And the potter said unto the clay, be ware …. and it was!
As each painter has her own style, so each potter has her own technique. Kentlands ceramicist Pam Berry has been intrigued with the variations and ever-changing properties of clay since she attended her first pottery class in 1980 when she moved from Massachusetts to Michigan to start an engineering career. It started out as a way to take a break from the 9-to-5 work schedule and meet new friends, but pottery soon became a passion and consumed her free time. After returning to the East Coast to attend law school, she continued to create at a community studio in Connecticut and during summers in Boston. Countless latenight hours were spent throwing pots while taped lectures played in the background as she prepared to take the Connecticut bar exam.
Berry was one of the first artists juried into the Gaithersburg Artists Collective, which opened Artists on Market at 201 Market St. West in mid-September 2018. These days, Berry spends a lot of time in the studio she finished a year ago above her garage. She creates both wheel-thrown and hand-built work using high-fire stoneware. Her palette of glaze colors provides her with many combinations of colors, so she “expects the unexpected” in each kiln opening. She also participates in raku and wood firings.
Some intriguing pieces are in the works for the next Collective show, which changes every six weeks. Berry’s work is varied but displays a cohesive element. Her bowls and plates are unique through experimentation with color, form and texture. Many are utilitarian, such as cheese boards, soap and sponge holders, wine coasters and garlic rasps. Others are decorative, sophisticated with grays and black and white color combinations and occasionally whimsical featuring a favorite pattern she found while browsing cake decorating supplies.
Creating a vessel on the wheel typically begins with throwing clay onto a removable plaster disk called a “bat.” After spinning to create a desired shape, the disk and pot are removed and covered in plastic for a day or so to dry. The pot is further spun on the wheel to refine and trim the edges. It is left to dry completely. The vessel at this point is called greenware.
The greenware is then fired to 1828 degrees Fahrenheit in an electric kiln. This bisque firing transforms the piece so that it is more durable yet porous, allowing underglazes and/or regular glazes to be applied before a final firing to 2232 degrees Fahrenheit. Hand-built items follow the same process minus the use of the wheel. “The intriguing and overwhelming thing about pottery,” Berry said, “is the different glazes and effects that you can achieve using various colors and firing schedules.”
After moving to DC in 1984 to obtain a graduate law degree, Berry was an attorney for 15 years. When she took time off to raise her children, she stayed productive by recommitting to her pottery passion.
The first place she sold her pottery was at the Arts Barn in 2002. She has taken classes at Glen Echo Pottery and sells her work at Glen Echo Park as well as at Artists on Market and at the Artisans Gallery in The Shops at Potomac Valley. Berry is an active member of the Potters’ Guild of Frederick.
Recently Berry has been trying out different glazes that change the color and texture of her pottery, including pieces with a striking shiny burgundy that are being prepared for the Collective’s next show, “Art from the Heart.” The show runs from Jan. 19 through Feb. 24 and will showcase creations inspired by love, friendship, hearts, flowers and the colors pink and red.
You can see more of Berry’s work at www.kentoakspottery.com.