Ceramic artists collaborate for exhibit

by Carol C. Bradley

Out Of Ashes

Explore more than two dozen works produced by a collaboration of ceramic artists in “Out of the Ashes.” The exhibit, first displayed at the Snite Museum of Art, moves to the South Bend Regional Museum of Art until June 18. There will be an opening reception April 7.

Notre Dame Professor of Art William Kremer and visiting lecturer Zach Tate organized the Notre Dame Ceramic Art Symposium, which drew another 12 artists to campus for five days last October. The participants were mostly college and university teachers from across the country. Their focus became Notre Dame’s giant wood-fired kiln. The outcome: an eclectic mix of objects, mostly vessels, with organic patinas and nuanced earth colors.

The 30-foot long anagama kiln, located at Kremer’s Michigan studio, is modeled on an ancient concept adopted by the Japanese and Chinese from Korea. Temperatures in the cave-like structure can rise up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The burning produces ash and volatile salts that settle on surfaces and melt into a natural glaze, varying greatly in color, texture and thickness. Pieces closer to the fire are more dramatically impacted.

Kremer, Tate and a graduate student stoked the kiln 24 hours a day for five days after most of the other artists had gone from campus. Relinquishing control over this finishing stage of their works was just part of the collaboration. Artists also swapped ideas and creative elements. Tony Marsh, who teaches at California State University, Long Beach; Keith Ekstam, from Misourri State University; and Tate each added figures to a bowl thrown by Bede Clarke, from the University of Missouri. Lindsay Oesteritter fashioned an elegant stand for a fine cup thrown by Dan Molyneux. Both are independent artists. Oesteritter now works in Virginia. Molyneux works in Boston.

Kremer said that many artists who participated in similar Notre Dame symposiums in the late ’70s over the years have told him “it was one of the best experiences they had.” Kremer, who has two large abstract vessels on display in the exhibition, enjoyed affirmation from the group for his work. “One beautiful sunny day last fall, I was making cups,” he recalled, “and I realized I was in the best pottery class I’d ever been in.”

The Notre Dame Ceramic Art Symposium was made possible in part by support from the Henkels Lecture Fund, Institute for Scholarship in Liberal Arts, and College of Arts and Letters. Participating artists were: Bede Clarke, Keith Ekstam, Dale Huffman, Howard Koerth, Bill Kremer, Dick Lehman, Tony Marsh, Scott Meyer, Tom Meuninck, Dan Molyneux, Lindsay Oesteritter, Ann-Charlotte Ohlsson, Dennis Sipiorski and Zach Tate.