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Joe Holtzman

Joe will be joining RWS as an EMERGE Artist in Residence in ceramics this winter. He is a recent graduate of MECA and currently works production at Georgetown Pottery. Joe fell in love with clay when he was nine years old ad his parents gave him modeling clay on a long car ride. He made a figure that he carried around and played with like an action figure and after that trip he started carrying modeling clay with him wherever he went. He made miniature people, snails, turtles, and hands. Even now, when gets dressed in the morning he makes sure he has his phone, wallet, watch, and modeling clay. Although he took many art classes with his mom as a kid it wasn’t until high school that Joe was introduced to ceramics. He had an excellent ceramics teacher and took the class six times in four years. Joe knew he wanted to go to a liberal arts college so he could keep playing with clay and ended up at Bennington where he learned from a professor who was a student of Peter Voulkos. He didn’t take much from this experience at the time, but it made an impression on him and his work. Feeling he was being pushed toward academics when he wanted to focus on the arts, Joe took time off from school and moved to North Carolina where he worked for a potter for about a year. He ended up doing a lot of grunt work but says that it felt right. He stayed a couple of months longer, throwing production work for others and returned to school when he realized that residencies require more formal training and experience. He made a day trip up to Portland and was impressed with MECA’s range of kilns and equipment and liked that art majors had their own studios, so he put in an application and was accepted almost immediately. Joe graduated from MECA earlier this year and named his central thesis piece after Voulkos. Joe scaled up his work during his studies and found his voice when he took a free choice assignment and threw pots and built them together. Working this way, using the wheel as a tool and building larger pieces, really hooked him. He continued pursuing this idea the following year and then the work changed from sculptures back into fully formed pots that he would cut up and build into abstract vessels. Making symmetrical, well-constructed pieces satisfied his ‘potter’s brain’ while the spontaneity of building abstract sculptures fulfilled his creative drive.

Joe has since jumped back into production work; he pours plaster, casts in porcelain, makes clay, and trims and sprays pieces. He recently started throwing for Georgetown Pottery as well, which includes making fifty shapes of someone else’s design. He is satisfied with his job, but it has a different feel from creating for oneself, and it’s physically demanding with a tight schedule–they fire a packed kiln each week. He still likes to throw some of his favorite forms from his earlier work, including a mug, soup mug, and a bowl. Originally, these forms weren’t intentional; when he started out they were dictated by the weight of the lump of clay–one pound of clay became mugs and two pounds of clay became bowls–and these are the forms he still makes are the shapes that came out well. The original pieces don’t have all the technical qualities of a trained ceramicist, but even now he views them as real, finished pieces. Now he has the training to emulate those shapes with better forms. Joe hopes to continue working with some of these earlier ideas while in residence at RWS. He plans to scale them down to make the pieces more accessible and functional. Joe’s work is available for purchase at CIA Cafe in SoPo and Needfire Apothecary on Fore Street. He was invited to be included in these shops by being in front of MECA&D during every First Friday Art Walk. Contact Joe via email at


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