The Blog

Portraits and ponderings from the writing desk of Jill Foote-Hutton.

East Central College Workshop

Niel Hora and Garret Pendergrass at East Central College working with the SP09 Ceramics I students. Niel gave a great lecture on line, space, repetition within a form and surface design. It was pitch perfect for beginning art students to hear a professional maker discuss how the elements of design anchor their work. We LOVE it when company comes in and pounds on the same drum we've been banging at all year long.


As it is near the end of another academic year, Niel's theory on preparing for a show being very similar to the Doppler Effect was humorous, familiar and comforting to everyone who heard it. Our other conclusion was that all artists are simply closet manic-depressives, using our work to manage the ailment. We (all makers) start with a plan which seems reasonable as we target an exhibition date. The closer the exhibition date, the more intense studio/life/work seems to get until it feels like utter chaos moments before and then it's SHOWTIME, after which there is a sudden drop and stillness, until things begin again. Niel illustrated this in his lecture with a handy, dandy laser pointer and we made him do it again and again.
Here's the thing both Niel and Garret really talked about that is good for every maker to hear. Kindness in your interactions with everyone. You treat people how you want to be treated and you never know when you are going to be able to help someone. Conversely, you never know when you are going to need help. Regardless of how out of reach a mentor might seem, you've got nothing to lose in reaching out. When Garret was a grad student at the University of North Texas, he was focused on building kilns, big belching wood-firing kilns. He realized when he graduated he wouldn't be able to have such a kiln in a suburb. In his crisis he sent out a mass email asking some relevant questions, looking for input. Three people replied, Linda Arbuckle, Niel Hora and the recently passed,Matthias Ostermann. His inquiries led him to the work he is now making and I hope the story impacted my students. It certainly was a refreshing reminder for me. How many times do we tell ourselves no, before we even know if there is a yes answer. It might be a device protecting us from rejection, but nothing ventured nothing gained.

Another opportunity to model the art life come with Garret's personal story. He was a graphic designer as an undergrad and has that all-too-familiar story of one ceramic class and the hook was sunk. He had several years between undergrad and grad school, and he was always making and always asking questions. He is the poster boy for persistence, seriously. He started visiting the UNT Ceramic department, asking questions and persisting until he found himself a place in the department. He found he wasn't really fond of teaching, didn't care for all of the heartbreak. He was inspired by a lecture from Don Reitz about recognizing your passion and following it. After grad school he was a roughneck, worked two weeks on and two weeks off. It was good pay and allowed him to build his own studio. After some harrowing events and after the studio was built, he decided to find a less "adventurous" day job and is now a banker. He was asked if he knew anything about banking. The reply, "No, but I know people." Y'know, it's the truth. He is now getting promoted at the bank and still making his work in his home studio. He has exhibited his work in the past by driving around Ft. Worth, TX visiting galleries and asking to utilize the dead time between exhibitions. He just never takes NO, from a person who can't tell him yes.