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Artist Visits to Showcase Pottery

Danielle Thomas
Arts & Entertainment Editor

Photo by Danielle Thomas

Preparing -- Josh Gibson, a junior art major, wedges the clay that visiting artist Conner Burns will use to make pottery.

   The University of Arkansas at Monticello hosted a visiting artist from Natchez, Miss., to demonstrate pottery techniques Sept. 27.  

   Conner Burns owns and operates his own gallery, clay teaching studio and artist studios in Natchez. Although he grew up around art because his father made pottery, Burns showed little interest in making pottery as a child. After working in the health and wellness field, Burns decided to look for a new job. While looking, he decided to take a week off. He said one week turned into a month, and a month turned into a year. During his time off, he worked with clay as a hobby.   

   “You don’t normally get an opportunity like that,” Burns said.  

   After that, Burns received an offer to be the artist in residence for Steven Hill’s Red Star Studios in Kansas City, Mo. After two years in Missouri, Burns returned to Natchez to create his own studio. When he’s not working at his studio, Burns travels to attend art fairs and give workshops. Before coming to UAM, Burns attended art fairs and gave workshops in both St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo. Burns gave a workshop in Joplin, Mo., when Scott Lykens, assistant professor of art, asked him to give a workshop at UAM. 

   “I think it’s important to bring a visiting artist to campus for the change in cultural perspective,” Lykens said.  

   Burns held a slide show of his artwork at 9:30 a.m. in the Memorial Classroom Building auditorium.  During the slide show, Burns showed slides of his influences, artwork and his studio.  He talked about how his influences are very important to him.  

   “I love organic things,” Burns said.  

   Burns talked about how every day things in life can be a big influence in art. He told a story about walking through a park everyday to get doughnuts for his family. He stopped and looked at the enormous trees and gathered inspiration from them. He pointed out to students that he hoped they would start noticing every day things as influences after the workshop.  

   Another one of his influences he described as his “secret place.” He said he goes there the first Thursday of every month to be alone.  

   “I won’t show it to anybody,” Burns said. “It’s my secret place and I don’t want to see anyone else there.” 

   He talked about how much little details interest him. He said he would rather see a sand pattern on the bottom of a creek than the see the whole ocean.  

   “I’m not so worried about the big picture,” Burns said.  

   Burns makes a variety of vase and cup forms and bowls in various sizes. He advised students to make more than one of everything because they will not learn by just making one of anything. He also mentioned he likes to make things in sets.  

   “I love sets because it forces a connection between the pieces,” Burns said.  

Photo by Danielle Thomas

Observing -- Junior early childhood education major Ashley Gray watches Conner Burns throw a pot.

   The students in attendance seemed to really enjoy listening to Burns while he explained his techniques. The students asked questions and really paid attention to him while he talked.  Josh Gibson, a junior art major, said he liked getting to see other artists. 

   “I think it’s a good opportunity to get to experience other artists besides the two teachers/artists that (UAM) has,” Gibson said.  “It gives more insight to the world of ceramics.” 

   Burns seemed very comfortable and at ease with the students.  He talked and joked with them while teaching them about ceramics.  He said he had a lot of fun giving the workshop at UAM. 

   “The students were real interested and interesting,” Burns said. “It was very enjoyable.”  

   Lykens said he thinks the workshop turned out well. 

   “I couldn’t be happier,” Lykens said. 

   For more information on Burns and his upcoming events, his website, www.connerburns.com, features a calendar of events.

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ŠThe Voice 2006
09/20/2006 11:05:03 PM http://www.uamont.edu/Organizations/TheVoice/4_4/art.htm