If Eleanor Murphey led a past life it was working as a 20th-century arts and crafts artist. The movement’s followers found antidotes to the dehumanizing industrial age. They returned to handcrafts, healthy living habits and domestic comfort found in hearth and garden.
A professional potter for forty years Murphey has lived most of her life in San Diego and San Francisco. She has been living and working in Bend since 2003.
Murphey celebrates the plants and animals of the regions that she has lived in. Pinecones, eucalyptus leaves, dragonflies and fish are among the designs that adorn her stoneware pieces. “I like to show life in my work and many of my pieces tell a story,” Murphey says.
Each piece is hand thrown on the wheel, and decorated and fired in her gas kiln to 2,300°. Murphey uses wax and a bamboo brush to draw a design or picture on the bisqueware, in a second firing the wax burns off leaving sandy textured stoneware lines. These define the raised, mosaic-like areas of color she creates with glaze, stains and oxides.
Murphey feels at home with the arts and crafts style, but she isn’t limited to it. She is also fond of reinterpreting the curvaceous lines of the art nouveau style or the geometric dazzle of art deco. Every once in a while, a cityscape wrap around an umbrella stand, a still life will be spread out on a platter or a big bowl full of beautiful poppies. Sea creatures crawl over jars and swim around vases. All of this is done with high fire clay and glaze. “I like to think of my work style as contemporary craftsman.”
Murphey’s work can be seen at the Red Chair Gallery, 103 NW Oregon Ave., Bend