Inspiration Monday – Ruthanne Tudball @ Austin Peay


I love her pitchers

Since my first soda-firing last May, I have been inspired by the work of Ruthanne Tudball (even though I don’t currently soda fire).  After spending time with her and watching her work for three days last week, Ruthanne has become an inspiration for me as a human being.  She has become a top 10 master teapot maker (according to the Chinese government and I suspect, by many others) while raising two children, getting her MFA while being in the studio just three days a week, and overcoming the set back of a serious (and clearly painful) hand injury. Her dedication to her our craft, as both a maker and teacher, and her adaptability to what life throws her way is an inspiration.

If you have never seen Ruthanne make her work (or even heard about it), you won’t believe it from what I tell you.  Before her first demo, all I knew was from the description on her website. “All of my work is thrown, manipulated, altered and assembled while freshly thrown on the wheel.” Boy does she mean it.  She started and completed a teapot in 30 minutes. Wow.  On more than one occasion during the workshop, I was blown away.  Making the pot to fit the lid. Or throwing a cube.  Or throwing a handle off the hump.  Each demo was a treasure chest of wisdom and creativity.  It will take me years to digest it all.

The handle blows me away.

Many of her techniques were born of necessity, which is likely why her work is like no one else’s.  Why would anyone assemble wet unless they only could get into the studio three days a week?  This point really struck me because I only get to the studio three days a week.  Doh.  It just never occurred to me that it could be done.

Ruthanne spent two years in a home studio with no kiln.  Again, out of necessity, she threw and reclaimed, threw and reclaimed.  It was great seeing everyone cringe when she collapsed her first teapot or the ginger jar. For her, it was natural.  And besides, if you want to see another teapot, she’ll throw another one in a jiffy.  I suspect her studio situation led her to have a greater sense of play and experimentation than most artists. I now have a new perspective on how to use my own basement kiln-less studio on those days I can’t get to the Art League.

Collapsing the ginger jar.

I can’t finish this piece without thanking Ken Shipley.  Associate Professor at Austin Peay State University, Ken was generous enough to open Ruthanne’s workshop to the public so people like me could attend, free of charge.  I am forever in his debt for this opportunity.  I am also grateful for the opportunity to meet Ken and his wife Melody (an accomplished potter in her own right).  Anyone who is considering a BFA in ceramics should definitely considered Austin Peay as an option, if for nothing else than the knowledge, skill and talent that Ken brings to the program.

Ken is a knowledgeable, gifted potter, as well as a top 10 teapot master, and a funny guy.  I will remember my time at Austin Peay as much for his humor as for Ruthanne’s demonstrations.

Fiona, by Ken Shipley. I fell in love.

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About Claytastic

Health coach. Writer. Teacher. Artist. Living an amazing life with MS. Interested in bringing peace and beauty into people's lives.
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7 Responses to Inspiration Monday – Ruthanne Tudball @ Austin Peay

  1. Pingback: Latest Pottery And Glass Auctions | World Online Review

  2. Terry says:

    Her work is beautiful! Thanks for sharing your workshop experience!

  3. Jerry says:

    Thank you for this post. There are a number of bisqued Tudball pieces where I take my classes. I assume they are from a past workshop given there. They always fascinate me with their movement and life.

    It was very interesting reading that she had a kilnless studio for a couple of years and would just throw & reclaim. I currently have a wheel gathering dust in the basement, no kiln and have not carved out space for myself to work. I was looking at it as not having a production space. This just made me realize that I sure as hell have a learning space that I am letting go to waste. Hopefully this is the kick in the butt that I have needed in order to get things going in the basement!

  4. claytastic says:

    Jerry,
    Yes, it was definitely an ah ha moment for me.

    As much as I try, I do have a hard time throwing even greenware away. Sitting at the wheel with the intent of saving nothing is just brilliant.

    Get down there and start throwing. I can’t think of a better way to to improve your work. Good luck.

  5. Very well-written. Your enthusiasm for this artist definitely comes through and I can see why! Her abilities are, obviously, very strong, and couple that with her innovations, and you have yourself a bit of “magic”. Thank you for sharing such an awe-inspiring introduction to this artist. Her work is just gorgeous!

  6. Ken says:

    Hi Laurie,
    Well it was business as usual on Monday, but all kinds of Ruthanne trials by these wonderful students here. Thank you for adding Fiona on you blog page, she always brings a tear to my eye. I don’t think I ‘made’ her, I think she just came to be part of the family.
    Hope to see you at NCECA,
    Ken

  7. Nancy G says:

    Laurie, we met at the Ruthanne workshop at APSU….we had lunch together. Yes, the workshop was wonderful!! I hope all is well. NancyG

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