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The Shape of Water

Inside the studio with Arch Contemporary Ceramics owner Charlie Barmonde

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Charlie Barmonde never thought he’d be an artist. It wasn’t until high school at Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusetts, that he discovered ceramics when his art teacher, Bob Mogilnicki, taught him how to use the potter’s wheel and throw clay.

“At that point, it was just for fun, but it was the first time I was good at something artistic,” Barmonde admits. After graduation, he continued on to an education in the arts and earned his B.A. in ceramics and art history from Marlboro College in Vermont. Now, he is a prolific potter at Arch Contemporary Ceramics, which started as his personal studio and shop, but has since expanded into a gallery and school located in Tiverton’s Four Corners arts district. For Barmonde, who “never thought [he] would have [his] own gallery,” the space has been perfect to both make and display his work: mugs, salt cellars, flasks, pitchers, urns, bowls, and more.

“Much of my work is informed by life as a mariner,” Barmonde explains. “Shapes of boats, of sails, of sea creatures…” You can see this influence in his pieces, which feature a soft, oceanic color palette and gentle, sloping lines. He alternates between two kinds of art-making: functional, hand-thrown creations from the wheel, and abstract sculpture. Whatever he is creating, he makes it himself from beginning to end – from the potter’s wheel to the kiln and finishing touches.

“I like the tactile tendencies of clay,” Barmonde says. “It is immediately responsive to touch and every mark is part of its story – even the ones you remove. They are nevertheless inside of the piece and they will occasionally show up again during the firing process.” That process, according to Barmonde, can take 18-24 hours.

Barmonde has had his work shown in galleries along the East Coast in places like New York City and Florida, as well as sold to private collections. However, he has shifted between being a fulltime artist for a living and supplementing with other work throughout his career. “I am lucky that I have a supportive family that believes in my work,” he says.

If there’s one thing Barmonde wants people to know about his craft, it’s that it’s “harder than it looks.” Oh, and that potters “universally hate hearing references to Ghost.”