Project Tag: master potter




Ferrin Contemporary presents selected works by Michael Simon from Pick of the Kiln: Artist Archive. These works can be viewed in person in Massachusetts by appointment and inquiries are welcome.

In 2005 Simon ended his active pottery practice for reasons related to his health. At that time, he embarked on a long study of the works he had gathered during his lifetime, preserving one from each kiln load since the early 70’s. With his wife, Susan Roberts, these works were photographed, documented and discussed with select scholars, colleagues and friends. A monograph, Evolution, was published by Northern Clay Center in 2011 as a comprehensive fully illustrated, chronology of his life’s work. Roberts served as editor and art director. The essays include important written contributions from Warren MacKenzie, Emily Galsuha, Mark Pharis, Glen R. Brown and Mark Shapiro.

Asked about the criteria for selection of these works, Michael explains (they were) “chosen by me because these pots displayed a better rim or clay wall or image vs form. I saved them for reference as I moved forward…stepping stones guiding my path. I usually picked one from each kiln load.” – Michael Simon, 2020

Beginning in 2015, Leslie Ferrin worked closely with Michael and Susan to make these works available to museums, scholars and private collectors who seek out works from the archive.

“I’ve had the unique privilege of knowing Michael Simon for over 25 years, beginning with a relationship built through periodic exhibitions at our shop and gallery, P!NCH in Northampton, MA. When the time came to consider the next step for the Pick of the Kiln: Artist Archive collection, I was honored to be asked and fortunate to be able to say yes.

When working together, not a day with Michael went by without learning something new about him and his work. His ability to articulate his practice, his deeply held beliefs and knowledge of ceramics is conveyed through each conversation. This enabled me to provide background to each work in the Pick of the Kiln archive. Our conversations, many recorded, serve to record the important, numerous personal connections to his students, to his colleagues and the large, extended community of studio potters beginning for Michael in the class of ’70 with his teacher, Warren MacKenzie and the Leach tradition in America.

With each visit, we continued to explore the works, the library and personal papers providing artistic and written connections to this family tree. We learned more from each curator as they made connections with Michael to historic reference and source material, the ancient pots and objects from world cultures, many that he was first introduced to as a student looking at the pots and vessels in the permanent collections of the Weisman Museum and Minneapolis Institute of Art.” Since 2015, masterworks from Michael Simon’s archives, “Pick of the Kiln” 1983 – 2005 have been generously gifted by the artist and his wife, Susan Roberts to over twenty museums throughout the USA.

Michael Simon (1947-2021) sadly passed away in August of 2021. The last six years brought them together to further and focus on his legacy—his papers, his personal collection of pots by other artists, and his archive.  Their work involved acquisitions of his work by over a dozen selected museums and many knowledgeable private collectors. When COVID hit in 2020, the visits with curators and collectors were cut short; as Michael’s health declined, the project slowed.

Toward the end of his life, Simon designated Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, where he taught and met other artists there during three summer intensive workshops in the late 1980s and early 1990s, to send gifts in his memory. Haystack was important to Michael and remained so throughout his life.

In honor of his wish, the Michael Simon Studio Pottery Fellowship is being established by friends and family in his honor. In keeping with his firm belief in the expressive possibilities of useful pots, this fellowship is intended for a mid-career functional potter. As works from the archive are sold, a portion of the proceeds from these sales of will be donated to the fellowship.


The fellowship will annually provide tuition, room, and board, and a stipend for a student to attend a ceramics workshop at Haystack. Once fully funded, students will be selected through the annual Haystack fellowship review process.


Since 1950, Haystack has been connecting people through craft. Located on the coast of Maine, Haystack provides the freedom to engage with materials and develop new ideas in a supportive and inclusive community.

Fund Committee:
Ginger Aldrich, Development Director, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts
Mark Shapiro, artist and author
Leslie Ferrin, director, Ferrin Contemporary
Posey Bacopoulos, artist


Click HERE to learn more about Haystack Mountain School of Crafts  fellowship program.

Additional information about Simon including his Smithsonian Archives of American Art recorded oral history, interviews, videos, articles and essays are available through the links below.


A sale of selected works including works from the “Pick of the Kiln” 1983 – 2005 archives takes place at Schaller Gallery on December 9, 2022 and will support the Michael Simon fellowship fund for mid-career studio potters at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts.

REFIND presents: Michael SimonPick of the Kiln and other Significant Pieces LIVE at 2:00 pm (EST) on Friday, December 09, 2022

Additional Works Available Through Inquiry


Michael Simon, photo courtesy of Hayne Bayless



Born 1947, in Springfield, MN, Lived and worked in Colbert, GA
Died 2021, in Athens, GA

Simon (b. 1947) studied at the University of Minnesota with Warren MacKenzie. He has lived in Georgia since 1970, when he and his then-wife, Sandy, established a production pottery. He took time out after a decade (and a divorce) to earn an MFA at the University of Georgia under Ron Meyers. Simon’s vessels often have solid and sturdy-looking feet that raise the pot but do not make it look lightweight. The effect is to isolate the volume, emphasizing the sense of capacity that is inherent to pottery but not always foregrounded.  With his turn to painting, Simon developed a method of incorporating wax resist and hatch marks so that his imagery often looks either like an ink drawing or a woodcut print.  These opposite attractions, volumetric and graphic, identify his distinctive body of work.

Simon discovered that a covered jar he was making was strikingly like recently excavated archaic Middle Eastern forms.  Pleased to find a pottery solution shared across a vast time, he began calling his versions “Persians Jars.” Other signature forms include three-legged vases and jars that are thrown thick and then squeezed and carved into the final shape. His forms combine grace and robustness – the odd combination defining them as contemporary – along with simplified, silhouetted animal motifs that evoke both cave painting and modernist painting.


Excerpt from: Makers
A History of American Studio Craft by
Janet Koplos and Bruce Metcalf
The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC,
A Project of The Center for Craft, Creativity and Design, Hendersonville, NC, 2010