September 9, 2010

Press Release September 3, 2010

Maumee High School Inaugural Alumnus Awards

Bonnie (Betts) Staffel, pioneer studio potter in Charlevoix, was selected as one of four recipients of the inaugural Maumee High School (Ohio) distinguished Alumnus Awards at a dinner ceremony September 3, 2010 in the Performing Arts Center of the school. The other recipients were James Cannaley, a Toledo business leader in the manufacturing industry; Dr. Douglas Smith, a noted Seattle physician specializing in limb amputation, reconstructive surgery, prosthetics and rehabilitation; and Dick Kazmaier, a successful Massachusetts businessman and when attending Princeton University, he received the 1951 Heisman Trophy which he later donated to Maumee High School. These four were chosen from 15 individuals who were nominated for the awards.

She and her husband, Bill Staffel, purchased property seven miles south of Charlevoix in which to start their pottery studio in 1965. Their gallery was in business for 20 years. They were staunch supporters of the growth in the cultural opportunities of the area and often urged their artist friends to also open their studios in Charlevoix. She was involved in many more art activities including winning awards, having one and two man shows in regional galleries. She changed her focus in 1985 to become Program Director in a North Carolina art/craft school as well as being involved in starting a new art/craft school in Mississippi in 1990. She traveled nationally and abroad, and taught pottery in Denmark. She returned to Charlevoix in 1991 to again focus on her pottery.

For her 80th birthday, her family and friends opened a Bonnie Staffel Fund to support aspiring artists to help achieve their goal by awarding grants.

Bonnie resides in Charlevoix with her daughter, Marell Staffel, granddaughter, Heather Harrod and great grandson, Jacob Harrod. Her ex-husband, Bill, also resides with this four generation family.


October 3, 2007


The Jordan River Arts Center is fortunate to be able to exhibit the works of the late John Davies, Flint,MI and Bonnie Staffel, Charlevoix, MI. Davies and Staffel exhibited together in l964( shortly before Davies death) at the Left Bank Gallery in Flint, MI. This retrospective exhibit will have examples of their lifetime works.

Davies’ work begins during the depression with his first one man show in 1929. During the depression, Davies taught painting under the auspices of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, a forerunner of the Works Progress Administration. He also taught at the Flint Institute of Art, for the Mott Foundation,and the University of Michigan Extension Service in Flint. He was one of the charter members of the Flint Sculpture Associate/Left Bank Gallery cooperative.


Davies with one of his many paintings shortly before his death.

He was a prolific painter and printmaker who developed a unique technique of serigraphs without using the traditional cut screen. He was well known for landscapes and city scenes, receiving many awards. The exhibit features over 70 works of art many of which will be for sale. Especially notable are the intaglio prints from the 30’s, the watercolors, and the series of limited edition portfolio serigraphs.

His work is represented in many museums including the Detroit Institute of Art, Flint Institute of Art, Albion College, Saginaw Museum and the Weisman Art Museum Minneapolis, MN. His work can also be found in many private collections. Davies is the grandfather of John Hubbard of Boyne City and Steve Hubbard of Ellsworth


Staffel today finishing one of her large pots. Photo by Marell Staffel.

Staffel is a well known potter now living in Charlevoix. She became acquainted with Davies when living in Maumee, Ohio. She has a long list of credits and is represented in many museums and private collections. She with Bill Staffel established Staffel Pottery in 1965, now the Cycling Salamander, south of Charlevoix. In 1985, they closed the studio doors and Bonnie ventured to North Carolina to work in the John C. Campbell Folk School and became Program Director. She also taught in Denmark and Guatemala, Mississippi, and for Elder Hostel. She also traveled in the Orient visiting China, Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong.

She has produced functional pottery as well as one of a kind stoneware and porcelain sculptures. One signature item are her birds. In her later years she has thrown beautiful large vessels which have been pit fired. Some of her pottery will be for sale. Staffel has received many awards, participated in numerous shows and exhibits since 1949, and is represented in several museums and private collections. She is a member of JRAC and exhibits at the Center frequently.


Bonnie was one of the curators for the Masters in Clay exhibit at JRAC and now along with Bill Staffel has curated the Davies’ Exhibit. The exhibit opens October 14 and runs through November 11, 2007. The Art Center is located at 301 Main St., East Jordan and will be open daily from 1-4 pm.
For more information contact Jane Diller, Phone and Fax: 231.582.6399
Or visit the Jordan River Arts Council on the web. 


August 19, 2006

Trash Can Firing Workshop of August 8, 2006 Results

The day opened with the heavens pouring down rain.  What to do.  Always a bane on workshops is inclement weather.  So thinking that it might stop, as Michigan weather is wont to do, I showed the participants how to load their cans.  We had a dry garage in which to work so each with a can to fill according to my directions, finished that task.  Like a gift, the rain stopped and we carried our cans out into the spacious driveway and lit the fires.  I fired mine first so the participants could see what was going to happen to theirs.  Handing them the torch, they each proceeded to light the paper to ignite the kindling.  Soon the flames were reaching about two feet above the cans and burning great.  We gradually put the lids part way on the cans to start forcing the heat down into the inner parts of the cans so all the heat would not escape out the top.  As the firing progress and the wood burned down we then started to slowly close the lids until smoke appeared.  Pulling back a bit until the fire was flaming again, we proceeded with watching the firing and again closing the lid more and more.  Through the side slits in the cans we could see how the heat was concentrating lower and lower surrounding the pots.


When we loaded the cans with our paper wrapped pots, we sprinkled some copper carbonate around the layer of sawdust, as well as some iron oxide.  Crumpled newspaper was placed intermittently in the kindling which was packed rather tightly.  The copper and iron reacted to the intense heat, creating fumes and vapor that touched the pots along with the carbon from the burn.  Finally we just had to wait for the fire to go out and the pots become cool. 

I opened mine first and saw that there were copper red markings along with nice splotches of varying degrees of carbon and yellows.  Then each participant opened their cans and were so surprised as they also had the red markings on their pots.  Each firing can was a success. 



To learn another process while the cans were cooling, I introduced the smoke firing process where each pot was fired singly with paper from magazines and color inserts.  We crumpled some paper around the pot and lit the fire.  In a few minutes it was all aflame and soon died down.  Took less than five minutes to achieve the smoke patterns.  We all were pleased with those results as well.

All in all, in spite of the rainy start, we had a successful workshop and happy potters went home with their colorful pots.  I introduced this process as a substitute for pit firing to make it simpler for those who could not for some reasons dig a hole in their yard or have a bonfire where they live. 

Through experimentation, we learned that the kind of wood used to burn is very important.  1” square kindling or smaller sticks from tree trimming would work the best.  The heavier woods like oak or the lighter woods like cedar, are not especially suitable to give the hot fast fire needed to create the fuming of the chemicals.  When doing this in your own place, you can try out the hardwood that you have available. 

August 8, 2006
Trash Can Firing Workshop – by Bonnie Staffel

Cycling Salamander Art Gallery and Sculpture Park

7 miles south of Charlevoix on Route 31
Charlevoix, Michigan

A hands-on Trash Can Firing workshop process which is a modified version of pit firing where low-fired bisque pots are subjected to a vigorous bonfire, is in the planning stages in the fall, 2007 and will be announced on this
page soon. Please watch this space for definite plans.

Participants will fire their own bisque pieces in a ventilated metal can with chemicals and hardwood kindling. The results are always a surprise.

The event will occur from 9:30 to 4:00 at a cost of $65.00. Bring a sack lunch as well as several bisqued pieces fired to Cone 010 at least but no higher than Cone 06.


Staffel is an award winning clay artist with a fifty plus year career in pottery. Staffel has been featured in Clay Art Magazine and in 2003 received the eddi Award for Outstanding Artist by the Crooked Tree Art Council. Most recently a photograph of her pit fired pitcher was included in Lark Book “500 Pitchers” just published and many other honors.

For further information or to sign up for this workshop call 231-547-2333.


July 29, 2006
500 Pitchers Book published by Lark

Had a WOW honor recently. The Lark Book, “500 Pitchers” just arrived. About a year ago, Lark Book Publishers put out a call to Potters for photos of their best pitchers. I felt I had a good one that happened at a pit firing with my good friend, Ed Gray, so I sent my photo in. It had gorgeous markings made by the interaction of the chemicals, fire and air. Imagination could take over and you were looking into a deep canyon, beyond the walls and up into the sky. Colors ranged from light blue, reds, turquoise, grays and blacks. I felt it was a special gift from the earth, a remembrance of a wonderful time with my good friend, each of us making big pots together for three weeks, so it resides with me where I can look at it often.

I received word some time ago that it was accepted and I finally received my copy of this colorful book of all kinds of pitchers made by the talented potters of this country. Talk about eye candy.




November 9, 2005

Shard Mosaic Cycling Salamander Gallery

The owner of the Cycling Salamander Gallery, http://www.cyclingsalamander.com/ , had a resident artist, Shaqe Kalaj, at their gallery all summer, running classes in various arts and crafts with visiting crafts persons doing workshops. She also had the project of sorting through the pile of shards that I had made while I had my studio there. She created this beautiful mosaic and they had an
unveiling with a special ceremony the end of September along with a show of all the arts and crafts that were created during the summer. I held
my "trash can" firing workshop on the grounds the end of August with an eager
group of potters from the area. The new owners are doing me proud with their new gallery. They even keep most of the five acres in back of the showroom mowed so that visitors can see the very large contemporary sculptures placed around the field in their sculpture garden and pond.


It is a rewarding sight to see the mosaic in the old courtyard of my shop. I often would send kids out to the shard pile to pick up a memento of their visit while the parents shopped for one of my creations inside. These kids have grown up with children of their own and they often
tell me the stories of their search in the shard pile when they were young and the joy they felt when they found something recognizable.

August 21, 2005
Photo From The Past

Rummaging through some of my old storage boxes recently, I came across this photograph of a 1963 Charlevoix Waterfront Art Fair event where we showed our work. Notice the boats docked at the marina, very few for August in 1963 compared to the present time. It also shows Bill and my daughter, Marell, playing shuffleboard on the courts in the park. These are now gone. No one used canopies for their booths in those days; just a table handled the display. Also don’t see any crowds of customers, but we must have sold enough of our work to encourage further exploration of this northern Michigan area in which to make a living from our art. In 1965 we severed ties with our Ohio home and moved into our new home and started our studio/shop in Charlevoix.


Charlevoix Waterfront Art Fair, 1963

Little did we know where the new venture would lead us and now, forty years later, I am still plugging away at making pots and attending the fair again. Luckily, I have my daughter and granddaughters doing the hauling, setting up and selling my work as well as friends loaning the shelving. I am there doing a lot of hugging of old customers who stop by to reminisce about the old days at our studio and about their collection of my work they have purchased over many years since 1965 when we opened our shop. Young families also stop by to tell me that they remember exploring my shard pile in back of the studio when they were kids. How time flies.

When we moved to Charlevoix in 1965, open for business, we always included showing our work at the Charlevoix Art Fair until 1985, when we had to close our studio. I moved to North Carolina to be a part of the John C. Campbell Folk School operation. 

That is another adventure I will talk about in future Blogs. Stay tuned in!


June 2, 2005

Yard Sale Treasure

Every once in a while I get a call or email from friends who say they have found one of my old pieces of pottery, made heavens knows when. Usually I can find the date from my memory by looking at the bottom of the pot to see what clay I was using, or looking at the design. I have in my career gone through eras of doing certain designs. This one is from my circle era. I then recalled that I made this pot after I moved to Charlevoix in 1965. It was fired in an electric kiln to Cone 10.

The story behind this find is that it was purchased by a friend at a local yard sale and he got it at a bargain price of $4.00. The original price probably was around $25 in those days as everything was inexpensive and affordable. 


It was a wonderful experience being able to produce pottery and have it purchased by the many travelers who came to Charlevoix to vacation. I guess that I have pots living in homes far and wide. But as time passes on, the families need to scale down on collections, sometimes not knowing the value of what is there. So some lucky person who scouts the yard sales finds a treasure. 

January 11, 2005


The other morning while having my cup of coffee and a slice of toast,  I was reminded of our family breakfasts of so many years ago when I was a child.  My dad had this large wide mouthed mug, plain white, and no design.  Can’t even remember where he got it.  But that was his mug.  That was the time when the whole family had breakfast together except mom was always at the stove, stirring cereal, or flipping pancakes for breakfast.  Women didn’t work outside of the home in those days so breakfast was a daily event.  Looking back seemed like mother was always in the kitchen cooking up something.  

My greatest treat was to be allowed to dip my toast into his cup of coffee, laced with real cream.  I recalled that event when I had the urge to dip my toast into my coffee that recent day; how good it tasted and the memory of such good breakfasts came flooding back. 

My dad was a dentist and during the depression he provided a bountiful table as he exchanged dental work for food from the area farmers.  Fresh five gallon containers of milk were delivered a couple of times a week from which my mother made our own butter, or whipped up the heavy cream for dessert at supper.   She also made canned sausage from a half a pig from a local farmer.  Chicken prepared into numerous taste treats was a steady part of the menu, Southern style.

We lived in a big house close to town where our family welcomed relatives who were out of work or needed a place to live in exchange for helping my mother with the housework.  My father’s cousin Martha lived with us for several years when I had to share my room with her.  She helped with caring for my sister and me.  There was also a woman in town, Hazel, who had twelve children and an unemployed husband to support.  She came once a week to do the laundry and iron the clothes.  My sister and I were not allowed to lay about either in those days.  We dusted and ran the sweeper, dried the dishes and set the table for our chores.  My dad washed the supper dishes quite often and his yard work consisted of picking up the fallen ripe apples. My mother would make great lumpy applesauce or pies for holidays.  

There was the steady stream of hobos who stopped at our back door.  I think our curb was marked.  Mother never turned them away, but she made them do some yard work in exchange for food so they would keep their pride.  Those were difficult years in that small town, close by to Toledo. 

So every morning as I dip my toast in my coffee, these memories come flooding back mainly to give honor to my hard working folks.  Even though the Great Depression made its mark even on our privileged lives, I still find saving and not wasting food or goods from those early lessons in scarcity a good practice. 


Nov. 14th, 2004

Welcome to my blog. This is my first entry, a little bit of my early history.

I was blessed with an insatiable thirst to work in art from childhood on. My dream of becoming an artist prevailed throughout my youth and young adulthood. My father provided the means for me to study art from the Toledo Museum children’s classes to traveling to Houston, TX, to study at an art school during WWII. Thinking that I could probably find work in my then chosen career of becoming a Commercial Artist would be better in Chicago than Houston, I changed to attend the American Academy of Art. In the early days of study, I met my future husband who was a talented artist studying at the school under the GI Bill of Rights. Together we mapped out a future filled with artistic achievements. We married while still studying at the AAA.

On moving to Toledo, we took up free adult education classes at the Toledo Museum of Art where I discovered CLAY. It changed my direction of expression immediately. While holding down a secretarial job during the day, I continued to study and work with clay at the Museum and at home. Immediate sales and encouragement by honored teachers and friends told me I was headed in the right direction. I received a scholarship to study at Cranbrook Academy of Art under Maija Grotell. The advent of discovering that I was pregnant after a semester curtailed further study there, but I continued to work at home. Our daughter, Marell, was born into a home filled with artistic endeavors and I know the talent rubbed off on her as well. 

I am living in a “grandmother’s apartment” in Marell’s home in Charlevoix. I have built a comfortable studio in the basement that makes it an easy access any time of day or night. I also have the help of my daughter and granddaughter to carry my pots up and down stairs. After about a year of being out of commission because of CTS operations, I am able to get back to work making new pots to offer to my old and new collectors from over the 20 years when I operated my studio/shop on Rt. 31 S. It was exciting to be able to make pots for the recent Charlevoix Art Fair this past August. 

I will continue my history as time goes on as well as bring you up to date on my current happenings. 

Thanks for dropping in.

Bonnie Staffel   
Charlevoix, MI 49720
Email: bstaffel@chartermi.net
WEB: http://webpages.charter.net/bstaffel/

                            Copyright © 2001, Bonnie Staffel. All rights reserved.