What does it mean to do an Artist Residency?

Why Does a Residency Matter?

There are as many ways to be an artist as there are creative people. One thing we all have in common, especially if we’ve been making a living through our art, is not enough open studio and ‘creative’ time. It’s one thing to create work for the public, but in order to refresh, artists need uninterrupted time to explore creativity and new ideas without the pressure to create something ‘worthwhile’. The cooking of this creative stew will result in a delicious meal, layered with new flavors and colors. Like any thoughtful project, time is an important ingredient. That is the case for me, and that’s why I applied to A.I.R. Vallauris.

After 30 years as a full time ceramicist, 5 of which have been developing and building my Gulfport, Florida Gallery collection and reputation, I felt exhausted. Not tired, so much as empty. My creative tank was on low and I needed to fill up. I discovered this program back in 2008 when a friend brought it to my attention. I applied in 2009 and was accepted, but an impending recession was looming and I could not quite take myself overseas for such an extended time.- so I cancelled.

The last five years have been full. I opened the Gallery in 2019; struggled to carry a new business through the pandemic in 2020, lost my mom in 2021; expanded the Gallery in 2024 and after all that, I decided it’s time for me to explore my own creativity. So I applied for the 2024 summer session at Vallauris Aritst in Residence program and I was accepted!

Here I am with 4 other artists, all of whom have come here from their own lives for similar ‘creative refreshment/inspiration’. We are college professors, art center teachers, gallery owners and middle school ceramics teachers, all sharing a home and studio & getting to know one another. Through the creative process, we slowly integrate the unfamiliar into our studio life and expand beyond where we have been.

I, for instance, am busy both running a gallery and creating custom pieces for clients. I have work in me that has not had the time or space to come out - and I want it to reveal itself. So my goal is to both explore new work and give myself the space to play and poke around - without the expectation of results. Unencumbered, I say, by anyone or any marketplace. This kind of creative freedom is both essential and expansive.

A.I.R. Vallauris provides the setting, the studio and the home to have 5 artists, all of whom are on similar trajectories, come together and dive deep into the creative process. I am grateful for this time and I am excited for what it will reveal to me during these 5 weeks and into the future.

Vallauris, France, known as the ‘City of Crafts’, is important because it has been a ceramic mecca for 2,000 years. First, in the Gallo-Roman era, there were brick and pot manufacturers. In the 16th century, the city had its first 3 pottery factories, and a few centuries later, in 1829, there were 32 potteries. In the 1930’s the pottery turned from functional to fancy and colorful, a sign of the times.

Picasso Platter

In 1946, Pablo Picasso visited, as did many famous French artists. In the late 40’s and 50s Vallauris’ city of potters experienced its golden age. Great ceramic artists came to settle in the city. Roger Capron, Jean Derval, Gilbert Portanier, Roger Collet and Jean Marais were among them, but perhaps Pablo Picasso was the most well known. During his 8 year tenure in Vallauris, Picasso created thousands of ceramic pieces; when he first began at the Madoura Pottery, it was said he made 25 pieces a day - one of their most prolific apprentices! Piasso’s time in Vallauris, with an eager press to follow his whereabouts, put a bold spotlight on this tiny town. Even today they have an annual festival marking the day Picasso came to town! It is July 20th (the opening day of the A.I.R. Vallauris final artist resident exhibition) and I will be here to experience it!

Roger Capron Sculpture

Today, there are vessels, art and sculpture by all these greats as well as many unknown talents and many ceramic rising stars via AIR Vallauris. Plazas, museums, and public spaces all celebrate the ceramic arts and craft in general. Potteries and atelier’s can be found round each cobblestone turn. Many of these artists are busily making handcrafted work for French exhibitions, art shows and galleries. This humble town one mile from the Mediterranean Sea and seeming worlds away from the glitz of Cannes and Nice, is a goldmine of creativity, a working class town with a big, earthy heart.

Thank you for joining me on this journey back in time and deep within. It is my own personal ‘spelunking’ mission into a world I love and I look forward to what I find!


  • Paul and Teresa Safford

    We hope that you are filled with inspiration, renewed with amazing new ideas and that your soul is rested and restored! The beautiful piece you lifted us hangs in our new home as a reminder of an amazing friendship we cherish deeply!!! You are most deserving of this time!

  • Leslie Rickerson

    Brenda, I had no idea that only 5 people are invited/accepted to attend this residency! What an honor and accomplishment to be 1 of a select few to be part of such an intimate experience. I love learning about this world through your eyes and the pictures have been fabulous 😊

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