NORTHVILLE - Kayla Hushin and Alex Psillos are taking a "ceramic vacation" in the Adirondacks.
A young couple from central Connecticut, Hushin and Psillos are the 2013-14 fall/winter artists-in-residence at the Orendaga on Northville Lake. Both ceramics artists and recent graduates of the Hartford Art School, they arrived at the inn Oct. 1 and got to work immediately in its carriage-house studio.
"I feel like I've done a lot of stuff in the week I've been here," Hushin said Tuesday as she shaped a lump of clay with a rolling pin during an interview with The Leader-Herald.
Alex Psillos, left, and Kayla Hushin, the artists-in-residence at the Orendaga, work Tuesday in the pottery studio on the Northville inn’s grounds. (The Leader-Herald/Bill Ackerbauer)
The proprietors of the lakeside inn and cottages, Michael Intrabartola and Michele Drozd, both are ceramics artists themselves, and they began a residency program two years ago in order to share the studio space with fellow artists and provide a unique setting for their guests - one that features "fine art paired with fine accommodation."
"Michele and Mikey formed Bellwether Studio as an opportunity to focus on making functional porcelain pottery," according the brochure for the Orendaga's residency program. "They realized that the need also existed for other artists to create a working relationship with the public, to develop a coherent body of work while pushing design boundaries, and to live and work in a beautiful and stimulating environment with as few monetary pressures as possible."
The Orendaga's website explains: "This is an excellent chance for ceramic artists who desire a long period of self-directed time to create - with minimal extra duties, distractions and few expenses -amid beautiful, rural surroundings."
Psillos and Hushin are the first couple selected for a residency at the Orendaga. They learned of the opportunity through an announcement on the website ceramicartsdaily.org.
"We were kind of a package deal," Hushin said, adding they are making the most of the experience in the studio, where they create their own work and teach small classes.
"While we're here, we want to make as much work as possible and meet people," she said. "I've met some interesting people already."
The couple's first set of pottery classes this fall already is sold out, but additional classes may be available later in their residency, Hushin said.
On Friday evening, they presented a slideshow and talked about their work with guests in the inn's Main House Gallery.
The two artists take different approaches to their work: Psillos mainly works with thrown pots, while Hushin mainly hand-builds her pieces.
"I have a thing lately for making boxes and other lidded forms," said Hushin, who has two years of experience as the studio technician at Wesleyan Potters, a non-profit cooperative studio and gallery in Middletown, Conn.
Psillos, who also has studied at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center and Utah State University, describes his style as clean and refined, perhaps reflecting the classic Chinese forms that influenced some of his teachers at the Hartford Art School.
On Tuesday, he explained his work often evolves in stages, so a set of pots with two stylistic ridges might be followed, for example, by a set with three ridges before he takes his designs in a new direction.
Both say they prefer to make functional pieces rather than sculptural objects designed only to be looked at.
"I like the tactility and the usefulness of ceramics," Psillos said.
Drawn to ceramics
As students at the Hartford Art School, both Hushin and Psillos came to love ceramics after working in other media first.
Psillos says he started as a sculpture student, working with iron and bronze, before the pottery wheel "sucked him in."
"He was way better at ceramics and way more appreciated than in his [original] department," Hushin said. "I started off in the painting department and slowly found myself spending more and more time in the ceramics department. I liked that it was more hands-on and three-dimensional."
At the end of their winter residency, Psillos and Hushin plan to return to Connecticut and look for new opportunities to make, show and sell their work.
The two said they are thrilled with the Orendaga's studio and its location.
"It's beautiful scenery," Hushin said. "You can't beat the water and the hills."
Psillos agreed:?"It's a nice area to make you feel like making work."
For more information about the Orendaga on Northville Lake, its pottery classes and its artist-in-residence program, see www.orendaga.com or call 863-8013 and ask to speak with Michele.