pottery mugs production glazes pat fleming kennewick

Pottery Thoughts — Pat Fleming Creates as He Meditates

pottery mugs production glazes pat fleming kennewick

An array of pottery mugs, featuring a variety of shapes, sizes, and glazes, by Kennewick potter Pat Fleming

He teaches, paints, digs clay in out of the way places. And, over an art career that spans 54 years and counting, Pat Fleming has thrown a lot — LOTS — of pots.

“Back in the day,” the Kennewick potter remembers, “the local art community held several annual art exhibits and demonstrations at the local mall.

“While demonstrating at the mall during one of those regional art exhibits, we were approached by a buyer from The Bon about producing pottery for their store. I accepted.”

pottery wheel bowl production pat fleming

Each pottery piece, whether made as production pottery or a one-time-only piece, requires the time, attention, and skill of the potter

And therein Fleming, who at the same time was teaching art in the Kennewick school system, entered into the world of pottery production work. His pottery at The Bon attracted notice from Cole’s Plant Soils, Inc., which distributed his wares throughout the Western U.S. He also collaborated with local restaurants to provide coffee mugs, candle holders, serving items, planters, and ash trays. (“Remember them?” Fleming asks).

Along with that, he adds, his work has been distributed in Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, France, and Spain.

Nowadays, Fleming has scaled down on production work, but maintains two commercial customers for whom he makes stoneware. He also takes commissions from individuals. Intriguingly, he finds the process of production pottery to be not frenetic, but calming.

Meditative and Calming

“Doing production work is meditative,” Fleming explains.

“One cannot concentrate on the process of throwing a pot with a thoughtful shape without concentrating.

“Doing that makes all the worries and concerns of the day disappear. It would appear to the uninitiated as drudgery, but is actually the opposite.

“It is the nature of craftsmanship to require concentration to the point of excluding everything else.”

From soup bowls to serving bowls, from mugs for hot drinks to vessels for wine, potter Pat Fleming is constantly experimenting with techniques and form.

For years, Fleming has been digging clay for his pottery from local areas, starting at the Ringold area at the Columbia River. He later moved to spots around Othello, Prosser, and the Walla Walla River Basin.

Fleming uses the dug clay it by itself as earthenware, or incorporates with fire clays purchased from local building suppliers. He also blends it, along with local soil and wood ash, into signature glazes. These range in color from ochre to brown, black to iron red.

Wood Ash Makes Innovative Pottery Glazes

“The coloring of most of my glazes comes from the iron in the soil, clay, or wood ash,” Fleming says. “I rarely use chemical colorants, and have limited their use to cobalt for blue and copper for green.” One of his more innovative resources for ash, aside from that collected from the Mount St. Helens 1980 eruption, is from Fleming’s barbecue pit.

“When firing a wood kiln, the wood ash flows through the ware chamber and settles on the pots to form its own natural although spotty glaze.”

Like many artists who become experts at what they do, Fleming loves to teach what he knows, and what he knows about a 12,000-year-old craft is significant. In 1971, he began his teaching career at Kamiakin High School in Kennewick, and though after 33 years he theoretically retired from teaching, he never really did, and has been called back numerous times. He also instructs through numerous community venues.

Teaching Is His Passion

“Even though I really enjoy making functional and non-functional ceramic objects, teaching is my real passion,” Fleming says.

“One of the most rewarding positions was at Coyote Ridge Correction Center for Walla Walla Community College. The convicted felons were the most willing and motivated students ever.

“After Covid19 goes away, I will return to Kennewick Community School where I teach drawing and painting.”

Because a teacher, like an artist, never stops. Why should they? They’re creating, learning, innovating, giving, with the result that their job isn’t really a job at all.

“As I look back on my 54 years of art in one way or the other being my livelihood, I wonder how I could have been so lucky,” Fleming muses.

“I wish I could do it all over again.”

Wenaha GalleryPat Fleming is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from September 8 through October 2, 2020.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

blue rocket ceramics pottery mugs kassie smith

Ceramics Dynamics — The Pottery of Kassie Smith

Ceramics Artist Teaches with Passion

By the time she was 17, ceramics artist Kassie Smith was done — absolutely DONE — with school, and wanted nothing to do with college.

So, in one of life’s unique twists, the Moscow, ID, artist found herself completing eight years of higher education, resulting in a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Studio Arts from the University of Idaho. She stayed on to work as a ceramics instructor. A short time later, she moved to Washington State University, where she joined the ceramics department there. When she isn’t at WSU, she’s the Dahmen Barn, an artisan instruction and studio co-op in Uniontown, where Smith both teaches and manages the pottery studio.

rocket theme ceramics pottery clay bowl kassie smith

Rocket-themed ceramic bowl, bottom view, by Kassie Smith of Moscow, ID

“I realized there was nothing I could do with my life without a degree,” Smith explains, adding that since childhood, she has always wanted to work with clay and glass art. The turning point came when she met an artist at a Baltimore gallery who created an “alcohol reduction” process similar to Raku.

“He took time to explain the process and connect with me, a 17-year-old rebellious creative soul who wanted to completely abandon academia, on a very human level. His passion was evident. After that interaction, I gave up the quest for glass art and focused solely on ceramics.

“I have kept his passion and philosophy, seeking to use my work and research as a way to connect with people, and hopefully spark a similar passion in others.”

Functional — and Beyond Functional — Ceramics Art

One of Smith’s specializations is functional pottery: she creates custom ceramics ware for local restaurants. She also focuses on female empowerment — both as a female entrepreneur and artist serving as a role model for other women, as well as with the specific subject matter she chooses.

Teeth pottery mugs kassie smith

Smiling Teeth Mugs by Kassie Smith of Moscow, ID. The gold tooth in each features real gold.

“The content of my art often has imagery relating to the female body — either with objects that suggest a relationship or forms that allude.

“Most of my work is meant to be introspective, but recently I’ve been getting louder and more bold, getting closer to a ‘statement.'”

Although she has dug and processed her own clay — a process she calls both fun and incredibly labor and time intensive — Smith generally orders a pallet with 1,950 pounds of material. It’s cost effective. It also requires a lot of storage — in both its raw state and in the finished products.

“There’s never enough space,” Smith says, describing one of the many challenges of the ceramics lifestyle.

“Build shelves, fill shelves, need more shelves.”

The Benefit of Challenges

Finding enough space is just one challenge, or as Smith prefers to call it, life benefit. Another challenge/benefit is clay itself, because the material is a never-ending source of wonder. It adds a scientific element to the art that demands constant learning and experimentation.

“Clay is a fickle material, and all clays are different,” Smith says.  “Firing clay is an art form in itself.

“I am a super nerd for glaze chemistry. There is never enough time to run all the experiments I’d like. I could spend the rest of my life on glaze chemistry if I didn’t get tired of wearing a respirator.”

red rocket themed ceramics pottery mugs kassie smith

Rocket-themed pottery mugs in red tones by Kassie Smith

Another challenge involves waiting, something every ceramics artisan spends more time doing than they’d like.

“Waiting for kilns to cool down is challenging. I want to see the things NOW!!!

“Patience . . . ”

Smith has shown her work at the Wallowa Valley Festival of the Arts in Joseph, OR, as well as at the Moscow Farmer’s Market, every Saturday from May through October.

She shuttles her work in progress between three studio spaces. One is at WSU, one at her home in Moscow, and a third at the community pottery studio at the Dahmen Barn. Logistical planning for transporting ceramics is a nightmare, she admits.

“And I break things.

“But having three studios keeps me on my toes.”

Clear as Mud

Learning, teaching, researching, experimenting, creating, even the interminable waiting. It’s all part of being a ceramic artist, well worth all the extra schooling it took to get here. Whether in classroom or studio, Smith is where she wants to be, doing exactly what she wants to do.

“There are very few things I’d rather do than be elbows deep in the mud.”

Wenaha GalleryKassie Smith is the Featured Art Event from Monday, July 15, through Saturday, August 10 at Wenaha Gallery.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment.

 

slab artist

Out of the Box — The Slab Built Ceramic Pottery of David Raynalds

slab artist

Curves and eclectic shapes don’t fit into a square box — Salt Cellar, slab built pottery by Portland ceramicist, Dave Raynalds

It doesn’t matter how big the box is: human beings simply don’t fit in them.

Creativity, experimentation, exploration — these elements rage against the sides of the box until they knock them down, freeing the spirit within. And the more stubborn and determined the person, the more he or she resists the box — and the more interesting their story.

slab artist

Floral Platter, slab built ceramics with a painterly flower glaze, by out of the box ceramic artist, Dave Raynalds of Portland.

So it is with Dave Raynalds, a Portland potter who specializes in slab ceramics, a technique that involves hand-shaping slabs of clay into finished platters, plates, and bowls.

Not a Box: Slab Built Ceramic Shapes

“All my work is slab built,” Raynalds says. “I prefer the spontaneous, loose, lively and organic shapes that slab building can give.”

Raynalds first experimented with the slab ceramic technique in college, when he took an art class every term, from drawing to macrame. During his pottery class, he created a vast and impressive array of items, all slab built, and then was mildly . . . irritated when he received a lower grade because he had done no wheel work. It was 40 years later that persistent insistence by his wife, enrolled in a pottery class at the Multnomah Arts Center, convinced Raynalds to give it another try.

“I knew I would love it, but I didn’t want to intrude on her thing,” Raynalds explains. “It didn’t take much convincing, though, and now we both spend four or five days a week at the studio at the center.”

Inspired by Betty Feves

slab artist

You can’t get much further from a box shape than a round globe — Globe, slab ceramic pottery sculpture by Portland artist Dave Raynalds.

Raised in Pendleton, Raynalds attended junior high and high school when Betty Feves, the nationally famous ceramicist and musician, was on the school board, so all through his pre-college schooling, he received an excellent education in the arts, due to the district’s commitment to providing it. In college, he took his degree in geology, and because of his tendency toward kicking the box, embarked upon a career as a cabinet maker, or as he puts it,

“I got into woodworking by buying so many woodworking tools that I had to turn professional. I worked as a cabinet maker for 30 years.”

Now retired from cabinet making, Raynalds, a slab artist, incorporates his woodworking experience into his pottery, as he takes a woodworker’s approach to clay using similar building techniques.

Out of the Box Woodworking Tricks for Slab Pottery

“Many woodworking tricks translate well to slab-built ceramics. But unlike wood, if you cut something too short, you can add more clay and move on.

“Clay lends itself to more organic shapes than wood. This appeals to me because complex shapes and curves can be generated very fast, as opposed to wood.”

slab artist

Even shapes that are polygons aren’t conformed to the square box — Paper Doll Platter — slab built ceramic pottery by Portland ceramicist, Dave Raynalds

His geology studies come into play with painting watercolor landscapes, a pursuit he adopted five years ago on a canoe trip in Utah, complete with sketchbook and portable paints. And coming full circle, the painting incorporates back into the slab ceramics, as he chooses and uses glazes and creates designs. Nothing is isolated, and no experience is wasted.

“I am a born tinkerer and maker,” Raynalds says. “I’ve made my own recumbent bicycle, a replica of an Aleutian skin kayak, a ten-foot computer-controlled telescope, and many other gadgets.

“I enjoy sewing my own camping equipment — panniers, backpacks — as well as participating in family quilting round robins. As a cabinet maker, I worked for artists making large installations and custom framing.

“I was one of the first bicycle messengers in Portland, and have crossed the country twice on my bicycle.”

Eclectic, Unique, Slab Built Ceramics

It’s an eclectic, highly personalized resume, one that evidences the owner’s willingness to try not only new but seemingly unrelated things. For instance, regarding being a bicycle messenger, something many people have encountered only through Kevin Bacon’s 1986 movie, Quicksilver, Raynalds says,

“I got the job from an ad in a newspaper. At that time, there were no bike messengers except an old guy who delivered office supplies.

slab artist

Blue Platter, slab built ceramic pottery by Portland artist, Dave Raynalds, incorporating a painting of non-traditional designs into the artwork

“I delivered mostly legal papers, real estate documents, and blueprints on a one-speed Schwinn with coaster brakes. I did this for four years.”

Citing Goodwill as a favorite source for texture materials and tools for his work, Raynalds creates his own molds and stamps to embellish his pottery, with the focus on each piece being as highly individual as its creator.

“While I was a cabinet maker, I tried to do high-end work or interesting work,” Reynalds says. As a potter, “I rarely make commissions or sets of things — I would be bored if I have to make something twice.”

Always a Surprise: Slab Built Ceramics

Tinker. Tailor. Potter Guy. Dave Raynalds slab pottery artist is as eclectic, and unexpected, like the art he creates. And because he refuses to acknowledge the box, much less crawl into it, the end result often comes as a surprise to the artist himself.

“I usually have some vague idea about what I want to make when I start a project, but this can change as I progress.

“Many times the finished project is not recognizable from the starting ideas as other ideas are presenting themselves.”

Out of the box.

Dave Raynalds is a superb slab artist who knows how to make slab pottery beautiful and unique!

Are you looking to purchase a specific art piece? Would you like to browse your favorite author’s artwork? By clicking on this link it will take you to our webpage that will let you search for the artwork of your choosing.

Wenaha Gallery

Dave Raynalds is the featured Art Event artists at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, September 10, 2018, through Saturday, October 6, 2018.  

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

Wilburton Pottery

Wilburton Pottery

Art by

Wilburton Pottery

More About Wilburton Pottery

It’s difficult to see how 14th century Chinese history and the 21st century design of printed circuit boards relate to a successful business of creating hand-carved garden tiles. Difficult, however, is not impossible.

For Bob Jewett, the potter and painter half of Wilburton Pottery of Bellevue, WA, it’s all part of a rich life history, one that started out with two masters degrees and the pursuit of a PhD.

“Bob stayed in college until he was 35,” says Iris Jewett, the other half of the marriage and the business (she’s the glazer). “He was getting his PhD when he was advised there was no hope in getting a teaching position.

“This was in the 1970s and there was little interest in Chinese history, especially the Ming dynasty.”

So Bob did a 360 and started designing those printed circuit boards, originally working for large corporations in Los Angeles until moving to Seattle where the couple started their own business there. And while business was successful, something was missing, and Iris suspected what it could be.

“I suggested to Bob that he needed an artistic outlet, and he started taking ceramic classes at Bellevue Community College.” Iris remembers. “An inability to throw pots led him to hand build garden pots.”

So build garden pots, Bob did. Because the couple is avid about gardening (“fanatical, actually,” Iris says), Bob developed a method to make pottery that could be left  outside all year round, something that was not common at the time. He also focused on carving intricate designs in the pottery. In 1993, when the couple participated in the Bellevue Arts Fair with their wares, Wilburton Pottery officially launched.

Mary Briggs

Art by

Mary Briggs

More About Mary Briggs

For the Eugene artist, the completed physical end product is terra cotta functional ceramicware — platters, plates, vases, candlestick holders, mugs — inspired by historical folk pottery as well as the works of 19th century Old Masters painters. Briggs began incorporating imagery on her work 15 years ago when she observed how brush marks and drip lines formed impressions of landscapes. It was a short, but significant, step to drawing period images on her work, adding to its sensation of timelessness and meaning.

She focused upon the 19th century landscape for its calming, romantic element, likening the feeling to that inspired by a country drive.

“I find rural life and nature to be calming and beautiful. By using that imagery on my work, I hope it brings a sense of calmness to those who encounter it.

The very choice of terra cotta — known as poor man’s clay because it is not as dense and white as porcelain — is deliberate, with Briggs being drawn to its rustic quality and unexpected, but welcome, irregularities. It is of the earth, after all, just like gardening.

In the end, Briggs says, that’s what it’s all about: the earth, and beautiful places, and exquisitely shaped ceramics that capture that beauty and encourage those who see the work.

“My work is not about politics or social commentary.

“It is simply meant to serve as a window into a peaceful place.”

rabbit garden pottery ceramic tile wilburton

Pottering in the Garden — Hand-carved Tiles by Wilburton Pottery

garden tiles nature theme wilburton pottery

A compendium of 4-inch, nature-inspires, hand-carved art garden tiles by Wilburton Pottery

It’s difficult to see how 14th century Chinese history and the 21st century design of printed circuit boards relate to a successful business of creating hand-carved garden tiles. Difficult, however,  is not impossible.

frog dragonfly grapes garden wilburton pottery

A frog and dragonfly in the garden — hand-carved pottery tile by Wilburton Pottery

For Bob Jewett, the potter and painter half of Wilburton Pottery of Bellevue, WA, it’s all part of a rich life history, one that started out with two masters degrees and the pursuit of a PhD.

“Bob stayed in college until he was 35,” says Iris Jewett, the other half of the marriage and the business (she’s the glazer). “He was getting his PhD when he was advised there was no hope in getting a teaching position.

“This was in the 1970s  and there was little interest in Chinese history, especially the Ming dynasty.”

From the Ming Dynasty to Circuit Boards

So Bob did a 360 and started designing those printed circuit boards, originally working for large corporations in Los Angeles until moving to Seattle where the couple started their own business there. And while business was successful, something was missing, and Iris suspected what it could be.

“I suggested to Bob that he needed an artistic outlet, and he started taking ceramic classes at Bellevue Community College.” Iris remembers. “An inability to throw pots led him to hand build garden pots.”

So build garden pots, Bob did. Because the couple is avid about gardening (“fanatical, actually,” Iris says), Bob developed a method to make pottery that could be left  outside all year round, something that was not common at the time. He also focused on carving intricate designs in the pottery. In 1993, when the couple participated in the Bellevue Arts Fair with their wares, Wilburton Pottery officially launched.

And from Circuit Boards to Pottery Garden Tiles

Since that time, they have added hand-carved, hand-painted garden tiles which enthusiastic buyers use as art by the front door, in the garden, around the fireplace, in the kitchen, bathroom and all over the house. Designing circuit boards is long gone, replaced by a garden-themed pottery business that sells via Wilburton Pottery’s website, galleries, gift shops, and art fairs throughout the country.

wilburton pottery outdoor garden flowers

Pottery in the outdoor garden, by Wilburton Pottery

“We used to do 22 art fairs and garden shows a year,” Iris says. “I think we have stayed in over 600 hotel rooms during that time, and we became very efficient packers. Once we did the Salem Art Fair and realized we forgot our suitcases — that never happened again!

“Through the fairs, our tiles were sent by customers to family and friends around the world — a Japanese monastery, Finland, Australia, England, Holland, China, and more.”

So China does come back into the picture.

Serious about Pottery,  and Gardens

But the art festivals, with the incredible amount of time and traveling involved, slowed down to two per year as the couple focuses more on website sales and custom design orders. One steady venue for sales is the garden shop at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens, 53 acres of flora cultivation which receives more than 300,000 visitors per year. Bob and Iris started the organization in 1984, when they put up posters all over town inviting residents to attend the first meeting.

rabbit garden pottery ceramic tile wilburton

Rabbit in the Garden, one of Wilburton Pottery’s most popular designs

“Yes, just the two of us,” Iris confirms when asked if she and Bob were the original impetus for the Gardens’ existence. They now volunteer for various events, focusing especially on the Gingerbread display for the Garden D’Lights in December, and helping children make graham cracker houses.

“Mostly we quietly walk through the gardens and are overjoyed to see so many people there,” Iris says. “The Garden is located just a few blocks from our home.”

More Than 500 Garden Pottery Tile Designs

Back at that home, Bob and Iris work out of their various studios, Iris in “a lovely room with a skylight,” and Bob in “an unfinished garage that he was always going to improve, but never did.” Bob creates his intricate hand carvings — more than 500 designs and growing — in his den or outside among the plants, and images range from bunnies a la Beatrix Potter to blacksmiths working in a forge surrounded by vines. There are frogs, mermaids, beech wood forests, angels, grapevines, the Buddha and crickets — something for everyone, and every environment. Like plants in the garden, the ideas never stop growing.

“We purposefully make the tiles look old with cracks and an uneven border,” Iris says. “To quote our customers, they think the tiles add a peacefulness to life, and they enjoy the antique look.”

It’s a unique combination of something old — like the Ming Dynasty of China — and something new — 21st century technology — perfectly blended into an element timeless to human existence: the garden.

“We let the pottery speak for us,” Iris says.

 

Wenaha Gallery

Bob and Iris Jewett of Wilburton Pottery are the featured Pacific Northwest artists at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, August 28 through Saturday, September 23, 2017. 

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

ceramic terra cotta pottery platter with cow mary briggs

Ceramic Terra Cotta — Functional Beauty by Mary Briggs

ceramic terra cotta pottery platter with cow mary briggs

Ceramic terra cotta platter, with painting of cow by Mary Briggs

Mary Briggs is a woman who rarely sits. So much is her desire to keep active that she changed specialties in college because her first choice, graphic design, was too sedentary.

“I was the kid whose foot was always wiggling,” Briggs says, explaining why she became a studio potter after earning her Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics at the University of Iowa.

ceramic terra cotta pottery vase mary briggs

Ceramic terra cotta pottery vase with romantic landscape painting by Mary Briggs

“The wedging of clay or manipulation of clay is a physical activity that might be likened to a baker or chef — moving around the kitchen and using your arms and creating a physical end product.”

Ceramic Terra Cotta Inspired by Folk Pottery

For the Eugene artist, the completed physical end product is terra cotta functional ceramicware — platters, plates, vases, candlestick holders, mugs — inspired by historical folk pottery as well as the works of 19th century Old Masters painters. Briggs began incorporating imagery on her work 15 years ago when she observed how brush marks and drip lines formed impressions of landscapes. It was a short, but significant, step to drawing period images on her work, adding to its sensation of timelessness and meaning.

She focused upon the 19th century landscape for its calming, romantic element, likening the feeling to that inspired by a country drive.

“I find rural life and nature to be calming and beautiful. By using that imagery on my work, I hope it brings a sense of calmness to those who encounter it.

“I also hope to create an awareness of how important nature is to all of us personally and globally.”

Nature: In the Garden and the Ceramic Studio

Nature, for Briggs, is an element that factors throughout her day and week, whether she is in the studio, creating a body of work that, from start to finish, can take up to three months,  or out in the gardens of area residents, who commission her skills in this area.

earthenware ceramic terra cotta painted mug mary briggs

An earthenware, terra cotta ceramic mug by Mary Briggs

“I work as a gardener for a week and then in my studio for a week,” Briggs explains, adding that she began gardening as a side job in graduate school, finding it a natural counterbalance to the intensity of studio work.

“It’s interesting to note that most potters are fabulous cooks and gardeners,” she observes. “It was not my experience that graphic designers were much interested in either of those. It was that sense of community that also attracted me to the field of ceramics.”

Briggs’s studio is based in the garage of her home, and has been renovated with added windows and insulation, additional electricity for her kiln, and ventilation. Because there is limited space for storing inventory, Briggs keeps her work moving, and a major means of doing this is through the Schaller Gallery of St. Joseph, Michigan, which represents some of the finest functional ceramic artists of the world. Most recently, gallery owner Anthony Schaller told Briggs to add Rebecca Sive — who may or may not be the Huffington Post writer who penned Every Day Is Election Day; Briggs isn’t sure  —  to her list of collectors.

ceramic painted landscape pottery platter mary briggs

A ceramic, painted landscape platter with gilded edging, by Mary Briggs

Dedicated to the Ceramic Art

Briggs has shown her pottery in group and solo exhibitions in galleries and universities in Minnesota, Michigan, Georgia, Tennessee, Montana , Wyoming, Indiana, and Oregon. Her work is in the permanent collection at Bermuda National Gallery, Contemporary Ceramics, and she has been published in Ceramics: Art & Perception, an international journal dedicated to ceramic art. Her art  also appears in the book, 500 Cups: Ceramic Explorations of Utility & Grace by Suzanne J. E. Tourtillott.

Ironically, though Briggs chose to leave graphic design for ceramics, its influence does not go unnoticed in her art.

“I think all my art classes in college have helped with my decoration process,” Briggs says. “From color theory to composition to art history: all those things are in my tool box.” Each piece is individually decorated, in accordance with its shape, size, and form, with the result that every ceramic Briggs creates is uniquely, singularly distinct.

Choosing Terra Cotta

ceramic earthenware terra cotta pottery vases mary briggs

Ceramic earthenware vases by pottery artist Mary Briggs

The very choice of terra cotta — known as poor man’s clay because it is not as dense and white as porcelain — is deliberate, with Briggs being drawn to its rustic quality and unexpected, but welcome, irregularities. It’s of the earth, after all, just like gardening.

In the end, Briggs says, that’s what it’s all about: the earth, and beautiful places, and exquisitely shaped ceramics that capture that beauty and encourage those who see the work.

“My work is not about politics or social commentary.

“It is simply meant to serve as a window into a peaceful place.”

Wenaha Gallery

Mary Briggs is the Featured Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, August 14 through Saturday, September 9, 2017. 

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

sculpture woman seated skirt pink shelia coe

The Dentist Artist — Sculpture by Shelia Coe

sculpture woman seated skirt pink shelia coe

Sculpted woman with fabric skirt by former dentist, now artist, Shelia Coe

Childhood Christmas gifts create lasting memories. Often, they even shape our future. And so it was for ceramic artist Shelia Coe . . . sort of. It just took a little longer than her mother, whose biggest desire was that her daughter grow up to be an artist, envisioned.

“My mother was a frustrated artist,” Coe remembers. “With six children, she didn’t have much time to pursue art, but she tried to channel me into becoming an artist. To that end, she bought me art supplies for every holiday, and dragged me along on her trips to paint barns and still lifes.”

cow sculpture by dentist artist shelia coe walla walla

Cow sculpture by dentist artist Shelia Coe of Walla Walla

Like so many things we plan for and try to direct, however, the future turned out differently, and instead of using her hands to wield a paintbrush or palette knife, Coe picked up the tools of dentistry, practicing the profession for more than 34 years.

“My mother was disappointed when I was accepted into dental school,” Coe says. “She said something like, ‘If you have to do something in the health field, couldn’t you at least be a medical illustrator?’

“I’ve gotta laugh at how it’s all turned out, and if she’s looking down, she’s probably happy to be getting her wish for me.”

Looking for a Creative Outlet

The latter part of those 34 years in dentistry, Coe spent in Walla Walla at a private practice, finishing out the final six of her career at Yellowhawk Clinic in Pendleton for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla. Upon retirement, she found her hands and mind seeking a creative outlet, and when the women in her spinning class at the YMCA suggested taking a sculpture class by Walla Walla artist Penny Michel, Coe decided to give it a try.

fish sculpture shelia coe dentist artist walla walla

Fish sculpture by Shelia Coe of Walla Walla. Coe worked as a dentist for 34 years before turning fulltime to art

“After the first class, I was hooked.

“For a week I could hardly sleep, thinking of all the things I wanted to try to make.”

Fortunately, her sleep patterns have returned to normal, with the added bonus of Coe continuing to explore a variety of subject matter, from people to animals to design work. The possibilities are endless, because Nature herself never runs out of providing ideas.

“I love nature, and as a child was always drawing horses and animals of all kinds along with plants — for awhile I wanted to be a botanist.

“So all kinds of things in nature inspire me, and oftentimes it can be a drawing or a photo, or the animal itself.

“I have made llamas, deer, horses, cows, fish, and sheep on a hill. I recently finished a horse that is 20 inches tall and 15 inches wide — the largest piece I have ever made.”

An Unusual Studio

Coe’s studio is split between Michel’s studio for classes and firing, and Coe’s home utility room and kitchen. And while the kitchen and laundry rooms are not generally associated with the wild, exuberant, abounding world of nature, they are good places to capture it. Kitchen implements, basic tools, and simple elements of nature — like pine cones, for texturizing — create mesmerizing effects when wielded in the right hands, and what hands are more accustomed to fine, precision work than that of a dentist?

horse sculpture shelia coe wenaha gallery

Horse sculpture by Shelia Coe, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery

“Sculpture, like dentistry, demands the use of the hands — but with loads more creative freedom (of course),” Coe observes.

Creative freedom or not, clay has its own rules, and part of learning to work with it is respecting its properties, taking the scientific approach to art, so to speak. Observation, theorization, deduction, experimentation, and the willingness to learn from failure all come into play, and Coe willingly gives time to each.

“My favorite part of creating sculpture is figuring out the structural and engineering aspect of each piece,” Coe explains. “It is not always easy to get the clay to do what you want it to.

“Glazing is also a challenge because they never look the same once they are fired. In fact, even the same glaze will look different depending upon its thickness and its position in the kiln. Glazes are very finicky.”

World Traveler

A member of ArtWalla, Coe takes advantage of classes, both in the area and out, to finesse and further her skills. An avid traveler, she also maintains a collection of her own, picking up pieces by local artists from areas such as Palau, Yap, Tibet and Tunisia as well as more mainstream destinations.

In the end, everything works together when it comes to art, life, and dreams. It may have taken awhile to get to the art part, but all the time Coe spent as a dentist shaped her hands to a fine and acute sensitivity, and sensibility.

Her mother would be pleased.

Wenaha Gallery

Shelia Coe is the Featured Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, June 19 through Saturday, July 15, 2017. 

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

 

Ceramic leaf dishes by Jane Holly Estrada

Falling Leaves and Radiochemistry — The Ceramic Art of Jane Holly Estrada

Ceramic leaf dishes by Jane Holly Estrada leaves

A series of ceramic leaf dishes by Jane Holly Estrada sits atop a granite Lazy Susan by Terry Hoon

In her day job, Jane Holly Estrada is a radiochemist, dealing with a concept — radiation — that many people rightly or wrongly associate with loooooooooong periods of time.

But when the white lab jacket is hung up at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for the day, Estrada focuses strongly on the ephemeral, the temporal —  fleeting moments of transitory time in which she captures a moment in nature and transforms it into a state of permanence.

Gold bordered blue ceramic leaf (leaves) dish by Jane Holly Estrada

Gold highlights and a dotted border on an individual leaf dish by Jane Holly Estrada

Working in the field of ceramics, the Richland, WA, artist creates jewelry and shaped dishes inspired by the leaves of trees, but not just any leaves. Estrada’s window of time is a short one in autumn, after the leaves have fallen off the tree naturally but while they are still crisp enough to leave a literal impression upon clay.

“Each dish I make is created by pressing a real leaf into the clay and shaping it into a unique small dish, which is then painted with watercolor style underglazes,” Estrada explains.

“The dish is then glazed all over, fired, and painted with real gold and white gold accents.

“The final product is a mirror image of the now long-gone leaf, but embellished with swirls of color, texture, and metallic gilding.”

Set in a few clear sentences, the process seems straightforward and direct, but as with any area dealing with chemical and physical alteration — whether the matter has to do with art, science or a fusion of the two — things just aren’t that simple. Stuff happens.

ceramic and gold bead necklaces in blue and green by Jane Holly Estrada

Ceramic and gold bead necklaces in rich variants of blue and green, by Jane Holly Estrada

The biggest challenge of working with clay, Estrada says, is that no matter how careful the artist is during the process, there’s always a chance for the unexpected to occur. Work can crack if it dries too quickly, or even if it is gently bumped at the wrong time.

“Each trip through the kiln is a chance for cracking, warping, and even exploding,” Estrada adds. “Glazes can run, crawl, craze and drip — all things that can either ruin your work or make it amazing.

“Most of my pieces go through the kiln three to four times, each time a gamble.”

The upshot of it all is that even the most scientific of approaches can’t guarantee the outcome, but like life itself, that’s part of the challenge.

“The benefit is that if your work survives its creation process, it becomes a durable and lasting piece of art in a way that a more ephemeral piece of paper or canvas cannot compare,” Estrada observes.

A collection of painted rocks and mandala stones by jane holly estrada

A collection of painted rocks and Mandala Stones by Jane Holly Estrada

“Clay allows the artist to create a functional object that is equally an object of beauty.”

Estrada’s leaf-based clay dishes and jewelry imbue familiar colors of  forest, sky, and water– azure, turquoise, teal, beryl, emerald, verdigris, moss, jade — with gold and silver sparkle, resulting in an alchemy of Mother Nature with human skill and ingenuity. The finished pieces are delicate yet strong, possessing a tactility that encourages viewers to pick up, touch, hold, turn, brush, and feel.

Because each piece is fashioned from one single, unique leaf, Estrada’s artworks are literally one of a kind at the same time that they work well together as a set or a collection — in the same manner that leaves gather while retaining their individual attributes, as well as that of their creator.

“I am not a production potter, and I (like most artists) am not  looking to compete with the factories and big box stores,” Estrada says.

“My goal is to create small pieces of beautiful art that people can have in their daily lives. My jewelry is meant to be worn and the dishes to be used.”

Close up detail of glaze and gold luster of a ceramic leaf (leaves) dish by Jane Holly Estrada

Close up detail of glaze and gold luster of a ceramic leaf dish by Jane Holly Estrada

In addition to her ceramic leaf works, Estrada also paints mandala stones — smooth surfaced rocks embellished by a series of dots and color in a circular pattern. Estrada teaches the technique at Confluent, a non-profit organization in Richland that provides space and resources for community members to explore art, technology, and culture through community-based workshops and classes. She also participates in the center’s various art shows, and in the recent “Dreamers” exhibition won Best Overall piece in a public vote for her wood-substrate painting executed in the spirit of vintage post cards.

Incorporating art and science, temporal aspects and immutable, nature and fabrication, Estrada’s works are inspired by her love of water with its shifting shape, color, and ability to reflect light. And while she does not aim to make a statement, she believes that the final product is the statement itself, standing out for the time and detail that go into it.

“I’ve always loved science and trying to understand how the natural world works,” Estrada says.

“I believe that this shows through in my art.”

Wenaha GalleryJane Holly Estrada is the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, January 30, through Saturday, February 25.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit the gallery today!