Clay exhibition offers variety of sizes, shapes

Potters' gold

Posted: Thursday, November 08, 2001

Anyone who likes the squish of wet clay in their fingers, who appreciates the shine from the glaze of a finished piece of pottery or who partakes in the simple pleasure of drinking their morning coffee from that one special mug every day will enjoy the 14th annual Kenai Clay Exhibition on display through Nov. 30 at the Kenai Fine Arts Center.

The exhibition, sponsored by the Kenai Potters Guild, is the only all-pottery juried show in Alaska, said guild member Peggy Gill Thompson. The exhibition first started in 1984 and ran consecutively through 1992. After a five-year break, the exhibition started again in 1997 and is still going strong.

This year's exhibition drew 59 entries from 19 artists residing in Southcentral Alaska. The juror for the show was Wally Bivins, a ceramics artist and instructor from the Seattle area. Bivins held a workshop on wheel throwing and hand-building clay works for area potters Oct. 13.

Out of the 59 pieces entered, Bivins chose 34 to be included in the show and gave juror's choice, merit and honorable mention awards to eight pieces. Seven pieces were given purchase awards from area patrons of the arts who were asked to participate in the judging.

The award-winning pieces were amazing indeed, but every piece included in the show was well worth appreciation.

The entered pieces ran the pottery gamut of shapes, styles, sizes, colors and techniques. Some were large display pieces, like one called "Sanctuary," by Carol Walkiewicz of Kenai. The piece, which won an honorable mention, is a large open vessel with a rounded base that opens into a flared design similar to a blooming flower. It measures 14-inches high and 19-inches wide.


Detail of "Fruit Basket," by Loni Thirlwell


The outside of the vessel is a dark neutral color with linear designs etched into it. The inside of the vessel is a smooth, glassy surface done in shimmering shades of gold and green. The colors and texture made looking into the pot seem like following a summer sunbeam into the depths of a running stream.

On the other end of the size spectrum are pieces like "Wood and Soda Fired Soy Bottle," by Eve Witten of Homer, and "Tamari Pot II," by Alisa Carroll of Bird Creek. These vessels, which both won juror's choice awards, are functional as well as artistic, which must have been difficult to accomplish since they are no more than 6-inches tall.

There are several plates in the exhibits, like "Alaska Mountains," by Letha Cress Woolf of Bird Creek, which won an honorable mention. The 14-inch diameter piece depicts mountains on the horizon done in deep purples and blues.

Another plate of a more whimsical design was "8 Ball -- Corner Pocket," by Penny McClain of Kasilof, which displays a likeness of a pool table, stick and a few pool balls.

Not all the items in the in exhibition are in the traditional bowl, plate and cup form. Some were sculptures, like "Ripples of Time," by Ann Wilson. The piece depicts the face of a woman surrounded by two other flowing pieces that were etched with leaf patterns.

Many pieces in the show are wood fired, which gives them a characteristic brown spotted appearance from the wood ash in the kiln. Wood firing also gives the clay a glossy sheen, almost like the piece is wet.


"Appetizer Tray," by Alisa Carroll


Others, like an untitled coil pot piece by Ann C. Wilson of Kenai, are oxygen fired in an electric kilns, which produces much brighter colors than other firing methods do.

Techniques in building the pieces vary, as well. Some are wheel-thrown -- most of the bowls and jars with rounded shapes. Others are hand-built, like the "Ripples in Time" piece, where the artist sculpts the clay themselves.

One vessel, "Circle of Friends," by Sharon and Tom Irvin of Seward, is a combination of both techniques. The piece is a rounded wheel-thrown jar with a sculpted whale resting on the lid.

The diversity in the entries gives the viewer a lesson in the art of making pottery. Each peace, from the humbly shaped yet exquisite looking "Blushing Cups," by Kathy Peters of Girdwood, to the vibrantly colored "Appetizer Tray" by Alisa Carroll of Bird Creek, represents different elements in making pottery.

Pottery, one of if not the oldest art form in the world, has been making a resurgence in the art world lately, said exhibition organizer Charlie LaForge. The exhibition gives area potters a place to display their work, as well as motivation to break new ground in their art.

"It's a constant as far as having the community be aware of pottery," LaForge said. "There's a hint of prestige after doing (the exhibition) for 15 years. It's a shot in the arm of motivation having a format for potters to share their work."

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