Judy Robkin: I have been working in clay for the last 20 years, beginning with the wheel but quickly moving to handbuilding. I love the freedom and unlimited possibilities of non-functional pieces and am drawn to forms which express something unexpected.
My hand-built clay “Ladies” were originally inspired by an old, wrinkled street vendor in Croatia. She was tickled when my husband told her she was beautiful. Luckily I snapped a “before” and “after” photo for proof. The memory of her girlish smile inspired my first pieces in this series.
Revealing the personality that is hidden under the headdress or behind the shawl, I attempt to unearth the simple yet elegant woman emerging from the clay. Just as our lives are textured by time and experience, layered through joy, love, loss, and surprise and colored by world events and personal experience, so too are my “Ladies” – textured, layered and colored.
I use a range of stains, glazes, underglazes, and oxides through multiple firings to build up the color and enhance the marks and textures. I rarely start a piece with a specific face in mind. The excitement begins as I see the personality emerge from the clay and culminates when the viewer identifies with an individual “lady.”
Judy Birnbrey Robkin is a native Atlantan whose work has been shown in galleries, including the Raiford Gallery in Atlanta, Bellagio in Asheville, NC, and Off the Wall in Santa Fe, NM. She has worked with a variety of clay techniques throughout her career. She is currently immersed in a project entitled “Ladies (& gentlemen),” a series of intricately handcrafted ceramic women and a collection of whimsical men in bowls.
Judy launched the arts program at the Weber School where she taught drawing, painting, sculpture and photography. As a ceramics instructor at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina, she taught hand building, Raku and other firing techniques.