After a year hiatus, Homer’s annual Pottery Studio Tour returned to bring fun, beauty and education to ceramic enthusiasts May 15-16. With five studios participating in-person, and one participating virtually, Homer potters opened their workspaces for a glimpse inside the craftmanship, techniques and artistry they practice in the studio. Visitors were invited to walk through these spaces, ask questions of the potters and see for themselves the processes behind the work.
The Homer Pottery Tour began as a collaboration to connect disparate studios and galleries in the area. Potter Paul Dungan explained that the inspiration came from other places that were doing similar events.
“Homer is a hot spot for clay arts in the state. We have strong ceramic community,” he said. “Despite this, we are all busy and it’s easy to not ever connect.”
Cynthia Morelli, who participated virtually this year and help organize the first Pottery Tour in 2017, said her impetus to invite people to her home and studio was to create a welcoming environment where people can “see the work in the context of a life.”
Maygen Lotscher also helped organize the first tour and hosted again this year. She said it brought our group of potters together.
“We’d never collaborated on something like this before,” she said.
“It has generated a lot of positive energy and interaction amongst us potters,” she said.
With concerns about offering the tour during the COVID-19 pandemic in a safe and manageable way for participating potters, each studio decided their level and mode of participation and published the details on the Homer Pottery Tour website, www.Homerpotters.com. The site is a hub for users to find studios, see examples of participating artists’ work, and seek contact and social media information for the group.
Jars of Clay Pottery, home to Ruby Haigh and featuring other local artists’ work such as Jenny Chamberlain and myself, offered tours of the gallery and adjacent studio spaces and kiln rooms, as well as demonstrations of how to make a “paddle pot.”
After the tour, I had to call up the other studios and ask them how the event went. David Kaufmann and Paul Dungan said they entertained tour guests in their upper 80s to young ones. Their enjoyment was “sharing with the community what we do,” Kaufman said.
“We had longer conversations with people who were wanting to set up a studio, wanted tips for working with clay. People had really good questions. Meeting emerging artists is always a highlight for us,” Kaufmann said.
During the tour, Dungan and Kaufmann unloaded two kilns. Tour guests witnessed what can be the most rewarding and nerve-wracking step in the process: evaluating the fruits of their efforts and experimentation.
“Both Dave and I consider the main value of the tour as educational,” Dungan said. “The fact that it’s not a factory — it’s two guys who go to work and make stuff.”
Kaufmann added, “If they do several studios, they see that there are many different ways of working.”
Up on Highland Drive, Ahna Iredale of Rare Bird Pottery and Maygen Lotscher of MJ Earthworks each hosted visitors to their home studios.
Since the last Homer Pottery Tour in 2019, Lotscher relocated to her current location off Highland Drive. Lotscher’s work involves both wheel-thrown and hand-built oceanic dishes in clean whites, rich browns and buttery porcelain.
Iredale, who has been producing pottery in Alaska for more than four decades, also works in stoneware and porcelain, with her distinct forms and decorative techniques. What stuck out to Iredale was the energy level.
“Everyone was so excited, happy to be out and able to go to an event,” she said.
Out east on Greentree, Jeff Szarzi said he greeted guests from as far away as London. Szarzi’s current work involves crystalline glazes, which are created when zinc and silica in the glaze bond together. During cooling, he brings the temperature down in stairstep pattern, growing snowflake-like structures in the surface of the glaze. He said Saturday was busy despite the rain, while Sunday’s pace allowed him to demo some techniques.
“I think people came out because they really wanted to support local artists,” Szarzi said.
As a virtual participant, wood-fire potter Cynthia Morelli posted videos to Instagram and welcomed video call appointments to see the space and talk one-on-one the weekend of the tour.
“I had no expectation for any interaction, but I had someone reach out from Nebraska and set up an appointment. She was really delighted to get to talk to me and see the gallery,” said said.
Morelli says she plans to host people in her space IRL (in real life) in the future.
Homer potters plan to offer the Pottery Studio Tour again in 2022, hoping for an expanded list of studios, more artists for people to meet, new works to display and new ways to participate.