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|40 Years in the Making: Riverssance, September 20 and 21|
|Art - Feature Stories|
|Written by Jeff Ignatius|
|Wednesday, 17 September 2008 02:29|
On her Web site, Liz Robertson explains the circumstances that inspired her to pursue ceramics as a career: "From my early childhood I seemed to understand that clay, when put to fire, makes a permanent thing. My father was a bricklayer. Our backyard was good red clay. Our coal furnace, with its handy ledge, was where we placed our crude pinch pots to bake."
But necessity made her switch from throwing pots on a wheel to the hand-building technique she primarily uses today.
"I got pregnant" in 1974, she said. "I used to be a thrower ... and after a given number of months, the potter's wheel kind of disappeared ... . I just came up with a different approach that was more suitable to my condition at the time. And I'd always dabbled a little bit with hand-building processes, because it's a foundation of really learning how to work with clay."
Robertson, who lives with her potter husband in the Dubuque area, is one of more than 100 artists at this year's Riverssance Festival of Fine Arts, which runs Saturday and Sunday in Lindsay Park.
She won the best-in-show award at Riverssance last year, and said she and her husband were initially interested in the festival because it is run by artists. "Riverssance appealed to us because artists are the ones involved managing it," she said. "If anybody has the empathy and the consideration for our needs ... they know."
Robertson compares what she does with clay to mosaic, or "clay quilting." She often works "flat" on canvas and wraps the piece around a shape before releasing the canvas. "It's always done spontaneously without a sketch," she said. The design is fully "revealed" with the release.
Her designs are both functional - that is, watertight - and decorative, and they find a pleasant medium between sturdiness and attractiveness. The foliage of some designs almost appears genetically fused with the vessel shape.
She joked that a piece takes "40 years" to make, but more seriously said her work represents a "slow evolution." She uses an iron wash with most of her pieces and works with a palette of roughly 100 glazes. In recent years, she has been combining thrown and hand-built pottery. She also said she's working to incorporate fiber into her ceramic pieces.
Robertson said that as an artist who travels to more than 20 festivals a years - including live-and-work stints in North Carolina and Arizona - she's not immune to the ups and downs of the economy.
"I have to admit: I've probably gone a little more commercial than I'd like," she said. "People don't need to buy pottery when times are tough. ... We just hope and pray that there's still enough folks out there that also have to feed their spirit in terms of the aesthetic in their world.
"We were so trepidatious going into this whole season. It was like, ‘Oh my God, are we going to be able to continue to make a living with this?' Because this is all we have."
But Robertson said she had best show ever in August at Lake Geneva.
Riverssance takes place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, September 20, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, September 21, in Lindsay Park in the Village of East Davenport.
For more details about the event, click here.
For more information about Robertson, visit CricketHillPottery.com.
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