AS a percussionist's fleet fingers and palms begin massaging a languid rhythm from his conga drum, Daniel Rosen lifts a pile of leis over his head and casts them aside with a polite "Thank you" to his well-wishers. As he seats himself, Rosen gathers a wad of clay from his side and tosses it onto his potter's wheel. The showdown begins. This is the moment several hundred spectators huddled into The ARTS at Marks Garage have waited for.
Dueling potters sling
clay to open Form vs.
By Shawn "Speedy" Lopes
Beckoned by the drummer's throbbing beat, co-exhibitor Daven Hee digs his way through the growing mob and steps onto the gallery's makeshift stage opposite Rosen. Dumping a fresh lump of clay onto his own potter's wheel, Hee takes up Rosen's challenge. Rosen draws first blood however, quickly conjuring a small cup from the once-formless blob of clay. Wiping his hands on a towel, Rosen flashes Hee a satisfied smile.
The crowd lets out a collective giggle.
Neither he nor Rosen dreamed they would see such a significant turnout for their "Dueling Potters" event Friday night either, which had them slinging clay for 15 minutes, in celebration of the opening of their exhibition, "Form vs. Dysfunction."
In seconds, Hee fashions a drinking utensil of his own. The dueling potters rise to their feet. Their eyes meet and they trade sides. Hee smirks at his adversary's creation and gesturing with a thumb and forefinger, mocks its stature. The giggles soon turn to gasps as Hee plunges his fist into Rosen's clay cup and reduces it to a shapeless lump once again.
No one knew what to expect from the pair, so the showdown had onlookers anticipating some down-and-dirty clay-slinging. There was some WWF-style showboating, but for the most part, the guys kept it clean, and the match ended with audiences cheering both Rosen's 2-foot-tall vase with spikes around the rim, and Hee's multitude of small pieces.
Hee never imagined pottery could be this much fun. "I used to think ceramics was stupid," Hee admits.
When forced to fill a requirement as an art minor at the University of Hawai'i several years ago, Hee grudgingly signed up for a ceramics class. To his surprise, he became hooked on pottery almost instantly.
"I'd sneak back into the building after they locked up and the guy who would close up would chase me out every time," he recalls. "I just wanted to do it; it was something that just ate at me."
Within a year's time he was failing every other class and his social life took a back seat to ceramics as well. "I would go out with friends to a hoochie bar and think 'I could be making something,' " he chuckles. "Not even looking at the girls."
By contrast, Rosen has been potting on and off for nearly a decade, yet has only begun seriously pursuing his craft for the past two years. "I would do different jobs and got tired of everything except the time I was spending in the studio," he remembers.
While working behind the scenes for a performing arts group, Rosen became inspired by the performers' dedication to their art. "That was what finally pushed me to be like, 'You know what? I might be poor, I might not be successful, but I'll never forgive myself if I don't give it a shot."
He scoped out the UH ceramics program and met up with Hee, finding for once, an artisan whose passion for pottery rivaled his own. It was an inevitability that Hee and Rosen would collaborate on some level and their successful co-exhibit at the ARTS at Marks Garage now serves as validation for both artists.
Opening-night attendees and numerous guests who have since strolled into the gallery off the street have been delighted by the daring showpieces, which suggest a pair of ceaseless imaginations at work, creating 3-foot-tall "Jellybean" jars, jackfruit-inspired stoneware, ceramic robots, etc.
"These things look extremely aggressive and you almost don't want to touch them, but they actually feel really good," explains Rosen, clasping a large spiked drinking vessel. "I call them "Amateur Acupuncture Teacups" because they give you a massage as you hold them."
A good portion of the "Form vs. Dysfunction" collection is for sale. Those interested in purchasing one of Hee or Rosen's singular pieces need only notify the artists who are on hand most afternoons at the Nuuanu Avenue gallery. While all pieces must stay for the duration of the show, ending Jan. 26, a tiny red dot will be affixed on its name tag, indicating that it has been sold.
"I hope we can make a living out of this so I don't always have to fall back on other jobs," says Hee.
Works by Daven Hee and Daniel Rosen
"Form vs. Dysfunction"
Where: The ARTS at Marks Garage, 1159 Nuuanu Ave.
When: On view 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays through Jan. 26
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