Thursday, May 7, 2009

Clay Day Part Two - The Bearswamp

After the pottery sale at the Green’s we meandered over to The Garden of the Gods – also known as Walhalla, SC. That weekend was also the Pickens Oconee Pendleton (POP) Open Studios and one of my college roommates was a featured artist. Stan DuBose is king of the Art Education world in the Upstate area and seriously holds some sort of really high position with the National Art Education folks. Among the tons of things he manages to have time to do, he runs Bearswamp Pottery out of his home studio with his vicious, biting dog by his side. I’m not kidding about the vicious part. Nor the biting part. Anytime people come by his house, he has to make arrangements for Pablo the dog to be dog-sat by his mom down the road. This is the only inherently evil dog I’ve ever met.

So with Pablo’s teeth at a safe distance the studio was open for visitors and shoppers and Stan was ready. I’ve been to his studio a couple of times in the last few years and I’ve never seen it so clean and neat. It was like a little store in there and you could barely see his throwing wheel and kiln for all the cool, shiny things for sale. It’s worth the trip to Stan’s simply for the view. He built this house a while back up on top of a hill on his family’s land. The house and studio face a gorgeous mountain view with several pastures and trees and animals in the foreground. I forgot to take my camera with us so you’ll just need to imagine the view I’m describing. We had our 2 ½ year old son with us and after having a couple of visions of a bull running through a china shop, we spent much of our time outside on the front porch which not only showcased the view but also featured Stan’s awesome landscaping. With the mulch, trees, flowers, and water features he’s built something just shy of a children’s museum out there. Little Blue chased lizards and bumble bees and jumped in the plants while his mom spent lots of money on the even cooler things inside.

Stan’s work is best described as clean. He takes craftsmanship to the absolute highest level in all his work and the results are amazing. His work is so well done you can spend some time looking over his damaged rack and never find the flaw that failed to pass his inspection. There were many utilitarian objects for sale including kitchen tools, dishes, fridge magnets, clocks, and containers with intricate carvings on the exteriors. There were wall hanging pieces with designs and carvings and several small framed ink drawings that featured nature abstractions. And while all these things are good, he seems to really excel in creating his more sculptural pieces. Among those are some face jugs that buck the traditional style and approach and feature some very bold and very three-dimensional facial features. He also produced a series of patchwork turtles created out of small discs of clay pushed together around a form to create the dome of the turtle shell. These varied in color combinations and had some expressive heads and legs attached to them. By far, though, my favorite things were the birds. His birds are carved out of solid clay just around life size or slightly smaller and have realistic bird legs perched on an assortment of antique found objects. I can’t even begin to describe the amount of detailed carving he does with each of these birds. Every single feather has been etched out in the clay surface revealing patterns and textures that almost make you forget these birds are not real.

(terrible photo of a postcard)

By the way, the name Bearswamp Pottery comes from the wonderfully named road that Stan lives on – East Bearswamp Road. I know you were wondering.

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