Visiting artist shares passion for pottery

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audio report: visiting artist workshop

By Katlyn Moncada, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Internationally known artist Dick Lehman shared his passion for pottery with a two-day ceramics workshop and lecture presented by Union’s Potter’s Guild and Department of Art, Sept. 21-22.

Visiting from Indiana, Lehman also showed his work at the workshop. He sat on a stage at the front of the room with fresh clay in hand and a potter’s wheel that spun continuously while he answered questions and gave personal accounts of his work.

Lee Benson, professor of art and department chair, said he has admired Lehman’s work for years.

While there were several live demonstrations from the artist to show his techniques, Benson noted what he gained from the workshop was more than just the pottery itself.

“The totality of the creative experience does not have to be watching pots made,” he said.

Benson said because other events such as poetry readings and photographs from Lehman’s experiences helped make the workshop’s experience reach a broader audience.

Lehman was not the only one to contribute to the workshop. Benson said a former student performed his music with a guitar and a faculty member read from his diary to share how Lehman influenced him the first day.

By having this variety within the workshop, Benson said there was a “much better chance of engaging the audience,” which was a big takeaway he said he received from the experience.

“A workshop can work on a multitude of artistic levels that can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people,” Benson said.

In his lectures, Lehman was able to share his background and how he came to desire pursuing pottery.

With little formal education in art, Lehman made his first piece of pottery in 1974. He worked in administration until becoming a full-time artist in 1981. Because of lack of funding, Lehman said his first studio and kiln — a furnace for firing pottery — was converted from an old chicken shack. His specialties in ceramics include firing techniques that give him his artistic edge. Lehman makes wood-fired pots, which fire for 15 or more days and reach 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, developing an ash-glazed surface. He also makes saggar-fired and side-fired pots.

In addition to his own exhibit, Lehman has had his work shown in museums in and out of the country. He has also been able to travel internationally, including several visits to Japan.

The public was welcome to attend the event as well, but the room was filled with students.

Ally Mynatt, junior art major, studies aesthetics, which is the philosophy of art, but still enjoyed hearing from a ceramics artist.

“It has been interesting to hear a ceramic artist, his ideas about his work and what that means to artists as a whole,” Mynatt said. “That has been the most enjoyable part to me, to figure out what his ideas are, what I think about those ideas and playing off that.”

Lehman currently works out of his home near Elkhart, Ind. He has been

able to share his knowledge through workshops and academic settings at least four to six times per year. From the beginning of the workshop, he told the audience to “feel free to steal anything you see” as far as his craft went.

“What I hope to do is share enough techniques and enough permission that students would take those techniques and find their own way with them and believe that they have the capability of taking that idea and make it their own,” Lehman said.

Lehman also said he would hope for students  “to stop for a moment and step back and think about the future” and how they can “best prepare themselves.”

“It’s not just a matter making, it’s a matter of thinking,” Lehman said. “Can you commit to the whole (art as a career) knowing it’s not always going to be right?”

Benson backed Lehman’s insights as well. He said persistence was key in reaching one’s dreams.

“If you want to live out your dreams, you are going to have to persist day in and day out.”

Creative advice from professionals will continue for the Department of Art this weekend with guests Michael and Mickie Winters at the department’s annual retreat at Chickasaw State Park.

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.