In the previous post I mentioned two words, Penland and Arrowmont, which prompted me to reflect on my ceramics professor. Here is my story about his influence.
My first art class was during my senior year of high school. I forgot why I signed up for it because I was not very artistic. I think I just wanted to do something different. My art teacher was rather unusual, and I found her antics bewildering. She claimed that she only had four teeth and that was why she took a long lunch. She would also have these tyrant fits at the spur of the moment. I later discovered that not all art teachers were like that, but they were different in their own way.
I became interested in art, but I needed to find something I was good at. I liked to draw and dress weird, and so I took up an interest in fashion design. When it came time to search for a college to attend, I applied to two small private colleges. My first choice was an all-girls’ college to study fashion designing and merchandising. My second choice was a liberal arts college where I would study art.
During a visit to my second choice, I met an art professor and was instantly intrigued by him. His name was Ed Brown. He instructed ceramics, sculpture, and stained glass, but I had never worked with any of those mediums. After taking an extensive tour of the art department and talking with Mr. Brown for a while, I knew at that moment that I was interested in anything that he taught. That day, I made my decision to attend my second choice and study ceramics. But I didn’t know the first thing about clay.
I connected with Mr. Brown and most importantly, I understood his humor. The first thing I notice about someone is their sense of humor and his was subtle and very dry. He had his own quirks, too. One in particular that I remember very well was that he was terribly annoyed by the rock music that played from the radio in the ceramics studio. He would come in just to turn the dial to a classical station (without asking) and then leave the room. I got use to that.
Clay became my friend and was my favorite medium. Wheel throwing was natural for me. I had discovered my calling- to become a ceramic artist. I developed my own style, although it resembled Mr. Brown’s earthy, rustic style. I attributed that to the fact that we just thought alike. One important rule that he taught me was to be true to the materials. If an art form is made of clay, it should look like clay. If it is made of metal, it should look like metal and so on and so forth.
Mr. Brown was my instructor for four years in ceramics, sculpture, stained glass and art history – I was the only ceramics major in my graduating class. I assisted him with gallery exhibits, special projects, and other events. There were even a few visits to his home for dinner. He was my mentor – someone I looked up to, admired, and respected as a person and an artist.
Unfortunately, I am not able to work with clay as much as I would like. I have produced a few things in recent years, but nothing on a professional level. It is still a part of who I am, even though I am not an active ceramic artist.
Today, I work with other mediums that are much easier to come by and store. It has been nice to discover that I can do other things. Teaching is another avenue I’ve been able to explore. I never thought of myself as an art teacher, but many opportunities have come my way and I really enjoy it.
I guess I turned out to be one of those weird art teachers after all.
Below are a few samples of my work from 1991-2007.