Betsy Williams

This month Kobo at Higo has the pleasure of featuring two ceramic artists from New Mexico, Betsy Williams and Birdie Boone. 

Image by Robert Eckert

A few years after graduating college, potter Betsy Williams moved to New York on a whim and was trained as a money market trader at a Japanese bank. During her 5 years there, her Japanese co-workers introduced her to the incredible world of Japanese culture, especially ceramics, and ultimately Betsy left her job with the bank to apprentice with ceramist Yutaka Ohashi of Karatsu, Japan. After 4½ years of intensive training, Betsy returned to New Mexico to build her own adobe house and studio. She has been a professional potter for 13 years.

the kiln

1) You have a background in Russian literature, and discovered Japanese ceramics through coworkers at a bank. Did your obsession with Japanese ceramics take you by surprise?

Yes – it completely knocked me off my feet.  I had liked my job and my co-workers, but on a deeper level, I had so many questions about life and felt unsatisfied with mine.  When I first visited the Metropolitan Museum with a co-worker and stood before this one particular piece – a slightly asymmetrical celadon vase from Korea – something just clicked.  I started to read books about ceramics, and to look at ceramics.  I looked and looked and looked,  especially at the old pieces, from the 16th and 17th centuries.  Then the same co-worker called a little Japanese pottery studio near FIT in Manhattan, and asked on my behalf if I could join. I started going there after work, and on Saturdays.  They had an excellent collection of books there, each dedicated to a particular historical style of Japanese ceramics.  It was then that I began to hatch my plan of moving to Japan…

cupism 9

2) If you could only use 3 words to describe your work, what would they be?
1.  composed
2.  mysterious
3.  graphic

 

theview

3) How does living in New Mexico impact your work?
The quiet is the main thing.  The birds, trees, bugs, the clarity of light and shadow, the air, the sky, the being able to see far, the million shades of green, the seasons.

 

tiny plates in progress

4) Do you use your own ceramics at home? Other artists’ work you enjoy using?
Oh yes – our cabinets are filled – but mostly with extras from orders or things with some flaw here or there that I like enough to use, but that don’t quite make the cut. I have a piece of Birdie’s that I use often.  A few Rebecca Wood plates.  Samuel Johnson cups. A variety of pieces from Japan.


Betsy Williams’s ceramics will be on display at Kobo at Higo alongside the work of Birdie Boone from Saturday June 21 – Sunday July 13.

Learn more about Betsy Williams here: enbi studio | Facebook

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