Monday, July 30, 2012

Grandpa’s Pottery blends craftsmanship with life’s messages

By PAMELA STRICKER

The products from Grandpa’s Pottery are beautiful and intricate, but the messages they convey are often even more impressive.

Ray Storer is a retired pastor in the greater Cincinnati area and a retired school principal in the Forest Hills school district in Cincinnati, Ohio. He taught art and pottery-making for 49 years and is well known in southwest Ohio and the tri-state area.

Since retiring, Ray developed Grandpa’s Pottery, along with his wife, Betty, their son, Brooke, and their daughter-in-law, Amy. Ray markets his work through shows and wholesale outlets, as well as at their retail base in Wilmington, Ohio.

He does demonstration engagements for many community events, churches, clubs and business groups throughout the state, using the potter’s wheel. He exhibits at numerous shows each year.
Some hands just seem to have been more blessed with creative talent than others, and Ray Storer’s hands have been blessed. His hand-thrown pottery has earned him a reputation among many as a master potter.

“It’s amazing to see what the hands of man can accomplish when we team up with God,” says Ray with a twinkle in his eye.

Ray was a student majoring in art at Wilmington College. He recalls the school had a wheel but no one knew how to operate it. But he remained intrigued with pottery and he began experimenting in his own basement.

“It was hard and I would get so frustrated. There would be tears streaming down my face,” recalls Ray.

Back then, Ray said his pottery was so crude and imperfect that he would give it away. He would go to nursing homes and share the story of how the pots were made and then let residents pick out their piece based on their age. The oldest would get to pick first and on down to the youngest.

“They didn’t seem to care that the quality was not there. They loved it! But the better my pottery would get the more they would tend to try to lie about their age so they could have first pick,” says Ray with a smile.

Ray was also a pastor for over 50 years. He has retired, but continues to draw his inspiration from the scripture. One of his favorites is in Jeremiah 18, when God tells Jeremiah to “go down to the potter’s house, and I am going to speak and instruct you.” Ray, like Jeremiah, receives inspiration at the potter’s wheel.

He sees many life lessons from the way clay is fashioned into a thing of beauty. “We are all made of clay,” he says.  “Like the clay, we need to be centered on the potter’s wheel. Centering the clay is the most difficult task the potter faces as he starts to make a vessel. To center the clay, the potter must take control of the clay. Like the clay, we must yield control to the eternal potter in order for us to experience a real relationship with the Lord.”

Ray says, “The potter works with the clay until he gets right. He wants something good, something beautiful and perfect in the potter’s eyes.”

Ray has a pitcher made with a heart-shaped opening at the top. He wants it remind people that it’s a heart that should always be spilling out love. There is a “spirit bowl” with nine flutes in the rim to remind one of the nine fruits of the spirit.

“There’s a lot of symbolism in the pottery we make,” he says.

 Ray says his goal is to create “gifts that keep on giving,” which is accomplished by offering opportunities for adults as well as children to make their own pottery together. Often, couples come and make pottery together on an anniversary.

Ray never did have a formal lesson at the wheel. He was working on his PhD at the University of Cincinnati when he took an elective in pottery. When the professor saw him at work for the first time, he spotted his talent right away and asked for his help to teach his class. So he did, but that was the end of any formal training.

“Pottery wouldn’t be fun if I didn’t make it for people,” says Ray. “The reward is to see someone’s face when they are given a piece of pottery.”

Says Ray, “If I am having a tough day, I prefer not to get on the potter’s wheel. I want to make it with joy. It’s a very emotional thing for me.”

There is no hiding the fact that he is passionate about his craft. “If you love what you do, you never have to work another day in your life,” he grins.

The style and tastes created by the various hands crafting Grandpa’s Pottery seem to complement each other’s work. They will all be on hand when they host the Wilmington Art and Pottery Festival, a juried art and pottery show, August 17, noon to 9 p.m. and August 18, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Roberts Centre.

The family markets its work at numerous shows and festivals throughout the tri-state area, wholesale outlets, as well as their retail base located at 3558 State Route 73W, Wilmington. For more information, call (937)382-6442.

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