A. Spencer Barefield IV grew up surrounded by art and music. He fell in love with clay at the early age of 4-years-old, when he accompanied his mother Barbara to Pewabic Pottery, where she worked as a studio assistant. Barbara fell in love with clay as an art student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor under the mentorship of professor, ceramic artist Robert Stull. When she moved to Detroit, she studied at the world-famous Pewabic Pottery (founded in 1903 as a ceramic arts studio, it now remains as a non-profit ceramic design studio, education center and National Historic Landmark). Spencer went on to study with his mentor, Charlie Blosser, at Oakland Community College in Royal Oak, Michigan (OCC). He also received guidance from many wonderful ceramic artists who also used the OCC studio, such as Rick Pruckler, Marcia Hovland, Brenda Supuwood and others. Barbara joined her son, continuing to study and make art at OCC. In August 2015, Barbara and Spencer launched Barefield ClayWorks in their own studio in Detroit so they could do what they love best — create works of art in clay. Their studio is open by appointment.
A. Spencer Barefield IV
A. Spencer Barefield IV grew up surrounded by art and music. He fell in love with clay at the early age of 4-years-old, when he accompanied his mother Barbara to Pewabic Pottery, where she worked as a studio assistant. At that time, he created a small bowl for the Empty Bowls Project, which encouraged artists of all ages to create bowls and use them at fundraising events to serve soup. Proceeds were then donated to feed those in need. Spencer’s bowl was sent to the White House for a special exhibit about Empty Bowls.
As a teenager, one of his bowls was displayed in the Empty Bowl’s exhibit at the Swords into Plowshares Peace Gallery. The seeds were planted, and he continued to study at Pewabic Pottery, where he learned how to throw on the potter’s wheel. He studied art at the Roeper School, and for a short time at Cass Tech, where he won top awards from the Detroit Tigers (his first place artwork was printed on the baseball team’s annual holiday card); and from the national Coca Cola “Art in Harmony” competition (where his work was displayed at the Wright Museum of African American History).
He has been a featured artist at Elegance By Design in Ferndale, and his work has been included in student-staff exhibits at Pewabic Pottery. He has studied at the Oakland Community College Royal Oak Ceramics Program under the mentorship of the late Professor Charlie Blosser. His drawings, paintings and computer artwork reflect a personal style that is quite extraordinary and tell surreal and intimate stories. In June 2014, he his work was exhibited in a three-person show with Nora Chapa Mendoza and Barbara Barefield at the Lawrence Street Gallery in Ferndale, Michigan.
On the path to following her artistic passions, Barbara Weinberg Barefield took a detour. Painting and ceramic sculpture were squeezed between raising her children (violinist Jannina Barefield Norpoth and artist Spencer Barefield IV). She juggled graphic design; photography; producing jazz, classical and world music concerts with her husband, jazz guitarist A. Spencer Barefield; and using her artistic skills to promote Detroit, her Palmer Woods
neighborhood, Palmer Park, and numerous peace and social justice organizations.
The former New Yorker is now coming full-circle, refocusing her energy to once again place the creation of art in the center of her life by launching Barefield ClayWorks with her son, Spencer. The two worked side-by-side at Pewabic Pottery in the early 1990s, when she served as a studio assistant and introduced a very young Spencer to her love of clay. In more recent years, they both created ceramic art at Oakland Community College in Royal Oak.
Barefield’s photography has been widely exhibited, and published in her book Jazz Space Detroit (a book of her photos with text by Herb Boyd was published in 1979 and supported by a grant from the Michigan Council for the Arts). Her photos have appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, MetroTimes, LA Times, People magazine, and others.
Her ceramic art was included in juried shows at the Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Museum, at the MCAA Michigan Ceramics 2012 at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center, and in 2014 at a three-person show with Nora Chapa Mendoza and son Spencer at the Lawrence Street Gallery in Ferndale, Michigan. Barefield is a graduate of the University of Michigan College of Architecture and Design. She is a former Art Director for the Detroit Free Press Sunday Magazine and for Solidarity, the United Auto Workers magazine.
When her hands are not in clay, or working a camera, Barefield is the co-producer of Palmer Woods Music in Homes with her husband Spencer, and is a board member and events chair for People for Palmer Park.