Arcosanti - An Urban Laboratory in the Arizona Desert.

Ceramics Studio

Aimee grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and took her workshop in January of 2015. She became the manager of the Ceramics Department here at Arcosanti in January of this year. For the next month, Aimee will be in Jingdezhen, China, as city known as the “Porcelain Capital.” (photos Aimee Marcinko, text Shannon Mackenzie)

About The Pottery Workshop:

“The Pottery Workshop Jingdezhen is an international ceramics center focusing on the development and enrichment of ceramics in China and abroad. […] The Pottery Workshop is surrounded by hundreds of small, independent craftsmen and artists. Clay producers, throwers, sculptors, mold makers, blue & white decorators, glaze shops, public kilns, brush makers, blacksmiths, and box makers are only a sampling of the craftsmen working in our community. Our modern facilities, bilingual staff as well as being located in the “Porcelain Capital” offers a unique experience found nowhere else in the world.”

This week, Aimee will be giving a presentation on the unique silt casting process used to make the ceramic wind-bells at Arcosanti to the artisans and craftsmen in Jingdezhen,

January 20. 2016

In the next weeks we plan to introduce each department at Arcosanti with a photo of the present crew.

Here we have the crew of the Ceramics Studio at Arcosanti.

from left:
Colleen Connery,
Linda Fournier makes all of the tiles,
Aimee Marcinko,
Manager Erin O'Loughlin

[photo and text by Sue Kirsch]

The beautiful Ceramics Studio is in an open, south-facing apse.  This passive solar environment enables the artists to work in the sunshine during winter and be shaded during summer.

The Ceramics Studio is a stop on the Arcosanti Site Tour and you are likely to see a clay pour happening or crafts people carving one of a kind designs into each bell.  Our Ceramic Studio produces about 5,000 tile pieces a year and about 10,000 Windbells and pots.

Clay from Globe, Arizona is mixed with water to make slip, which is poured into either earthen or plaster molds. After the slip develops a wall thickness the excess slip is drawn out and later the bell is removed from the mold. One of a kind designs are carved into the bell while the clay is still partially damp. Once dry, the bells are fired in the kiln and assembled. Ceramic Windbells are also produced at the Cosanti Ceramic Studios. 

These pieces are sold in the Arcosanti Gallery, the Cosanti Gallery, and are available online.

1.    SILTCAST WINDBELLS: Siltcast Windbells are crafted much in the same way as Soleri’s Siltcast buildings. Bell shapes and one-of-a-kind designs impressed into a bed of sifted, damp silt are transferred to the bell using a slip casting method. The resulting bells, further enhanced with carving, have rough textures and variable color patterns.

2.    PLASTER-CAST WINDBELLS/PLANTERS: Plaster cast bells have a smoother texture and do not have impressions as the silt bells do, but have a broader surface for complex and rich carvings.

3.    ARCOSANTI TILES AND SWITCH PLATES: The same Arizona clay is screened and dried to a clay texture that can be processed with a pug mill and rolled flat. Tiles and switch plates of various dimensions are cut from this slab and hand-impressed with one-of-a-kind designs. Tiles are often glazed to add color and durability for household use.

June 10. 2013

Lucas Rodas, a musician in the group Hojarasca, held a workshop in the Ceramics apse at Arcosanti, teaching attendees how to build an “ocarina” – a flute-like instrument used in Andean music – from clay.

(All the photos in this report are by Julia Dorn-Giarmoleo, workshop participant and Archives intern).

Hojarasca is a group of three Colombian muscians from El Carmen de Viboral, Colombia, who play contemporized versions of Andean music. We had the pleasure of hosting the members of Hojarasca with the Capetbag Brigrade’s Bi-Cultural Roadshow for five weeks (see previous reports). Lucas performs on guitar, charango, percussions and voice, he is also an instrument builder and constructed all the instruments the group uses.

He taught all the attendees how to sculpt the clay into two concave parts, and how to carve the necessary holes to allow for sound. Thanks to his wonderful guidance, every ocarina that was made produced sound!

August 03. 2012

Here we are at the kiln, where we single fire our bells to 2134 degree fahrenheit. This is the correct temperature to strengthen the clay and maximize the tonality and durability of a bell.

About 300 pieces construct a kiln load. We load our work as a team - fire is the transformative fuel of our art ... "CLAY" ... ancient residual planetary substance capable of transforming from dirt, to mud, to stone ... through firing!

In our Arcosanti Gallery, these beauties are available, a #702 ceramic bell. Also available for purchase at the gallery in Cosanti, Paradise Valley, and soon to come, on our web-site.

This #19 ceramic assembly is a re-issue of one of Soleri's original bell shapes from the late 1950's, early 1960's.

One of the foundational structures in the footprint of the Arcosanti ecology is this astonishing Ceramics Studio. Powered by the forces of nature, with an understanding of seasons, pre-dominant wind currents, orientation to the axis of the earth & its seasons and of course the sun. 

The apse utilizes sensibilities that are all but lost in modern urban architecture. Except for a small usage of electricity this studio heats and cools year around with passive solar energy. 

Paolo Soleri applied an understanding of the natural world to this design, our studios are insulated by the earth & thermal mass, this structure breathes, is, yes, beautiful and a tribute to the brilliance of the architect that landed it here. 

Constructed in the early 1970's, we have been producing a steady flow of windbells since 1976. 

Sustainable architecture ... sustainable industry ... Soleri Ceramics Studio.


August 01. 2012

We are trained to carve in the Soleri design aesthetic. My job, in part, is to sustain the integrity & vitality of Soleri's imagery.

[text: Ceramics studio manager David Hutchens]

CERAMICS - INTERNSHIPLee Ji has an inherent and developed sense of line quality from her Bachelors of Architecture degree, just perfect for the work at hand.

Focused attention to every detail is the key to developing a personal standard of excellence.

In the first segment of Lee Ji's training ... we have produced a kiln load of bells. Accomplishment, a sense of pride ... ownership in creative process ... makes me smile too! [and notice those matching yellow shoes! Ha!]

July 30. 2012

Here are our two newest ceramics trainees in the midst of a "pour". Jane Tellini, alumni-workstudy-volunteer, and Lee Jieun [Lee Ji]. We are happy they are here with us. Lee Ji is an alumna and has joined our department for a one year training/internship plan created by the U.S. State Department Bureau for Educational & Cultural Affairs; International Center for Language Studies.

[text: Ceramics manager David Hutchens]

Brian Thompson has been in Ceramics nearly three years. Here he is mentoring Lee Ji ..... exposing the subtle nuances of slip casting windbells.

Ceramics manager David Hutchens instructs: 

There are 2 fundamentals in Paolo Soleri's work: 

1. Elementarity of means exerted on the most unpretentious materials, 

2. Directness of expression [and don't forget the value of PEACE] 

Here in this Apse Studio is our crew, focused in action. On the far side is Andrea Speed, and if you are lucky she may be your Arcosanti tour guide.


This report continues on 8/1/2012. 



May 21. 2012

Paolo Soleri designed and constructed this Ceramics Apse studio in the early 1970's. The production of Soleri Windbells defines the essence of sustainable practice.

On Monday last week a group of students and their teacher from the nearby ORME SCHOOL visited the Ceramics studio for a morning workshop.

[text: David Hutchens]


Here Orme Ceramics teacher Brenda Lestock and her students are engaged in their first 'slip-pour' in our plaster molds.

Reminiscent of Soleri's earliest beginnings in ceramics, we explored "EARTHCASTING" techniques, preparing silt molds and pouring slip directly into the forms we created.

We concluded our workshop with an opportunity to carve a design into the bells we made. Hands on start to finish ... from the earth itself ... exploring the possibilities of creative expression through the most unpretentious materials. The ORME students were great ... very focused and engaging.


from teacher Brenda Lestock:

We had a wonderful time at Arcosanti!! The name of the class was Ceramics and the students were as follows:
Jesse Fernandez
Jacob Pipes
Delaney Jones
David Guevara
Cherokee Toms
Cassandra Windju
The Orme School of Arizona Ceramics class had the unique opportunity to visit Arcosanti, for a Soleri Bell workshop, under the instruction of renown ceramist David Hutchens.
Students were able to learn about the overall process of how Soleri Bells are made through plaster and silt cast pouring. Each student participated in the pouring of the clay and the carving of the result. The Orme School of Arizona was very privileged to have this wonderful workshop.
Thank you so much,
Brenda Lestock


March 26. 2012

[photos: archives volunteer Chihiro Saito & text: Ceramic studio manager David Hutchens]

We continue our report about fabrication of new plaster molds for the Soleri Ceramic studio.

Here we are in the Ceramics Apse, one of the first completed buildings at Arcosanti. We return to a foundational premiss: "Synergy", the method by which this Arcology was formed.

Present are current workshop attendees, residents, volunteers and alumni. Gathered in this most beautiful ceramics studio by Soleri's design ...  little do they know what they are in for!

With Mary Hoadley in the lead ... [wish we would have given her a lighter load to carry], connectively we move the molds one at a time across the Arcology the old fashioned way ... no carbon footprint.

We arrive again at the Ceramics Apse to complete the drying stages of our molds. We take advantage of passive solar energy and predominant wind current to accomplish this task. Again ... utilizing the sensibilities of Paolo Soleri's early architectural designs.

And so it goes, it is all a process ... all of our molds have been moved ... we will remove all materials and this space will be used for a new activity.

Multiple use spaces - just take a look at this. The lighting is natural and comprises an entire wall. "Lean Alternative", subtle and strong, resourceful, practical designs for living.

Yanabi wrote a book titled "The Unknown Craftsman". I can relate. New molds in the background in this beautiful year-around outdoor studio. And here I am in the clay pit, returning to the essential material.

CLAY ... this is how we do this, we dig "it" from the earth. Taken from archival foundational works, from a piece called "Sounds of the earth", it was written" there are two fundamentals in his work.

1. Elementarity of means exerted on the most unpretentious material.
2. Directness of expression.

We continue in this tradition ... designs by Soleri.

March 23. 2012

Paolo Soleri: incredibly prolific man.

These molds we have made are significant in numbers, we filled this whole studio. Every detail carefully attended to.


[photos: Chihiro Saito & text: David Hutchens]

On the center table are two forms we will cast and re-introduce into the Soleri windbell line. These were produced in the 1950's and described as Zepayr bells, Claviluminas and Auri mobiles.

These forms and a series of works are inspired by archival records which remain relevant and uniquely Soleri. Maintaining the integrity of his ceramic forms, we honor the creative genius of Paolo Soleri.

We have assembled, stored and archived this series of Paolo Soleri's retiring molds. With his input, we re-create the new work as part of the continuum.

I would never have imagined this. 90 bags of plaster mixed by hand [and we recycle the bags].

More to come on Monday, March 26. 2012.


[photos: Chihiro Saito & text: David Hutchens]

March 09. 2012

Paolo Soleri is an inspiration to me. His foundational approach to ceramics is rooted in an understanding of elemental materials.

EARTH AIR WATER FIRE / ALCHEMY. Combining ideas, impulse, creative spark ... designing with materials ancient, timeless, present and lasting.

[text by David Hutchens]

Creative Genius!, it is an honor to continue this work, with his blessing, his input and insight. Paolo Soleri wind bells, Bravissimo!

Brian is pouring a batch of plaster. 67% consistency, a ratio of 2 lbs of water to 3 lbs of plaster, hand mixed mindfully.

This photo illustrates the multiple stages of our process, and Paolo gracing our moment, Grazie!

Creative process ... nothing quite like it. Working with energy  that comes from within and through our hands into form, into the world.