Posts Tagged With: Laura Ross

2013 Governor’s Awards in the Arts: Laura Ross

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I love my job. My job as communications director at the Kentucky Arts Council allows me to integrate my personal interest — the arts — with my work, in a way that I get to do what I love. I have the opportunity to talk with and write about artists, arts supporters, leaders of arts organizations and people who just generally love the arts. And I get to do it every day!

In the next three weeks, I’m inviting you to read excerpts from the conversations I had with recipients of the 2013 Governor’s Awards in the Arts. I conducted these interviews to obtain information for the event program and wanted to share bits and pieces that didn’t make the program but were equally important.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading about the recipients’ work in the arts, in their own words. I certainly enjoyed interviewing each and every one, and feel I learned a lot along the way about how art can influence the world. And to think – I didn’t even have to leave the state.

The Governor’s Awards in the Arts ceremony is at 10 a.m. Oct. 29 at the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort. We hope you’ll join us. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to read extra quotes you won’t find here.

Laura Ross, Artist Award

Laura Ross, of Prospect, Ky., has shared her work as a potter for nearly 30 years with the American public through exhibits and shows, as a college and high school educator, and as a successful professional artist. Ross’ sense of design, composition, use of color and pattern has influenced many of her contemporaries throughout the southeastern U.S. and beyond.

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Kentucky Arts Council: What has influenced your work over the years?

Laura Ross: I guess just looking at other potters whose work I like so much. I do like that Asian aesthetic, that very minimal aesthetic. And the longer I work the simpler I want my forms to be, my pieces to be. So I’m drawn to pots and potters with focus on pure forms, very simple forms. Potters that have strong bones to their pots. Structural integrity to their pots. Not pots that are really brightly colored or have cutesy things all over them. And to me those quiet, simpler pots are like that. I like very circular round lines and shapes. I think that reveals a love of nature. I think because most of everything in nature is rounded or curvy, linear, or asymmetrical. I like the accidental. That bit of imperfection in a pot. I guess that’s fairly Asian — the beauty and the imperfection.

KAC: Obviously your work is well-known throughout the country and the southeast United States especially. Can you talk about your early successes and how it changed your career?

LR: I think that’s what led me toward quitting a full-time job as a teacher and being an independent potter. I had quite a bit of success in those first shows I went out to. And those are national shows. That’s when people from all over the country come into these craft shows, it’s all American craft. Everything in the show is handmade. I did that for 13 or 15 years. Your name does get out there when you’re on that national level. You’re selling to 50 states plus some in Europe. When I was doing that, a lot of people in Louisville didn’t even know what I was doing. I was out all of the time. When I stopped I wanted to create more of a regional presence, and that’s what I’ve been focusing on the past 10 years. I think there’s a lot of merit to being rooted right here in this state, this region, this city. We have a lot of pottery lovers right here. We have a huge amount of artists in our state. So, it’s kind of an about face in many ways.

KAC: It sounds like you did it backwards.

LR: It does. I probably did. I probably did.

KAC: Did that surprise you, your success at the national shows?

LR: It did. It really did. All you do is work. You just work, work, work to get all those orders out. But it was exciting. I was much younger then. People would be standing in line at the shows. It was a different time. The economy made a lot of difference. The aisles would be full of buyers. I really loved it. I loved it for a long time. And you gotta go when it’s there. You gotta go with it.

KAC: You wanted to focus on the region more. Why was that important to you to do that?

LR: I wanted people to know who I was and what I’m about and what I’m doing out here. In pottery you’re making hundreds, if not thousands, of pots a year. I’m a pretty fast worker, probably from all of those years of wholesaling. You’ve got to do something with them. You’ve got to move them out. It depends on what avenue you choose to get them out there. So that would be one thing.

I just want to make pots and make the best pots I can. I like the process of working. And I know from being in somewhat of a national setting, I know what it takes to keep all that going. It’s a lot of traveling around and making appearances and I didn’t want to do that anymore. I wanted to stay home and stay in the studio. You have to figure out how to make that work. And what made it work for me was teaching classes. Teaching classes, having a few regional shows, so I can stay home. I mean, I live on the river. It’s enjoyable being right here.

KAC: Do you have a favorite of your work?

LR: I like the soda-fired pots I make now. I think my work is conducive with the firing. To me they’re melding better. My forms, with the soda, they complement each other. With this type of firing I can get a little brighter colors. I kind of was ready for a little brighter color and I can get that with the soda kiln. I can’t woodfire anymore, (the work is) just too hard. That’s a young person’s firing. This is all I can handle and I’m very pleased with it. So I’m going to stay here for a while.

I’ve thought about this quite a bit. I’ve been living on this river for almost 20 years now. You have to probably live on a river to understand this. The river does play a big, important part of my life. I can’t imagine not living on the river. There is a steadiness – the river is moving all the time, it’s a constant moving, so there is a constancy in that moving all the time. And there is a rhythm and a pattern. And I relate it to the rhythm of working in clay, my rhythms in the studio. I’ve got a certain way of working. You come in, you’re making pots, you’re letting them dry, you’re trimming them, you’re glazing and you’re firing. There is a constant rhythm there. Plus, the river is very peaceful. There is an incredible peacefulness living on the river. It’s bigger than we are. You’re more connected with nature, I think. It sounds trite, but it’s very true. The river is a big part of my life.

Emily B. Moses, communications director

Categories: Visual Arts | Tags: , , , , , , ,

If you can’t walk, then crawl — an artist teaches me a lesson

In 2011, I wrote my little heart out for the Kentucky Arts Council — it was and is something I am glad to do. However, I took a break for the holidays and found it hard to get back into the habit. I felt out of ideas and overburdened with a lack of wherewithal. There are so many blogs out there, a good portion of them deal with arts topics and people are just inundated with information in general. I thought, “Why try so hard for my agency’s blog to sit unread in the Internet ether?” As a result, I decided to extend my definition of “holidays” to include the great Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday celebration.

I was in the artists’ business workshop we held at the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea on Jan.12, still with no inspiration, dreading the upcoming deadline and resigning myself to failure when potter Mathew Gaddie presented an artist testimonial. He inspired the piece of my brain that writes blogs to pack up the pity party and send the obnoxious guests home.

Mathew Gaddie carafes

These bourbon shot carafes make MUCH better party guests anyway.

The title page of his presentation included the start of the MLK quote, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl….” The timeliness (considering the upcoming holiday) was coincidental, but no less effective on the audience of fledgling artists and me.

Basically, Mathew started as a day-time plumber who fired pots in a barely-functioning kiln relegated to a corner of his girlfriend’s garage. Today he is a full-time artist with his own wood-fired kiln, studio and gallery. Many people would say he is “there,” he “has arrived” or he “made it.” He would not say that, and the incredible part is that Mathew fully admits that his journey is not a straight line, and he sees no true end point. “There” changes everyday. He isn’t blazing a trail, clearing a path or leaving breadcrumbs. He’s just stomping straight through the wilderness. Don’t even try; you won’t be able to follow him — he is already gone. He confesses to “gambling on himself” more than once.

Mathew Gaddie vessel

This is Mathew’s 401k. There’s a little more to it than filling out forms and setting up an automatic withdrawl.

Mathew’s lesson was brilliant and simple for the New Year, and it illustrates the completion of MLK’s quote, “…but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” All artists (and arts organizations for that matter) have different resources, challenges and opportunities. We can and should get together from time to time in solidarity, find overlaps and share tips. Mathew is no lone wolf — far from it. He regularly fires with friends and associates, and he looks to Laura Ross as a mentor. But attempts at replication and jealous comparisons are a waste of time. Quitting because you don’t have someone else’s resources or fortune means you didn’t really want it. The journey is yours, and you just have to advance any way you can. 2012 is time to start crawling, walking, running and maybe even flying.

Sarah Schmitt, arts access director

Categories: Visual Arts | Tags: , , , , , , ,

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