“Slate Gray October: “Clay & Ink – Goedele Vanhille & Jonas Fahnestock"!

Telluride Arts’ Art Walk takes place Thursday, October 2. Participating venues are open 5-8pm, hosting receptions to introduce new exhibits and artists. Throughout the month Slate Gray Gallery presents “Clay & Ink” Goedele Vanhille & Jonas Fahnestock.”

Go here for more about Slate Gray.

Go here for more about Telluride Arts and Art Walk.

Please scroll down to read the email interviews of featured artists Goedele and Jonas.

Is creativity inherited or learned? The science appears to be a work in progress. But the consensus to date seems to align with the 80:20 rule, with 80 percent of artistic talent chalked up to Nature; 20 percent to Nurture.

In either case, mother and son Goedele Vanhille and Jonas Fahnstock won the lottery, meaning both were 100 percent predisposed to success as artists. That really comes down to being gifted with an innate ability to tap into their neurological potential for creativity (genetics or Nature), then being motivated enough to leverage the gift to give that impulse a doorway into the world through consistent application (Nature, aka, blood, sweat and tears).

“I grew up in Belgium,” explains Goedele.“My parents encouraged their five kids to engage with many different after-school activities. We all went to a weekend art school, participated in a gymnastic club, joined the swim team and attended music school. After a few years being involved like that, it was easier to decide where to place more of our focus. One sister became an accomplished swimmer; another sister became quite good on the flute. I liked to draw, paint, make sculptures and could be hours busy with those disciplines even outside of class settings. In other words those those passions never left me.”

“I feel like having artistic parents did somewhat inspire me to follow my own creative path. However I never felt pressured to pursue an artistic outlook by either of them. Yet, I feel like it was somehow in my nature. Having two incredibly talented parents with keen eyes for detail helped nurture my own practice,” says Jonas.

Nature and nurture conspire in this familial hug of a show at the Slate Gray Gallery, up throughout October (and into the off-season), aptly and simply titled “Clay & Ink: Goedele Vanhille & Jonas Fahnestock.” 

“The Clay” or Goedele Vanhille:

For many years, Belgian-born, Norwood-based potter Goedele Vanhille has created whimsical poetic forms largely inspired by nature, their carved, flowing lines seeming to defy physics. But for these haunting new ceramic sculptures the artist focused her light on two great painters:

“I have been thinking a lot about Rembrandt Van Rijn’s “Side of Beef” and Chaim Soutine’s Carcass paintings. The pathos of life these paintings evoke has been an inspiration for me these last years. In my recent work I was inspired to translate the thoughts these images pose into ceramic sculptures.

“The shapes of the sculptures are immediate: the clay responds to the stretching and manipulations I expose it to. I engage in dialogue with what is happening. The surface treatment of the pieces is applied with urgency of intent. What happens next in the kiln is a juicy alchemy.

“I keep listening, responding and learning — applying what I know, staying curious and willing to go out on a limb. These pieces are interior landscapes and canyons of the human heart. They explore what it means to be human.”

To create this new body of work, Goedele’s process involved firing multiple times in an electric kiln:

“I layered glazes to get the surfaces I was after, using the glazes more like paint. I had many containers with slips and glazes going at the same time. Sometimes a piece in the show has been through four firings to build up the layers and get the interactions with what is underneath. It was exciting to use all the gained knowledge of exploring glaze materials for over 40 years in this way.”

For more, please check out our email interview below:

TIO: Did you receive a formal education in fine art?

GV: During high school and art school I continued to attend weekend courses. After high school, I went to a four-year art school program in Belgium where I studied ceramics.

I wanted to know more and during my senior year in that school I explored other ways out there to learn. I wound up in Tuscarora, NV, for four months, where a teacher named Dennis Parks had a small pottery school. There I learned to make better pots, raw glazed, and helped build a kiln which was fired with crank case oil. It was an amazing experience to live and learn in that remote rural American setting.

Back in Belgium I worked in a studio at a friend’s place, but then set up my own studio where I made work I showed at a wholesale venue twice a year. Between those shows my pieces were delivered all over Belgium. I also did all the throwing for a small pottery shop twice a week. That gave me some stable income and schooled me in producing identical pieces over and over again.

I also continued to attend a weekend art academy where I earned yet another degree in ceramics. I also attended life-drawing sessions.

TIO: Why and when the move to the States and Telluride?

GV: In ’89, circumstances made me review where my life was going so I took time to visit Tuscarora again and travel some. I ran into my future husband John Fahnestock while there. He had been a friend of the Tuscarora Pottery School for many years and happened to come through one day.

In ’90 I was able to be “special” student in Paul Solder’s College program in Claremont. It was quite an experience to be able to see such an accomplished ceramicist work up close.

John and I married in September of that year, which prompted my move to Telluride where my new husband had been living since the ’70s.

TIO: Please describe your collaboration with John. Did he have anything to do with your move into surrealistic, fanciful shapes in addition to your functional forms?

GV: Once we lived in Telluride, the back building of John’s house was set up again as a studio. John had been a potter in town since ’72. When we met, however, his equipment and materials were packed up as a friend of his was living in the studio. There was a kiln in the back yard however. John was in the studio on and off as he was also helping build around town. I was able to stay at home with Jonas and then Cisco and work with clay around their schedules.

As soon as the Ah Haa School was up and running, both of us taught wheel-throwing classes and also held Raku sessions in our back yard.

We moved to Norwood in ’95 where we built studio and where I still live and work

John got diagnosed with neurological degeneration which made it hard for him to work in the studio for the last many years, but he was always there to bounce ideas off.

TIO: Which comes first: the shape of your sculptural work or the color? And please talk about the importance of color in your work.

GV: The shape comes first. Without that there is no work. I like the texture and color of the glaze to compliment the shape.

My own work is rarely focused on function, although I return to functional work for a few months every year because that’s where I find I can hone my eye on curve, line, volume and inside space which then carries over into my sculptural art.

I keep exploring new glazes and glaze combinations and have several tests going in every kiln I fire. What an amazing alchemy goes on there. I keep on learning, reading, and applying what I learn. My goal is to stay curious and willing to go out on a limb.

Every person reacts to color. Different colors evoke different feelings. Therefore the color I use on a shape enhances the intention of the work.

TIO: Does your son Jonas show up in your art in any significant way?

When the kids were small, I was able to stay home with them. We spent a lot of time drawing, painting and building with sticks. At some point they drew a lot of scary animals with pointy big teeth. That showed up in the edges of some work I was making at the time. But was a long while ago.

Over the years we often talked about art at home, sometimes all five of us together.

These days, Jonas and I are able to discuss works in progress, which is nice.

Cisco has learned to make work on the wheel in the last few years and Esmé has a membership in a local clay studio where she is living.

I feel John and the kids have made me grow in ways that are unique to each of them, and those changes show up in my art. I would not be who I am now without my family. And I am honored to be able to show with Jonas in this Slate Gray show.




“The Ink” or Jonas Fahnestock:

Born in Belgium and raised in Southwestern Colorado, Jonas Fahnestock has been drawing and exploring his creative side since his youth. His true artistic focus, however, really evolved during his education at Lewis and Clark College in Portland. The inspiration for his art pulls from the natural world, architecture, and the ongoing dialogue between chaos and order.

“If I had to describe my work I would say that it encourages the viewers’ eyes to wander across the piece. My use of geometry and organic abstraction creates a visual roadmap through which the subject of the painting can be dissected; as it both fades into the background and springs forward into the foreground, capturing the imagination.”

To learn more, check out Jonas’ email interview:

TIO: Did you ever consider a career outside the arts?

JF: Art actually isn’t my main career. I am a full-time carpenter but I try to find time in my evenings and spare time to allow my artistic practice to grow. 

I love that building and working with wood allows me to find a positive outlet for a more three-dimensional approach to creative problem-solving. 

TIO: Earliest memories of making art?

JF: My earliest memories of creating art include drawing little doodles on scrap wood from my father’s shop with my brother. We would find off-cuts of 2x4s and draw little scenes on them. 

TIO: Key takeaways from your education at Lewis & Clark College?

JF: I am eternally inspired by drawing professor Debra Beers and her ability to give detailed critiques and recognize an individual’s strengths and inspire growth. She helped me understand that drawing, especially from life, depends on using one’s eyes, not on one’s brain. 

TIO: What or who are your principal muses?

JF: Currently my main muse is Andreas Vesalius. Although his work is very life-based and was meant as a study of the human anatomy, his prints motivate me to continue delving deeper into how to understand the natural world and how it can be emotionally represented.  

TIO: To what extent and in what ways did your parents influence your art?

JF: My parents have always been people I could talk to for critiques. If I had questions about my work I could always ask and we’ve been able to discuss strengths and weaknesses. 

Their encouragement has helped keep my creative side blossoming.

I would add that I came to trust their understanding and approach to truth as well as expression and I strive to match that integrity in my own pursuits. 

TIO: What excites you most about the duet with your mom at Slate Gray?

JF: I am most excited to have my work showcased alongside my mother’s ceramic art. Goedele is a master of her craft and one of the most humble and prolific artists I’ve ever known. I am very honored to have my work featured in the same space.


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