To do that, you can take some clay and roll it out, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy: You have to roll it through the opening of a press that squeezes out the air and continue pressure.
Now, you have to build the clay, tediously crafting every piece to scale. Cut. Shape. Mold. Repeat.
Then, if you decide everything is right, you can place it onto a wire rack that will later go into the kiln.
And it only gets harder from there…
Even though Johnnie Dobson isn’t building with clay, he’s helping develop his students’ vision into an expression of art at Calhoun’s Harris Arts Center.
“I’m just somebody to bounce ideas off of and suggest some different things,” he says modestly.
“This right here is a studio class. They know how to handle clay. So, this time every Tuesday is, for them, socializing with each other,” he adds.
Each Tuesday, approximately six studio clay students, ages 17 and up, gather on the third floor of the center and utilize 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. to produce individual clay works.
“They have two to three hours (of class). I kind of help make sure what they have stays together and they come up with their own projects,” said Dobson.
The Studio Students
Working as an adjunct art teacher by day, Dan DeFoor is an artist by night.
DeFoor and his wife Mary DeFoor are a part of the studio class and work together as a pottery duo.
He asks. She suggests. He nods. He turns. She glazes.
“We have a couple of people that throw or turn on the wheel,” said Dobson. “Dan’s been throwing for years. He’s a really good thrower of the old timers call it turners.”
“We kind of have skills that compliment each other. For the most part, I decorate and glaze. He selects the shape,” said Mary DeFoor.
“I like the fact that my husband and I work together. It’s a peaceful way to create,” she adds.
It’s also a way for the couple to make ends meet.
“We are both retired teachers. I taught high school art for 32 years and now work part-time adjunct,” said Dan DeFoor.
“We’ve been doing this since 2007 to supplement are income,” he added.
This couple creates simple and functional pieces, including mugs, plates, vases and other household items.
But, many of the students make complex, sophisticated pottery without turning the wheel.
“It might take you a little longer and it might look a little bit different, but you can make the same objects,” Dobson said.
Not only will the objects look great, but also the pottery will have a distinct shape.
“Everybody can make a pot or a bowl or a vase, but making something really different on the wheel is very difficult,” he said.
While her designs aren’t functional, novice potter Karen Marks’ ceramic designs are an expression of quilting.
The patchwork shapes are born of geometric patterns that overlap into larger blocks of a design.
“It forces me to see things in different ways,” Marks said.
“She makes delicate sort of broken pieces that are real interesting,” said Dobson.
Diana Forster likes the play of light and natural landscape of the Earth to be seen in her ceramics pieces.
“I have a degree in Horticulture and I am drawn to petals, flowers and leaves,” she said.
Sliding texture, movement of color and natural hues are seen in her leaf platters, vases and face jugs. For example, she will blend the colors precisely around a face jug caricature that the expression almost appears lively.
“We all have different styles,” she said.
Forster’s work is on display on the first floor of the Harris Arts Center. In addition, she likes working with youngsters and teaches the children’s art class at the center.
While each artist has a different gift, most of the potters agree that their interest began in childhood or through a class.
“As a child, I remember liking working in clay and that it was a good way to create things,” said student Susan Fanning.
For Dobson, his love of clay began in college at the University of Georgia after getting out of the Navy.
“I ran into a famous potter by the name of Ron Meyers and I took one of his classes. He had a graduate student by the name of Glenn Dair and I just kinda never got over their classes,” Dobson said.
“Especially Ron. Ron’s retired now, but he’s a big time Georgia potter,” he added.
He can’t count the number of times pieces have shattered in the kiln, he’s proud that the class has been the longest standing class at HAC.
Dobson says the class will end at the end of this month, but a new session will begin. He encourages beginners to intermediate leveled adults to join them.
Pottery can provide opportunities for artist to make money, share ideas and socialize with other in the community at shows.
But the recession has been disastrous for ceramic sales.
“The face of art show has changed in the last year. People still buy art, but they are much more selective,” Dobson said.
“A lot of people don’t realize the entry fees and what it costs to carry the equipment and drive a good distance. You are already down about $500 before you begin,” he added.
While this has discouraged some ceramics artists to sale at larger shows out of state, many have taken advantage of area shows throughout the Northwest Georgia area, including Rome’s Chiaha festival and Cave Spring’s arts and craft fair.
Dobson says his interest in participating as a vendor in art shows began through the folk art community.
In particular, renowned folk artist Howard Finster of Summerville influenced Dobson when he attended his show in 1998.
There, he first saw art as a “never ending cycle” and learned that making great begins with engaging in it constantly like Finster did.
Dobson encourages all of his students to recreate what’s in their heart, learn technique and become a part of the art community.
“The possibilities are really kind of endless,” Dobson said.
Dobson also teaches a Teen Art and Homeschool class at the Harris Arts Center. Visit www.cgarts.org for more information and to learn about additional art classes.