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What clay body do you use?

"I use variety of cone 5 clays, including B-3 Brown, porcelain, and nylon fiber clay."

    Primary forming method?

    "Hand bluilding"

    Primary firing temperature?

    "Cone 5"

    Favorite surface treatment?

    "I use a variety of surface treatments to create layers of meaning, including mishima, silk screen printing, photolithography, china paint, and decals."

    Favorite Tools?

    "I love ribs, especially flexible ribs by Mudtools."

    Describe your studio environment.

    "My studio is wherever I am.  Mostly I make and fire ceramics at home.  I also have a studio in the Bermac Building which I use primarily for writing, studio visits and meetings.  Classes and workshops provide another venue for creation. Experimentation, chaos and deliberation are words that describe my studio practice.

    My social practice is based in Harpersville AL.  In 2018, black and white families related to Klein (our long-vacant former cotton plantation) rededicated our family cemetery and shared a meal in the house, the first of annual Klein Homecomings.  We have been part of the Harpersville Historic Tour and look forward to hosting art installations, educational tours, and conversations around social justice."

    How/Where do you market and sell your artwork?

    "My main interest is in exhibition and social practice, so I am not actively marketing."

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

    "I am drawn to the “materialization of memory” (Foucault) and to the expression of social narratives and concepts.  Clay, with its association with domestic life and many forms, can serve as a holder and canvas for this. 

    I also work in social practice, with my material being social norms and interpersonal relationships."

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

      "I hold degrees in psychology and sociology and was a professor of public health education at the University of Texas at Austin for 30 years.  During this time, I often took evening painting classes.  I then enrolled in a ceramic class as a lark that shifted my art focus.  When I retired, I became a full-time student at the Glassell School of Art, majoring in ceramics.  While there, I broadened my practice to include other media for self-expression.  My shift to social practice in rural Alabama has created synergy between my first career in public health education and second one in art."

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

        "My teaching and learning is informal, arising from the community of artists I belong to."

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

          "Francesca Fuchs, advisor to the Block Program, told me to take my ceramic sculpture home so that my new interdisciplinary work based on the South could develop.  Jeff Forster, my ceramics professor, agreed, thus allowing me to move in an entirely unexpected direction.  I thank them both.

          The expectation of colleagues when I was new to the Glassell to join ClayHouston opened my life to an amazing community of makers, many of whom are close friends, as well as to workshop and travel experiences.  My advice to others: become active in your clay professional association to enlarge and strengthen your network and take advantage of exhibit and skill-building opportunities."

          Website URL and other social media platforms:


          Instagram: @nell_gottlieb


            Nell Gottlieb works in multiple media to reexamine her coming of age, white and female in the Jim Crow South. Her ongoing project, Nostos Algos, considers the pain of returning to the South after a long absence, while confronting the racist mythologies and complicated legacies of the region. With community members, family, and other volunteers, she is working to stabilize and activate her family’s long vacant antebellum plantation as a force for reconciliation.  A native of Alabama, she moved to Texas in 1980.  

            Gottlieb recently completed the Block Program of the Glassell School of Art at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and a residency at Atelier Hilmsen in Germany .  She has shown her work in national and local juried shows and has two works in the Hobby Airport Collection. She serves as past-president of ClayHouston and has served on the Visual Arts Alliance board.  She is founder and president of Klein Arts & Culture, a nonprofit organization for arts, education and social justice.

            Until August 11, 2019, her work can be seen in the Certficate of Achievement Exhibit at the Glassell School of Art, 2nd floor Bucher Gallery.


            PO Box 667401
            Houston, TX 77266

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