot down bits of creative insight. When dining, I observe how people interact with their food, utensils, dinnerware and atmosphere.
Describe your art? I work in porcelain clay, primarily on the wheel, throwing functional and sculptural work. I alter the clay while it is still pliable, to achieve organic and soft forms. I favor clean, pure and modernist approach.
Where do you work? My studio is in my home. I have all of my materials, including glazes and kiln in my studio space. I like to work independently. I love the flexibility of not having to commute, the ease of access, and the solitude.
What does a typical day look like for you? I try to balance caring for my three kids, husband, dog and home, with creating. I strive to maintain flexibility in this area. Sometimes I am in the studio more, sometimes doing behind the scenes paperwork, sometimes my responsibilities as mother and wife demand my time. However, I find when I am creating on a regular basis, all of the facets of my life function more harmoniously.
Do you do other work besides your artwork and parenting? I teach workshops in wheel throwing, and occasional private lessons. In my former career, I taught high school English in Southwick, MA.
What are your personal and professional ambitions? I have a few projects in the incubation stage: I want to create wall pieces, which are intended to be touched, for both visually impaired and sighted people. Currently, I am researching contacts for this kind of project, and welcome any ideas of how I might move forward in the endeavor. I am also thinking about teaching basic hand building ceramics to incarcerated women and youth. One other activity I am about to begin is teaching English to non-native speakers in the local community.
Why did you establish Wellesley Woman Artisans? The group offers collegiality, stimulation, opportunity to give back, and opportunity to grow. I would like to grow the presence of art in all facets of life in Wellesley.Art enriches, strengthens, and unifies a community.
Where can people see your work? At my studio at 56 Yarmouth Rd. Wellesley (by appointment), website www.elizabethcohenpottery.com, Society for Arts and Crafts on Newbury St., DeCordova Holiday Marketplace, Artefact in Belmont, NOW in Acton, and other galleries and exhibitions in the U.S. Elizabeth hosts an open studio at least once a year, where the public can tour the studio, see a wheel throwing demonstration and purchase work.
This interview has also been featured in the Wellesley Townsmen. You can find it here!