Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, May 17, 1999

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Raku pottery is fired in the Hawaii Potters Guild parking lot.

Hawaii Potter’s Guild
celebrates 30 years

By Stephanie Kendrick
Assistant Features Editor


YOU'D expect the studio of the Hawaii Potter's Guild to be frantic the week before it's 30th anniversary show.

It wasn't.

Sure there were artists working on their pieces, and members organizing the entries, but all was calm. It's a mood that pervades the sprawling shack under the H-1 Freeway that is home to this artistic community. Perhaps it is born of the kind of focused attention is takes to work with clay.

Clay turning on a potter's wheel is an all-encompassing proposition. It must be kept wet, and it will be shaped by the smallest action, intended or not, of the potter's hand.

Perhaps the level of absorption in their work explains why the Hawaii Potters Guild is holding it's 30th anniversary in 1999. You see, it's actually a little late for that, but no one realized it.

The group incorporated in 1968, and it had existed informally for a year before that. The guild is a cooperative nonprofit run by 18 member artists, a number that has held steady since the beginning. The guild offers classes and studio space to independent potters not engaged in commercial production.

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Masayo Bristow sculpts a clay piece using a potter's wheel.

Mostly, members and students keep their creations or give them to friends. "We have our own sales twice a year and that takes care of any surplus," said Lucille Anderson, one of the guild founders.

In addition to members, there are about 55 students and independent potters at the guild and all of them have been invited to submit their work for the show.

"Usually, only members are involved in shows," said said Letty Geschwind, a member since 1978. But this one is also open to members, students, teachers and former members. Pieces were still coming in at press time.

Students have risen to the challenge. "This show is really making them be more creative," said Geschwind.

After more than three decades, Anderson still gets satisfaction from making pots and from the group's sense of community.

"At the beginning we had practically nothing," said Anderson. Founders built the guild's kiln by recycling bricks from a Waipahu sugar mill.

And the level of artistic achievement has also improved. "Different backgrounds are one of our strengths," said Anderson. She creates mostly Japanese-influence functional pottery.

Geschwind sees her ethnic heritage in her work. "It's always the Indonesian part that comes out," she said.

Geschwind was a housewife looking for something to do and had never sculpted clay when a friend brought her to the guild. She's been there ever since.

"I like the clay. I like to create. I like to be with people," she said.

Ed Enomoto, a potter for 30 years, also cited camaraderie as one of his reasons for staying. "You'd think it would be the pottery, but it's the people," he said.

Teacher Sally Murchison had a practical appreciation of the guild's members and students:

"There's good food when other people are around," she said.

According to members, Murchison holds the guild together. She has been teaching pottery for 38 years, about 29 of them at the guild. She said she sticks with it because she likes the people and the opportunity to pass on what she knows.

Nearly all students need to know the rules in order to pursue their art, she said. But she won't say all do. "I can't say anything absolute anymore. I've seen too many break the rules and come out smelling like a rose."

Works will be for sale at the show, but cannot be removed until it closes May 30. Potters set their own prices with 20 percent going to the guild.

Hawaii Potters Guild Show

Bullet 30th Anniversary show
Where: Academy of Arts Center at 1111 Victoria St.
When: Tomorrow through May 30.

Bullet Classes
When: 2480 Bingham St., 941-8108
When: 7 to 10 p.m. Mondays; 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays
Cost: $115, plus clay costs for 10 weeks.
Clay must be bought at the guild as its prices include the cost of glazing and firing. A 25-pound bag of beginner's clay is $16.

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