KENT — Alison Palmer has been an artist as long as she can remember. “My mother is an artist, so I was encouraged as a child. There were always supplies available to me. I discovered clay in nursery school and knew at that time that clay was the path I’d pursue.”
Palmer has been a ceramic artist for the last 40 years. She had rented studios until about 12 years ago when she and her husband, Steve Katz, built a pole barn on their Kent property where she now works and occasionally hosts ceramic workshops.
“Clay is a medium that has held my interest from the beginning. From the geology to the final firing of a piece there is so much information to learn and techniques to explore. I’ve been making and exhibiting my work for 45 years, so I would say that, although it’s not an easy life, I’ve picked up collectors over the years and my work still sells.”
Palmer says she sometimes “make pots into animals and sometimes animals out of my pots.” Her “search” is to find “the balance between pottery form and animal form and make them fit as a single unit.” She says, “I strive to achieve a lighthearted meld of the human and animal form. These anthropomorphic figures are developed by throwing and altering the stoneware clay and wood-firing and/or soda-firing them. The fire and ash contribute to the spontaneous and unpredictable finish which gives the pieces a primitive, elemental look.”
Palmer was born and raised in New York. After graduating high school she attended the Kansas City Art Institute, as well as the California College of Arts and Crafts where she received her BFA in ceramics. She returned to New York where she implemented a “treatment through crafts” program at Four Winds Psychiatric Hospital in Katonah. While teaching at Four Winds, she began her own studio at a converted old schoolhouse in Croton Falls, New York. She met and married musician Steve Katz, and together they created a company called “Ashes to Ashes,” which produced funerary urns for animals. The urns were designed and handmade by Alison while her husband did the sales and marketing. According to Palmer, “the pressures of dealing with grieving clients, however, were too much” for her and her husband, so they concentrated solely on Alison’s handcrafted ideas.
By 1986, Palmer was exhibiting her work at a few of the finer craft galleries in New York City and elsewhere. The recognition her work received at the major wholesale shows was “overwhelming,” she says, and she and her husband had to deal with the challenge of learning the “business” of crafts while at the same time exploring new areas of Palmer’s creativity. She now boasts representation by numerous galleries, museum shops and catalogs in America and abroad.
By the way, Steve Katz’s musical resume is very impressive. He played in various high profile groups, such as the Even Dozen Jug Band, The Blues Project, and Blood Sweat and Tears, the latter winning three Grammies and selling millions of records. Katz produced two of Lou Reed’s album, and after a short stint in the group American Flyer, Katz went on to become Vice President of A&R (artist and repertoire) at Mercury Records, and later Managing Director of Green Linnet Records. He is still performing in concerts and talks.
Palmer said of her studio and work area, “I have two large kilns, one is a soda-fired kiln that is fueled by propane and the other a wood-fired kiln. Each kiln holds approximately 200 pieces.” There are 13 wheels and a number of work tables. There are electric kilns, a wood-fired kiln and a propane soda kiln. Space may be rented in any of the kilns.
“People come from around the world to teach and be taught in our large, bright studio. We host one- to five-day workshops in a supportive and encouraging retreat-like atmosphere. All skill levels are welcome.”
Palmer says her Kent studio is “a good place for me” because it’s on her property and “if I want to work after dinner or check on pieces in progress before breakfast, I walk right out there.” However, as far as sales and customer walk-ins, it’s a “terrible” location because the studio is “very remote.”
The studio’s “Clayway Tour” was held last weekend. “Missy Stevens, another potter, and I opened on the 16th for people who wanted to get an early start. I’ve been doing very well selling online. COVID-19 has inspired us to put up a Shopify page at www.
com/collections/all.” She says the pandemic has “decimated our workshops; we are just starting up again with quarter capacity, taking temperatures and social distancing. Everyone has to wear masks. Slowly but surely the business is coming back to life. It’s heartwarming to see people again.”
Despite the struggles and uncertainties of 2020, Palmer remains optimistic. “Even if sales are down I’ll continue to work because that is what I love to do. During these times it’s especially wonderful to be creative. I suggest it for everyone; take a class and make something.”
For information on the studio, its workshops, and to view some of Palmer’s magical creations, visit www.AlisonPalmer