Press Release September 3,
Maumee High School Inaugural
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
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.
DAVIES AND STAFFEL EXHIBIT
TOGETHER ONCE AGAIN
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.
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
Staffel today finishing one of her large pots. Photo by Marell
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
|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.
Trash Can Firing
August 8, 2006
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
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
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.
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.
||Trash Can Firing
Workshop – by Bonnie Staffel
Cycling Salamander Art
Gallery and Sculpture Park
7 miles south of Charlevoix
on Route 31
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
For further information or
to sign up for this workshop call 231-547-2333.
|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.
|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.
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
|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!
|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.
THIS IS MY MEMORY MUG
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.