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A Life in Art: Debi Lampert-Rudman’s Love Affair with Dogs

Purebred dogs are often described as “works of art” and we all talk of the “art” of breeding. Some people go a step further and truly have dogs and art as integral parts of their lives. Debi Lampert-Rudman is a perfect example of this.

Deb working in the Studio – Photo by Marguerite Brennan

Debi grew up on a dairy farm with dogs of various heritages as part of the family. One of these was a black Afghan Hound named Tema Debi from a pet shop. Tema taught Debi the basics of dog grooming and training but they never hit the show ring.

Twenty five years ago Debi found Cocker Spaniels and hasn’t looked back. Her first dog, BonBon, earned a CGC and was the flower dog at Debi’s wedding. “We won our first match together – when they handed me a little ceramic Cocker Spaniel figurine along with a ribbon, I was hooked!”

Debi was fortunate to get involved with the Gings Kennels in Virginia. “Billy Gorodner wrote “The World of Cocker Spaniels” and knows everything about parti-color Cocker Spaniels. So, when I was ready for a true show dog, I went back to him and he sold me Ging’s Hey Hot Rod who became my first conformation champion and sired the first litter I bred under the Topaz prefix.”

Billy also emphasized to Debi the importance of belonging to clubs, being active and giving back to the sport through active participation. “I joined the American Spaniel Club and that led to membership in the Cocker Spaniel Club of New Jersey, and later the Morris & Essex Kennel Club. I’ve been quite actively involved in all of those clubs, from running eye/health clinics, Public Education Coordinator, Breeder Referral, Judges’ Education and other activities for the Cocker clubs, to Match Show PR Chair, 2010 and 2015 Art Show Chair and Board Member for Morris and Essex.”

When asked what makes her heart beat faster at the sight of a gorgeous Cocker, Debi had this to say. “So many things a gorgeous, well-put-together Cocker Spaniel in motion is breathtaking. I may be prejudiced but my Pistal, GCH Dal-Mar’s Topaz Pistal, BN, CGC, is probably one of the most perfect examples of what I love about a Cocker:  big smile, easy movement, great reach and drive, with a beautiful gently sloping topline. Resting, Cocker Spaniels with their melting expression, long silky ears, and need to always be with their people, some part of a Cocker Spaniel is always touching its person.   It doesn’t get better than that  ;-)”

GCH Dal-Mar’s Topaz Pistal, BN, CGC handled by Tracy Lynn Carroll, photo credit Patricia Elkins) Pistal was #1 parti color in 2011

So Debi clearly had the art of dog breeding and showing down but what about “dog art”? “I have been making art since I was a child – and always gravitated to creating animals. I have studied with many fine artists including watercolorists Hella Bailin, Elizabeth Horowitz, and ceramic artists Marguerite Brennan and Tom Neugebauer, among others.  In the past several years I’ve begun working in Precious Metal Clay as an adjunct to my work.  I have included silver objects in some ceramic pieces and also created jewelry and objets d’art ( boxes, etc)  This past summer I became a Certified PMC artisan studying with Chris Darway.”

When asked if watercolors came first and then clay, Debi said, “No, clay was always a great interest for me. Then there were years that I worked on the watercolors at length, but never stepped away from ceramics.  In fact, I bring a lot of my painterly style to my ceramic pieces. I create watercolor sketches before beginning a piece, then many times I actually paint with underglazes on the piece, as  I would a watercolor.”

Just as breeding a litter or bringing along a potential show dog takes time, so does Debi’s art. It generally takes from 4-6 weeks for her to make a ceramic sculptural piece. About 2 weeks for a watercolor from a photograph.  “When I’m working on a particular piece, I become completely consumed with that dog and its breed, if it is a purebred. I research the AKC standard, take photos at dog shows, and look at dogs a lot to be sure that I’m capturing the essence of the breed as portrayed in that dog.”

Nell & Tony Bookends – Golden Retriever commissioned piece – photo courtesy William Secord Gallery

Since many of Debi’s creations are custom orders, that can add more time. “When I am commissioned to create a dog portrait, for example, I may be requested to visit the dog – which I love – and photograph, then that adds some additional time.  Most of the time, people have a favorite photograph or story that they want to share with me and I create either a sculptural or functional piece. Many times, I’ll feel that their dog should be on a pair of bookends, or a framed tile, or even a bowl or a teapot and other times it may be that it’s perfect as a stand-alone sculptural piece.” From the discussion with the owners and photos, Debi often does a watercolor or makes sketches. If the sketch meets with approval, the ceramic work starts. Clients are involved every step of the way with the creation of their special dog art.

No molds are used since each of Debi’s creations are unique. Many steps are involved: “from the initial watercolor, to clay at the greenware and leatherhard states (before first bisque firing) then bisque firing and painting with underglazes, and final glazing.  I always add a little note with each piece as well as they go off for their new lives in their forever homes.”

Not only has Debi pleased her customers, she has had some great successes in dog art competitions. “My first award from The Art Show at the Dog Show is probably my favorite award. I won for a piece entitled  “Max at his Peak” of a friend’s Smooth Fox Terrier at the peak of an agility A-frame. We were in a beginner’s agility class back in the early years of agility, she stayed with it and went on to the world team; I just dabbled. The Star Ledger wrote a large, full page feature article on my work, my dogs, and the piece.  It was my first exciting recognition for my dog ceramics.”

“My solo show last year at the William Secord Gallery was the most exciting moment in my art career.  The show ran from October through January and was very well received and led to quite a few commissions and worldwide publicity so that was really exciting.” Debi says she has so many “favorites that it would be hard to choose just one of her works to give that accolade to.

Isabella – a Literary Cavalier photo courtesy The William Secord Gallery

Debi has made trophies for both specialty and all breed shows. In her spare time, she is also a writer. “ I do monthly feature articles on dog art and other dog and pet related articles.”

If you would like to see other examples of Debi’s work check out her social media and website. Her facebook page is www.facebook.com/potterypup. Her twitter is @potterypup and on Etsy her shop name is Potterypup. Debi’s website features her living works of art – the Topaz Cockers – as well! Gift certificates for custom work can be purchased as well as already produced artwork.

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