Potters don’t usually get their due when it comes to the art of their craft. Elaine Futterman, who has been running Creek Clayworks with her partner Mike Allegretti since 1990, shines a different light on pottery with a new exhibit at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery. Coordinated by Futterman, Heat Changes Everything opens April 6 and features work by 10 Coast potters: Patricia Forst, Bev Niebergall, Ray Niebergall, Timothy Niebergall, Jack Olive, Jack Ploesser, Laurie Rolland, Pia Sillem, Allegretti and Futterman. Displaying pottery in an art gallery, rather than a craft fair will “draw attention to our art in a different way,” says Futterman. “Some people, even potters, prefer to think of pottery as a craft because they are very focussed on utilitarian ware. For instance, I do mostly functional ware, but I consider the aesthetics of my work to be equally important.” The idea of a piece of art combining functionality — something that is beautiful in and of itself, but that you can also use on a day to day basis — is sometimes difficult for people to wrap their heads around. “People impulse buy [pottery] because they think it will be a great gift for someone,” says Futterman of wares at craft fairs. “But here in a gallery show, the artists are striving to show things that are beyond that, that are more in the realm of a collector’s piece.” According to Futterman, the participating potters have 300 years of combined experience, and with approximately 100 pieces on display, the exhibit will showcase gifted artists working in a variety of forms including sculpture and wall hangings, as well as the functional.
Creating a work from clay is a multi-step process. “You have to know your clays, your decorating techniques and materials,” says Futterman. “And you have to know your firing techniques.” Variation, texture and form are prized characteristics in pottery. “Variation in the surface of a pot is a big indicator of its beauty,” says Futterman, noting that glaze effects can be different from one side of the pot to the other. “[Look for] marks that the potter has put on the pot with their hands or with a tool, breaking the glaze.” There are a multitude of techniques for forming clay — throwing, slab and coil, to name just three; a myriad of glaze types and application techniques; and a variety of kilns — wood, gas, electric —that the artist must have intimate knowledge of, and mastery over, in order to produce that special piece. “You know right away,” says Futterman of the experience of unloading that special piece from the kiln. “The piece appears to be almost alive.”
Heat Changes Everything runs at the Gibsons Public Gallery April 6-30. Opening reception Saturday, April 8, 2-4pm. Q & A Session with the artists on Saturday April 15, 2:30-3:30pm and Spirit of Clay presentation with Ray Niebergall on Saturday April 22, 2:30-3:30pm. All welcome.