Breath of Fire

Posted in Exhibits, Past Exhibits

Breath of Fire

Ceramics Invitational

See the WHYY review of the exhibit


See Janet Purcell’s review of the exhibit on

March 5 – April 30, 2016

Opening Reception
Sunday afternoon March 6
Artists & Members Only: 3-4 pm
Public Reception 4 – 5:30


Mythic faces, expressive torsos, flasks and urns, a unique chess set, abstract kimono sculptures, and paintings made of clay are a few of the up-to-the minute ceramic sculptures featured in Breath of Fire ceramics invitational. These clayworks are truly contemporary, created by twelve different artists in the greater Trenton region (stretched to include New York City and Philadelphia).

Most of the artworks included in this show depict or imply the body, whether literally or metaphorically. Each handmade hollow form encloses air within it: the “breath” that animates each work. Then each new form created of raw earth by the ceramic artist is transformed into permanence by fire: whether electric, gas, wood, raku, or some other specialized intense heat.

Ancient ceramic traditions of Japan have been a powerful formative influence in contemporary ceramic practice. When Peter Callas studied pottery in Japan, he learned traditional firing in the anagama kiln, then built the first anagama kiln in the United States in 1976. Peter has been hosting firings and workshops for the clayworker community for many years at his studio in Belvidere.

Lisa Cecere Indigo Nights in Amakusa

Lisa Cecere
Indigo Nights in Amakusa

Lisa Cecere of Wall Township has made many journeys to Japan; several kimono-inspired sculptural works created during her recent artist residency at Shigariki are on display here.

In his Princeton studio, Thaddeus Erdahl constructs large scale heads and figures. In The Deal, two guys with guns stand face to face, doing business. A more ritual conflict is implied in Vicky Smith’s prize-winning Chess Set, where facing teams of chess characters are all set up for battle.

Thaddeau Erdahl, The Deal

Thaddeau Erdahl,
The Deal

James Jansma has been developing stunning wall works, substantial and colorful clay paintings, in his Hopewell studio. Pam Lethbridge and Scott Rosenthal collaborated on a playful series of sculptures which were exhibited at Snyderman Works Gallery in Philadelphia last year.

Laura Demme teaches hand-building and alternate firing workshops in the Philadelphia area. Both Laura and Vicky Smith are associated with the Cheltenham Art Center. Ingrid Jordan and Mike Welliver are well-known in Mercer County as long-time ceramics instructors at Mercer County Community College. Rosanne Ebner brings her sculpture to Ellarslie from New York City, where she recently earned an MFA in ceramics at Queens College of CUNY. Fran Leyenberger produces an abundance of ware both in her Yardley studio, and her summer studio in Newport, RI.

This blossoming of individual artistic expression in the ceramic arts is in absolute contrast to Trenton’s historic dominance of industrial ceramics production for many decades of the 19th and 20th centuries. From sanitary ware to Presidential china, it all was mass produced here and shipped all over the world. Even the delicate, hand-painted porcelain dishes and art figurines were created from molds and mass produced.  The full range of these products is documented in detailed permanent displays in the second-floor galleries.