I had the great pleasure of seeing the Pottery Boys in action this week and I wanted to share their story with you. I will be doing so in several posts this week and invite you to their pottery demonstration and open house on Saturday, August 19th in Blue Island, Illinois (see the bottom of this post for all the deets!)
How you might ask, did I hear about this talented duo…my dear friends (family), Tom Mantel and Tom Hawley have been collecting their pieces for several years and I have admired their pieces in their Mid-Century home (a post in the future!).
Three pieces from The Toms collection…aren’t they stunners! The detail and shading are amazing let alone the size of the center piece. I do love them against the brick wall in the living room, modern pottery coming from the earth against brick also coming from the earth and tracing Blue Island’s roots as the “Brick Capital of the World”!
Over the years I have admired the pieces and have said I wanted to meet Glenn Woods and Keith Herbrand, I had that opportunity this week and was totally enamored with the process. It was quite the experience to see Glenn in action and learn more about the art of potting (I’ll share that story later this week).
What Glenn was working on when I arrived at the workshop.
Finishing the piece in very short order! Ready for decorating and then firing.
One of the three kilns.
A portion of my workroom tour.
A selection of leaves waiting for their color to be applied.
Heart shaped leaves (I will think they are inspired by my beloved redbud trees see the glorious weeping redbud, below, in The Toms garden!).
As is usual I ask my “Profiles” to answer a questionnaire…this one has been tailored especially for The Pottery Boys and Glenn graciously answered my questions, you will read much more on his technique later in the week, and Keith gave me a tour of some of the finished product.
Some of the finished pieces.
Pieces of Keith’s creativity.
When did you start doing your art and why pottery? (I am the daughter of an artist so perhaps I view art differently, I hope so!)I have always loved making things and as a child would sew dresses for my friend’s dolls, or style their hair, or crochet something – I also had a learning disability – reading and grasping abstract concepts was difficult for me so I would often seek art as a way to feel productive. I was in special education from 3rd grade to 6th grade and I remember hearing that if you couldn’t do math, science, or read well, they would put you in art class – Thank God for art classes, that is where I found myself and was able to grow.It was my high school teacher – Judy Wenig (who I am still friends with today) who introduced me to clay as well as a host of other art mediums but I fell in love with clay the moment I sat down at the potters wheel. My first piece was dated 1974 – I still remember that piece and how it gave me hope for my future as a potter.Has your aesthetic changed over the years, if so how? Has it just evolved or has your style changed completely?I tell people all the time that my style has changed dramatically over the years – and it has. However, recently I met up with a college friend who was also an art major – he found me at an art fair in Indianapolis. My work has gone through so many changes as I explore different techniques and ceramic materials, so I was excited to show him my new work – but he said “I recognized your work instantly” I was shocked. At first I took it as a disappointing suggestion that I have not grown at all but the more I think about it, I guess it is a complement. No matter how many changes and transformations my work takes, there is still something there, a common thread that is evident despite the changes – to an artist this is a great compliment.Where do you get your inspiration for your pieces?I sketch a lot – I dream a lot – I admire other artists’ work a lot. You can see influence from nature in most of my work – some people see suggestions of gourd shapes, flowers, twisting branches, and even patterns found in snowflakes. The truth is, I never look at a flower and say – “I am going to incorporate that in my work” it just seems to surface as a desire to design, decorate, or create patterns. The general public tend to find the influence by asking if I was influenced by something specific – wow, I can see your influence from Asian potters, or lotus blooms, or . . . I often discover my influence through other peoples observations.Do you do commissions? How do they affect your creativity?
I will do commissions but only on rare occasions – when I feel the commision will take me down a path I would like to explore, I go for it. However, I NEVER take a deposit and I ALWAYS say, I will give it a shot and then move on from there. I do not like to spend time chasing after another person’s dream – If I can’t capture what they are looking for in the first series, I suggest they find an artist whose style is more closely aligned with what they are looking for. I work in small series – 6 to 10 pieces, if they cannot find one piece in that series that meets their needs, we both go our own way and I have a few new pieces to show. Chasing after commissions tends to disrupt the creative process.I understand that you spend your winters in Florida how does that inspire you?I became a full time potter in 2001 and moved from Evanston, IL to Palm Harbor, FL because Florida has so many outside art fairs, an artist has shows to pick from year ’round. I have never liked the heat and I am not into beach life so the influence one might think I would get from living in Florida is very limited. The greatest change to my work is color – when we lived in the midwest, my colors tended to be more neutral – browns, tans, rust, deep blue, and dark greens. These colors do not do well in Florida so we now use lots of lighter colors, teals, emerald greens, deep blues – very water borne colors. I am color blind – not totally but I never know what color I can’t see until we are talking color variations and then I am in big trouble – in mixing glazes, my thought process is more focused on the chemistry rather than the value or depth of color – when glazing I am looking for a color blend from light to dark to create weight and a sense of depth so it is less about color and more about how the colors interact, blend, and work to create that sense of depth – even if you were viewing the piece in black and white.Why do you create in Blue Island?
I often say, Blue Island found us, we did not seek out Blue Island intentionally. After moving to Florida, we decided to establish a home base back here in the midwest – especially after deciding to participate in summer art fairs for 4 months out of the year – traveling back and forth was not an effective way for us to live and we needed a place to work and live for the summer months while participating in the art fairs (without relying on staying with family or friends). We met Bridget Scales at the Bucktown Art Fair – she told us of a building in Blue Island that might just fit our needs – a year later, we moved in and love the building, the town, and especially the Blue Islanders – Blue Island has a rich history and those who live here love it’s history and work hard to keep the city alive.What would you do if you weren’t artists?I would be a philanthropist or a counselor/psychologist – I have always wanted to help people – especially where people feel tormented by the contrast of who they are and who society wants them to be. Growing up gay in a small farming community where my best friends were Amish kind of set the tone for my life. Needless to say, I was surrounded by very conservative people whose thoughts and advice was not real supportive – not only of my sexual identity but also my desire to create. I remember my mom telling me “little boys DO NOT sew dresses” or crochet or play with hair. She caught me sewing in my bedroom one day – the others were outside playing. She was so appalled at what i was doing, she wrapped a towel around me and paraded me around the others while singing here she is, Miss America. It was great fun for her but I was totally humiliated (too much information, I know but artists do struggle to find ways to express themselves that are socially acceptable, a lesson I learned at an early age)What are your passions outside of your talent?
I am a total clay geek, so I do not have many interests outside of my clay work – I do like to write – especially about my work in clay. I recently have had 5 articles published in “Pottery Making Illustrated” I also have a passion for helping people, looking for ways to build self worth. While I enjoy music, theater, I would not say I am passionate about those things. I love to invent, I love to talk to total strangers, I love to express my love and gratitude, I also can’t contain my distaste for something – like a political figure that seems to be misguided (in my own opinion, of course).Informaion on the Pottery Demonstratons from noon to 5 and the Open House from 6 to 9
Saturday, August 19 – noon to 9pm
13201 Olde Western Ave. / Blue Island, IL 60406 / 727-504-6200
Glenn Woods and Keith Herbrand will be hosting an open house in their Blue Island Gallery on Saturday, August 19th. Glenn will be conducting pottery demonstrations from noon to 5pm while Keith tends to the gallery. The formal Open House will be from 6pm to 9pm with light snacks and refreshments. Several local artists will also be participating offering: Original Paintings; Mosaics; Jewelry; Ceramic Arts; and Pottery.
The gallery is located in Blue Island on the north side of the Cal-sag Canal, just under the Western bridge.
Glenn and Keith are full time potters who reside in Palm Harbor, Florida but have been summer residents of Blue Island since 2004. They have a formal open house once each summer due to their hectic summer art fair schedule. You can see their work at many local art fairs including: Chicago’s Old Town Art Fair; Chicago’s 57th Street Art Fair; Downtown Geneva Art Fair; Lake Forest’s Art Fair on the Square; Naperville’s Riverwalk Art Fair; Park Forest’s Tall Grass Art Fair. If you are unable to make it to those art fairs, this is a great opportunity to see their work AND to watch Glenn as he creates pottery on the potters’ wheel from noon to 5pm.
There will be several local and regional artists represented – all will be present to chat a bit about their work.
Crystalline Glazed Pottery – Glenn’s pottery is made out of fine porcelain and glazed with a specialty glaze called Crystalline Glaze. These glazes are noted for their ability to grow crystals in the glaze layer during a complex cooling process during the glaze firing. By altering the firing temperatures and the duration of the firing, special effects and wonderful visual texture can be achieved.
We are inviting you to come out for the day or evening to see our work, meet the artists and enjoy the company of art lovers. You can come out for the demonstrations – visit one of the many wonderful local restaurants in Blue Island, Midlothian, or Crestwood and then come back for the Opening to wrap up the day.
All photos were taken on site by Nena.