GAC Offers Artful Opportunities for New Resident Potter Megan Mayall
It’s a busy day in the Guilford Art Center (GAC) ceramics studio practice space, and that’s just how GAC’s new resident potter, Megan Mayall, likes it.
During her year-long post with GAC, Megan’s not only enjoying the opportunity to develop her artwork, but also contributing to GAC’s pottery community by working with pottery students and overseeing ceramics studio practice times.
“We currently have a practice going on, so everybody is in and talking away,” Megan says, stepping outside at GAC’s Church Street campus earlier this week. “A practice entails people who are enrolled in one of the classes and, in the classes, they have everyone from beginners to people who are quite practiced at pottery. So I see everyone, in all ranges.”
Earlier this year, Megan was selected by a rigorous application process to become the fifth consecutive artist to win GAC’s resident potter position, which is offered annually. In addition to giving promising artists time and space to develop their own art, the artists give back to non-profit GAC by contributing their experience to students.
Megan is on-site to work with pottery students at GAC practice sessions every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. For some, she’s a sounding board for ideas; for others, she’s there to provide tips; and from others, she learning more about her craft. Megan says practice studio time is one of her favorite times of the week at GAC.
“I’m learning a couple things from them and I’m helping troubleshoot some issues and they’re also using me to bounce ideas off of—like, if they’re not exactly sure how to finish something, I’ll say, ‘You can try it this way, and this way, and this way’—I’ll give them a whole bunch of ideas,” says Megan.
She brings plenty of experience to the role, having graduated in May 2018 with a BFA in ceramics from the Alfred University College of Art & Design, located in her home state of New York.
“I loved the program. It had everything I was looking for,” says Megan, who’s 23. “The school was all about art. The art program was a full-immersion art course—you were fully doing anything and everything. To me, Alfred was the best choice among any school I applied to, because it was fully art. It was art, and good.”
Megan’s proficient in both throwing and hand-building ceramics and favors creating functional pottery.
“Functional pottery entails anything you will set on your dinner table,” she explains. “So it can range from cups and bowls and plates all the way over to a pitcher, a teapot, little saucers, decorative dishes. It’s a very wide array.”
Before Megan concludes her GAC residency, her work will be featured in an exhibition at GAC’s Gallery in August 2020. As resident potter, Megan has enviable access to GAC’s studios and kilns to help her create pieces for the exhibit.
“I’m also here on my own time as well, working on my own work,” says Megan, who’s planning on developing completed sets of functional wares as well as allowing for “spin-offs, to see where things go.”
A Personal Style
As for her artistic style, Megan likes to bringing a sense of exuberance to each piece, she says.
“For me, it’s the design that I get to be creative with,” Megan says. “I throw pretty standard forms, and then I decorate with things like scenes of flowers, and I kind of go overboard with it, sometimes! One way or another, it becomes a finished piece in and of itself.”
She’s also enjoying employing her creativity to map out how her exhibit will be displayed at GAC.
“I’m thinking about shelves I’m going build, the stencils I’m going to use, the colors I’m going to paint on the walls to really bring the ideas all together,” she says.
Megan first learned about the GAC residency program through friends who live in Guilford. She applied to GAC last year, and, after winning the spot, relocated here from Rochester, New York. She’s living in town with friends during her year with GAC.
Megan adds that she first became familiar with GAC and Guilford because of Craft Expo, which returns to the Guilford Green annually in July and features juried works by more than 180 of the country’s most distinguished artisans. In fact, GAC, which was founded back in 1967, evolved from the group of locals who put on the first Handcraft Expo on the green in 1957.
“I’ve gone to the Craft Expo a couple years in a row now, and now I’m right here in Guilford. Honestly, I’m loving it,” says Megan—especially as fall kicks in, she adds. “On the drive to work, I get to see all the colors of the trees. It’s really pretty.”
In her work, Megan has definite ideas about the color palette she likes to use. Cobalt blue against brightest snow-white is her favorite combination, she says.
“Blue is my favorite color, ever, and I love its stark contrast against the white. I fell in love it with instantly,” says Megan.
Megan says she also love being among GAC’s atmosphere of artists and students at creative work in all types of art forms.
“It is so cool to walk past all the classrooms while there are people in there, and see them working on all these really cool things,” says Megan.
GAC currently serves more than 2,000 adult and youth students through its many class offerings.
Megan was a teenager when she first got interested in creating pottery, thanks to trying out a ceramics class at her high school as a freshman. As it turned out, it was not only a passing interest. The experience actually brought out Megan’s drive to study the art form, putting her on the path to her formal education in the arts.
“I took my very first ceramics class my freshman year in high school, and I ended up loving it. But I was really bummed because my teacher told me you can’t take the class more than twice,” she recalls. “I was like, ‘What?’ Because I really wanted to take it every semester. I really wanted to be in that space, every semester.”
With persistence and creative thinking, Megan worked with the school to develop an independent study option for her.
“I was fully determined,” she says. “I ended up doing an art credit sequence at my high school. So instead of taking a second language, I took art classes every year. I had different art classes every day. It was amazing. I loved it.”
Now, Megan’s loving her experience as GAC resident potter.
“I’m definitely enjoying working here,” she says. “The people are fantastic. It’s a like big old community. We’re spit-balling off of each other, we’re sharing life stories. It’s nice. It’s a really good feeling.”
And, while she may never find another place quite like GAC, Megan is definitely considering applying for other residencies, to help build more stepping stones toward her professional career.
“I’m hopefully going to be able to do a couple more residencies or just work in a studio. That way, I can continue to learn and grow before I apply to graduate school at some point,” says Megan. “And I would, at some point in my life—it does not have to be in the near future—like to have my own studio. I want to do nothing but pottery all day, and sell my work and say, ‘Enjoy your original work—I’m never making another one of those!’”
For more information about Guilford Art Center programs, classes, gallery space and shop offerings, visit www.guilfordartcenter.org or call 203-453-5947.