June Spotlight Artist: Ron Cook

by Bella Erakko

The Alliance Art Gallery featured member artist Ron Cook makes pottery as a creative, not a production, process. He readily admits, “I never want to be a production potter.” Coming from two parents who both had artistic skill, it came as no surprise that in high school, Ron would find his own passion. Pottery.

A new shape, a new design, a slight change in the glaze—“It goes beyond not having a strategy,” he acknowledges. “Being creative is the thing.” After moving his kiln, brick by brick, to its new home, it took four to five firings to learn its temperament. “Sometimes, it has a temper tantrum,” he says of this clay-fire-kiln marriage.

Part of being open to creative processes is finding what he is drawn to visually. “If I find a picture of something that does not look commercial—a crack or a texture—to me, that is exciting.” When he fires his own pieces, he finds tremendous satisfaction in the surprises. “Sometimes there’s a defect, a hot spot that changed the glaze, and it will never be replicated again.” That keeps pottery exciting for Cook. Lately he’s been working with pieces embodying multiple techniques. Cutting rolled slabs into ovals, seaming them together, puffing air between the clay ovals, adding a wheel-thrown top—all the time wondering … will it survive the firing? His kiln will handle large pieces, up to four feet. But the process requires infinite patience. A lot depends on the joints. It can take two months to slowly dry before being fired in the kiln.

Not everything survives. All the creative love, excitement, and expectation can result in nothing more than a cracked piece of pottery. In his early days, he admits, “It was an emotional thing.” But today he acknowledges, “Every potter has a shard pile. You have to give a pot back once in awhile.”

An opening reception will be held Saturday, June 9, from 5:00 until 8:00 pm. A piece of Ron Cook’s work will be given away in a free drawing held at 6:00. This reception coincides with Hannibal’s Second Saturday Gallery Night.