Clay is such a part of Janis Ross’s life that her home on Clay Avenue is no accident. In her potter’s studio just behind her house she makes working with clay look easy. She begins by wedging the clay, which is like kneading bread dough, than she pats it into a ball and it’s ready for the wheel.
“I throw it into the middle…putting my hands in water….just squeezing up into a cone. Then I put my thumbs over the top of that cone and very gently and slowly come down. Then I fill that hole with water, slip my other fingers in and what’s happening is I’m making bottom of the inside of the bowl. A really well made bowl has a gentle curve all the way up.”
In 1972 Ross founded the Houston Potters Guild and while the guild, as such, fell apart in the early 90s, The Houston Potters Guild Clay Arts Museum and Educational Organization lives on as a non-profit organization. In addition to teaching pottery it has held two events, one local the other international. The local event was the Emerging Artists Show last August for young potters. It will be held again next month.
In January the guild held the first Texas Teapot Tournament. Janis Ross says it had a life of its own.
“We thought we were going to invite potters from Texas, but the minute we got into it we realized people wanted to send their pottery from all over the United States, we said fine we’re national. And then here came inquires from out of the United States: fine we were an international group. We had the most extraordinary collection of teapots you’ve ever seen.”
The Texas Teapot Tournament returns next January.
There is also ten member co-operative made up potters, photographers, painters and jewelers who have just relocated the Houston Potters Guild Shop from Rice Village to the Heights. It opened this weekend at 2726 White Oak Drive. Dorothy Broaddus, a retired teacher and professional potter says the co-op is still is like a guild.
“You can go to them and say I have this problem or I want to do this, how do I do that. That’s one big benefit, of course the other thing is to have a place where you can exhibit your work all the time and get your work out to the greater community. I do have other venues where I sell my work but none as elite as the Houston Potters Guild.”
Clay has been a part of human endeavors for tens of thousands of years from figurines to pots to tiles on the space shuttle and one of the groups making this a golden age for pottery and, hidden in Houston, is the Houston Potters Guild Clay Arts Museum and Education Organization.