Florida potters' creations: practical, playful, pretty

From cremation urns to food service items, 10 artists' work varies in styles and techniques.

Published August 13, 2006


When their time comes, this 70-something couple plans to part in style.

Jay and Lillian Hart of Palm Harbor were looking for their perfect cremation urns: museum-quality, yet playful objects of art.

So they turned to a pottery show called "A Passion for Pottery III, Let's Celebrate Florida Potters" in search of their eternal resting piece.

For her, it was the Blue Gourd, a teal, squash-shaped jar with a curly stalk.

He's still thinking.

"I liked the finial on top," she said. "It's kind of like life; it goes 'round and 'round and straight forward, too."

She almost picked the teapot.

"That's also like life," she said. "You pour it out, a little bit at a time."

At this exhibit, enthusiasts will not only find containers for cremains, but about 50 different pieces of art for sale, including platters, a canister set, cups, vases and baking dishes.

Ten Florida artists were chosen to display their work at Clay and Paper, which shares space with The Painted Fish Gallery, on Main Street near the Pinellas Trail. The artists are John Tilton, Jason Lachtara, Ken Jensen, Gail Snively, Jack Boyle, Katherine Mathisen, Ira Burhans, Charlie Parker, Glenn Woods and Peter Streit. The exhibit continues through Aug. 27.

"We have some very strong potters in Florida and this is an overview of the different styles and techniques going on in pottery," said Barbara Melby-Burhans, who owns Clay and Paper with her husband, Ira.

The artists have fired up their kilns and their collective imaginations to bring a wide array of art forms that are functional as well as beautiful.

Take Ira Burhans' assortment of baking and serveware that includes seabird-inspired teapots and beachy casserole dishes and serving trays.

"I often go to the beach and watch the interaction between the sand and the water, so my designs move and dance a bit," he said.

His designs are not only pretty; they can go in the oven or dishwasher.

Some pottery, on the other hand, is meant to be enjoyed more for its loveliness rather than functionality.

Ken Jensen, from the St. Augustine area, is known for his tropical palm-tree designs on his raku-fired pottery. Raku is a Japanese technique often recognizable from its smoky cracked glazes. Because of its porosity, raku isn't recommended for holding food without a liner.

As with most Florida art shows, enthusiasts will see lots of crustaceans, palm trees and sea turtles.

Even some lizards, like those that "crawl" on the orangish-red Journey Box created by Katherine Mathisen of Ocoee.

"My studio is in my garden and I leave the doors open so they come in whenever they want," she said.

The piece, adorned with squished faces and some skulls, also reflects her intrigue with the past and the present.

"The faces represent our community and how we affect each other and are all pushed together," she said. "The skulls represent our ancestors and how their energy still affects us."

And the bright green seeds?

"Those represent our hope, our future and the potential for things that come," she said.

If you go

WHAT: "A Passion for Pottery III, Let's Celebrate Florida Potters," is an exhibit featuring the works of 10 Florida potters. All pottery is for sale.

WHERE: The exhibit is at Clay and Paper, which shares space with The Painted Fish Gallery, 350 Main St., Dunedin.

WHEN: The exhibit continues through Aug. 27. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.

INFO: Call (727) 736-0934.