Ursula Goebels-Ellis

Media: Clay

Black Mountain, NC


I hand-build forms out of clay. This main ingredient, the "dirt of this earth",  might find itself imprinted with shells from the oceans, inlaid with volcanic rocks, pierced by bullets or by clinkers from a friend's forge. The creative process spans techniques from deliberately selecting material, design and firing technique to produce a somewhat predictable product, to forming intuitively what is felt at a deeper level and begs to be expressed. All creations are narratives, telling metaphorical tales


"...simple clay is transformed,

and something new is called

to stand out

into existence

like a planet newly born." 

excerptes from a poem written for the artist by Steward Walker


Please visit my Personal Site ursulagoebelsellis.com for more information:

  • Gallery
  • Biography
  • CV
  • Technique/Process


 Artist Statement

I grew up in Germany, a war torn country. As an adult I emigrated to America, where I now live in relative wealth and peace. These life- experiences have greatly impacted the way I think, live my life and create art.


 About 40 years ago, I first dabbled with clay and intuitively created - without concerns about meaning, purpose or aesthetics - what I felt but had no words to express. Studies in the liberal arts, especially my training as an art therapist, gave me the tools to view later creations as a conduit for gaining insight, healing, and broadening what had been a self-centered perspective on life to a more comprehensive worldview.


I was fortunate that I lived my early years in a countryside where gardens provided nutrition and ferns growing under tall pine trees were excellent building materials for shelter. They provided refuge and solace when otherwise there was none. I believe that this early connection with nature instilled in me the sense of being part of and belonging to a larger universe. That feeling has taught me to look at war and violence, the plagues of humankind, from a less personal, more philosophical perspective.


A bond with the natural world is further manifested in my choice of material, clay, the dirt of this earth. Working clay into simple, strong forms with surface markings created with other indigenous materials like shells and bark pleases me.  Staying true to their organic appearance, I eschew glazes. Instead I emphasize depths and texture through the application of oxides and post-firing reduction. Still warm from leaving the kiln, the finished work is often treated with multiple applications of beeswax. A procedure that protects the bone colored clay and gives the form the smooth and pleasant look that begs to be touched.


However, there are times when I am called to building more complex forms. They are usually intuitively conceptualized and challenging to execute. By choosing to juxtapose materials not commonly fired together, I have to know and respect each element’s integrity, from the malleability of clay to the firmness of steel. The challenge lies in having these materials endure together not only the drying process when clay shrinks and steel maintains its form, but also the process of high-temperature firing which hardens the former and renders the latter fluid. If the firing is successful, each element will emerge coexisting in an altered form, conveying the message that polar opposites do not need to fight each other. Conversely, there can be beauty found by participating in the life-sustaining cosmic dance of never-ending transformation.

Photo Gallery