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What clay body do you use?

"Depending on the project, I work mainly with Cone 5-6 bodies.  Occasionally I use earthenware fired to 05 or pushed to cone 1-2. My current inventory of clay includes B-Mix with grog, Buffalo Wallow, Cinco Blanco, Cinco Rojo, Laguna Buff, Frost, Cassius Basaltic, and a couple of personal recipes, some wild clay and recycled clay which may be a combination of any or all of the above.  B-Mix is a favorite for my functional intaglio work. "

Primary forming method?

"Hand building- variations of slab and coil.  I use the wheel as a personal recreational outlet. "

Primary firing temperature?

"Mainly Cone 5-6, oxidation stoneware, and I use my cone 6 Charcoal Injection Reduction process during cooler weather. I do the occasional Cone 05 oxidation and Cone 1 for sculpture. I am also researching Cone 1-3, both oxidation and reduction, for sustainability reasons. "

Favorite surface treatment?

" Texture! I use a lot of intaglio, but also sgraffito, inlay, underglaze slip, stains, engobes, and onglaze treatments like glaze layering, various washes and overglaze painting."

"Seven Demons Were Cast Out"

"Snow Blossom"

"Gun Shoe"

Favorite Tools?

" I have lot of loop tools for my intaglio work; and I love silicone ribs.  Some of my very favorites are my homemade tools or commercial tools I have altered or augmented."

Describe your studio environment.

"My current studio is a converted 50-year-old 2-car garage with an attached tool shed for my electric kiln.  I have two gas fired kilns made from upcycled electric kilns.  In the past, I have rented studio space, worked in a corner of my classroom, or worked at my dining table."

"Sketch For Rachel Carson"  (detail)

"Sketch For Rachel Carson Triptych"

"Charcoal Fired Water Jar"

"Mid Century Vase"

"Shino and blue Tea Bowl "

How/Where do you market and sell your artwork?

"Various ways, including group house sales, art/studio tours, pop-up sales, the occasional fair; but mainly through collaborative artist venues like an artist co-op gallery or art league gallery, and open studio sales."

"Turbulent Aqua" , c. 6

"Shoe Shoe"

" Aspirant Triptych"

"Aloha Leaf Series Tray"

What sparks your creativity? What drives you to work with clay?

"Looking at historic ceramics from Neolithic to Contemporary.  My work is influenced by my academic education which included the Mingei Pottery tradition from a professor trained by Warren Mackenzie and the California influence from my time living and studying there.  My work is informed by environmentalism, geology, and nature. "


"2 Charcoal Fired Bottles"                                                "Charcoal Fired Vase"


          Charcoal Firing Stoking Phase                              Lab Assistant Michael stoking the Charcoal Kiln


    Did you come to ceramics from a different career? Tell us about your journey to a ceramics career.

        " It has been a winding road. I originally wanted to be a painter; but began my professional career as a production potter at the tourist attraction, Aquarena Springs in San Marcos.  After moving to California, I returned to painting while working in the Film Industry during which time I did not have access to a clay studio.  I left show biz to focus on my family and art which allowed me to return to ceramics and set up a studio.  This transition was facilitated by working at a local community college as a lead up to returning to college to get a graduate degree.  I returned to Texas to found and head the ceramics department at CyFair College with NHMCCD, now LSCS.  Though I have retired from teaching college; I have not stopped working with and teaching about clay."


        "Woo Yellow Sushi Plates"

        How have you have taken your experience as a well-established maker in the field and passed that knowledge along to your other artists?

        "I have been involved in teaching most of my life; and have taught at most every level and in a variety of formats including university and college, private instruction, community education, workshops, demonstrations in person and online."

        "Nutshell Bowl"

        "Meat Shoe"

        What’s the best advice you’ve been given by a fellow maker, mentor, or teacher?

          Phillip Cornelius who studied and worked with Paul Solder, once told me that as a teacher he endeavored to follow instructions he saw on a piece of fireworks which said: “Light and Get Away”.  In other words, enable creativity in others, but do not hover over them. I would add be generous; share what you know and enable and nurture creativity! It is one of the best things in life and everyone is creative in some way."


          "Mid Century Vase"

          Website URL and other social media platforms:


            Instagram: @sshieldpolk

            Facebook: 1. RocketfireCeramics 

                              2. Charcoal Injection Firing


            I grew up in Austin. I first studied ceramics at Southwest Texas State University, and worked as a production potter in San Marcos, then went on to complete a BFA at UT, Austin.  I relocated to California and embarked on a career in set decorating and art direction for the film industry.  I left the film industry to teach art and focus on family and my work as a visual artist subsequently completing an MFA at California State University, Northridge.  I returned to Texas to establish and head the ceramics department at Lone Star College, Cy-Fair in Houston.  After many years with Lone Star College System, I opened a studio in San Marcos where I am producing ceramics and mixed media sculptural forms referencing the human experience and the natural world.  I teach classes and instructional workshops.  I have shown my work in Texas and nationally.


              PO Box 667401
              Houston, TX 77266

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