How to Grandmother – When the Grandkids Live 2,500 Miles Away

gallery-goers view Nancy Selvin's works in gouache on paper at the Light Room, Berkeley, CA, 11-2013. Photo by BF Newhall

The Light Room in Berkeley is hosting a show of the works on paper that Nancy Selvin produced in a small rented studio during her grandmother summer in Baltimore. Photo by BF Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

My friend Nancy is a potter – a world-class ceramist to be exact – and a grandmother. She’s got pots in the Oakland Museum of California and pots in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Ceramist Nancy Selvin's "Large Pot with Green Base, Terracotta, Underglaze, 2012," 22" high. Photo by BF Newhall

Nancy Selvin’s “Large Pot with Green Base, Terracotta, Underglaze, 2012” is 22 inches high — and a product of her spacious Berkeley studio. Photo by BF Newhall

But much as she loves her work, Nancy wants to spend time with her grandsons – and not just a Thanksgiving dinner here and a birthday party there. She wants to be in on her grandsons’ day-to-day lives.

Trouble is, the young boys live a continent away. They’re in Baltimore where Nancy’s daughter and her husband have jobs. And Nancy’s dug in on the West Coast, where her ceramics studio in Berkeley is laden with jugs of glaze, buckets of clay, and a gigantic kiln. Ceramics in progress — tea pots, cups, plates and bowls — fill the shelves and tables .

When the grandchildren first came along, the question for Nancy Selvin and her husband Steve became – how to keep geography and work from getting in the way of living close enough to their grandsons to be part of their daily lives.

The couple worked out a strategy that could be a model for Jon and me, with one of our kids in Minnesota and the other in Los Angeles. It might also work for the  folks I know whose grown children are even farther away, in London, Paris, Tokyo, Bangkok and Bulgaria.

The Selvins’ solution: He took a summer teaching position in Baltimore. She rented a modest painting studio and shifted her focus from clay to paint for the summer months.

Interestingly, Nancy does not leave her ceramist’s sensibility behind when she heads off for

Steve and Nancy Selvin at the Light Room in Berkeley, CA, during show of her works on paper. Photo by BF Newhall

Steve and Nancy Selvin with archival digital prints created at the Light Room of some of her past works on paper. Photo by BF Newhall

grandmother time on the East Coast. She likes the softly glistening matte finish of her clay pots, and the watercolor and gouache works on paper she brought home from Baltimore this year echo that familiar texture.

Nancy is showing the fruits of her East Coast labors at the Light Room in Berkeley through Nov. 29.

Nancy Selvin
Paintings and Work on Paper

9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, November 4 – 29, 2013, at The Light Room, 2263 Fifth Street, Berkeley, CA  94710



  1. Liz Nystrom says:

    I second Emily’s comment.

  2. Barbara,
    Did I miss an announcement from Emily and Peter? 🙂

  3. Emily Newhall says:

    Nice to see Nancy featured here. And agreed: Minneapolis would be a good place to summer for you and Jon!


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