Ed Gray employs traditional techniques to create exciting and beautiful clay pots and vessels. According to the artist, many contemporary potters are returning to these ancient methods for the unusual effects created by fire and smoke.
"The finished pot is always a surprise and cannot be duplicated," Gray says. "My work is primarily pit-fired."
The pit, which is four ft. across and three ft. deep, is filled with a variety of combustibles to create a smoky pattern of whites and darks on the surface of the clay. Gray’s knowledge of how fire interacts with the surface of the pot and the minerals found naturally in the ground allow him to manipulate and influence the general appearance of the art. Unique combinations of native minerals can be used to produce stunning red and blue-green hues bound into the pottery.
His work has been shown at the Smithsonian Museum and other prestigious venues. Much of Gray’s work connects to the natural world and teachings from his grandmother in
Traverse City, where he was born and raised. Dragonflies, bears and turtles are motifs that reflect his regard for storytelling, harmony, and the environment. Smaller pieces can serve as reliquaries for contemplation.
Gray, who has been producing art for sixty years, now is ready to "reach the torch" to a new generation of aspiring artists. His recent efforts have been devoted to teaching and mentoring students from four to ninety-two.
Artist Ed Gray demonstrates the use of a potter's wheel in the Calumet Art Center on First Friday, Sept. 7, 2012. Observing the demonstration are, from left, Patricia Van Pelt of Hancock; Mark Lounibos, Finlandia University professor of English; and his daughter, Lucy, 8. Gray opened the Calumet Art Center a few years ago for the teaching of art, history and culture. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)*
"For me, teaching is the most important thing to do," says Gray. "I want young people to learn and carry on the old traditions."
Bryan Kastar’s newest paintings focus on wild animals in various settings. "I like to paint animals in their actual environment," Kastar explains. "That is where their personalities stand out."
In keeping with his U.P. connections, Kastar has produced several paintings of moose.
"There is a certain majesty in a moose, a presence," the artist notes. "The animals that I have observed and photographed for this project were unafraid and unperturbed."
The project has given Kastar a fresh appreciation for moose: "I came to realize that they are very intelligent creatures."
Kastar is a very deliberate and attentive painter. His compositions and concepts are carefully executed on a blank canvas where he strives to capture the feeling of his subjects. He uses pure colors in a subtle way that gently elicits the feeling of wildlife. His paintings are conceived to tell a story by showing more than one aspect of his subject.
"I want the viewer to be drawn in," Kastar says. "It’s my own way, and I hope people like it."
The Michigamme Moonshine Art Gallery is at 136 E. Main, HC 1 Box 3477, Michigamme, MI 49861. For more information call 906-323-6546.
* Editor's Note: To learn more about the Calumet Art Center and their classes visit their Web site.