• Lisa Orr discusses her earthenware style with students. 
    Lisa Orr discusses her earthenware style with students. 

MOLDING A CAREER IN CERAMICS

An Austin-based artist, Ms. Orr finds success in presenting her intricate earthenware pottery internationally at art shows, along with teaching and conducting workshops at universities and art centers. The city where she now resides and practices her craft is the same place where her ceramics studies began; in 1983 Ms. Orr graduated with a BFA from The University of Texas, and then proceeded to receive hands-on training working with several local ceramists. During those years she also produced pottery out of her garage-studio to present at craft shows, and continued to learn by frequenting workshops at the Southwest School of Art and Craft in San Antonio. After a period of practicing her craft through on-the-job experience, Ms. Orr returned to academia to earn an MFA from The New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University and study abroad in Bulgaria and Macedonia. Upon her return to Texas, she applied her extensive ceramics education and worldly vision to develop a one-of-a-kind pottery style and technique.

A SIGNATURE SCOPIC STYLE

Ms. Orr’s work could be described as pottery for the table that is infused with the historical ceramic styles of several cultures, including Mexican earthenware, Bulgarian pottery, ceramics of the Chinese T’ang Dynasty, and British Whieldon Ware. The brilliant, blooming colors of her pieces are drawn from scenes of nature, especially garden hues and coral reefs, and she is continuously inspired by the work of artists-slash-environmental activists such as Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Her personalized process involves many layers; beginning with forming pottery on the wheel, in molds, or a combination of the two,  she adorns each piece with slips, sprigs, stamps and multiple colorful glazes. The result is pottery that weaves fluidity with strength, historical reverence with inventiveness, art with utility. Her vibrant and intricate work best complements a fresh, colorful meal.

Students examine Lisa Orr's intricate pottery.Students examine Lisa Orr's intricate pottery.

Ms. Orr demonstrates her signature process.Ms. Orr demonstrates her signature process.

THE WORKSHOP

For her workshop at Southwestern, Ms. Orr presented a slideshow showcasing her various crafts alongside the imagery and art that inspired them. She briefly covered her experiences as a working artist, noting multiple collaborative projects including co-directing large community mosaics and helping create films that highlight ceramic art in certain cultures. She then led students through a demonstration of her process, which featured a piping method that she jokingly described as a “Martha Stewart technique.” Breezing past a hole that formed in the bottom of her piece as she worked, she explained how she likes when breaks in her pieces allow light to filter through and create a sort of stained glass effect. She cleverly deems this her “holy work.” When describing the infusion and modification of the various techniques used in her process, she encouraged students not to be afraid of sharing and copying ideas as they are developing their own voices, because each artist will always create in their own way. Ms. Orr’s art seems to fully embrace creative freedom and experimentation, a wonderful example for students currently trying to carve out their niche in ceramic arts.

ORR’S EXPERT ADVICE

The seasoned ceramist offers advice to students pursuing an education and potential career in ceramics. Regarding the most important thing a student can practice while in college to prepare for entering the professional field, Ms. Orr says the most valuable practice is to “stay in love with the art you are making,” to “care about it so that it is potentially excellent and profound.” As for advice on making a living as a ceramist, she says it can be tricky, but one should “look at artists who have a model of success that you would like to emulate and see how they are doing it. Some people are doing a great job making a living selling things on Etsy. Some potters hunker down in the country with low overhead and invite people to come find them. Other people choose to target getting into important galleries worldwide!” She urges students looking for networking opportunities to go to as many local workshops and lectures as they can, and to volunteer to assist on public art projects and in the studios of the artists they admire.

Lastly, Ms. Orr offers encouragement to artists working to develop their personal style: “You have to show up all the time and work. You will learn from yourself by surprising yourself every day you show up and make stuff! Also don’t be satisfied too soon. I think it was 12 years before I made something that I thought to be uniquely my work and pointed in a direction I wanted to explore. I do think it’s pretty easy to sell something on Etsy before it’s really resolved. So put in lots of time to develop as an artist. Oh! And ask for lots of honest feedback from qualified individuals.” 

To learn more about Lisa Orr’s work, visit  lisaorr.com.