(Pottery by Annie Dyer)
When Annie Dyer graduated from college with a degree in environmental design, she fully expected to become a landscape architect. A fateful trip to Japan completely changed her life. She became a professional potter instead, her work being showcased at Red Chair Gallery.
On her long-ago visit to Japan, Dyer explored the culture by taking some classes in Shodo (Japanese calligraphy) and ceramics. She visited a number of art galleries, one of which was exhibiting pottery by master ceramicist Asako Watanabe. She struck up a conversation with Watanabe, who spoke English, and the artist invited her to become an apprentice. Dyer accepted even though “I didn’t know anything about clay,” she says.
In Japan, such an apprenticeship usually doesn’t mean you start learning to make pottery immediately. It begins with humble tasks such as cleaning the studio and just observing the potters. In her case, Dyer was allowed to ask just one question a day. Eventually, she began to make pots. Watanabe took her to meet numerous other artists and Dyer started to develop a new aesthetic view. Previously, she had been drawn to colorful decorated art but now she began to appreciate more subtlety. “What I was drawn to changed,” she remarks. The Japanese way of promoting simplicity, balance and harmony won her over.
At the end of her two-year apprenticeship, Dyer had her first gallery exhibition and everything sold. Her teacher counseled her to commit to pottery, not to simply take another job and make pottery a hobby. So that is what she did.
Returning to the United States, she followed a friend’s suggestion to check out Ashland, Oregon and its art culture. She bought a motorcycle and began her westward journey. She arrived in Bend and immediately found a job at Blue Spruce Pottery, owned by Michael and Michelle Gwinup, and has been in Central Oregon ever since.
Upon arriving in Bend (she never made it to Ashland), she soon discovered that everything about making pottery here was different from Japan. The clay, materials, glazes and techniques were all different. “It was a little like starting all over,” she says. Working diligently, with help from her mentor Beverly Cooper and advice from Michael Gwinup, she ultimately developed a unique style experimenting with impressing organic materials into her work.
Dyer’s style uses simple functional shapes with glazed surfaces, which are then embellished with non-glazed areas highlighted by sculpting and impressing organic elements into the clay. She uses materials that are indigenous to Central Oregon, including lava rock and locally found objects. She mixes her own glazes and so has a deliberately narrow range of colors — usually crimson, black or white. The non-glazed portions are the color of the clay. The combination of the austere shapes and the striated or undulating unglazed edges give her pieces a distinctive look. She thinks her pieces appeal especially to locals who appreciate our beautiful region. “My work is suited to this area with all its emphasis on our surroundings and outdoor activities.”
Dyer also exhibits at Hood Avenue Art Gallery in Sisters and Mossy Creek Gallery in Gleneden Beach.