"I hope also that we will continue to be able to look upon art and artists as one of the factors which can be used to draw nations together....
We need emotional outlets in this country and the more artistic people we develop the better it will be for us as a nation."
Calm and simplicity are the hallmarks of my work. I make bowls, cups and plates - the basics. The essentials. If you begin to notice these very 'ordinary' things, these simple, slightly imperfect, subtle things, you see that it matters that they are handmade, subtle, distinct. They have the potential to communicate something essential and ineffable about the human spirit, bringing an element of the sublime into the everyday. In my own work, I am always searching for just the right kind of imperfection - a concurrence of subtlety and self-expression, minimalism and warmth, delicacy and usability, tradition and originality. I focus on objects as they relate to one another and express an idea without losing any of their usefulness. I like repetition. The details change, but the premise does not.
I was born and raised in rural Georgia, the youngest of three children. My father had a wholesale tire business, and he gave me the leftover price sheets to draw on. The backs were blank. I was always drawing on those price sheets. We lived in a remote area. Books were my best friends, and they showed me a bigger world, where I fit in better. My love of books took me to St. John's College, the "Great Books School." I graduated from St. John's in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1987. St. John's is the model for 'active learning.' I was shy, and St. John's was tremendously challenging, but at St. John’s I was deeply influenced by the writings of Dostoevsky. I went on to study the Russian language for three years following my graduation. After a summer at the University of Leningrad in 1989, I moved to New York City on a whim, where I got a job at a Japanese bank to pay the rent and try something new. I was trained as a money market trader and worked for Gunma Bank for five years. My co-workers were awesome, and taught me so much about doing one's best, among other things.
My experience in clay is unusual. My co-workers at the bank introduced me to the world of Japanese ceramics, and a show of 17th century Korean celadon ceramics at the Metropolitan Museum of Art marked a defining moment in my life. I became totally enraptured. Noticing my obsession, a co-worker then introduced me to a small Japanese pottery studio in Manhattan, where I began attending evening classes in 1992 while continuing to work full-time at the bank. I left New York and sought out an apprenticeship in Japan in 1994. Concentrating on the Karatsu area in northwest Kyushu, I visited studios until I found an artist whose work I especially admired, Mr. Yutaka Ohashi, and after being accepted as his apprentice, worked for him for 4½ years. My training was intensive and difficult. I cried a lot, laughed more, became much less shy (in Japanese), and learned more than words in any language can ever convey.
In 1999 I completed my apprenticeship and returned to New Mexico to buy a remote plot of land in the mountains north of Santa Fe, and built a house with a studio, and brick-by-brick, my own wood-fired kiln. I am still learning, still drawing, and constantly imagining. All the while - I make a living with my work, and appreciate each and every person who relates to what I do. I have been a full-time artist since 2001. My husband, Mark Saxe, and I own Rift Gallery in Rinconada, New Mexico, south of Taos along the Rio Grande rift valley.
Thank you for your interest in my story.
Photo courtesy of Robert Eckert
SOLO and TWO PERSON EXHIBITIONS
Weyrich Gallery, Albuquerque, New Mexico Annually / Bi-Annually 2008-present
Touching Stone Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico 2002, 2003
Kobo Gallery, Seattle, Washington 2012, 2014
Sake Ware curated by Jeff Shapiro, Lacoste Gallery, Concord, MA March 2016
Crafted, Society for Contemporary Craft, Philadelphia, PA 2015 - present
American Pottery Festival, Northern Clay Center, Minneapolis, MN 2007 - 2016
La Mesa, Santa Fe Clay at NCECA (various locations) Annually 2008 - present
Numerous invitationals, Santa Fe Clay Gallery, Santa Fe, NM 2005 - present
Steinfest, Claymakers, Durham, NC Annually 2013 - present
Numerous invitationals,The Clay Studio, Philadelphia, PA 2011 - present
Yunomi Invitational, AKAR, Iowa City, IA 2012 - 2014
Weyrich Gallery, Albuquerque, NM 2005-2007
Touching Stone Gallery, Santa Fe, NM 2005
Box Pot, Creative Arts Workshop, New Haven, CT (juried by Garth Clark) 2014
Less is More, The Mitchell Gallery, St. John’s College, Annapolis, MD 2013
Workhouse Clay National, Workhouse Arts Center, Lorton, VA (juried by Peter Held) 2012
San Angelo Ceramics Competition, San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts, San Angelo, TX 2012, 2014
Ceramics Regional, University of Dallas, Dallas, TX 2009
Originals, Museum of Fine Art, Santa Fe, NM 2005
Smithsonian Craft Show, Washington, DC 2011
American Crafts Council, Atlanta, GA 2008
Crafts Finalist, Martha Stewart American Made Competition 2015
San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts
CURATORIAL / JUROR EXPERIENCE
The Simple Cup, KOBO Gallery, Seattle, WA, December 2013
Celebration of Clay, Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, NM July 2014
New Mexico Potters and Clay Artists, Beauty, Quality, Functionality Award, Celebration of Clay 2015 (juried by Debra Fritts)
Merit Award, San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts, 19th Annual Ceramics Competition 2012 (juried by Garth Clark)
New Mexico Potters and Clay Artists, Recipient of Scholarship, Critical Santa Fe, NCECA 2010
New Mexico Arts Commission, Recipient of Folk Arts Master Honorarium 2009
Honorable Mention Award: Harwood Art Center, Albuquerque, NM, “Celebration of Clay” 2002
©2017 Betsy Williams