Iris Cushman began sewing and knitting in second grade. As a senior in high school she found a connection with another tactile medium, clay. Her ceramics teacher, Stephanie Benham, provided a space of freedom, creativity and encouragement that instilled in Iris a strong, quiet confidence that has kept her hands in clay every year since.


As an art major at Earlham College, Iris was particularly moved by an in-the-field Art history course visiting artwork and historical structures in Paris and castles in the Loire valley. In the southern French countryside, she took a 2-week apprenticeship with a local artisan, combining weavings, fur, and leather to construct unique handbags. On campus in the clay studio, she coil built large vessels (up to 4' tall) and threw round pots, but altered many and added sculptural elements in search of humor and irony. She fell in love with atmospheric firings, particularly gas and wood.


Through Earlham she spent a semester in New York City assisting three professional ceramists spanning very different styles: Judy Moonelis, Matt Nolen, and Jeffrey Mongrain. Iris prepared an informal show in the student gallery space at Hunter College thanks to Jeffrey; ironically non-functional handbags combining fabric and clay.


Iris completed a 2-week ceramics apprenticeship in the countryside of southern France with Yves-Marie Dumortier, where she became enamored with his style of texture and his loose, explorative approach to art. Iris moved to Colorado in 2003 and began teaching and making pots. In continuing her education she attended short workshops, most memorably with Takashi Nakazato and Blair Meerfeld.


In 2008 Iris created Wild Iris Clay, lovingly referencing the wild Blue Flag irises that she discovered in Colorado. She works primarily in oxidation, with reference to some favorite qualities of atmospheric firings. She has so much gratitude for what she's learned from others, from the large concepts she's still absorbing, to everyday work (for example, she still makes 25-lb clay slabs by hand using the technique she learned from Judy Moonelis). Iris has visited France many more times and traveled recently to Istanbul, Turkey and Kyoto, Japan.


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