PORT TOWNSEND — Normally, when a potter sits at a wheel to turn and create, the focus is on keeping the work together in one smooth piece.
However, for Port Townsend potter Anne Hirondelle, 76, her style is to turn pieces, cut them apart and reassemble them into other cohesive pieces of art.
Hirondelle’s art is now the focus of the new exhibit “Not Done Yet” at the Jefferson Museum of Art & History, 540 Water St.
The exhibit officially opened Friday, replacing the Drew Elicker exhibit, and allows the public to view on the main show floor Hirondelle’s newer work, combining pottery techniques to make three-dimensional sculptures and layering tracing paper for three-dimensional like drawings.
In the basement near the old jail, other older pieces by Hirondelle are on display from when she was practicing more traditional multi-part glazed white stoneware pieces through turning and using a tool called an “extruder” to form handles and spouts.
Hirondelle is honored to have her art in the exhibit at the museum.
“It’s fabulous … it’s actually quite humbling,” Hirondelle said. “Having been living and working here for 42 years, it’s an honor.
“It just feels right that I can share this work with the community.”
Hirondelle has been practicing her art in Port Townsend for the last 42 years and she was first noticed nationally after Ceramics Monthly magazine published a feature on her in 1986, she said.
“Once the article came out, I was invited to galleries all around the nation,” Hirondelle said.
Hirondelle was raised on a farm in Salem, Ore. before earning a bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Puget Sound and a master’s degree in counseling at Stanford University, then attending the University of Washington’s School of Law for a year before discovering her passion for ceramics.
She attended a one-year ceramics program at the Factory of Visual Arts in Seattle from 1973 to 1974 and then later received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Washington, Hirondelle said.
For more than 20 years, she focused on the glazed stoneware vessels, taking inspiration from traditional functional pots and making them into architectural and organic sculptural forms, Hirondelle said.
In the early 2000s, she started moving away from the glazed pieces, and started to expand into painting the pieces or leaving them as white clay.
Many of her pieces have a circular shape incorporated into the sculpture, as homage to her start of turning more traditional vessels, Hirondelle said.
She no longer glazes her pieces and they are more sculptures than modeled after working vessels, she said.
The combination of wheel turning, another technique called “coiling” (laying strips of clay to build up), paint/no-color, the extruder and rearranged parts are what defines a lot of her work now, Hirondelle said.
The time it takes her to make each piece is not the important focus for Hirondelle, she said.
“Its not how long a piece takes,” Hirondelle said. “Its more the process of learning, training and growing.”
Hirondelle was feeling slightly anxious but excited before the official opening of the exhibit.
“I feel like the opening of the show is like opening one of my glaze fire kilns,” Hirondelle said. “I have to be accepting of how things happen. If things don’t go right, to pick up and start again.
“I feel like firing is a metaphor for life.”
The title of the exhibit “Not Done Yet” references her drive to keep working on new projects and growing as an artist.
“I just love to work,” Hirondelle said. “Working helps me make sense of my life.”
The exhibit was curated by Ann Welch, a long-time friend and a fan of Hirondelle’s work.
“When selecting the pieces for this show I wanted to include the work that she is most known for as well as series that have not been as widely shown,” said Welch.
“Anne is always working. She has one of the most disciplined studio practices that you’ll ever find,” Welch continued.
“She takes an idea and works it until she has explored all of its possibilities. Her work is fearless. She takes on new forms and ideas without regard to their commercial appeal.”
One work that is among Welch’s favorites and one of Hirondelle’s more unique works is a collection named “the Portraits,” which combine stoneware bowls and other materials such as lichen and horse hair and is one of the few sculptures she’s made that doesn’t solely use clay.
“I see a bridge between her earlier more earthy pieces and the newer work,” Welch said. “Using natural materials and found objects feels transitional and on the path to the purely clay and painted pieces.”
The exhibit will be on display until June 22, and the public will have a chance to meet with her at an artist talk on March 26 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and also from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. during the First Saturday Art Walk on April 4 for a book reading of “Straight Art” at the Jefferson Museum of Art and History.
More information and photos of Hirondelle’s work can be found at annehirondelle.com.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].