Visiting artist molds pots and pitchers

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Visiting ceramics artist Julia Galloway demonstrates her method of throwing simple pots on the wheel while she answers a question from art student Sarah Hensel. Galloway later removed this pot from the wheel to trim and shape it with her hands. Ellamarie Quimby/ Sun Star Photo credit: Ellamarie Quimby

Julia Galloway is a potter known for her rounded forms and masterful surface decoration. The decoration on Galloway’s pots tends to feature classic still-life imagery—flowers, bowls of fruit, baskets—as well as birds, scrollwork and architectural forms. The forms themselves are soft and indulgent; rounded corners on cups, voluminous, bottom-weighted pitchers and undulating lips on her teapots and saucers.


“I am interested in pottery that is joyous; objects that weave into our daily lives through use,” Galloway said. “Teapots celebrate our drinking tea; a pitcher decorates a mantel when not in use; a mug with slight texture inside the handle allows our fingers to discover uniqueness. Pottery is a reflection of us.”

Galloway visited campus from Feb. 13-14, lecturing and demonstrating her particular style of pottery.

“Nobody is more shocked than me that this is my life,” Galloway said. “I made pots in high school, and then suddenly I looked up and I was 50 and I had made pots every day since I was a freshman. How can something still be so interesting after so long?”

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Many of the techniques Galloway taught were shockingly simple. During a demonstration on building handles for mugs and pitchers, she laid two long, thin pieces of clay over one another with smaller, differently shaped pieces of clay in between, creating instant texture and dimension. Ellamarie Quimby/ Sun Star Photo credit: Ellamarie Quimby

Galloway’s workshops on campus, made possible by the Student Ceramic Arts Guild, focused on her method of shaping her forms and on surface decoration. On Monday, she shared her techniques for making the initial forms of her pots on the pottery wheel. She alters them after they’ve dried slightly, using small tools and her hands. On Tuesday, she demonstrated how she decorates the outside of her pots using slip, a mixture of powdered clay and pigments.

“Surface is like flirting; form is like marriage,” Galloway said. “Form grows on you over time, but surface you experience and understand very quickly. We experience things through our eyes so quickly. But form, we have to experience through our hands. That takes time, that takes holding it, that takes washing it—it’s a slow burn.”

While demonstrating how she alters the rounded base of a large pitcher, she leaned her head into the opening of the pot, creating a seal around her mouth and blew air into the shape. The soft sides of the pitcher ballooned out between the vertical impressions she had made on the outside of the shape earlier in the demonstration. The gathered students and community members were visibly impressed with her somewhat atypical methods.

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Galloway’s pitchers and teapots are known for their volume and energy. While demonstrating how she alters the rounded base of a large pitcher, she leaned her head into the opening of the pot, creating a seal around her mouth and blew air into the shape. The soft sides of the pitch ballooned out. The gathered students and community members were visibly impressed with her somewhat atypical methods. Ellamarie Quimby/ Sun Star Photo credit: Ellamarie Quimby

“I have like, four tricks, okay? That was one of them,” Galloway responded.

Erin Krogstad, a third year Art student and vice-president of the Student Ceramic Art Guild, or SCAG, appreciated the opportunity for a one-on-one critique with Galloway.

“She was a lot more about what ceramics does for [me] than about technique. She wanted to know why I do what I do,” Krogstad said.

Krogstad is a big fan of the artists that SCAG has brought to campus since she started her degree. She noted how secluded Alaska can be from the rest of the art world, and how encouraging it is to have people guest lecturing who have been successful in their fields.

“She demonstrated so many simple techniques that were just mind-blowing,” Krogstad said. “And it’s nice to know it can be done. That we’re not just making art to flip burgers for the rest of our lives.”

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After Galloway’s wheel-thrown pots have dried slightly, she alters them into more complex forms. Slicing up what began as one large round shape into two separate, slightly squarer halves, Galloway pressed both pieces onto a longer slab to create a salt and pepper pot. Ellamarie Quimby/ Sun Star Photo credit: Ellamarie Quimby

Galloway has been the director for the School of Art and a professor at the University of Montana, Missoula since 2009. Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, she attended the New York State College of Art and Design at Alfred University, before perusing her Master of Fine Arts at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

“I love everything about ceramics,” Galloway said. “I love the tenacity of a wood kiln. I love getting the handle of a mug just right. It’s all so seductive. I love the philosophy of being a craftsman in the post-mechanical age. Hard work is so pleasing, it’s so satisfying.”

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