A! Magazine for the Arts

Michael Ripper's pottery is functional, high-fired stoneware and porcelain with an Asian influence.

Michael Ripper's pottery is functional, high-fired stoneware and porcelain with an Asian influence.

A! EXTRA: Contemporary Potters in Region

July 26, 2009

The Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia region is blessed with contemporary potters.

* Ed Lockett teaches classes in pottery and painting at One of a Kind Gallery in Bristol, Tenn. Previously he taught art at Tennessee High School and Vance Middle School before retiring in 2008. He was named Art Educator of the Year for the state of Tennessee in 2007. He is a member of Tennessee Arts and Crafts Association and has taught classes at Arrowmont School of Art in Gatlinburg for more than 20 years.

Lockett creates functional stoneware pottery, thrown on the wheel and individually glazed. "I like giving people things that they can use and enjoy everyday," he says. It takes 15 minutes throwing time, 30 minutes trimming and glazing, plus drying and firing time. He fires pieces in groups in a computer-controlled electric kiln for consistent results. Pieces must be bisque-and glaze-fired. "The most wonderful thing of this art is the surprise factor within glazes," Lockett adds. His biggest challenge? "Finding enough time to create all that's in my mind!"

Other local contemporary potters include:

* Tim Frain, a native of Indiana who has been involved with art since he began painting at age four. He says that art "just made sense" for him and felt "very natural." Over the years he has worked in various mediums, including watercolors, oil, acrylics, egg tempura, silkscreen printmaking, sculpture, papermaking and photography. Since moving to Northeast Tennessee in 2001, his primary focus has been pottery and watercolors, and his work is featured in galleries in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Frain specializes in wheel-thrown and slab-formed functional pottery and has a passion for cooking. Many of his pieces are multi-functional, such as the Baker/Server, Veggie Steamer/Serving Bowl, Pasta/Pie Plate and Wine Cooler/Utensil Holder. Plates, platters, serving bowls, mugs, tumblers and even complete dinner services are available. In addition, Frain has created reproductions of historic pottery for the William King Museum's Heritage Collection in Abingdon, Va.

* Michael Ripper
, who has been a potter "intermittently for 10 years now, back and forth between ceramics and wood design." He has a kiln/studio in Cindy Saadeh's Fine Art building in Kingsport, Tenn. He recently acquired a computerized electric kiln and had to learn a whole new way to fire his pottery. He originally learned how to fire pottery in large wood- and gas- burning kilns.

Most of his pottery is functional, high-fired stoneware and porcelain with an Asian influence. He incorporates "ancient techniques that were once used for function but now are purely aesthetic." His materials include wood ash recycled from his fireplace and seashells collected during surf trips to the North Carolina coast.

Colors are achieved through different glaze formulations. He explains, "Sprinkled wood ash at high temperatures forms a beautiful pale green glass-like glaze. Colors blending can be an enlightening surprise, or a complete nightmare. Most of my work depends on the different elements of the glazes and wood ash to react together, to form an amazing palette of color and texture to each piece. There are several other techniques used to keep glazes from blending. One would be to apply a wax resist. The wax is applied with a brush, or sponge, and wherever the wax is, the glaze won't adhere to the piece in that specific "waxed' area. The whole process can take weeks when you include dry time, trimming, bisque firing, glazing, and glaze firing. It is a lengthy, fairly labor-intensive process. The pieces are air-dried until they are "bone dry' which means that all of the moisture has totally left the piece. They are then bisque-fired in the kiln, then glazed and glaze-fired."

Ripper continues, "Creating with clay (and wood) is an evolutionary process for me. There will always be new techniques and styles that I will like to explore. The evolution of a piece can begin at anytime."

Why ceramics *and* wood design? Ripper says, "A true love for working and creating with my hands is the underlying influence. While working on my ceramics degree at East Carolina University, I also took several wood design studios, and found that I had a true passion for both mediums. By the time I received my BFA in Ceramics, I had already taken more than half of the wood studios required for a degree in Wood Design, so I decided to go back and finish out the studios for my BFA in Wood Design also."

He explains, "It has never been a challenge for me to bounce between the mediums of clay and wood. For me, clay is very elastic and forgiving, whereas wood is very rigid and non-forgiving. This difference in the materials is one of the things that attracted me initially. I have always enjoyed variety, and the two give me a fantastic balance. For instance, with clay, I like to work on a smaller, more intimate level. With wood, I prefer to work on a larger, furniture type scale, but I don't limit myself in either medium for future possibilities. Like I mentioned, it is an evolutionary process, building on previous ideas, sketches, shapes and form. My father, an artist as well, always encouraged me to keep my best work for inspiration, and as "building blocks' for future creations."

Ripper says his biggest challenge is space. "This is the first opportunity I have had to work out of my own studio. My previous spaces were always shared. Setting up a clay and wood studio is quite the challenge when your space is limited, but I always love a challenge!"

He adds, "Having my own studio is a dream come true. It is something that I envisioned while earning a BFA in Ceramics from ECU, as well as a BFA in Wood Design, in 1999. I thought that one day I would love to have a studio, where I could work with clay AND wood! My dream is shared by my wife Talina, a creative spirit who works in fiber art and photography. We have always talked about creating together, having our children underfoot while we work on our art, raising our family in an environment that inspires and encourages creativity. We wanted to make our art more than a hobby. We wanted our art to be our way of life. We often say our goal is to "live our art' and that is just what we are now doing."

He continues, "All of the details worked themselves out when Talina and I looked into moving to downtown Kingsport into a newly renovated loft apartment done by John and Angela Vachon, owners of Urban Synergy. They introduced us to Cindy Saadeh, an oil painter who had moved to the area from Charleston, SC. Cindy envisioned opening art studios and a gallery in the building she and her husband purchased in downtown Kingsport (in another amazing renovation by Urban Synergy). Everything just fell into place from there, and here I am, living my dream."