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Having been a perpetual student in my younger days, I spent a lot of time taking art classes at the University of Alaska. My focus was on degrees that would pay the bills, so I never got a degree in art, just a lot of credits.
Prior to discovering clay (I wasn’t the first) all of my sculpture experience was in stone and wood. It was Margrethe who got me started, and once I made my first figure in clay there was no turning back. That was around 15 years ago. Since then clay has become a part of my daily life, from the footprints in the hall when I forget to take my shoes off at the door, to the buckets of heads, feet, arms and legs that just didn’t make it. I would call my sculptural work “the art of persistence”. Over the years the buckets have not filled as quickly, and that is how I measure my success these days.
I love teaching at the WAC because I get to see the thrill of discovering clay all over again in the artists who come to my classes.
Jim Ransom is a long-time Salem area potter. He began working with clay in the early seventies while living in Gresham. He moved to Salem in 1974, and had a home studio with a wheel and propane gas fired kiln. A new family and moving to a new home curtailed Jim’s ceramic pursuits for a while, but he got re-involved with pottery at the former Salem Art Association’s Visual Art Center (VAC) as instructor and artist. Jim currently teaches wheel throwing and whistle making classes at the Willamette Art Center (WAC).
Jim’s classes are structured around student needs. The focus is on developing skills and/or achieving particular projects. Jim recently retired after 25 years of working for Oregon’s Office of Licensing and Regulatory Oversight, so he can now spend more time at the WAC “playing in the dirt!” His work can be seen at The River Gallery in Monmouth, Elsinore Framing and Art in Salem, White Oak Gallery in Silverton, and The Oaks Gallery at the Willamette Art Center located on the Oregon State Fairgrounds.
Nikki Svarverud has taught adult and children’s handbuilding and wheelthrowing classes at the Willamette Art Center for six years. She also teaches in elementary and middle schools in the Salem Keizer School District after school program, as well as assisting with the WAC field trip events. Nikki is the WAC Facilities Coordinator, responsible for all aspects of the studio and grounds, including firing the kilns and mixing glazes.
Nikki grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from Rosary College outside of Chicago with a degree in Biology. She attended the University of London for one year. Nikki taught Chemistry and other science classes at Pacific Palisades High School for six years before moving to Salem in 1997 where she currently resides with her husband and son, Zachary, on a farm featuring a garden, chickens, and two adorable dogs.
“I’ve had a passion for clay since high school and have been playing with clay on a daily basis for the past 16 years.” Nikki creates earthy, functional pottery with unique glaze designs and textural elements. She also produces abstract wall hangings and sculpture. Her pottery has been featured at the River Gallery in Independence, the Elsinore Gallery, and can currently be seen in the WAC Oaks Gallery.
Fred Hamann has been paying his dues and collecting his rewards in the pottery world for over 50 years. Fred’s pottery career began in 1970 when he left a community college in Maine and moved to Hood River, Oregon where his parents had retired. The GI Bill from his service during the Vietnam War allowed him to resume his college career at Western Oregon University, Monmouth where he began his ceramic studies. He got his degree in ’72 and spent the next 6 years as a studio and gallery potter overlooking the Columbia in the town of Washougal, WA. Soon after moving to Salem, Fred was hired as resident potter at Salem Art Association’s Bush Barn where he also taught pottery classes. Possibly his most rewarding experience was six years spent bushwhacking through rough Nicaragua terrain as part of Potters for Peace, a team of potters dedicated to helping local village potters get more out of their available materials and resources. Fred has been an active patron and volunteer at the WAC for several years. He now shares his vast clay knowledge teaching wheel throwing and raku and pit firing classes.
I have always liked art and have tried many different types through the years. When I stumbled upon ceramics several years ago I knew I found my passion. I jumped in with both feet. I love learning and I love teaching others what I have learned. There is an inner artist in everyone and I am here to prove it.
Andrea is a local artist and instructor with years of experience in the Willamette Valley and beyond. From being a Chemeketa professor to gallery owner in Independence, Oregon, Andrea is a vast source of artistic knowledge and skill. Her classes host everyone from beginners to dedicated returning students. Participants build their skills class by class as Andrea really takes the time to help everyone individually to plan and create anything they can dream up!
Joseph combines ceramics and wood sculpture to create organic forms. He started working in clay about five years ago. The commanding and sometimes fickle nature of the process keeps him ever on a learning curve.
Sue creates amazingly whimsical ceramic Fairy Castles and Hobbit Homes on globes. When Sue was a child, her dad would bring home butcher paper from work for her to draw on. At around eight years old she started sewing and crafting on her own. She took art and pottery classes in school. As an adult, She has done tole painting, scrapbooking, crafting, wheel throwing and now she hand builds and sculpts with clay. Art has always been her passion, and she has been hand building for about seven years.