Potter and studio art teacher Lisa Kurtz remembers her first experience with clay as though it were yesterday. Like many of her beginning students today, she says she was hesitant, worried about the technical aspects of the medium.
“But clay is very forgiving, and very expressive,” she says. “Now I’m teaching the same things I learned.”
Kurtz has been creating colorful functional and sculptural stoneware pottery for 40 years. Her work has been sold and exhibited at shops and galleries all across the country, and she has been awarded numerous honors. In Knoxville, her work is featured in her own studio shows, in art shows and charitable fundraisers, and as part of Terra Madre, a group of more than three dozen local women potters.
Through Feb. 23, she is the featured artist, with painter Ken Anderson, at the Schilling Gallery at Westminster Presbyterian Church (6500 Northshore Dr.; www.wpcknox.org). The gallery is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and all of Kurtz’ pottery in the show is for sale.
Kurtz grew up in Kentucky, and she has a master’s degree in ceramics from the University of Louisville. As a student, she became comfortable with creating pottery through handbuilding and by throwing clay on a pottery wheel. Although it’s more common for a potter to favor one method, she incorporates both into her work.
Through the decades, she finds herself revisiting details and forms she learned long ago, transforming them into new work. In her baskets and bowls, there are often cut-outs that let the viewer see an interior that is glazed in different colors. Her vases and teapots, a favorite form, are as soundly made as they are beautiful.
Kurtz has also worked professionally in graphic design and was a painter before she found clay. Growing up, she says, she knew she wanted to do something creative: “I knew I looked at things differently.”
This semester, Kurtz is teaching two beginning clay classes at Pellissippi State Community College. She will also be teaching a Wednesday mid-day pottery throwing workshop at Appalachian Arts Craft Center in Norris, which takes place Feb. 7, 14, 21 and March 7.
“I enjoy sharing what I know,” she says of teaching. “I leave class with a smile on my face.” She says that now that so much fine art technique involves digital or mechanical production, it’s important for those of her generation to pass along the fundamentals.
She and her husband have lived in Knoxville for 25 years and raised three grown children here. (The creative gene was passed on: her son is an artist and the two daughters are writers). When her children were school age, she met a couple of the women potters who formed the original core of Terra Madre. What began as a few women potters trading techniques and business advice over dinner is now almost like an artist’s guild, with juried entry, regular meetings, and member shows and sales.
“Knoxville has a very vibrant arts community, and Terra Madre is part of that,” Kurtz says. “It’s good for women to help other women.”
For more information about Kurtz’ art, visit www.lisakurtzhighlandpottery.weebly.com.