Pivoting to Clay | Courtney Murphy | Episode 338

Courtney Murphy | Episode 338

Courtney Murphy has been a studio potter in Missoula, MT for the past four years. Courtney first moved to Montana in 2009 as a resident artist at the Archie Bray Foundation. Afterwards Courtney moved to Missoula as a resident at The Clay Studio of Missoula and decided to stay. Courtney studied Ceramics at the Oregon College of Art and Craft. Courtney’s designs are influenced by simplified abstractions of nature, folk art, mid-century modern forms and shapes, as well as patterns and textiles. Courtney is compelled by the variation found in handmade objects and likes the personal connection that they help to create as they leave her studio to become part of somebody’s daily routine.





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How important is doing something new for you as a maker?

It’s pretty important. It’s always hard because sometimes you make a change to your work and people aren’t as interested in it or they ask, Are you still doing the thing you used to be doing?  So that’s hard and that probably happens to everyone. But yeah, I need to keep myself interested in what I am doing, I think that’s pretty important. Everytime I run the kiln I try to have one design that’s new that I haven’t tried yet.

If you had a chance for a do over in ceramics, what would you do differently?

I do sort of wish that I started earlier and gone to grad school at some point.

What do you feel most proud of when it comes to your work?

That’s a good question. I think I feel proud of the fact that I still find it interesting and it’s maybe not the most cost effective but I do spend a lot of time on each piece. I want to make sure I really like the way the handle looks and the proportion. I definitely have some that come out that I’m not crazy about but I do feel when I unload a kiln I feel pretty satisfied and pretty good about most of the work I am taking out.

You said you did a number of residencies, which residency had the most impact on you?

I would probably say the Archie Bray. I think because when I got accepted I kind of really didn’t feel worthy of it,  at the same time when I got accepted I was trying new things in my studio and was having terrible, terrible failures. I was coming in making work I was feeling really awful about because I was in a transition period. Usually if you are transitioning and trying new things, new glazes, new slips, everything was kind of a disaster so I went into it feeling not great about my work. It was hard coming into a situation I was a little bit intimidated by and not feeling at my best with what was happening with my work. I think having help with technical things and mold making was very influential and coming there and realizing I was ready to settle down in Montana.

What is a skill you would like to learn as a potter?

I would like to be better with slip casting. I do some slip casting in my work but it’s really basic forms and I think , I am interested in more basic forms but I think there are some molds that I envision that I would like to have or like to use that I  don’t technically know how to get to that. I do have friends here who would be happy to help me figure that out. I think another thing, throwing big is a really big challenge for me. I try it out every couple of years and get really frustrated and get a bad attitude about it and then I don’t try again for another couple of years. I think if I consistently set time aside…I think it’s hard because winters here are so cold and so long and if I force myself to try something that is really difficult when I’m already kind of  cold and cranky it doesn’t always work the best. But that is something I need to push through a figure out.

If you could only keep three possessions what would they be?

Wow. That’s a tough one. I would keep a really good mug, I’m sure, but I don’t know which one. I would keep, not necessarily my phone, but a way that I could listen to podcasts and music. And maybe a warm sweater because I’m always cold. (laughter) I feel like that’s the worst answer. I will probably think of really great answer at two in the morning.


The Big Burn by Timothy Egan




Instagram: @courtneymurphyceramics

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