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Art center welcomes Potters Guild installment, Japanese-inspired work

The Kenai Potters Guild’s annual “Clay on Display'' installation opens Friday
Hunter Morrison
/
KDLL
The Kenai Potters Guild’s annual “Clay on Display'' installation opens Friday

If you drop by the Kenai Art Center this month, you may find yourself surrounded by varying iterations of clay teapots in the main gallery. The exhibit is part of the Kenai Potters Guild’s annual “Clay on Display'' installation. Each year, that installation challenges potters with a different theme that aims to highlight the diverse art form. This year’s theme is on teapots.

The Potters Guild has been active on the Kenai Peninsula for over 50 years, and has had an annual exhibit at the art center for over 30 years. The guild was founded to not only create pottery among like-minded people, but to improve artists’ overall craft.

Sandy Campbell is the Potters Guild’s studio coordinator. She says this year’s exhibit will display the work of novice and professional artists.

“There’s so many people involved," Campbell said. "You’re thinking cups, bowls, but every individual has a different take on a cup or a bowl. A basic item can look so different when 15 different people do it, which is what a lot of the fun is, too.” 

Charlotte Coots is the Art Center’s executive director. She hopes the exhibit leaves people with a better understanding of the planning, patience and hard work that goes into creating each piece of pottery.

“Because things are fired and glazed, I think some people, when they see the finished form, they don’t understand that that was a lump of clay at one time," Coots said. "That was in the ground with all these separate minerals and pieces of earth that were part of the dirt, and all the processes that it goes through to get this finished piece of work is really a labor of love.”

While this month’s front gallery installation may give off an earthy aura, a stroll to the back gallery will exhibit the many unique facets of Japan. On display are a number of Japanese themed art forms, including a chess board and a paper lantern decorated with koi fish. There’s also a kotatsu table - a Japanese dining table that sits low to the ground.

Sandra Lewis is the artist behind the Japanese themed exhibit, called “Memories of Japan.” She’s also the Kenai Art Center’s newest board president.

An assortment of flip phones on display in the Kenai Art Center's “Memories of Japan” installation
Hunter Morrison
/
KDLL
An assortment of flip phones on display in the Kenai Art Center's “Memories of Japan” installation

“Japan is just old, the history is just there," she said. "The history is there, and the gardens, the architecture, the colors. That, for me, is just eye candy.”

Lewis moved to an American military base near Hiroshima in 2011 to teach high school art and photography. During her decade of living in the country, she fell in love with its natural beauty and the kindness of its people.

One of her favorite pieces on view is a frame exhibiting an assortment of flip phones. Although she lived in Japan during the era of smartphones, Lewis and her family used flip phones. Their existing cell phone plan let them make unlimited calls to the United States. Upgrading their phones, she says, would have meant losing that plan.

“As I’ve been setting it up, I get this feeling of, just from the pieces she’s created, these feelings of wonder and love, and just nostalgia,” Coots said. “That’s overwhelming to me as I’m setting it up, and I’ve never even been to Japan”

Lewis’ installation was scheduled before Coots knew she would be president of the art center’s board. Taken together, Coots says she hopes the different styles and subjects of each installation will hook a variety of visitors.

“I would like people to recognize the thought and the effort that the artists in our community go to to try to keep the art form alive here," she said. "That’s the gallery’s whole goal, is to support those artists. I think when people come to see the art, they can start to appreciate a little more how important art is. Kenai is not just a fishing town or an oil town, it’s an art town also.”

Both exhibits at the Kenai Art Center will have their opening reception this Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. The installations will be on view throughout the month of July.

Hunter Morrison is a news reporter at KDLL