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Behind The Scenes

Spend Some Time in Isabel Halley’s Awesome Upstate New York Studio

In 2011, the hyper-talented ceramicist Isabel Halley set up shop in an old barn behind her mom’s house in Hillsdale, New York—yah, her little one-with-nature workshop is pretty much every artist’s dream. “It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter,” she says. “It’s exactly the same as being outside, without leaves or bugs falling on my head.” Heck, it’s even the perfect color. —alisha prakash “The barn was originally used for storage before I cleaned it out and turned it into my studio. It’s small, but perfect. The antlers are from my uncle in Louisiana.” “This is a 40,000-year-old rock chipped off a glacier in the backyard. It’s incredible. I love the moss, I love the daisies, and I love the colors.” “Inside, all the shelves and table space were made from wood that we had lying around— old doors, table legs. Quite a bit of my studio is furnished by tag sales.” “Zolo, in a box in the corner, is a set of blocks I had as a child. They are from the Memphis design movement. I recently found them in the attic and realized that a lot of my work had been directly and indirectly influenced by their incredible shapes and colors.” “This is the side of the space that is more official in my mind. There are no windows; no space for daydreaming or tinkering. I have a very extreme overhead light that I use for painting detail. On the left is my kiln, and on the right, my wheel, which I absolutely never use. I always hope to become an expert potter who throws on the wheel.” “I have to use the respirator hanging on the wall when I apply the liquid gold—it is incredibly toxic.” “These are the bowls I am making for Of a Kind in-process in my studio. The first is before it is fired. It’s very delicate—it would shatter if it fell. The only tool I use to make them besides my hands is a sponge, if the piece starts to dry out. The second is after it has been glazed. The piece shrinks noticeably. Above it is the clear glaze I use and my favorite brush. The third is the finished piece—and above it the gold luster that I apply and the brush I use to apply it. Gold has become expensive, and it’s no different in liquid form. You can only buy it in two-gram bottles!” Now’s your chance—get your own one of these beauties before it’s too late!
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Check Out Isabel Halley’s Very Favorite Ceramic Creations

Isabel Halley is not big on sketchbooks these days. Instead, the top-notch ceramicist is all about prototyping. “I have made hundreds of vases, cups, mugs, and plates, but only about twenty-five of them are actually interesting and worth repeating,” she explains. Here, some of the incomprehensibly cool pieces that most definitely made the cut. —alisha prakash “For my chocolate-dipped vase and wine cups, I pinch very thin slabs of clay and then overlap them onto a form, usually a Dixie cup or a pint glass. The vases remain how they are once they have been layered, but the wine cups get cut down. The top half of the vase is glazed clear (as well as the inside so it can actually hold water). Then it goes into the kiln for a second glaze fire with the matte black on top where the clear glaze has been applied. It looks like it has been dipped in some black chocolate. My goal is for that black area to resemble petals of a flower.” “This is one of my favorite pieces. It’s floral but somehow also reminds me of an ancient pillar. Each rose is made my hand, and each petal is applied separately. It is made with stoneware clay, which is different from porcelain—it’s not perfectly white, but a little grey and yellow color. The glaze is a semi-transparent white, which allows the gray-yellowish clay to come through and create a beautiful contrast. It was an accident—I didn’t know the glaze would be transparent, and initially I was disappointed. Then I realized how much more interesting it was that way.” “This is my Majolica rose vase. I took classes at Greenwich House Pottery for a year and a half and became obsessed with Majolica pottery. It’s a very traditional style of painting thick white glaze over terra cotta and adding color over top of the white. It’s popular in Portugal—I’m very interested in traditional Portuguese pottery. They use this technique to make platters shaped and painted exactly like fish. They also make beautiful tiles in white and blue, which is what this piece was inspired by.” “These bowls are like cartoons. These kinds of shapes come naturally to me. The line of the slime came from a sketch I made of the top of a rose bush. When I went to choose the colors for these. I wanted something that looked like nail polish.” No question, Isabel’s porcelain bowl edition is beyond good.
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