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Passionate about pots

Caramie SchnellVail, CO, Colorado
AE Ann Loper 1 DT 11-2-07
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In 1972 Ann Loper and her husband Bill stumbled across a set of pottery plates in a Cost Plus store in San Francisco. They were just so beautiful, Ann recalled as she leaned down, pulling a 35-year-old plate from the hutch in her dining room.

The couple hauled a set of eight salad plates and eight dinner plates home from California and the treasured dinnerware was only brought out on special occasions. A few years later, Steve, Anns son, was washing dishes when he dropped a plate, shattering the pottery into small shards. Ann found a potter to make a replacement dish.I figured the glaze wouldnt be exactly the same, but the plate she made was at least an inch smaller. She charged me $7, this was like in 1972. I told my friend, I cant believe this, I can do better myself, and my friend said, why dont you try?I said oh my God, Im not an artist, Ive never done anything artistic in my life. Im a skier, Im a medical technologist, but Im not an artist.

Thirty-five years later, Lopper is an accomplisher potter. After her first pottery class, she was hooked, she said.When you start to pull the clay up, its like something alive is growing under your hand. I guess thats the creating part of it, she said.When Ann starts shaping the clay, theres often a vision in her head of what the piece will look like, but usually it ends up looking quite a bit different clay tends to shape itself, she said. Even if I use calipers and measure and make something as prosaic as a set of mugs, they wont be exactly the same, which is what makes handmade things so delightful. Ann spent much of her life using her hands to create everything from a loaf of bread to a hand-knit treasure. Shes even done mosaic tile work projects, including tiling a bathroom in the small, colorful tiles. But when I began to pot, I gave everything else up, she said. When you open the kiln, you never know what the final pieces will look like, Ann said, likening the experience to opening a Christmas stocking. You just never know fire is like that, she said.

In an upstairs room of Anns Vail home, hundreds of pieces of pottery crowd every available tabletop, shelf and even the floor. Boxes are strewn about, half-filled with bubble-wrapped bowls and mugs. Ann is packing up her artwork for a Holiday Festive Sale, being held tomorrow through Sunday, in Red Cliff. Along with functional pieces colanders, mixing bowls and platters Ann will sell some of her decorative art pieces, including a series of intricate clay angels. Ann uses an ancient Japanese process of firing to make her Raku pots; and a friend of Anns gives her hair from her horses mane to use for her distinctive horsehair pots. She uses the Raku process, heating the pots to 1200-degees before removing them and applying the horsehair to the hot surface. The hair burns off in a random manner, creating twisting black lines atop the stark white pot. Theyre quite unique, said Joan Norris, fellow artist and friend of Anns, about the pots. Ive never seen anyone use that technique before. Im used to working with (Ann) as an artist, Norris continued. Shes productive and consistent over the years. She is an amazing person with what she does. Shes coming to set up Wednesday for the sale after she does tennis for two hours. She teaches skiing, she participates in the community with the chorale group and the Humane Society. Shes always out there shes just an admirable person.Arts & Entertainment Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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