After picking up a book about pottery in Kentucky, I became fascinated with the vast number of artists who work and live in the Bluegrass State. Joe Molinaro's A Pottery Tour of Kentucky gives a city-by-city description of the area's many talented potters.
One city that had a surprisingly large number of these artisans was Lexington, usually thought of as horse and bourbon country. Joe, a potter himself, as well as a teacher, volunteered to show me some of the galleries and studios in Lexington. Between him and his book, I got a potter's wheel of fortune. Here's a sampling.
Truth in Materials Gallery
Chris Strecker and her daughter run a bright, compact gallery in downtown Lexington, and if their welcoming smiles don't dazzle you, their artwork surely will. Chris has been a potter for 30 years, and her specialty is a large mixing bowl with a handle, dubbed a "batter bowl" ($32). "I put my kids through college on batter bowls," she says. She also makes dinnerware to order. (A dinner plate costs $32 as well.)
Chris works at her potter's wheel in the studio, where 30 other artists have works displayed, including those by daughter Erika, a metalworker. The two women pride themselves on offering quality regional work at a range of prices.
Truth in Materials Gallery: 379 East Main Street; (859) 231-1202.
In a quiet suburban neighborhood, a man in a Hawaiian shirt walks out to his garage studio, where pottery and color collide in a wonderful mix called "maiolica." "I'm an urban potter,"says Steve Davis-Rosenbaum. He and wife Kate, a printmaker, share a position at nearby Midway College. He wants people to be able to buy and use his dinnerware. A cup costs $25; a large glass is $30. "Much of my pottery originates in the basic human joys of eating and cooking," says Steve.
SDR Pottery: P.O. Box 4594; (859) 278-8335 or www.mindspring.com/~ksdaro.
Over pasta at Lexington's Portofino restaurant (his own pottery liberally decorates the eatery), this man with a quick smile and bright blue eyes tries to explain how he became a potter. "I was the kid with all the hobbies," says Joe. "And when I was in college, I worked with a guy who talked about his classes in pottery. So I signed up for a course at night." Joe now teaches the art form at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, works in his own studio when time permits, and spends summers in Ecuador, where he's researching pottery in the Amazon. So why did he write this book? "I wanted to make it easy for people to find potters in Kentucky," he answers simply. And he did just that--with an artistic flair.
Joe Molinaro: 188 Woodland Avenue, Number 2; (859) 233-0085. A Pottery Tour of Kentucky: www.artsacrossky.com ($19.95).
Gayle Cerlan also welcomes visitors with a smile. Her gallery, located in a 150-year-old building in downtown Lexington, fairly glows with light streaming in the windows. A long-time potter, Gayle operates the gallery, which represents 18 artists in Joe's book, and includes both contemporary and folk art. A recent teapot exhibit shows Gayle's whimsical side. When you go, be sure to say "hello" to her most faithful gallery groupie--her dog, Morgan.
Cerlan Gallery: 522 West Short Street; (859) 233-7284. Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday.
Main Cross Gallery
A potter for 20 years, Jill Stofer, teaches at the University of Kentucky as well as at a Montessori school. In her spare time, she and her husband, Richard, run a beautiful gallery in downtown's Victorian Square shopping area. Specializing in high-fired stoneware, Jill creates lovely bowls, large floor vases, and dinnerware. (Bowls run $25; vases start at $80.) "I do mostly functional pieces," says Jill. "And I try to keep the prices reasonable, so people can buy without being afraid to use it."
Main Cross Gallery: 401 West Main Street; (859) 258-9863. Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
"Pick a Pretty Pot" is from the November 2003 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.