In honor of the 20th Annual Northeast Artists' Studio Tour, we've interviewed our super talented artists to share how they got where they are and why they make the work that they do.
Next we're featuring potter George Blair. George's studio is location #27 on the tour, at 119 Third Street NE in New Albin, IA. This year's tour is Friday through Sunday, October 13th to the 15th, with all locations on the tour open from 10am to 5pm each day.
Who are you and what kind of art do you make?
I always liked Popeye's response to the question of who he was, "I yam what I yam and that's what I am." I am older, maybe a little wiser, but I continue to learn and unlearn most of what I thought was true. I make pots.
What's your background?
I was trained in ceramics -- MFA, NIU, DeKalb, Illinios -- a long time ago. I was first intrigued with clay, when I stopped by the clay studio night class to pick up my friend who shared an apartment with me off campus. One of the advanced students was throwing a pot on the wheel. I was fascinated. I soon got my hands in clay. That was back in the early 70's. Still doing it.
What do you enjoy most about being an artist? What part of your process do you most enjoying doing?
Working in and with clay can be effective for centering your existence. I think I understand why Gandhi spun wool. But then, with clay, beyond making a bowl, I can play--just bumble away and see where it goes. Maybe a new possibility develops.
What inspires you?
Music, poetry, novels, cinema, OpEd--NYTimes, philosophy, riding across a cold lake in a small boat beside a lichen covered granite wall in Ontario, Canada near the end of Fall. If I could only make a pot that felt like that wall.
Who is your favorite artist or what is your favorite piece of art?
Very tough question. I do recall being blown away holding a Hamada platter. He (Japanese National Treasure) came to California back in the 70's to give a workshop. His piece drifted over to Illinois where I got to hold it. I knew it was extraordinary. It left a feeling in me that never left.
Hard to focus on one artist. A friend asked me recently who I listened to--music. Oscar Peterson came to mind as a great. But then maybe it took a Fats Waller to precede Oscar--or further back a Delta blues player with a cheap guitar. It is a string of artists receding back through the past that contribute the influence of ideas and experience. Pavarotti didn't just happen. Neither did Hamada.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
I watched an older woman caress one of my teapots like it was a living thing.
What will we see when we come to your studio?
Depends. Could be chaos. Likely chaos. That is the way I work. I sometimes marvel at the trail of processes I observe when I look over at the work table. "Embarrassing," my wife says. Then that Popeye explanation of who he is comes to mind.
More about the Northeast Iowa Artists' Studio Tour:
The Northeast Iowa Artists' Studio Tour is a unique opportunity to explore artists studios for an intimate look into their creative process and a chance to purchase their newest works right out of the kiln, hot off the presses, paint freshly cured...you get the point! This year, you can experience 51 artists at 38 locations while also taking in the charm of Northeast Iowa's small communities, local fare, and the breathtaking scenery of the Driftless. Each artist is different, but they all share a passion for imagination and each one welcomes their guests with gusto. Visit the Tour's website to download a brochure, map, or GPS coordinates for each location.