April Featured Artists

Sales Gallery & Online
Paul Eshelman, Eric Jensen, Anna Valenti, Kurt Brian Webb
Jewelry Spotlight: Melissa Mencini

Paul Eshelman, Eric Jensen, Anna Valenti, Kurt Brian Webb
Jewelry Spotlight: Melissa Mencini

Paul Eshelman
Paul Eshelman’s functional pottery is his cultural attempt, through the material of clay, to bring order and human dignity to the merely physical act of consuming food and drink. Eshelman writes, “As my pots are used daily, I hope that they carry measures of quiet and nourishment for body and spirit. I imagine people at a dinner table, workspace, or office cubicle where food and drink are served and humanized by hospitable, well-ordered pots.” Eshelman and his wife, Laurel, have been living and making pottery since 1988 in Elizabeth, Illinois, a small farming community in northwestern Illinois.

Eric Jensen
Eric Jensen has over forty-five years of experience in producing functional ware. In 1975, Jensen, along with several other artists, set up Lillstreet Studios in Chicago. “I come from a family of hand workers, so I feel I’m obeying my genetic code,” he says. “My goal is simplicity. If I were to name a source of inspiration, it might be water-smoothed stones and wood, Shaker furniture, or the writings of Wallace Stegner.”

Anna Valenti
A self-described ‘clay weaver,’ Anna Valenti was born in New York to a family rich in traditions of weaving, gardening, and jury-rigging. Valenti has exhibited at venues across the nation and is the recipient of the 2019 Professional Development Grant from Artists at Work: Maine College of Art; a 2020 NCECA Graduate Student Fellowship; and a 2021 Colorado Arts Grant. Currently, her journey with ceramics includes teaching workshops, maintaining her studio practice, and researching fiber clay bodies. Inspired by her heritage, Valenti emphasizes handbuilding processes in her work—weaving and pinching clay into baskets, pots, chairs, and screens of varying sizes. Most recently, she has been experimenting with hemp clay.

Kurt Brian Webb
Kurt Brian Webb’s formative education spans not only professional degrees (in education, ceramics and printmaking,) but also includes attending Illinois public schools during the ‘60s and ‘70s, building houses with his father in the ‘80s, and traveling alone across the United States and abroad throughout much of his adult life. Still based in Illinois, Webb has now taught (and learned) in public schools for over 30 years while maintaining a studio practice. His current ceramic work aesthetically and functionally references decorative teaware, while visually celebrating an eclectic cast of characters and strange tales from what he calls “…the grittier side of life.”

Melissa Mencini
Melissa Mencini became interested in art at an early age and enrolled in classes at a local art center in her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. She moved back and forth between Montana and Washington, working as a studio artist and teaching at both Eastern Washington University and at the University of Washington – Seattle. During her first stay in Montana, Melissa was a resident at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena for two years and was the recipient of the Lincoln Fellowship for one year. She then moved to Anchorage to teach ceramics at the University of Alaska – Anchorage. She has lived in Austin, Texas since 2013 and is a full-time studio artist and educator. She has built and established her studio and she has become a core member of the Art of the Pot annual studio tour. Her current focus is making functional pottery embellished with graphic designs and decals.