2013: Amber Aguirre

Extracts from a letter written by Amber: I would like to thank you and NCECA for sponsoring my residency at the Benyamini Contemporary Ceramics Center in Tel Aviv, Israel. I had the most marvelous experience there and want to make sure that you and the Board of Directors know what a fantastic place Benyamini is. I have done many residencies in the past and was so impressed with all aspects of this one. It was by far the BEST experience I have ever had. First of all, let me comment on the facilities. The building was renovated to be a ceramics center a couple of years ago and it is beautiful, modern and very well equipped. They have everything a ceramic artist could possibly think of...slab rollers, extruders, new large kilns, spray booth, compressor, air brush, many wheels, 2 large sinks, etc. The studio area is so well configured that work flows naturally from wet work areas to glaze areas. It is a studio that was obviously put together by someone well versed in all facets of ceramic needs.

In addition to the studio/classroom area, there is a beautiful library with comfortable seating, a computer with WiFi and all the newest (and classic) books on ceramics as well as even some other arts such as glass. There are two gallery spaces that are clean, modern and large as well as a roof-top area. There are also separated areas for student residencies and in fact I enjoyed very much the group of students from the art school "Bezalel Academy" that were there doing residencies. They set up a wonderful area for me to work in where I could see everything that was going on in the classes yet had enough separation that I was not bothered by people walking through my "space" while I was working. I was able to have a contact with students, teachers and people visiting the studio over my tabletop so I was part of everything, yet in my own area. It was perfect. Being part of the Israeli clay world was like being part of a family and my only regrets are that I did not have enough time and energy to go to all of the many homes I was invited to and spend as much time with everyone as I wanted to. A small bit about the work I created when there... I was very interested in the culture and politics of Israel and I was able to talk to so many people and find out so much about this complex culture. My work was completely affected by my experiences and I was able to create a whole body of work that I will be exhibiting.  Having the time and experience at Benyamini gave me the impetus and support I needed to be very productive as an artist. I was able to do EXACTLY what I had outlined in my original proposal. I have barely touched the surface of my experiences at Benyamini, but I hope it gives you a small idea of how important and valuable this cultural exchange program is. I am hoping that NCECA continues to partner with Benyamini in this endeavor as I want other people in my ceramic family to have the pleasure of the experiences I had. Thank you so much, Amber Aguirre Kailua-Kona, Hawaii