terracotta corridor: the mission clay art & industry program

Twenty-one monumental works by eleven ceramic artists who did residencies at one of Mission Clay's terracotta pipe factories are now on display in Napa, California as part of the Rail Arts District public art program. This catalogue documents for the first time Mission Clay's 50-year-old Art & Industry program, particularly the challenges and joys artists encountered as they worked with freshly extruded industrial terracotta sewer pipes--sculpting, cutting, carving, glazing and firing. Included are candid interviews with the ceramic artists,  factory personnel, Program Director/Mission Clay CEO Bryan Vansell, and Associate Director John Toki. The catalogue is richly illustrated with photographs of clay pipe artworks and the nail-biting  process of transporting most of them from Mission Clay's factory in Phoenix, Arizona to Napa, their offloading by crane and installation along the railroad tracks. They will be on display until December 2023. Edited by Abby Wasserman; design by Lesley Gasparetti.

Left: Shard Skin Columns by Robert Harrison at the Phoenix factory. 


In the 1970s, Texas-born ceramist Ruby O’Burke (1897-1983) was called “the wizard of glazes in Northern California,” and “the patron saint of ceramicists.” Her ceramics workshops in San Francisco created opportunities for children and adults to learn and explore in community with others. Her most enduring workshop, Ruby's Clay Studio & Gallery, remains vibrant today, nearly 40 years after her death.

Ruby's Legacy: A Community in Clay is simultaneously a catalog of two exhibitions by studio artists and the first deep look at O'Burke's colorful life. Photographs of individual artworks in the two exhibitions are paired with statements by the artists that illuminate their work and their history with the workshop.

The 80-page trade paperback, edited by Abby Wasserman and designed by Lesley Gasparetti, includes an essay by ceramic sculptor and exhibition juror John Toki. In a detailed chronology of Ruby O'Burke's life, the narrative is enlivened by historic photos, Ruby's own reminiscences, and quotes by others about her influence.


“With the force of her personality and breadth of her knowledge, Ruby dominated any space she was in. She ran her artists' workshops--first with children, then with adults--with confidence born of hard won experience, determination, and willingness to be involved in every aspect of her chosen field of ceramics. . . . Ruby built a community in San Francisco by running a tight ship, as did her contemporary Marguerite Wildenhain at Pond Farm 80 miles to the north. Both women insisted on best practices and gathered a community around them.

"The background of the two women couldn't have been more different. Wildenhain emigrated to the United States as a fully trained, fully mature artist. Ruby O'Burke, child of Texas ranchers, didn't begin working in clay until she was 43 years old. Wildenhain trained with master potters; Ruby worked full time in office jobs and learned her craft at night school and summer sessions. . . ."

 – Abby Wasserman


"The Ruby catalog is truly a masterpiece thanks to your work and Lesley's graphic design. Just looking at the cover exudes Ruby's energy and spirit!” 

John Toki, Associate Director, Mission Clay Art & Industry Program, and author of the forthcoming sixth edition of Hands in Clay.

"A lovely tribute to an amazing and iconic artist and to our creative and inspiring community." 

Jacqueline Duncanceramist, member of Ruby's Clay Studio & Gallery

Publication details:

ISBN 949-8-88589-869-0
Publication date: March 2022
Published and distributed by Ruby's Clay Studio & Gallery, 552A Noe Street, San Francisco, CA 94114

Editor: Abby Wasserman

Essays by Abby Wasserman and John Toki

Introduction and Chronology by Abby Wasserman

Design: Lesley Gasparetti

Photos: Clara Rice, Jeanne Friscia, Ed Buryn

5.5 by 8.5. in. trade paperback

80 pages

76 Illustrations in full color and black-and-white
$20 from rubysclaystudio.org