Clayscapes has a straightforward agenda: clay, clay and more clay. Indeed, the facility sells supplies to high schools and colleges teaching pottery classes, holds its own classes on site at 1003 W. Fayette St. and hosts a gallery that presents work by accomplished ceramists.
The current exhibit, Blue Ridge Jazz, displays Henry Gernhardt’s pieces, many of which have a shield shape. These aren’t figurative works but several incorporate figurative elements, as the artist expresses his appreciation of mountains, hills and sky in the Appalachian region, particularly Tennessee.
His sculptures evoke Foggy Mountain, Tenn., a harvest moon and foothills. They reflect varied artistic approaches. In works communicating a feeling or a mood, Gernhardt created “Circle and Square No. 6,” with its exterior portraying rust, and “Jasmine Moon,” which offers the artist’s take on a familiar subject. The best pieces don’t merely reference a mountain or a hill; they convey deep emotion. During his long career, Gernhardt has shown his work locally and at venues outside Central New York. The Clayscapes show makes it clear that he’s still creating high-quality work.
The gallery has no prototype for its exhibits. The previous show, which featured Vartan Poghosian’s sculptures, was very different. It displayed artworks in which insects were depicted, evoking Franz Kafka’s stories. It presented “Asparagus,” a vertical piece with vine shapes at its bottom and an ornate horn shape at the top. And it encompassed “Baroque II,” which combined many shapes. The pieces included “Toxic Blue,” heavy on the color blue, and a work merging a soccer ball and a globe.
Such exhibitions are only one of Clayscapes’ programs. The venue holds classes five days a week, instructing both people with advanced skills and those who have no experience with clay.
“If someone is a newcomer to clay, we teach basic skills,” says Don Seymour, of Clayscapes. “They make something during their very first class here. Once they have the fundamental skills, they can choose what they want to do with clay.”
Taking a pottery class is a discretionary activity, and it might be assumed that attendance declines during an economic downturn. Seymour, however, says the number of students has increased since 2008.
“There’s a couple of reasons for the increase,” he says. “Some people cut back on vacations and looked for activities closer to home. What’s even more significant is the number of people who have retired and are looking for a creative outlet.”
In reflecting on Clayscapes’ history, Seymour notes that he and his wife, Kim, began operations almost 10 years ago and will celebrate an important anniversary in October. For the fall, there will be another round of classes, an exhibition featuring Don Seymour’s own work and collaboration with community partners on two fundraising events: “Syracuse Empty Bowls,” which benefits the Interreligious Food Consortium, and “Mugs for Jugs,” which raises money to assist patients who have breast cancer. All those activities involve clay in some form and are compatible with Clayscapes’ mission.
“We are very, very structured,” Seymour says. “Everything we do centers on clay, and all our operations take place at the same location.”
Blue Ridge Jazz runs through July 24 at Clayscapes, located in a warehouse at 1003 W. Fayette St. Parking and the entrance to the Clayscapes space are in back of the building. Clayscapes is open Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For information, call 424-6868.