The multi-artist extravaganza known as Lawn d'Arts is gearing up for its third show this Saturday.  And as is their tradition, each year the core members invite a guest artist to join the party. This year's gues, ceramic artist Cory McCrory, will make the trip to Chambana from her home in Sandwich, Illinois. 

McCrory was kind enough to take time out of her pre-show production schedule to chat about her work, her process, what inspires her, and what she most wants you to know about Saturday's show. 
 

Smile Politely: Your pottery style is very unique. How would you describe it?

Cory McCrory: Hand built ceramic art. It's whimsical without being childlike; colorful, textural, sculptural. I also like to challenge functionality.

SP: How did you get interested in pottery and in this particular stye you're working in now?

McCrory: From an early age, I knew I would be an artist of some sort. My family supported that and fed the beast. I thought I would become a 2D artist.  Clay just seemed to be too expensive, so I avoided it for a long time. College got me back into the clay room, and I never left. I spent years learning the potter's wheel. I found jobs that had me working in clay, even teaching it. Eventually, I ended up with tendon and other medical issues. I had always had hand-built art in my booth and decided I needed to quit the potter's wheel for my hand building. It took a few years to complete the turnover in my work.

SP: Can you describe your process?

McCrory: I begin by adding paper pulp to my stoneware clay. It takes me a week to make it, all by hand. My favorite sources are McDonald's drink trays or egg cartons. I like the fact that I am using something that would otherwise be left in a landfill. The paper in the clay helps with controlling the drying, cracking and warping. I also make my own texture sheets from linoleum printing material. Most of my work is slab (from flat sheets). I feel like I make clay fabric and cut patterns out like I am going to sew. Then fold, dart, ease, or stretch the pieces into place. Engineering and physics play a big part. (Side note: I grew up at the foot of a sewing machine. My mom could make or draw anything, and design her own patterns.  My father was a engineer/machinist/fabricator/race car driver and instructor). I  truly love the puzzle that each of my pieces hold. How to build, what order and so on. I also use sculptural techniques and processes I learned in high school. Because it is so detailed, it takes a long time to make a kiln load.

The work is hand painted with three coats of colorful underglazes and fired with a clear glaze to show off the clay. All [work is] food safe.

SP: What inspires you?

McCrory: Current events, daily life. I'm a people watcher, I notice the small details. Inspiration can come from anywhere if you pay attention. Humor is a necessity in life.

SP: How did you get involved in the upcoming Lawn d'Arts show?

McCrory:  I met Jill Miller of Hooey Batiks when I was doing the mainstream shows. She began to invite me to do her little shows a year or two ago. I then met Cindy Sampson at Prarie View Arts Invitational Art Fair this spring, at Naperville Unitarian Church. She later invited me to Lawn d'Arts.

SP: What's the best (or worst advice) you've ever received about art-making or being an artist?

McCrory: The best advice — move as much clay through your hands as possible. It's the only way to get better. Always be open to improvement.  The worst advice—the "you know what you should make? [blank]!" advice. [It] usually includes some sort of gimmicky item that will make me rich. That's just not my style.

SP: What's the best part of participating in a group show like Lawn d'Arts?

McCrory: It's small and intimate. The camaraderie, respect, and support we give each other cannot be measured. Ienjoy this type of pop-up fair because it's more personal, they allow us to spend more time with our visitors. We can get to know each other and have a laugh or two. 

SP: What would you like our readers to know about your work or about the show?

McCrory: This show is in its third year. They have a core group — Mellisa Mitchell, Jill Miller, Joan Jach, Erin Dady, Cindy Sampson, and Kayla Johnson — and invite guests. Very much like what we do up north. It's carefully curated, and the location changes by host.

SP: Have you shown in Champaign-Urbana before?

McCrory: I have not. I am looking forward to being here and meeting everyone.

SP: What's the art scene like in Sandwich?

McCrory: It's pretty quiet here in Sandwich. I think we all kind of hide. Or perhaps it's just me. There is an art center in town that focuses on painting, that I have never been to. We have a few weekends in the year that have art fairs, but they seem to be more crafty. I participated in one or two, but decided it wasn't my crowd. Ten years ago, we had a ceramic center in town that I was teaching at. iIt was a blast, but it dismantled after a few years.  We have a great music scene, an opera house, and we are big on antiques here. And we have one of the largest county fairs in Illinois. I would love to have an art fair in my yard, but I am not so sure Icould get people to come out this way. Someday though I'll convince a few of my friends to take a chance on it.

SP: You are really active on social media.  Do you think this is part of being an artist in today's world? If so, how?

McCrory: I think it's the easiest way to get yourself noticed. It's definitely the cheapest. But, also not the only way. Being engaged with prospective and repeat customers also gives me some perspective and ideas of what works artistically and what doesn't. My friends help me quite a bit with it with {offer} advice on handling social media. I use to have a Comcast web page that was included in the service, but they eliminated that many years ago. Inever made a new site. I really should. But that being said, I remain very busy with just using social media. i have to say no a lot.

Follow Cory McCrory on Facebook and Instagram.

And don't miss the chance to checkout her work, along with the work of Jill Miller of Hooey Batiks, Melissa Mitchell of Acme Elfworks, Joan Jach, Pat Enstrom of Bad Bear Pottery, artist and plant jewelry maker Kayla E. Johnson, Errin Dady, Eli Brown, photographer Fraya Replinger, poet Jim O'Brien, and Cindy Sampson.

Lawn d'Arts
Sampson 'N Delilah
Saturday, June 8th, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
1011 S Elm Blvd.
Champaign

Event photo from Facebook event page; additional photos courtesy of Cory McCrory