By Christina Whiting
Thanks to a mother who was a beatnik artist in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Homer potter Lisa Wood was exposed to a variety of art forms at an early age. When she was 10 years old, her mother took a pottery class at a Seattle studio, introducing Wood to clay.
Today, Wood’s pottery can be found in Anchorage at Cabin Fever and the Blue/Holloman Gallery, in Talkeetna at the Dancing Leaf Gallery and in Homer at Bunnell Street Arts Center.
“My aim is to make functional pots that bring art into our everyday lives,” she said. “My hope is that my passion for making objects, keeping an open mind and being imaginative and playful in my approach comes through in my work.”
Wood has been a full-time working artist in Homer for the past 15 years. Her work has been juried into the Pratt Museum and awarded “Juror’s Choice” by the Kenai Fine Art Guild. She has participated in group shows at the National Ceramic Conference and has exhibited in solo and collaborative exhibits locally.
When Wood and her husband, Pete Beck, moved to Homer in 1981, she raised their two children, Nikki and Gus and took pottery classes. She attended workshops and dabbled in clay as much as she could.
Encouraged by local potters, Wood bought her first wheel, clay and electric kiln in 1999, and set to work in her first studio. It was a home addition that she and Beck had originally intended to be their living room. The next year, she joined local potters Marie Herdegen and Ahna Iredale in opening Homer Clay Works on the Homer Spit.
Without access to a gas kiln, Wood started out firing on an electric kiln and developed her process of painting on her pots using colored stains, rather than glazes. Today, she fires her pots with either wood or gas/soda atmospheric firings that allow her to interact with the firing process, enjoying the element of chance and the work involved.
Wood said she is influenced by other pottery, including old pots, pioneer pottery, Japanese pottery and contemporary pottery — as well as by nature and architecture.
“There are so many things that inspire me,” she said. “The beautiful line of an old boat or old tool; a hinge or a bevel on a chisel or the way something was hammered — like hammered copper textures and rusty, old metal.”
Wood also draws inspiration from workshops, interacting with other potters and learning new techniques. She has attended more than 30 workshops both in and outside Alaska.
“I get a little bit from here and there, never having had a long-term, serious, one-on-one teacher,” she said. “I just take as many workshops as I can, and go study with someone. Or, I could just buy clay and work.”
Wood’s latest body of work is on display at Bunnell Street Arts Center. The exhibit includes several large pots, which she considers to be a bit of a departure for her.
“I had to stretch myself to make these big pieces because, when I tried to make them in the past, I wasn’t successful,” she said. “This time around, my technique was much more mature and I surprised myself by how easy the large pieces came.”
The exhibit also includes several boat forms and faceted vases. Wood said the boat form is one she continually returns to and the faceted vases were inspired by her love of columns, timber framing and bevels.
Wood began creating this latest body of work in February and March, using her wood-fired kiln. She did two firings in May and one in June, with each firing taking 30 hours, a crew of friends and a cord-and-a-half of wood.
Wood said she appreciates how involved the process of wood-firing requires her to be.
“Instead of just turning on the gas to reach the desired temperature, you have to feed the fire for anywhere from 30 hours to three days — depending on the type of kiln you have,” she said.
Wood and her husband are currently building a new studio with a larger wood-fired kiln. She plans to create a shop to sell her work, allow for visitors and mentor an assistant. She is especially eager to be able to create new and different forms within the expanded space.
“I love being able to give myself the freedom to try new things and go in a direction that is different for me,” she said. “Allowing myself to do that is hard, but it’s good for growth.”
Wood said she loves being in her studio working on ideas, and hopes her work stays fresh and continues to evolve. She has always been impressed by Homer potters, and would like to see the art form continue to evolve throughout the community.
“Ever year, people come to Homer fresh out of college and want to make pots,” she explained. “But there is no facility available.”
She would like to see the creation of a community ceramic studio space, where individuals can rent space to work and workshops could be facilitated.
Wood said she considers pottery to be a very viable and sustainable art form.
“Everybody needs to eat, and in order to eat you need a bowl,” she said. “Pottery is familiar and ancient and speaks to you. It is also an art that is accessible and affordable.”
See Wood’s work in person at Homer Clay Works on the Homer Spit during the summer, or year-round at Bunnell Street Arts Center. You can also visit her website at lisawoodpottery.com
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