Whether singing in the church choir or molding clay behind the wheel, Richard Shivers hopes that his work will inspire and enrich those who experience it.
Richard was employed as a music educator by Gwinnett County Public Schools, until 2011, when he gave up his nine-to-five in pursuit of a long-held dream to become a potter. He began dipping his toes in the water in 2004 by taking lessons at the Hudgens Center and learned from various artists across the Metro Atlanta area, spending six years to master the skill.
Eventually, he decided to start a studio right at his home in Buford. Using “A Measure of Clay” and a dose of positive intentions, Richard now creates and sells a variety of items from Christmas ornaments to hand-made kitchenware — various sized bowls, mugs, platters, trays, plates, tumblers, etc. — that is all food-safe and can be used in the microwave, dishwasher and cold oven.
Over the years, Richard created a process that emphasizes artistry over commercial production so that each is a “one-of-a-kind” statement piece. He selects the best clays he can find, his preference being a speckled brown clay; he molds or ‘throws’ the vessel on the wheel, fires it, sands and glazes it and fires it again. Depending on the detail of the design before the first firing, he might add elaborate detail to the clay, carving into the clay or leaving impression marks with odd household objects like coins, nails and tools. After applying glazes in a multi-step process, waxing, layering of various hues of glazes, he might repeat the firing to create the look he’s trying to execute. It’s a process that can take days, Richard admits.
With the freedom of having his own studio, Richard enjoys pushing his limits creatively. “I really couldn’t get this complex with my designs when I was working at a community studio, but with my home studio, I can take my time adding layer after layer into the design,” Richard said. His unique work includes plant and floral designs, such as his Vine Tea bowl — recognized in the 2019 National Cup Show — as well as statement pieces, marked by the level of care he invests in detail, pattern and color.
Richard now teaches classes at the North Gwinnett Art Center in Suwanee, and he regularly displays work at festivals and exhibits.
This summer, The Sugar Hill Art Commission selected Richard’s pottery for a “Clay and Canvas” exhibit at the City of Sugar Hill. There, Richard displayed some of his finest work, including a large leaf tray, hand-built by stamping a real leaf onto the clay and adding attachments. He also exhibited his Quilted series, which he displayed earlier this year at the Festival of Arts in Cumming.
“I don’t know of anyone who is doing something like this,” said Richard. “I based this design off my Dad’s old quilt when he went to college in 1939. I’ve kept it all these years, and it was what inspired these designs,” Richard said, holding up one his Quilted trays. The vibrant object’s designs include painted patterns and textured imprints made from old gadgets Richard stowed for just that purpose. With the time required to glaze each color separately, the design took days to complete.
But Richard’s favorite designs are often simple, incorporating “negative space” through a combination of simple glazes and naked clay.
Lately, Richard produces a high quantity of minimalist-style pottery, as in the case of his “word bowl” and “word mug” designs, which serve both decorative and culinary purposes. For these, Richard chooses to call attention to a single word. “Love”, ‘Serve” and “Bless” are popular choices, although Richard has tried phrases and once carved an entire Irish Blessing on one of his bowls.
Hoping to inspire those who come to possess his art, Richard considers his work with clay to be not unlike musical expression. He still sings in a choir at church worship services every week, directs a Men of Praise ensemble at the church, and hopes that his pottery will bring those who experience it to a similar state of reverence.
Sitting and breaking bread is, arguably, one of the most fundamental aspects of any culture, and Richard believes his pottery can enrich that experience by engaging friends and family as they gather. “My work is great as conversation pieces around the dinner table. It can be used as décor and on your table,” said Richard.
Come see the A Measure of Clay pottery at the 2019 Suwanee Fest at Town Center Park on September 21 and 22. “I will be there with all of my pottery pieces,” Richard said. To learn more, contact Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org.