New work by Lynnette Hesser and Steve Loucks on exhibit through May 31. Reception Friday, May 3 from 5 – 7pm.
“As a ceramic artist, my work celebrates geometric pattern, flowers, and natural forms. The work for this exhibition has been created either by handbuilding, or throwing on the potter’s wheel, or a combination of both techniques. I relate the geometric pattern or type of flowers and leaves that I design to the match the shape of each form. I draw directly onto the surface of each thrown form to create intricacy and subtle simplicity in my delicate designs, flowers, or floral scenes on my clay forms. I strive to create this illusion by overlapping of the edges of the petals, leaves, stems, animal forms, and geometric designs to give a deep, three-dimensional look on the surface of the piece. Then, I deeply carve into the surface of the piece capturing the essence of flowers rather than recreating them. The position and the type of flowers chosen relate to the shape of each individual and unique piece as I seek to involve the viewer in the wonder of the delicate qualities of nature and pattern. Attention to detail is paramount in my work. The thrown pieces are made from white stoneware or porcelain on the potter’s wheel; then. I use the techniques of altering, embellishing, carving, reticulation, and/or assembling. Each piece is unique and requires a tremendous amount of time with steady hands to carve the details of the imagery or pattern. The large platters have been reticulated which means the clay wall, in the case the rim of the platter, has been cut entirely through and removed which creates negative space. This space can become as important to the design as the remaining positive “space” and the distinctive shapes left as pattern. My thrown pieces are smooth to the touch and are meant to be used and enjoyed by their owners.
My sculptural work references mushrooms, fungi, and coral. I observe and take many images of mushrooms and fungi in the wild and use nature books for the initial ideas for the sculpture which may or may not have a little imagination added to the shapes. Coral is a bit more difficult to photograph, so books are easier and also save the coral reefs by not having as many tourists accidentally damaging the ocean reef system. Much of the coral that I have personally observed appears to be dead or dying. Recently, the chemical oxybenzone in sunscreen has been listed as a culprit according to significant research by Professor John Fauth of the University of Central Florida. The disruption of natural cycles and symbiotic relationships is disturbing to me, so I would like to bring attention to the beauty of coral by creating my versions from clay. These sculptures were created from very thin slabs of white clay which were then cut two almost identical shapes to form the individual pods or petals. One section from each set was reversed to allow for undulation when the pieces were placed together. The two sections were cupped slightly before they were attached to form one hollow part. I puffed air inside each part to give it more volume; then, I attached each piece on an elevated and undulated hollow base. Because steam will form in firing inside the closed forms, each section opens to the base which has one air hole. This opening also serves the hole from which the wall pieces may be hung. The “Barnacle” sculpture was created by throwing 54 small vase shapes on the wheel then altering, embellishing, and attaching them to the base form. Only the base form needed the steam escape hole.
For the final coloring of the ceramic pieces, one or multiple glazes were used that we make from our glaze recipes for decoration on my pieces for beauty, durability, and naturalistic color schemes. The pieces were fired to cone 6 in an electric kiln including the brown flower center for the large flower which was made from hundreds of tiny clay coils rolled to a point and joined together as one piece. I utilize Steve’s downfiring schedule at the end of the firing which is detailed in his book. One sculpture was fired in a soda atmosphere kiln to cone 10 in reduction; then, it was refired with new glazes on top of the old to cone 6 in an electric kiln. Normally, kiln wash is used to keep the forms from adhering to the expensive kiln shelves; but in this case, I wanted to make the coral appear extremely dry and dead, so I experimented by using kiln wash as a “glaze”. For the large wall flower, the individual petals were separately glazed and fired; then, they were wired together to a clay back panel through preplanned and premade holes. Liquid Nails was used as a strengthener and stabilizer. I also used acrylic paints to add accents on the large flower. We feel that sometimes “rules are meant to be broken” in order to satisfy or fulfill the intention of the work.”
Lynnette Hesser is a full-time artist working in the studio she shares with her ceramic artist husband, Steve Loucks, in Wellington, Alabama. In 2018, she was the Contributing Editor with selected images throughout the book for, Glazes from a Potter’s Perspective: A Simple, Kitchen-Method Approach to Understanding Glaze Development which was written by Steve. The book was reprinted in February of 2019. She was awarded the Alabama State Council on the Arts Fellowship in Crafts grant for 2011 and is published in The Complete Guide to Mid-Fire Glazes, Glazing and Firing by John Britt, 500 Raku, The Ceramic Glaze Handbook by Mark Burleson, and the 1997 Studio Potter Magazine featuring Alabama ceramic artists. She conducts workshops and exhibits her work nationwide. Lynnette was an Adjunct Instructor of Art for Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama for 16 years and at Gadsden State Community College on three campuses for four. She was the Manager of the Ceramics Studio at the University of Florida and has also taught both full-time and part-time for pre-K through high school age students. While raising their two children, Lynnette continued to show new ceramic work in art exhibitions. She holds a BA from Denison University in Granville, Ohio, a BFA and MFA from the University of Florida (all three with ceramics concentrations) and an MSEd from Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, Alabama. In 2016, she co-hosted the Alabama Clay Conference with Steve at the Gadsden Museum of Art and the Mary G. Harding Center for Cultural Arts and continues to be very active on the ALCC Steering Committee. Lynnette’s most recent ceramic workshops were held at the Huntsville Museum of Art, Natchez Pottery, Arrowmont School of Crafts, The John C. Campbell Folk School, the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum, Mississippi University for Women, Wesleyan Potters in Connecticut and as a visiting demonstrator for during Steve’s 7th session at The Penland School of Crafts. She often team teaches with Steve where they demonstrate simultaneously offering the attendees a wide range of ceramic techniques and philosophies during the workshop and image presentation. She will be back teaching a workshop at the John C. Campbell Folk School this Spring and at the Mendocino Art Center this summer. She is an exhibiting member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild and the Alabama Designer Craftsmen.
My artplay transcends function while embracing it. My ceramics are divided between utilitarian pottery and glorified decorative vessels. I want my utilitarian pottery to have a humble, down to earth, look and appeal while performing with comfort, ease, and delight. My glorified functional vessels abandon utilitarian concerns for a sculptural approach to form, embellishment, and presentation. Some pouring vessels and jars are larger in scale than is practical. Their focus is on form rather than utility. Some vases have playful renditions of flowers for their embellishments. Their focus is on fantasy floral decoration rather than their utilitarian purpose to display flowers. Both intentions have a whimsical flair in their designs. They are wheel-thrown in sections, altered, assembled, and embellished. Most have an earthy quality and look created with matte glazes on top of a glossy glaze and ash runs. Those pieces have several glazes layered on top of a Shino glaze with raw ash sifted on top. They are high-fired to cone 10 in a reduction atmosphere. Others, without the ash runs, are glazed monochromatically or with two complimentary glazes and mid-fired to cone 6 with a downfiring in an electric kiln. Both intentions share the same sensibilities in the making and handling of the clay, glazing, and kiln firings.
I also enjoy working in wood. Rather than displaying my ceramics on pedestals, since many of us do not typically have pedestals in our homes, I have made the tables and shelves to display my ceramics. The natural wood boards come from trees I needed to have felled on our property. The laminated pieces are cut and glued birch plywood. I sculpted the wood or laminated wooden forms to have a wavy line incorporated into their designs to relate to the bases and rims in many of my ceramic pieces. To sculpt the wood forms, I used a hand-held grinder with a heavy-duty burr attachment to shave away the wood. Then, they were sanded successively with 60, 80, 120, and 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the surfaces so the focus would be on their wavy line quality rather than the texture of the wood. They are finished with a paste wax and buffed smooth to bring out either the wood grain or lines from the laminated wood. My tables and shelves transcend their utilitarian purpose to display my ceramics with a whimsical, decorative, and artistic flair in their designs.
Steve received his MFA in 1985 from the New York College of Ceramics at Alfred University, Alfred, NY and his BFA in 1983 from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana. He is a full-time studio potter, working in the studio he shares with his wife, Lynnette Hesser. Steve taught ceramics for over 26 years at Jacksonville State University,
Jacksonville, Alabama. He retired in 2013 and is now a Professor Emeritus. Steve has recently written and published the book, Glazes from a Potter’s Perspective: A Simple, Kitchen-Method Approach to Understanding Glaze Development which features his glaze testing method, test tile preparation, a visual dictionary of glaze effects, his firing processes, and much more. His work is included in several public and private collections including the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts in Texas, University of Florida, Tennessee State University, and Greenwich House Pottery among others. Steve was awarded the Alabama State Council on the Arts Fellowship in Crafts twice and the Southern Arts Federation/National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Crafts, as well as, many awards in national juried competitions. At the National Council on the Education of the Ceramics Arts (NCECA) 2019 in Minneapolis, MN, Steve was a featured presenter with his lecture, “Understanding a Glaze Recipes Using a Standardized Order”. And 2017 in Portland, Oregon, where he presented “An Easy Way to Adjust Glazes”. He was previously the moderator for his panel’s presentation, “Cone 6 Without Compromise”, and a Glaze Doctor, and a Topical Group Discussion Leader numerous times. Steve has hosted the Alabama Clay Conference four times, twice at JSU, along with Lynnette Hesser and was the ceramics coordinator for the Alabama Craft Conference twice. He has conducted numerous hands-on workshops which include Penland, Arrowmont, John C. Campbell Folk School, and many others on making functional pottery and developing glazes, as well as, demonstration workshops making his artwork. His artwork has been published in several books including; The Complete Guide to Mid-Fire Glazes, Glazing and Firing by John Britt, 500 Raku, 500 Teapots, 500 Pitchers, and The Ceramic Glaze Handbook by Mark Burleson. His article “L-shaped Test Tile” was published in the October 2018 issue in Ceramics Monthly. Recently, he was featured with Lynnette in an interview on thepotterscast.com/460.