Artist Interviews

Meet Carolyn Lievers

Carolyn Lievers - Candle Sticks
Carolyn Lievers – Candle Sticks
Please introduce yourself:

I have been a member of the Colorado Potters Guild since January 1991. Over my years in the Guild I have served as guild director, kiln director, acting vice president, president, membership chair, show chair, treasurer and assistant treasurer, truck driver, set up and loader assistant, door keeper, and refreshments co-chair.

What does it mean to you to be a member of the Colorado Potters Guild?

I joined the Guild to be a part of an artist and craft community. When I joined this Guild, I reconnected with some women I potted with (and took classes with) in another pottery Guild that fell apart for lack of a financial cushion. After a two-year hiatus during which I made test tiles and few pots and took classes at Loretto Heights College, I was starved for the stimulation ones gets by being in a community. The Guild’s invitation to join revitalized my energy and interest in making pottery. This was a much larger and stable group of potters who successfully shared a work space. The potters whom I did not know before joining the Guild welcomed me in such a way that I immediately felt the Guild was my pottery home and part of my extended family.


Carolyn Lievers - Tea Pot
Carolyn Lievers – Tea Pot
Do you have a formal education in clay/art or how did you acquire your skills?

I had two ceramics classes in college that emphasized hand building. I did not learn to throw until I took classes at the Roost in Parkhill from Pat Bedan. There I met Jim and Nan McKinnell as they were technical consultants to the Roost potters. I then took two full summers and two years of night classes at Loretto Heights College. Altogether I have been working in clay 41 years and my degrees are in political science and law. I also have 19 credit hours in ceramics and have taken a wide variety of clay classes in the Denver metro area.

Carolyn Lievers - Covered Casserole
Carolyn Lievers – Covered Casserole
 What does “being creative” mean to you?

“Being creative” for me is a little like my cooking adventures. I start out to make something I have the recipe for in my head. Then part way thought I recall that the last time I made this dish it came out only moderately well and I therefore, need to add or subtract something to improve it. If I feel inspired (or full of myself) I go for it with additions or subtractions. I know there is always take-out or cookies on hand for a failed cooking attempt.

With clay, I take the same approach. I make a series of the same shape pots, each one slightly different. Once I start trimming or cutting the pot or putting pieces together, I evaluate what works and recycle the obvious failed attempts at evolving a new shape. I make a point to finish at least three of any changed shape. I may choose again to recycle some or all of a new shape once I am loading a bisque. Clay is forgiving in that way. I plan to work this way more than I have in past years to reinvigorate some of my standards forms.

Carolyn Lievers - Bowl Set
Carolyn Lievers – Bowl Set
How do you work (techniques/glazing/firing methods)?

When I came to the Guild I focused on glaze development and fired cone 9 reduction and cone 6 oxidation pots. My first year in the Guild I moved to cone 10 reduction. Until a few years ago, I fired occasionally at cone 6 oxidation with another Guild member who has since retired from potting.

I try to develop or find two new glazes or to use at least one glaze in a different manner a couple of times each year. I like glazing at the Guild, but I prepare (bisque/wash/wax, etc.) for glazing at home. I see my pots in light and dark bright colors when I am trimming my work. I tend to collect stony glazed dinnerware and whimsical non-functional pots, both are part of my pottery style.

Since 2009 I have fired most of my pots in vapor. A crisply thrown and trimmed pot needs “more” if it is to be fired in vapor. It needs places for the glazing atmosphere to get into, like carved areas; places to emphasize with extra sparkle, like slipped or bare areas; or places shielded for a contrast. Since the end results are harder to control in a vapor firing one has to add special touches based on prior personal experiences. I get surprises and learn something about my choices with every vapor firing.

How do you overcome obstacles or difficulties working in clay? 

There are days/weeks when my clay is too wet or too hard or I simply have no rhythm and cannot make what I intend. On those days, I simply pursue another of my many other hobbies or catch up reading or socialize (whine) with friends at the Guild and/or go out to lunch.

Carolyn Lievers - Covered Casserole
Carolyn Lievers – Covered Casserole
Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired in my work by potters who make jugs and early American potters who made salt and other atmospheric glazed pots. For example, Dave Drake pots. I saw some of his pots at the Smithsonian three years ago, that inspired me to fire more of my work in vapor and to try making pots especially for vapor.

My work would be very different if I had not met the McKinnells just as I learned to throw. They emphasized craftsmanship and functionality for all work one offers for sale. I was and am inspired by their work and work ethic. I also think of Ted Vogel every time I alter a pot or when I start a series of pots with the goal of changing or reinvigorating my work. I still have so many things to try and so much to learn.

I also find inspiration in new day to day encounters that have universal meaning. I talk to people I meet at public meetings and events, art events, or encounters connected to my other hobbies or boards. I make a concerted effort to be open to new ideas and approaches – it’s a struggle sometimes just to be open. My goal this year is to find new ways to live in my communities and avoid conflicts in my circle of friends and colleagues., in this year when the nation is in conflict.

Carolyn Lievers - Vase
Carolyn Lievers – Vase
Where do you see your work progressing over the next year?

I hope to do more hand building this year by trying out all the techniques from last summer’s classes. It means I have to change how I work at home to avoid excessive recycle opportunities. In other words, I have to work steadily once I began a project.

Where can people find your work?

I am a hobbyist. I offer pots for sale at the Colorado Potters sales and sell a few to friends. Examples of my work are on the Guild website here.