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Dave Ovenshire, 72, of Moneta throws his pottery in his basement workshop. He fires his work in the kiln behind him and then finishes the Raku process by firing the pottery a second time in a open air kiln (a trashcan) in his backyard.
For this piece, one of Ovenshire's favorites, the glaze creates a unique design, which is a surprise when it's removed from the open air kiln. The unpredictability is one thing Ovenshire likes about the raku process, he said.
Friday, September 27, 2013
Dave Ovenshire has been honing a new skill. It’s a skill that has turned into a part-time job, bringing with it relaxation and cash. Ovenshire picked up pottery as a hobby 10 years ago. Now he is winning awards and selling the fruits of his labor.
“You know, once you retire, outside a little bit of yard work and a little bit of traveling, you can afford to put a lot of time into it,” he said. “And that’s what I’ve done.”
Ovenshire spent 10 years as owner and operator of The Frame Connection in Salem . In addition to the frame shop, there was a gallery space for artwork. Before retirement, Ovenshire and his wife Midge did not have the time to pursue their own artistic talents. They retired and moved to the lake about 10 years ago; a bout the same time they took a pottery class in Roanoke through Roanoke County Parks and Recreation.
“It’s a good feeling to take a lump of clay and put it on the wheel and eventually end up with something of beauty,” Dave said .
Midge found painting to be more fulfilling. She has won awards for her art, which is for sale at the Little Gallery at Bridgewater Plaza.
Dave stuck with pottery. He said it took him about six months to get comfortable at the wheel.
“It did not come naturally to me, but like most any artistic thing, it’s practice, practice, practice; the more you do it, the better you get,” he said. “You never get to the top, but you get to a place where you are comfortable with it.”
Ovenshire said he spends on average about three hours a day working on his pottery. Along with learning how to creat e beautiful art, he has discovered some things about himself . For instance, he does the raku process when making pottery.
“Raku” is Japanese and means enjoyment, comfort or ease. Traditional raku is hand-shaped rather than thrown. The result is somewhat porous vessels, which result from low firing temperatures and the removal of pieces from the kiln while still glowing hot.
Contemporary potters in other parts of the world have changed the raku techniques. Traditional Japanese raku produces mainly hand-built bowls of modest design; western raku is typically vibrantly colored. Western raku also can be any shape, from an elegant vase to an eccentric abstract sculpture. While some western potters turn out hand-built pieces, most use throwing wheels to create their raku piece.
“It is just pleasing to me,” said Ovenshire of raku. “When I first started taking lessons I said, ‘I’m going to do six coffee mugs, and they are all going to be the same.’ That for me was a real chore. As opposed to saying, ‘OK, I’m going to do a vase, and I’m not sure how it is going to turn out, and that’s OK.’ ”
Ovenshire’s pottery is not for culinary use, it is purely art. Fired outdoors with smoke and flames, the result, in most cases, is a piece that does not have a nice, smooth glass glaze.
“You do paint on to the pots before they are fired, and when you fire them, the length of time and the temperature and what’s done to the pots after it comes out of the kiln definitely affects the design,” he said.
Ovenshire won Best in Show at last year’s Smith Mountain Arts Council’s art show. That came as a surprise, because most of his competition was from paintings in oil, watercolor or acrylic s.
He is a member of the Blue Ridge Potters Guild and will be showing and selling his work at The Blue Ridge Potters Guild’s 14th-Annual Show and Sale at Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke on Oct . 18-20. In addition to a kids corner where children can create masterpieces of their own, there will be a number of demonstrations for adults.
“We’ve got an exceptionally strong group of people doing demos, including potters from Floyd,” said Ovenshire, who recruited the demonstrators. “Anything from a teapot to a platter or a large casserole dish will be demonstrated. There’ll be someone at the pottery wheel almost all the time.”
The show is a big one and is expected to bring in $70,000 total, Ovenshire said. And while making money is a plus, it is not the most important thing to him.
“I get relaxation,” he says. “You just get in your own little world.
“It is a form of just relaxing. The wheel is going around and around, and hopefully, it is conforming to what you want it to do.”
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