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  • Writer's pictureShea Stanfield

The Balance of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water

Author A. S. Byatt writes, "Success with clay is more spectacular than any other art form. To present the world with beautiful forms, you briefly bring into balance all four elements, earth, air, fire, and water." Arizona ceramicist, Abby Brill, has come into her creative ability by spinning the organic properties of earth into breathtakingly beautiful, functional, and artistic forms. Growing up in St. Louis, Abby first encountered ceramics at John Burroughs School, known for its excellent art department.

Abby states, “I was not an academically motivated student or a sports fan so taking that into consideration I took advantage of the advanced art classes, especially ceramics.” She explains, "I fell in love with the potter’s wheel and began honing my skills.” Upon graduation, Abby enrolled at Washington University, where she studied German. Her natural talent in languages was the foundation for Abby acquiring fluency in six languages by her mid-twenties. She continued her graduate work in Waldorf Education, resulting in certification in teaching as a Waldorf instructor.

Abby considers herself fortunate to have homeschooled her three children in their primary years, focusing heavily on art, music, and academic studies. She also continued to find time for her exploration of ceramics. Abby went on to run a bed and breakfast in upstate New York and taught for many years at the Saratoga Springs Waldorf School. She states, “During this time, I also took classes at Skidmore College, known for its outstanding ceramics department.” Regis Brodie, a nationally recognized ceramic artist and teacher, was leading the department. He had created a vibrant community of ceramicists who took evening classes in the ceramics program. Abby reflects, "The years I spent quietly toiling away in the corners of the studio were hugely formative for me. I gained so much from watching the many other artists in the evening adult classes; it was such an inspiring community.”

In 2010 Abby and her husband moved to Prescott, Arizona, to be closer to her aging mother. At this point, Abby setup her home ceramic studio, purchasing a potter’s wheel and a kiln, and began reinventing her glaze pallet.The process required her to let go of the proprietary glazes she used at Skidmore. Abby describes her growing interest in developing innovative glazing techniques.

"Most of my pieces have three or four different glaze applications. I use a combination of dipping, partial dipping, and spraying.” She has a fascination with the conversation between matte and glossy glazes. Abby also contributes much thought to the intersection between form and function. Everything from handle placement to how spouts pour and the feel of the mug's rim is designed to bring beauty, quality, and purpose to your everyday life. Abby's ceramic pieces are user-friendly and reasonably priced. Their beauty and craftsmanship have her customers returning yearly to purchase her current work for themselves or as gifts for family and friends.

"Success with clay is more spectacular than any other art form. To present the world with beautiful forms, you briefly bring into balance all four elements, earth, air, fire, and water."

Abby’s ceramics can be found at the Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery. She is a guest artist at the Prescott Farmer's Market four times a year and participates in the Prescott Artists Studio Tour every October. Abby is committed to her community projects; she creates dozens of bowls yearly for Empty Bowls and Woof Down Lunch. She donates auction items to local non-profits, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, United Way, and Habitat for Humanity. Abby finds enjoyment in creating her ceramic ware and sharing them with others. She is part of an initiative to develop a community ceramics studio in Prescott to introduce others to the joys of working with clay. Abby Brill's devotion to the creative process emphasizes her love for unique organic form and astonishingly harmonious color palettes.


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