News Column

Natural imperfections source of inspiration for Cornwall clay artist

April 28, 2014

By Andrea Gillhoolley, Lebanon Daily News, Pa.

April 28--When Margaret Seidenberg-Ellis rides her bicycle in Mt. Gretna, it's not unusual for her to stop and yank out a handful of milkweed, sea oat grass, twigs, tree bark or crops to use in her artwork.

The Cornwall woman has created hundreds of stoneware clay boxes, cups, vessels, platters, tiles and plates with Mother Nature's natural textures at her home studio.

"I guess it's the imperfection in nature that I like," Seidenberg-Ellis said.

She tries to capture those imperfections in her artwork made from clay slabs that are then assembled and fired in her electric kiln for roughly 16 hours at 2,200 degrees.

Some of her pieces, though, are wood fired, and those will be featured Friday at Lebanon Picture Frame & Fine Art Gallery in Lebanon during the First Friday Artwalk.

Her work has been featured in local, state and national shows, including the Strictly Functional Pottery National and the Pennsylvania State Museum Craft Show in Harrisburg, and was mentioned in a book, "From a Slab of Clay" by Daryl Baird.

This marks the first time Seidenberg-Ellis is a featured artist, an opportunity she is excited about.

But she has had a passion for pottery since she was a young girl in Vermont from the time she was introduced to the art by her neighbor who had a kick wheel on his back porch.

From there, she took classes in high school, then moved on to study biology at Earlham College and later attended Bennington College to study ceramics and photography.

During her time in Earlham College, as a junior, Seidenberg-Ellis had the opportunity to live and study in Japan for 10 months through a cultural education program. It was where she drew inspiration for her work.

"They have an aesthetic where they really like the imperfect part of nature, like the things that are a little off balance," she said. "I think they value that in their culture."

Her pottery reflects this ideal. One of her cups, for example, is asymmetrical, both rough and smooth, dark and light, with deep and shallow textures.

Seidenberg-Ellis considers herself lucky to be able to split her time working at her home studio and working with her husband, Dr. John Ellis, part time in a research laboratory at Hershey Medical Center.

"It is nice to be able to get out of my studio and drive into Hershey," she said. "I like having both things to do."

While she has future plans to sell her unique items online, she is a resident artist at The Gallery at La Cigale in Mount Gretna and also shows work at the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen in Lancaster and Lebanon Picture Frame & Fine Art Gallery.

When she is not working on art or in the research laboratory, Seidenberg-Ellis enjoys spending time outdoors and with her teenage son.


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Source: Lebanon Daily News (PA)

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