Artist Statement
As a sculptor, the first thing I look for in a subject is the silhouette. I am inspired by
strong compositions that reflect a pleasing pattern of shadows and highlights. I am then
drawn to the attitude projected by the natural subject. I want to feel the personality, which I
hope I can reproduce in my sculpture.
I comb through photos in print and online until I find ones that spark my interest.
Using a photo as a reference I then sketch my subject, usually as part of a vessel,
incorporating the bird, animal or tree onto a ceramic form. I use additional photos to try to
get the correct anatomy of the subject, but I don‘t feel I have to be totally representational. I
want to give the subject a fanciful or whimsical air that I think I project from my own
personality. Frequently the first piece l design from my sketches becomes a prototype. I will
make similar sculptures, making various changes to the first piece. Sometimes these
changes are consciously done and sometimes the clay or the sculpture itself seems to
stimulate the changes. I will come back to the sculpture over a period of days and when I
feel it needs nothing more to convey the form and emotion it’s ready for the first firing in the
The final process is the glazing which is like starting over. The form and silhouette
are complete, but the finish and color make the final statement and that’s always a
challenge. If the finish on the sculpture is not exactly as I wanted it cannot be easily altered
and I will have to make a new sculpture and try again.
When the form and finish come together in the final sculpture there is no better
feeling for me than to know I have succeeded in projecting my original vision into my
sculpture. People who see my art are drawn to the details I incorporate into the sculpture;
they often comment that my work has lifelike detail and movement that they don’t often see
in ceramic sculpture.

An Artist Connected to Nature
Bonnie Belt
An artist must make the choice to be a professional or just have her art as an accompaniment to another life.  Ceramic artist Bonnie Belt made the decision to become a professional artist in a purposeful and practical way.  She found that her art had to be the focus in her journey through life and her connection to the natural world.
Bonnie is a native Californian, being born in Central California and transported to the Southern California desert at the age of 3.  This desert sojourn was thought to be a temporary stop by her parents while on the way to a more salubrious climate.
As a child Bonnie had the open desert as her playground, just 200 yards from her home, she could explore the dry washes and hills of the Mojave Desert.  Chasing lizards, watching jackrabbits, roadrunners and the occasional coyote was her universe.  Her early morning summers were spent exploring the desert on her horse and afternoons exploring the world through books.  During this childhood Bonnie discovered she was very creative.  Craft projects with her mother were ongoing as was drawing horses with her best friend afterschool.
After viewing a film in 4th grade, showing a potter “throwing” a pot on the potter’s wheel, Bonnie was driven to try throwing pots herself.  “I couldn’t believe that a lump of clay could magically rise from the wheel to become a finished pot.“  She didn’t actually get a chance at the potter’s wheel until college, as her small town school system had no ceramic facilities, but as soon as possible she took that ceramics class.  “I think I was hooked on creating with clay from then on.”
Belt attended California Polytechnic University in Pomona California and said she chose the college not for the curriculum but for the campus trees.  This may not have been the most logical choice as at the time CalPoly offered no art degree, but coming from a small community, she felt her talent might not be outstanding in the larger world. While completing her degree in Social Science, Belt took all the art classes offered.  “I enjoyed life drawing and acrylic painting, but I really wanted to get into the crowded ceramics classes and I had to wait until my sophomore year to take my first official ceramics class.” From the rustic converted maintenance shed on the tree covered hill above the main campus, “I fell into clay and it saturated my being.  For the next few years I did well in my other classes so I could spend all my spare time in the open ceramics lab”. 
Unfortunately, after college it would be several years until Bonnie could get her hands back in clay, life intervened, but Bonnie continued creating.   She studied for 3 years under the Master Chinese Brush Painter, Ning Yeh at the Claremont College’s night program to improve her brush work on pottery which she knew she would make in the future.  After almost 10 years away from clay and working in the Insurance industry Bonnie decided she had to get back to her art.  “I decided I would quit my job and move from Southern California to the Northern forests to pursue my art full-time.”
As life goes on, it’s often surprising that just the decision to act makes things open up and move faster in the chosen direction.  Remarkably she was able to transfer rather than quit her job and not only did she get the transfer, her company paid for the move!  Although Belt did not immediately get back to her art she was able to begin to purchase the expensive ceramic equipment
for her own studio and take more evening classes which lead to finding her artistic style and “voice” in clay.
“I discovered that trees were a recurring theme in all of my previous art work.  I had painted acrylic paintings of trees and landscapes with trees were my favorite subjects in my brush-painting.  I chose my college because of the tree-lined campus and moved to live among the redwood trees in Northern California.  It became obvious to me that trees and Nature would be the focus of my future artistic creations.”
Bonnie continued developing her art career in the next few years by participating in art fairs, joining co-op galleries and entering art shows.  Eventually Belt was able to transition from her insurance job into being a full-time artist.  Her work began to be recognized for the sculpted trees on her ceramic thrown forms, which evolved from small 1 inch tall trees attached to the lids of pots, to being the integral subjects of sculptures.  “I wanted realistic trees and experimented until I found a way to make the wood look natural.”  Belt makes her tree branches from coils of clay, and by rolling these coils over a split log she can pick up the actual texture of the wood in the clay.  Bonnie then twists and manipulates the textured coils to form trunks and branches for the trees.  Another technique Belt uses to complete her natural trees is “smoke-firing”.  This finish is done by smoking the piece in a galvanized bin packed with redwood needles and newsprint.   The piece was previously under-glazed in a matt finish with highlights masked with torn paper before being set on fire in the prepared bin.  The smoked piece is then scrubbed clean to leave an organic, archeological culmination to the work.   
Bonnie’s latest work has continued with the incorporation of birds in the depiction of Nature.  She is sculpting herons, egrets, hummingbirds, pelicans, swans and other birds on her thrown and assembled pieces.  Belt’s work continues to be inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th century, an artistic movement that had the ideal of creating harmony with Nature and creating a sense of peace away from jobs and factories.  Bonnie says “this ideal may be even more relevant today due to our current immersion in technology.”  Bonnie also incorporates the curvilinear shapes and the romanticism of the Art Nouveau movement of the same period.  “I see this influence in my bird and tree sculptures, as well as the work of the Japanese wood cut master Hokusai, in my waves.”
Bonnie has collectors throughout the country and had an article written in the trade journal “Clay Times”.  She was featured on the HGTV segment of the Carol Duval show and published in the books, “500 Pitchers” and “500 Ceramics” from Lark Books.  Several galleries currently show her work and she is an exhibiting member of the prestigious Association of Clay and Glass Artists of California, (ACGA).  Her work has been seen at the Sausalito, La Quinta, Scottsdale and American Craft Council Art Fairs as well as the Scottsdale “Celebration of Fine Arts”.
When not in her home studio in the redwood forest, 30 miles inland from the Mendocino Coast, Bonnie is hiking and exploring in the Sierra Nevada and Coastal Ranges of California, while listening to and attending concerts of Celtic and Bluegrass musicians.

Bonnie Belt received her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science with an
unofficial minor in Art/Ceramics at California Polytechnic University,
Pomona (2081). She was also studying with Chinese Brush Painting
Master, Ning Yeh at the Claremont Colleges, CA adult education (1979-
1981). Bonnie studied ceramics at Mohave Valley Community College,
Lake Havasu City, AZ (1982-1983) and began additional ceramics work in
1983, at Victor Valley Community College, Victorville, CA with her mentor
Gene Kleinsmith. During the 1980’s she was able to attend workshops with
some of the ceramic greats; Warren McKensie, Ken Ferguson, Don Reitz,
Paul Soldner and Tom Coleman.
With her diverse studies in clay and ceramics, Bonnie soon developed her
own “voice” in clay. She works in a realistic but fanciful, whimsical style
sculpting trees, birds, waves, and other natural flora and fauna attached to
“thrown” or hand-built ceramic bases. Bonnie uses mostly earth colors in
blues, teals, and greens to finish her ceramic sculptures which have a matt
satin or glossy finish.
Kings Mountain Art Fair, Mountain View, CA – September 2017
Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival, Palo Alto – July -1999 to 2017
La Quinta Art Festival, La Quinta, CA – March 2017
ACC San Francisco - August 2014
Celebration of Fine Art – January through March 2007
Art Walk, Conejo Valley Art Museum, Thousand Oaks, CA – June 2006
Scottsdale Arts Festival, Scottsdale, AZ – March 2005
La Jolla Festival of the Arts, La Jolla, CA – June 2005
Contemporary Crafts Market, San Francisco, CA -
March, ’05,’04,’03,’00,’09- Santa Monica, CA, June ’06,’05, Nov. 2003
Marin Art Festival at Lagoon Park - San Rafael Civic Center, CA
June, 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 1998
Sonoran Arts Festival, Carefree, AZ - April, 2004
ACGA Fall Clay & Glass Festival - Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA
November, ’04,’03,’02,’01,’00, Marin Center-1999, 1998
Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival - Mill Valley, CA - September, 2006, 1998
Home and Garden TV, HGTV – The Carol Duvall Show, episode #1851, 10/24/05
01/17/06, & 06/05/06
The Best of 5OO Ceramics, Lark Books, A division of Sterling Publishing Co.
387 Park Ave. So., New York, NY pg.242
5OO Pitchers, Lark Books, A division of Sterling Publishing Co.
387 Park Ave. So., New York, NY pg.274Publications - continued
Southwest Arts Magazine, April 2004 issue
Clay Times, Inspired by Trees, feature article, Nov.-Dec. 2003 Issue
The Los Angeles Times, Calendar June 5, 2003
Santa Monica Mirror, June 4, 2003
The Malibu Times, June 5, 2003
Independent Coast Observer - August 3, 2001
The San Francisco Chronicle - July 4, 2001
Ukiah Daily Journal - April 30 & May 28, 2000
The Crafts Report - December 1998 - Pg. 69, 72
The San Francisco Chronicle - September 16, 1998 - Home Section
Solo Shows
Gualala Arts' Dolphin Gallery, Gualala, CA - August 2001
Elegant Earth, 13101 Hwy. 9, Boulder Creek, CA - July 1999-January 2000
Millennium Arts Gallery, 130 S. Main St. Sebastopol, CA - Oct. 1999
Pope Estate, Twin Cabins Gallery - Valhalla Summer Arts & Music
Festival South Lake Tahoe, CA - July 31/Aug. 5, 1998
Selected Group Shows
Anne Bradford Gallery, 431 Center St., Healdsburg, CA, Nov.-Dec. 2003
Vrooman Wildlife Gallery, 10115 Donner Pass Rd. Truckee, CA-Jul 2000
Dunn Mehler Gallery, 337 Mirada Road, Half Moon Bay, CA-Dec. 1999
2006 Art Walk, Award Winner, Conejo Valley Art Museum,
Thousand Oaks,CA
2005-EP Designworks Gallery,
March Best of Show
2004-Mendocino Art Center – Member Juried Show-Sculpture Award
1999 Silverhawk Fine Crafts Internet Exhibition, Web Exhibit Site
Westmorland Art Nationals - Directors Purchase Award -
Latrobe, PA - 1997
The Artists Magazine - Finalist National Art Competition -
December 1994
Association of Clay & Glass Artists of California
839 Cole Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

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