I became a potter later in life, following a previous career that never felt quite right—as though I was given a role that should have belonged to someone else. On the other hand, my experience making pots in several adult education classes resulted in exactly the opposite feeling: this was a good fit. I wanted to feel passionate about my profession and have it be an integral part of my everyday life.
I was 36 when I got my MFA in 1978. I was offered two not-very-appealing jobs, one as a part-time ceramics instructor at a nearby college, another as a ceramics studio tech at another college. I knew the responsible thing to do would be to take one of these jobs, but I also knew that if I did, I wouldn’t make many pots. So I set up a studio in my basement. My first job as a potter consisted of making 288 unglazed earthenware cylinders every month, each imprinted with a hand-made stamp bearing the words “Cook’s Tools,” at 50¢ a pop.
As with almost everything in my life, I came to making pots in somewhat of a round about way. During graduate school at the University of Minnesota back in the early 1980s, I never once thought that I would try to earn a living making pots. I saw myself as a sculptor and, after graduating, I had a couple of successful gallery shows and even received a National Endowment for the Arts grant based on my sculpture. Around my second year out of school, I took a break from my sculptural work to handbuild some small jars and cups. I found that I really enjoyed the freedom of painting the pieces and loved how quickly I was able move through the stages of glazing and firing. I was enjoying the work, so I just kept at it.
Nestled in a narrow canyon alongside a creek, Peter Karner makes functional vessels that embody his surroundings. The surfaces of his undulating ceramic forms rise and fall like the ridge lines around his studio. The highly contrasting glazes on his pots, toned black, green, tan, and orange, are reminiscent of the desert patinas and lichen that appear in his environment. In a most subtle way, Karner’s pottery incorporates these natural elements, bringing the vastness of the landscape into an intimate perspective.
Steve Reynolds’ work is a poke in the eye; enmeshed in contradiction, it is deeply intelligent, prickly, and tough-minded. His work is uncomfortable to look at, defying all categories, always an amalgam of the beautiful and the ugly. Neither of these qualities have been his focus, they emerged as an indirect consequence of his process.
Daniel Bare, Hudsonville, Michigan
Denny Gerwin, Logan, Utah
Jury Smith, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Lauren Gallaspy, Athens, Georgia
Matthew McGovern, Cedar, Michigan