Connecting with the Past – A Beautiful Show in Concord, NC

Posted by on Oct 25, 2012 in Blog | Comments Off on Connecting with the Past – A Beautiful Show in Concord, NC

Party Girl by Cindy Biles resized for blog

Party Girl

This past summer, Lin Barnhardt, Visual Arts Director of the Cabarrus Arts Council in Concord, NC, emailed me and asked if I would like to participate in a show entitled, “Hey, Diddle Diddle, ” with the theme, “Whimsical artwork that recalls the child in all of us.”

Lin had seen images of my work and felt it would be a good fit.  He wanted some of the pieces I still had in my possession.  And, as always, whenever possible, I wanted to create original work especially for this show.

And, as always, I began lots of research on the Internet.  I was born in the mid-1950s grew up in the early 1960s.  Looking up images from that era brought back so many childhood memories!  And gave me waaaay too many ideas–it was difficult to select a few and then narrow that down in the short time available to complete a good-sized piece. (A few months seems like a lot of time, but it takes a while for these sculptures to dry, and it was a VERY busy  Fall.)  Of all of the ideas, I decided to make Party Girl, above.  Although my birthday is in the summer, I dressed her for the fall-to-winter season, to coincide with the dates of the show.

I had to do a lot of research–not only has clothing changed in all of those years (style and color trends) but, would you believe it, birthday hats!  Designs are very different (no Disney princesses or Spongebob Squarepants’s), not to mention, modern birthday hats don’t have those little metal things that connect the elastic band to the hat.  Also getting the colors right–I wanted the elastic band to be a different color than the girl’s skin.

While sculpting, I was reminded of many  birthday parties with all of the relatives–grandparents, lots of aunts and uncles, and many, many cousins running around.  My mother’s traditional birthday cake-sponge cake with whipped cream and strawberries, served with Neapolitan ice cream.

There was just enough time to create a few smaller pieces–a bunny inspired by a stuffed toy I had as a child…

Rabbit-low res CROPPED


a puppy that looks like one my grandmother owned…

Black and White Puppy by Cindy Biles resized for blog


He must have looked real because photographer Jason Dowdle’s dog, Ranger, kept trying to give him kisses!

Jason Dowdle dog Ranger kissing Puppy Sculpture  resized for blog


I attended the reception on October 19.  The Arts Council is housed in the beautiful 19th century courthose in the center of town. Like our own Arts Council in Alamance County, the building was saved and renovated.  So glad on both accounts since these building have such a rich history and  are stunning.

Arts Council Cabarrus County courthouse

The Cabarrus Courthouse, home of the Cabarrus Arts Council in Concord, NC

That night was also the town’s kickoff for the holiday season.  Everyone was out for a Christmas parade and other festivities, including fireworks and the tree lighting.

An added bonus is that a wonderful friend lives in Concord and though it isn’t that far away, we hadn’t seen each other in a couple of decades or more.

A beautiful exhibit, a great time and a lovely night.





Artist-in-the-Schools Booking Fair

Posted by on Aug 25, 2012 in Blog | Comments Off on Artist-in-the-Schools Booking Fair

August is a busy month, with teaching in the studio and sometimes off-site, preparing for several fall and holiday shows (including a studio tour), and the annual Artist-in-the-Schools Booking Fair.  Lots of performing and visual artists are brought together to present their programs to school representatives.

It’s a long day but the Fair is wonderfully organized by the United Arts Council of Wake County and it runs like clockwork.

2012 Booking Fair Biles booth resized for blog artist-in-the-schools clay

 My booth


I’ve been an artist-in-the-schools for about 10 years.  Currently I’m mostly in Wake County, NC (the Raleigh area).   Since my formal education is in biology and I took a lot of anthropology classes in college, I like to create programs that integrate art with science and social studies.  I also incorporate, where appropriate, math, chemistry and technology.  When talking with a school representative, I find out his/her goals and objectives and suggest several possibilities for programs.  We meet again about a month before  the workshops or residency.  At that time, I show models I’ve made for the project and we refine our ideas.  Then I send a lesson plan.


artist-in-the-school booth 2 2102 booking Fair clay class Biles

 Some past projects: Face jugs, animals of carious biomes, self-portraits….


At the Booking Fair, I set up a station where anyone can make a little something in clay.  Soon after the Fair starts, the clay table is full with several students creating anything they can imagine.  I don’t get to help them much, since I’m usually talking with the school representatives, but they get to have fun.  Here is one of the masterpieces.

AIS booking Fair 2012 biles artist-in-the-schools clay resized for blog


There is a page on this web site with information on my artist-in-the-schools programs and I hope you will take a look at it!





Classes at the Studio

Posted by on Aug 13, 2012 in Blog | Comments Off on Classes at the Studio

This summer we had a lot of fun classes at the studio.  Some were large, up to 15, and some very small–perhaps an adult and visiting grandchildren or other relatives.

Here is a piece a young lady (8 years old, I think) made.  It’s her cat and she made it as a Christmas present.

cat on red rug with toy mice classes studio out of the fire resized

How cute is he, with his catnip mice?


Between this girl and her younger sister, we had fun with lots of glazes:

glazes in studio


Even the mess was pretty!

even the messes are pretty classes Out of the fire studio






Clay Day at Summer Fun Camp

Posted by on Aug 10, 2012 in Blog | Comments Off on Clay Day at Summer Fun Camp


4-H girl with chameleon clay class 2012

Summer camper sculpting a chameleon on a branch


Every summer for many years, I have had the pleasure of presenting a day of clay classes at our local Agricultural Extension Office.   Summer campers can make anything they choose.

So that I can give everyone individual attention, I’ve set the maximum number of students at 15  per class, 2 classes per day, and we fill that up  every time.

As usual, there were many wonderful creations–here are a few images. Lots more where these came from, but t my camera (i.e. cell phone) just did not do them justice.


4H manta ray clay class biles4-H wide mouth bass fish clay class Biles resized

A very large and amazing manta ray                                     A large mouth bass


4H yellow submarine class clay biles

This reminds me of the Yellow Submarine



Back on land, some cherished pets

4H-2 dogs 2012



Here is one of several wonderful owls–all different species





Perrin and Jenni

Posted by on May 9, 2012 in Blog | Comments Off on Perrin and Jenni

Jenni and Perrin recently visited the studio and created these “Critters,” as Perrin calls them.

Jenni’s Leopard Slug
Beautiful texture and love those eyes!

Perrin working on an awesome beetle

Although you may not appreciate the real thing in the garden these Critters are pretty cool.
  This guy looks like he could just crawl off the slab roller!

The Chameleon Contest! And the Winner is….

Posted by on Sep 1, 2011 in Blog | Comments Off on The Chameleon Contest! And the Winner is….

There were so many great suggestions…..but I had to choose one.

Rachel C. wins for the name


It’s green, fun to say and something I like a lot!

Rachel receives a two hour clay sculpting class for two people, materials included.

Congratulations, Rachel!

Thank you, everyone, for participating. I”ll probably do this again in the future–there are other clay critters in the studio without names.



Can You Say, “Camouflage”?

Posted by on Aug 6, 2011 in Blog | Comments Off on Can You Say, “Camouflage”?

As a former zoologist, many of my artist-in-the-school programs involve animals and their adaptations. Here is a video shared by my good friend and amazing sculptor, painter and master of other art forms, Cindy Billingsley.
From: Every Day is Science Friday, host Ira Flatow

Name that Chameleon, Win a Class for Two!

Posted by on Jul 9, 2011 in Blog | Comments Off on Name that Chameleon, Win a Class for Two!

Name Me!

When I chose this photo of a happy chameleon for my postcards for teaching clay sculpture classes, I had no idea how popular s/he would become. People of all ages have remarked that they picked up the postcard because of his (her?) great expression.

Even I still smile when I look at the photo.

Well, it’s time for this joyful Spokeslizard to have a name. Please send me your best suggestions and the author of the name chosen will win a 2-hour sculpture class for two people (includes clay and one firing) at Out of the Fire Sculpture Studio, in Saxapahaw, NC.

Anyone may enter! E-mail your entries to, or find the studio on Facebook: Out of the Fire Clay Sculpture by Cindy Biles. Deadline to enter is August 31, 2011. I’ll post the winning name on Facebook and here in September.

Summer Fun!

Posted by on Jun 28, 2011 in Blog | Comments Off on Summer Fun!

Summer Fun
14″ X 19″ X 14″
Just finished Summer Fun, in time for the new show at the Saxapahaw Artists Gallery, in Saxapahaw, North Carolina. Members of this cooperative gallery are the featured artists for the month of July. We’ll have an opening reception on Friday, July 1, from 6-9PM. There will be wonderful art, food and drink, music, conversation, good times. Hope to see you there!

Mason Stains, Demystified – an article by Jennifer Hoolihan at Highwater Clay

Posted by on Jun 10, 2011 in Blog | Comments Off on Mason Stains, Demystified – an article by Jennifer Hoolihan at Highwater Clay

This just in from Jennifer Hoolihan at Highwater Clay, in Asheville, NC. Jennifer and Les have helped me many times when I’ve had questions and needed advice on clay and glazes as has another great friend in the area, Paul.

Here is the article:

Ceramic Stain

Act One

by Jennifer HoolihanOn your visits to Highwater Clays, you might have noticed all the brightly colored bags of powder neatly lined up in the stain aisle. Perhaps you were beguiled by the visual display but wondered, what are these? Good question! Read on, and we will provide a little clarity on the wide world of ceramic stains in part one of our tech tip stain series.


Ceramic stains, like the brand Mason Color, offer a rainbow of color for the modern clay artist. What exactly are stains? Simply put, they are manufactured colorants. Stains are compounds made up of different oxides and minerals. Metal oxides such as iron, cobalt and copper are blended with elements like zirconium, zinc and tin. These auxiliary ingredients are used to stabilize and widen the color range of the metal colorants. Each stain has its own unique recipe. Once the raw materials are blended, the stains are heated to facilitate the chemical reactions needed to produce and stabilize the desired color. Some stains need to reach a high enough temperature to fuse, others just need a good cooking. When the heating process is complete, the stains are ground into a fine powder of about 200 mesh and washed to remove any remaining soluble material.


The point of this extensive procedure is to make a colorant that is consistent in hue and also stable across a wide temperature range. Colors and subtle shades that are difficult to achieve using raw oxides are provided for with stains. A stain doesn’t really incorporate into a glaze melt the way a raw oxide does. In a stain, the stabilizers act to protect the coloring metals from being sucked into the wild molten glass of a melting glaze. The colorant remains suspended as a tiny particle in the melted glaze. A raw oxide, on the other hand, hooks up with other elements as a glaze gets molten. These other elements, such as titanium, tin and boron and the atmosphere of the firing can have a profound affect on the color development of raw oxides.


Often times the powder form of a stain is very similar to the fired color, thus taking a lot of guess work out of surface decoration and glazing. However, this is not to say a stain isn’t affected by the chemistry of a base glaze. Different stains are more stable than others. This is where knowledge of specific stain colors comes in very handy. Fortunately, the Mason stain reference chart supplies all kinds of useful information. Mason, and other stain manufactures, won’t tell you the exact recipe of a stain but they will tell you the components, like if it contains cobalt, nickel, etc. Those random little numbers listed under the color sample give valuable clues on how to use each stain to its fullest potential and avoid unhappy glaze results. It lists how much stain and opacifier is needed to replicate the color shown in the chart. This is really useful since some stains are stronger and more opaque than others. It gets really juicy when you start reading the reference numbers for each stain. You find out which stains don’t play well with zinc (most greens) and why your pink glaze fired out splotchy gray (not enough calcium in the base recipe). And why are there 6 different black stains? It’s all in the reference chart. You still want to test, test and test, but the reference chart gets you off to a good start.


Now that we have covered the ‘what’ of ceramic stains, part two of our series will delve deeper into different ways of using stains. We’ll learn various ways of incorporating them into your work with recipes and useful tips. We’ll also get a bit more technical to increase our understanding of the ins and outs of the Mason reference chart. Until then, happy potting.