A version of this story appears in Saturday’s The Oklahoman.
Pottery Place fires up fun at the Festival of the Arts
For Collin Rosebrook, proprietor of Paseo Pottery studio, this festival marks his 23rd year of running the Pottery Place, where attendees can buy premade ceramic pots, color them with three different glazes and have them fired in the Raku process.
For at least a few minutes Friday, the four Nelson siblings all stood still and quietly together, intently slathering small clay pots with purple and green glazes.
“Mommy, can we paint the inside, too?” asked Samuel, 4, carefully working his paintbrush around the curved sides of the squat vessel. “How much are we supposed to paint it?”
“Yes, you can paint the inside. Paint it however you want to paint it, inside and out. Just don’t paint the bottom, you’ll cover up the numbers,” instructed his mother, Mary Nelson.
Nelson and her children — Samuel; Patrick, 6; Maggie, 8; and Hannah, 10 — were evacuated from their home at Yokota Air Base in Japan after the recent earthquakes. But children got to decorate Japanese Raku-style pots Friday at the Pottery Place, a favorite attraction at the downtown Festival of the Arts.
“That is funny,” said Mary Nelson, who along with her children is living with her parents in Shawnee while her husband serves in Afghanistan. “I think it’s a great activity for them.”
For Collin Rosebrook, proprietor of Paseo Pottery studio, this festival marks his 23rd year of running the Pottery Place, where attendees can buy premade ceramic pots, color them with three different glazes and have them fired in the Raku process. while they peruse the other event offerings. The pots are sold in various sizes, ranging in price from $5 to $20, and are ready in about an hour.
“They’re all handmade, and each one is so individual that people really enjoy doing it,” said Rosebrook, coughing occasionally as the “troublesome” high winds blew smoke and dust. “We’ll get close to 120 pots an hour on Friday-Saturday. We’ll be busy on Saturday, we estimate there’ll be about 800 to 1,000 pieces that we do.”
The festival continues from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, and people can paint pots until 8 p.m.,
or until they last.
“Every year we sell out unless we have … rain every day. We’ve only done five or six Sundays,” he said, even though the festival is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. “I would say this is probably one of the most popular venues because it extends from children to adults. As you can see, we have a whole variety of age groups working.”
Rosebrook, his apprentices and students begin preparing for the festival several months in advance, throwing and firing nearly 3,000 pots and mixing up the three different glazes, which are made of all-natural minerals.
The cobalt glaze looks pale purple as it goes on but turns blue on the finished container. The dark green glaze is made of chrome oxide and stays green after the pot is fired. The copper glaze starts out light green and then turns the familiar metallic hue.
The painted pots are placed in one of four kilns heated to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit so the glazes can mature. Rosebrook and his assistants then transfer the vessels to reduction chambers, or metal trashcans filled with newspapers. The papers aren’t set on fire, though the hot pots sometimes ignite them.
“What that does is help reduce the oxygen,” said Rosebrook, who operates a similar booth annually at Arts Festival Oklahoma at Oklahoma City Community College. “It changes the atmosphere … and that helps enrich and change all the colors.”
After five to 10 minutes, the final step is a plunge in a cold water bath. Coded numbers on the bottoms of the vessels allow the 75 or so volunteers to match festival-goers with their particular pots.
“With the kids, it’s fun seeing their faces,” said Tom Taylor, who was serving Friday as the area’s volunteer co-chairman. “They’re in awe that they created something. I heard one kid say today, ‘I did that!’”
“We’ve noticed this year generations of people who come here,” Rosebrook said. “They come
here to do that pot and they’ve gotta get that pot done.”
It’s even a family affair for the potter: His mother collects newspapers throughout the year, his wife Rita works the booth and their two children, son Loren, 21, and daughter Cana, 16, grew up painting pots and now help out.
The Pottery Place is the first stop at the festival every year for Christa Martin, 13, of Mustang, who still has a pot she decorated at age 7.
“I’m kind of artistic, so I like the colors and I like the painting,” she said, dabbing paint on a new pot. “It’s like my favorite part.”
“They’re neat when they come out, they’re all different,” added her dad, Rex Martin. “It’s pretty unique.”
Like the Nelson children, Tara Chappell and Tiffany Forrest of Choctaw visited the Pottery Place for the first time Friday. The 32-year-olds weren’t about to let the kids have all the hands-on fun.
“We’re big kids and we wanted something to do, too. We looked for the sand art, but I think we’re too old for that. They put an age limit on it,” Chappell said with a laugh. “So, this is pretty cool … and it’ll be a neat little souvenir.”
2011 Festival of the Arts
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. today and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Where: In Festival Plaza, around Stage Center, on Hudson Avenue and at the revamped Myriad Botanical Gardens, which are about 70 percent complete after a year of major renovations.
Admission: Festival admission is free. Crystal Bridge admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors 62 and older or teens 13-18, $3 for children 3-12. Children younger than 3 are admitted free.
Parking: Paid parking is available in lots and garages throughout downtown. There is limited street parking around the perimeter of the event. Paid parking will be available at the City Center East Garage, 100 N Harvey, as well as the parking lot on Reno between Robinson and Walker. Devon is donating the use of its parking garage north of the festival on April 30 and May 1; parking will be $5, with all proceeds going to the Arts Council of Oklahoma City. For more on parking, go to www.parkingokc.com.
Road closures: Hudson will be closed between Sheridan and Reno for the festival. Sheridan will be closed to vehicle traffic but open to pedestrians between the Myriad Gardens and the Devon Tower construction. Reno is fully open from E.K. Gaylord to Dewey; two northbound lanes of Walker are open in the area; and one lane each way, north and south, is open on Robinson between Sheridan and Reno. For more on road closures, go to www.okc.gov/project180.
Information: 270-4848 or www.artscouncilokc.com.