Iris Cushman began sewing and knitting with her mom 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. She 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 ceramics in the community. After a couple of years her students lovingly pressured her to start making her own work. She continued her education by attending workshops, most memorably with Takashi Nakazato and Blair Meerfeld.
In 2008 Iris created Wild Iris Clay, referencing the beautiful wild Blue Flag irises she discovered in Colorado. Her artwork was primarily in clay, as well as custom painting (walls, furniture) and once created a 4-foot figure in papier-mache. At the end of 2015, she moved to Bloomington, Indiana to care for her mother after shoulder surgery, then spent 2 years traveling on and off with her dog Vladimir and a lot of bisqueware, painting glaze on ceramics while visiting family and seeing new places.
Iris now lives in Lafayette, Indiana and works out of her basement studio. She works primarily in oxidation, with reference to some of her 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. Iris has visited France many more times and traveled to Istanbul, Turkey and Kyoto, Japan.