December 5, 2013 in Washington Voices

The Verve: Potter finds meditative qualities of clay as he works

Jennifer Larue
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

Mike Buck is a potter who began playing with clay simply to relax and what began as a diversion has become a passion. His works include the addition of horsehair and feathers that leave interesting patterns.
(Full-size photo)

Coming up

Frost is a free arts event Friday from 5 -10 p.m. at Nectar Tasting Room, 120 N. Stevens St. Visit www.abstract for more information.

Art quote

of the week

“Everything that is new or uncommon raises a pleasure in the imagination, because it fills the soul with an agreeable surprise, gratifies its curiosity, and gives it an idea of which it was not before possessed.”

Joseph Addison (1672-1719), writer and politician

For many years, Mike Buck’s artistic nature stayed dormant.

He did a little art in elementary school and then in college, but that was more than 40 years ago. He grew up in California and attended Southern Oregon College for four years, but didn’t earn a degree.

He worked in a mill, sold boats, and then spent more than 20 years engineering and manufacturing electronics and developing new products. He married and divorced then moved around a bit. About eight years ago, he moved to Spokane with the fabric and fire restoration company that he worked for.

He still works for the company but he has added art to his repertoire, creatively restoring his personal well-being.

About three years ago, he signed up for a class at the Clay Connection and began throwing clay on a wheel. “At first, I did it as a sort of diversion, but it has since turned into a passion that’s fun and calming,” he said. “It’s settled me down and it keeps me focused.”

To Buck, it has become a philosophy of sorts that he explains with a fishing analogy. “First you just want to catch a fish, then a lot of fish, then a big fish and, finally, THE fish.”

Like fishing, the calming and meditative act of manipulating clay, the patience while waiting for the piece to fire, and the excitement of seeing how the different applications fared when the piece is carefully removed from the kiln, the art of clay can become an obsession; every piece could perhaps be THE piece but who knows what might come next.

“There’s a lot of experimentation involved,” Buck said.

Buck’s work includes throwing pieces on a wheel or manipulating slabs of clay that he forms around a structure and embellishes with texture. Sometimes he adds color in powder form to the clay or paints a glaze on it. One black vessel is adorned with a burst of red while others contain the imprints of horsehair or feathers, a process that takes an exact temperature for the desired and surprising effect.

Buck has exhibited his work in Portland where the company he works for is based, at the MAX at Mirabeau Park Hotel, and at Patit Creek Cellars. Since entering the realm of creativity, he has met other local artists who are motivated to grow and experiment and, recently, he has joined forces with a handful of these artists in a group called Abstract Underground. The goals of the group are to “challenge paradigms and perspectives” and to “create and present a series of the most unique shows in the Spokane area.”

Their first exhibit, Frost,” will be held at Nectar Tasting Room on Friday and will include more than 40 sculptures, drawings and paintings, performance art and refreshments in a winter-themed setting. Buck will be exhibiting his ceramic pieces including textured vases.

“I’m trying out a new technique,” he said. To Buck and the other artists involved in Abstract Underground, it’s all about trying new things, fishing for new ideas, and sharing their “catches” with others.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email