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Life Arts

A Local Potter's Fascination with Arizonan Clay

By       Message Connor Showalter     Permalink
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She spends four hours a day on her pots and bowls in a small rural community, while a Native American style discovered on the other side of the country inspires her creative drive to construct art with vibrant colors and patterns.

Abigail Kurecian is a potter and painter who lives in Orangeville. The artwork she encountered while living in Arizona for 12 years still shows up in the work she does today. "I haven't necessarily taken the Native American art and tried to duplicate it, but it's been an influence," Kurecian says. "I pulled a lot off of their pottery shapes and designs."

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Kurecian says she first wanted to be an artist when she was about seven years old. She learned how to mold and shape clay on a potter's wheel three years later. As a young artist she attended workshops at her future high school, the Norwich Free Academy in Connecticut, and went to college at the Art Institute in Boston as a painting and illustration major. Afterward, she was ready for a change in her life.

"I was sick of the cold and ready for a fresh start, so I moved out to Arizona," she says. It was in Mesa where she found an art center and rediscovered her passion for ceramics. "It was like a gold mine as far as clay. It was a great springboard for me, a lot of different influences, she recalls."

At least three times a week she took classes at the museum, while also participating in winter workshops with major artists. "The Arizona winters were nice because for the most part it was 80 degrees," she says, "so all the Minnesota potters or the Pennsylvania potters wanted to go Arizona to do a workshop."

Kurecian is devoted to thinking of new ways to make her pots or bowls. "My inspiration comes out of a whole lot of different places, not necessarily art, but shapes in nature," she says. "I do a lot of thinking through in my head to just walk myself through throwing the clay, a lot of times that's how I will get a new shape," she says, noting she doesn't "like doing the same thing all the time."

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In the middle of her living room, a table that she painted for her daughter's first birthday, is prominently displayed. The table presents large butterflies stretching their wings while they emerge from a border of different colored suns. Kurecian says that the colors she saw in Arizona, specifically on Indian rugs, cross her mind while she creates her art.

Kurecian says that color has always been an important part of her creativity, but she experienced the colors to be more "earthy" and influential in Arizona. "We come back here and think, 'That's foliage, wow!' and you go out there and the colors are very different and subtle." She also says the Sonora desert changed the way she sees colors. "You've got this barren desert and this screaming-green cactus in it, the flowers shooting off," Kurecian says. "You have these little blasts of color in the middle of nothing."

Several pieces of her art come from ideas she gets from resourceful, yet random thoughts that fill her mind, "Some of it is necessity and need," she says, "others I'll see something and go, 'Oh what a great idea!'"

One idea came after she realized how simplistic and flimsy her plastic compost container looked, so she decided to make her own stoneware pot instead. "Stoneware is a higher fire and it is a lot more sturdy and durable," Kurecian says.

Kurecian and her husband, David, who graduated from Bloomsburg University, returned to the east coast after visiting friends in the area. They sold their Arizona home and then went back to Pennsylvania in search of a new house a month later.

"It was a tough transition from Arizona to Pennsylvania," Kurecian says. "I had to contend with the lack of humidity in Arizona and in Pennsylvania it's the opposite," Kurecian says. When constructing bowls, she likes to layer different kinds of glazes to see how they look together, but, too much humidity can make the glaze layers "bubble up," she says.

During the five years Kurecian has lived in Pennsylvania, she has found that her pottery cannot dry as quickly due to the cooler air. "In Arizona, I'd have to cover things up so they wouldn't dry too fast," she says. When she wants to harden her art in the kiln, she needs to wait longer for it to dry completely before firing it; "otherwise it would explode," Kurecian says.

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Since her daughter started attending kindergarten this past year, Kurecian, can take up to a month or more completing a single piece of artwork. "Now I am really getting back on my feet and attacking my art," she says.

Annually she donates several pieces of her artwork to auctions and other fundraisers to local non-profit organizations in the area. In addition, Kurecian is a key organizer for local artists in the Bloomsburg area. She helps with Artfest and Artwalk, which showcase art by local artists to the community. "We have so many artists, it's one thing that attracts people to this area," Kurecian says. "I hope a little more so in the future."

Kurecian submits some of her work to local art stores and community marketplaces. A significant outlet, the Forks Farm Market, is five miles from her house and it is where she can sell her artwork twice a month between June and October.

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Connor Showalter is a sophomore Journalism and Sociology student at Bloomsburg University (Pa.).

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