Editor’s note: “Our Town,” a long-running partnership between The Beachcomber and Vashon Island Visual Artists (VIVA) re-introduces islanders to local artists who have long contributed to Vashon’s vibrant visual arts scene. In this installment, pottery icon Liz Lewis tells us about her influences, work and life on Vashon.
My first experiences with clay involved a wood-fired kiln in Oberlin, Ohio (1974-1977), and included a workshop with potter Randy Johnson, who helped us get that kiln to temperature, and demonstrated how to (wheel) throw very soft clay very slowly!
Since this first workshop experience, I have attended many workshops, learning from generous studio potters whose work I admire. In Oberlin, I also participated as a guest artist in my first studio sale, a direct sale model of business I have used ever since.
In Denver, as a member of Castle Clay Co-op (1979-1984), I developed a style of thrown and altered porcelain ware and large raku baskets with fat-rolled rims and handles. This period of hard work culminated in a one-woman show at the Foothills Art Center in Golden, Colorado.
Since establishing myself on Vashon in 1984, I have been lucky to be able to sell most of my colorful earthenware to my neighbors here on the island, with work cycles concentrated around my seasonal studio sales as a participant in the VIVA Studio Tours. Direct sales from my Cemetery Road pottery stand offer a strong connection to my community and the opportunity to share the specifics of my craft. Throughout the year I maintain a healthy inventory uptown at Gather Vashon.
Over the years I have been offered and have developed many different situations in which to practice my other craft — that of teaching. Through the Blue Heron, I have offered classes for adults and summer clay camps for kids at my Cemetery Road studio. And, I have been a frequent teaching artist with Vashon Artists in Schools.
Now I have stepped away from the teaching, just making pots with my two studio mates, Marla and Karen. Daily walks in Island Center Forest with my dog, Juni, and a friend are cherished, as is spending comfortable time with my lovely longtime partner, Dagny. A visit from my son Clay, his partner Jessica, and my granddaughter Myla, provided an opportunity to celebrate her first birthday on Vashon this summer — lucky baby, lucky Grammy!
For more information about the work of Liz Lewis and other Vashon artists, visit vivartists.com.