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By MELISSA BLANKENSHIP
The Oldham Era
Laura Ross said she was deeply honored and very surprised when she opened the letter notifying her she had won a 2013 Governor’s Award in the Arts.
“I was awestruck, really,” Ross admitted.
Ross received the Artist Award, a lifetime achievement award that recognizes an individual’s contribution to and significant impact on the arts in Kentucky.
After 30 years of sharing her work as a potter through exhibits and shows, Ross’ sense of design, composition, and use of color and pattern has influenced many of her contemporaries throughout the southeastern United States and beyond, according to the award designation.
And Ross continues to influence others, including aspiring potters, through classes in her Prospect studio – a fitting endeavor for the former public school teacher.
“I liked teaching, but I’d teach all day, then go to grad school, then pot all night till 10 or 11 at night,” she said. “Something had to give.”
After a successful trade show in which she received enough orders to provide her with six months of income, Ross decided to become a full-time artist. That was in 1986.
Ross was actually pursuing a master’s degree in painting at University of Louisville when a chance stroll over to school’s ceramics studio changed her life.
“I fell in love with clay, first thing,” Ross said. “It’s so pliable and malleable, and very sensuous because it’s so smooth. It’s a very tactile medium, and there’s something about the earthiness of it that keeps you rooted to the ground.”
Ross primarily works with the vessel form – pots that can hold something, even if it’s only darkness. She creates functional tableware pottery that can be used in the kitchen to bake and serve food and even go in the dishwasher for easy clean-up.
“I try to create pieces that are unique and individual,” Ross said. “I continue to push myself for more complex forms or different forms. I challenge myself to do better all the time.”
A new kiln in 2008 allowed Ross to explore a new firing technique that she said changed her work. The soda-firing process introduces soda ash into the kiln at a later stage of the firing. The spray of the ash creates an element of “accidental imperfections” and random patterns that Ross appreciates.
“I like that I lose control over the piece at that point,” she said. “I love the accidental quality that it produces, and it complements the type of work I am doing. “
Ross works in simple forms with a subtle complexity and uses primarily muted colors on her pots, which materialize into shapes such as bowls, vases, cups, baking dishes, teapots and more. She said her passion for her art is very consuming.
“It’s a way of life, a way of living,” Ross said. “You’ve got to stay with your piece throughout the process. You’re probably not going to make a lot of money doing it, but it’s very satisfying and very gratifying.”
Ross’ work can be found in several galleries in Kentucky and in her studio showroom. She is currently creating pottery for her annual Fall Studio Tour, slated for Nov. 2-3, which will highlight her work and that of several guest artists. Other opportunities to purchase original pottery from Ross can be found on her website, www.LauraRossStudioClay.com.
“I never dreamed I could make a living with clay,” Ross said. “But this is what I do full time, and I’m just glad to be making my living this way. After all these years, I am still excited to get up and get over to the studio every day.”