As the new Resident Potter at Guilford Art Center (GAC), Monica Hewryk feels a bit like a kid in a toy shop. That suits her playful style with clay and her joyful approach to collaborating with others perfectly.
The New Britain resident and newly graduated Central Connecticut State University fine arts major was in the thick of the action this past Saturday in the well-equipped GAC ceramics studio. Monica enjoyed sharing the company of many members of the GAC pottery community while lending a helping hand for what she described as a “mini bowl-a-thon,” crafting a collection of one-of-a-kind soup bowls for GAC’s fourth annual “Soup for Good” fundraiser on Sunday, Nov. 13.
“All of us getting together to make a bunch of bowls and have a good time, and to do something great for the community—it’s really nice how art brings us all together,” says Monica.
Just about one month into her one-year residency with GAC, Monica says she’s already impressed with how the non-profit interacts with the community at large by incorporating the arts, and how the community supports GAC.
Soup for Good to benefit GAC and Community Dining Room (CDR) is set for Nov. 13, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at GAC, 411 Church Street. Tickets, $30 in advance (www.guilfordartcenter.org), $35 at the door, include a hearty bowl of soup, bread, dessert, and glass of wine or sparkling water, with each guest choosing his or her unique handcrafted soup bowl to take home “for good.” Like GAC, CDR is a non-profit. The Branford-based dining program provides meals on-site and offers other programs to assist those in need in towns stretching from East Haven to Old Saybrook.
“It’s raising money for a good cause, and you get something, too,” says Monica.
Creating some Soup for Good bowls was a lot of fun and quite a bit different from Monica’s more sculptural style, an amalgamation of her fascination with pushing the boundaries of construction, adding interesting textures, and throwing in a bit of whimsy.
“It’s kind of the irony of pottery,” she says of her style. “The irony of pottery is that usually, you don’t want a piece to be broken. I’ve been trying to develop a body of work made to look broken. Certain pieces are almost exploding, others are almost melting. I have funny ideas that are kind of different; like I’ll take [the illustrative style] of Dr. Seuss and add him into my work.”
Spray glazing and “a lot of brush work” is used to finish most of her pieces.
“A lot of potters don’t do brush work because it’s inconsistent. I use it almost like a coloring book,” says Monica.
Monica also loves to experiment with textures and cut-outs (cookie cutters are a favorite),then figuring out how to best build that texture into the form.
“Like I’m looking at this weird waffle cut design I do—what if I have pieces of it growing from the inside?” she says. “Right now, I have a couple of different old sketches I’m looking into. I might do more cutting out or piercing. I’m trying to make them look more elegant. There are just a bunch of different little concepts I work with, like I’ll take a couple of pots and cut out the neck on one, and cut out the bottom on the other, and fuse them together.”
Having access to the materials, tools and equipment at the GAC studio, and working with students as a mentor and guide during practice hours, is inspiring, says Monica. She’s available to interact with students during three weekly practice sessions and on Saturdays.
“They can come in and work for a couple of hours on their stuff, and I can come and help throughout the session. For the most part it’s inspiring people, maybe giving them a little bit of different ideas. And they inspire me, too. Everybody is making these great-looking things,” says Monica. “I love sharing this passion with students.”
Ultimately, Monica would like to teach at the university level. She says will be looking into graduate school to earn her master’s degree to help reach her long-term goal. As far as the immediate future, Monica’s focusing on coming up with a body of work for her GAC installation that will be featured at the end of her residency.
“I’m really excited. In about a year I have a solo show in the gallery, and so I’m trying to come with different ideas. I definitely want to work on an installation.”
Monica also shares she’s found she puts emotion into her work. She started to see an evolution in her quirky, lighthearted pieces as she and her family went through a difficult year, which sadly came to a conclusion when her brother passed away in September.
“I feel like this year, a lot has happened in my personal life. My brother was going through a hard time, and I was having more arguments with him, and now I’m discovering little things I see in my work,” says Monica. “One of the series I’ve been working on are vessels that are really decaying and melting, pushing the balance so much that you wonder if they’re going to stick to the shelf.”
Monica first learned about GAC from friends who were members at Wesleyan Potters and from a friend who had taught a class at GAC.
“They said it was a great community and a fun place to create,” says Monica, who was also jury selected to show at GAC’s Craft Expo 2016.
“When I heard there was an opening for a resident potter, I thought, ‘I need to jump on this,’ because there are so few opportunities like this in Connecticut.”
Monica was one of several candidates who interviewed with a six-member panel.
“I was kind of nervous, but I guess I did okay! One of the reasons they said they chose me was because I had the funniest interview,” says Monica.