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Just Who Is Majik Merlin?: Article or Project

I am Majik Merlin

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I had early beginnings with painting cast pieces back when plaster-ware was popular – in the early 50’s. It was an easy transition to ceramics. I’ve been enthralled from the very first ceramic piece I did in glazes some 60 plus years ago. I became addicted and the weekly class at a local home studio became twice a week, then three times a week, then I started taking things home to work on between classes, then…. well, you can imagine how it went from there.

I purchased my first mold to save money on greenware. Everyone I knew got the same thing for Christmas that year. Of course another mold followed and then many more. I’ve moved my molds all over the country, each time needing a bigger truck and then multiple trucks.

My first move caused me great distress as I was still a novice. I went to my wonderful teacher and mentor with a pen and pad of paper in hand and told her I was moving to an area with NO ceramic shops and I needed her to teach me everything I would need to know to be able to do it on my own. She laughed and gave me her private phone number. Then she told me there was too much for one class, so to call her whenever I needed something and she would walk me through it. I burned up the phone lines that first year.

My first official studio was in my home. I began giving classes in my own kitchen, and then was finally able to finish off an area in my basement. I lived and breathed ceramics. You have not lived though until you have been baptized by slip when a mold splits on you and covers you and your kitchen table and carpet with that gooey stuff. Or, when you get a certain part of your female anatomy caught between the parts of a large mold just as you snap a belt closed. Or, when you answer the door and you are standing there bewildered in your nightgown, covered head to foot in slip and mold dust because you forgot today is the day guests were coming for dinner. Dinner? What dinner? Was that today? Weren’t we going out for dinner?

I eventually graduated to a full-fledged brick and mortar commercial ceramic shop about 40 years ago. I love teaching and am so grateful that I had a good teacher. Having a Mentor or someone who is patient teaching is the most important foundation for anyone who takes ceramics seriously. Or maybe it is the other way around. If you have a good teacher, you will take the craft seriously.

I love all aspects of clay. From the kickwheel, sculpting, cast molds, mixing glazes – ALL of it. When I opened my shop in Georgi, it was a school of clay arts, not just cast ceramics. It was amazing. I hired a potter for help in teaching most of the clay work and we offered it all. One of the most exciting things we did was hold quarterly RAKU parties outside with his home-made RAKU kiln… GREAT TIMES! There was an old wives tale back then that one could not RAKU cast ceramics. Well I’m not one who takes no for an answer, so when my potter was teaching RAKU, I wanted to do it on some cast pieces. He said they would all break. Well, some did, but some of the thrown items broke too. I fiddled some with the firing process and finally reduced the percent of breakage to minimal - way less of the cast pieces broke than the thrown items. To me that was a major victory. Now days, RAKU is a popular technique for ceramists of cast ware, but back then, it was virtually unheard of.

We did porcelain dolls, lace draping, fretting, sgraffito, clay lifting, dry brushing, etc etc... all the techniques possible for the clay artist. We carried all brands of ceramic paints and taught people how to use each kind. It was amazing and interesting and exciting and fun. And it still is.

From the beginning I took classes whenever I found some available and eventually became certified by Duncan and Ceramichrome (I & II) then presented/instructed certification classes of my own. It was not until I moved to Georgia that I found out about ceramic shows and competitions. I won several ribbons and awards, – but was thrilled when my students won several best-in-show awards. I found, as a shop owner, I did not have much time to do ceramics for myself, but enjoyed helping my students master their skill and shared in their pride as they received their rewards.

I worked with Senior Citizen Centers offering free classes as well as a sheltered workshop teaching the handicapped and coordinated their production of items to sell for fund raising. One of my favorite students was blind, but turned out some excellent pieces. His fingers could find every flaw in the greenware.

Somewhere along the line, a student made a comment that I was like Merlin the magician and my brush was my magic wand. From then on my students began calling me Merlin or Magic Merlin. This - tied with my love of fantasy and all things mythical – lead me to eventually change the name of my business to Majik Merlin’s Ceramics and Gifts. Though my studio had a wide assortment to choose from (at one time over 20,000 molds), my reputation was its wide collection of fantasy and mythical molds. I think every studio reflects the interests of its owner.

I was asked to write up project articles for professional publications. Scott Publications contacted me and spotlighted my studio in the Arts && Crafts magazine sometime back – early 90’s and In their interview, I mentioned that the internet was the wave of the future and it was imperative that every shop connect to the web and utilize it for their success. I still feel that way. I have several websites, each with a different theme or purpose. One is solely for free ceramics instruction, information, education and enjoyment. I want to pass on this information stored in my brain and my heart before it is forgotten. We must all work together, for if one succeeds, we all succeed.

I have seen the tide ebb and flow many times in the art and craft of ceramics and hope during the twilight of my years to be able to pass on many of the things I have learned this past half-century and more. I love teaching and I love learning. This wonderful medium for creativity is never boring and it is not limited to people who possess massive talent or skill. Ceramics can be enjoyed by the masses from all walks of life.

 

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