Pottery and Postage Stamps Come Together in Keuka

By Nora Hicks

MPN Now.com Pottery and postage stamps will join together this weekend for an open\"\" house with art on display and for sale.Joanne Searle is celebrating her 30th anniversary as a potter at an open house this weekend at her studio in Penn Yan. Searle invited friends Leah Hawley and Susan Heller to sell their New Art from Old Stampsat a booth at the open house. Their business began in the winter of 2009-10, and is a unique form of art. The sisters also recently won Best of Show for their stamp art at the Keuka Art Festival.  Q & A with Leah Hawley

Who came up with the idea, and what was it inspired by?

I had saved postage stamps from my own mail for several years, just putting them in a drawer with the idea that at some point in time I’d “do something with them.”  Two winters ago, during what felt like a very long New York winter, I pulled them out and did a mermaid for our cottage.  I had just the best time doing it, and pretty quickly did up several other pieces. Until my sister, Susan Heller, who works with me on New Art from Old Stamps, saw them, I didn’t realize that other folks might be interested in them and was just doing them for the joy in the process.
I love recycled/repurposed art in general, but have never seen stamps done in this way.  I\’ve always loved mosaics and puzzles and this seems right up that alley.
\"\"How do you collect postage stamps?
We have a large family and all save their stamps for us. We were gifted a stamp collection by a friend who had inherited it, but thought ours a better use than being stored in her garage; with the exception of some of these, our stamps are all cancelled.
Any other upcoming events in the area?
Yes.  YCAC (Yates County Arts Center www.ycac.org) on Sunday at Sunny Point on July 10, and YCAC Artists Studio Tour and Art Sale on August 6- 7.
What other materials do you use?
The pieces are all stamps, even what may appear as a filler between stamps, is actually a stamp. Acid-free permanent double stick tape is used to adhere stamps onto acid-free cardstock or matboard.
How is each piece different/how do you decide which stamps to use?
Due to request, I’ve done a few themes more than once: initials, names, Keuka Lake, but due to the nature of stamps, they’re never actually the same, anyway — a good thing. I actually prefer to try something new each time.
I choose my stamps by color and intensity, trying to incorporate shading as I would in watercoloring, but that\’s actually easier said than done.  Unless I\’m using them as a background stamp, or unless I\’m using them as a theme stamp, say yellow roses because the customer requested lots of yellow roses, I try not to repeat stamps in a piece.  I think that makes it a lot more fun for people to look at.  I’ve been told that customers take them down off the wall time after time to look them over and get surprised often by a stamp they\’d not seen before.  The stamps tuck right up next to each other and you need to adjust your eye to separate the individual stamps out from the overall picture.
Q & A with Joanne Searle
What’s been the most challenging obstacle with 30 years of making pottery?
The word “obstacle” throws me a little bit.  Clay, itself, is a challenge because there are variables beyond my control.  Perhaps too many to list here — but the biggest one is what happens in the glaze firing.  The kiln has the “final say” in how the pots turn out.  I fire in an updraft gas kiln, to approximately 2,400 degrees.  The atmosphere in the kiln affects the glazes. I like firing with gas, though, in comparison to electricity, because the colors seem more rich to me, with more depth.
Every explored other art avenues?
Yes, I love to draw and have created a line of notecards called “5 hearts.” They are my way of playing with color on paper, whimsical, “everyday valentines.” There will be some cards at the open house.
What do you enjoy about pottery?
I love making pottery because it satisfies my need to create and my desire for my work to be practical. My work is wheel-thrown or hand-built stoneware or porcelain.  The pieces are intended for using in one\’s home or office.  I feel that the work is complemented by food, fabric, flowers. As I said, the work is high-fired … and the glazes are lead-free.
What will the open house entail?
My work space is turned into a display space  — so people can expect to see where I work, with pots on display and for sale.
Price ranges of pottery?
Small votive candle holders are $8, small hand-built vases, $14 – mugs are $22, on up to around $75 for large bowls…with lots of pots in between size/price.(Source-GateHouse News Service)

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