Ceramist fired up about new studio, Art on the Mall

July 27, 2011 | Arts, UToday
By Vicki L. Kroll

Travis Sanderson worked on a vase for Art on the Mall.

Travis Sanderson worked on a vase for Art on the Mall.

He’s a young, hot artist — literally. Travis Sanderson leaves the garage door open to catch some air while working in the Old No. 9 Studio and Gallery in Toledo.

The ceramist grabs a block of clay, pulls up a stool emblazoned with racing flames, and takes the potter’s wheel for a spin. Within seconds, his hands shape a smooth, cylindrical vase.

Sanderson makes it look effortless.

“I like to be able to take things as basic as dirt, water and fire and make something beautiful — and not even necessarily something beautiful, just turn it into something creative,” he said.

He pushes in several sections of the vessel, giving it an organic look.

“When I started to do sculpture, I was just doing stack, very symmetrical forms,” he recalled of his undergraduate days at The University of Toledo. “And then I went rock climbing with the UT Wilderness Exhibition Club and saw the textures and the natural elements on the climbing walls and got turned on to them.”

Some of his artistic pieces look like they sprouted outside. Check out thefirehousearts.com.

“I’ve had people describe my work as underwater coral or something growing in the woods under a big pine tree,” Sanderson said.

It’s no wonder the environment inspires him. After receiving a bachelor of fine arts degree in ceramics from UT in 2008, Sanderson headed west to work as an apprentice for one year in Montana at Whitefish Pottery.

“I learned more the business aspect of the art; I got to work some art fairs,” he said.

That experience should help Sanderson, who will be one of more than 100 exhibitors at Art on the Mall, which will take place Sunday, July 31, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on UT’s Centennial Mall.

Finished pieces by Travis Sanderson are shown off in a natural setting.

Finished pieces by Travis Sanderson are shown off in a natural setting.

“I think Art on the Mall is a great gig because it allows an emerging artist the opportunity to be seen at the same venue as established craftspeople,” he said.

Sanderson will have an array of pieces at the free, juried event.

“There’ll be one-of-a-kind vases and functional pottery with sculptural elements,” he said. “I’m integrating the organic nature of my sculptural work into usable objects.”

His everyday fare includes mugs, mixing bowls, teapots and plates. But the works aren’t ordinary. Sanderson adds textures with anything from carpet and mesh to shells and metal grates on eye-popping deep greens, bright blues, earthy browns and ashen grays.

“When I went back to Montana last year, I fell in love with wood firing, which is a different way to fire pieces using wood as the main fuel source instead of electric or gas,” he said. “It just creates a different look. When the fly ash from the wood gets hot enough, it creates its own natural glaze on the surface of the pots; it’s pretty amazing.”

Sanderson will have a few wood-fired works at Art on the Mall.

In the meantime, he’ll be heating up the kilns to 2,200 degrees at the former Toledo fire station, Old No. 9 Studio and Gallery, 1841 Broadway St.

“The goal is to have a showroom for local artists and a more personalized gallery for solo exhibitions up and running this fall,” Sanderson said. “I’m betting we get plenty of traffic; we’re close enough to downtown and people can dodge the Anthony Wayne Trail to drive down Broadway and see the gallery.”

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