The right touch

Prospect artist creates ceramic vessels
for Ky. Governor’s Awards

By Lori Crowe
Contributing Writer

PROSPECT, Ky. (April 2006) – This year’s recipients of the 2005 Kentucky Governor’s Awards in the Arts were presented with their own piece of art. The Kentucky Arts Council commissioned Prospect, Ky., potter Laura Ross to create a unique ceramic vessel just for the occasion to be presented Feb. 9 in Frankfort by Gov. Ernie Fletcher and First Lady Glenna Fletcher.

Laura Ross

Photo provided

Laura Ross gave up teaching
to pursue her passion.

Ross, 58, was approached last summer by the Kentucky Arts Council to create a unique piece of ceramic art. The word “ceramic” is a general term used to cover any object created from clay and high temperatures, including everything from industrial ceramics like bathroom fixtures to high art pieces like the ceramic pods that Ross showcases across the country.
Ross was a middle school and high school art teacher in Russellville, Ky., and Carrollton, Ky. In 1986, she made the life-changing decision to leave the classroom for the full-time studio. She has been earning a living as a potter ever since.
Her potting career began with creating decorative pieces using only low-fire kilns. However, her direction changed significantly in 1986 when she was awarded the Early Times Scholarship. Ross accepted the offer to study with Chris Staley, a noted ceramic artist, at the Haystack School of Crafts in Maine. There, Ross found the courage to jump from low-fire kilns to high-fire kilns. This allowed her to broaden her pieces from decorative only to more durable, functional pieces that are not only food safe, but microwave and dishwasher safe as well.
“I make pieces that people can use and enjoy,” Ross said. “I make loads of baking dishes either decorative or pretty straightforward functional ones. I enjoy making them and people seem to enjoy them. They make nice gifts and, hopefully, they bring something a little bit different and special into peoples’ lives.”
In a press release, Lori Meadows, executive director of the Kentucky Arts Council, stated, “We feel that a piece of artwork made by a notable Kentucky artist is the most appropriate award to five to those who have contributed so much to the arts in Kentucky.”
Members of the Kentucky Arts Council were familiar with Ross’ work when they were scouting for an artist to commission the 2005 awards. She exhibits regularly both statewide in venues such as Kentucky Crafted: The Market and nationally in the prestigious American Craft Council shows. Some members had even worked with Ross on previous projects and visited her Belknap Beach studio.
Before she was selected, Ross presented a selection of colors and glazes she liked to use as well as drawings of possible designs. To develop the award, a small group of council members and Ross worked together to determine a general size and color for the piece.
“They decided they wanted 10 pieces that were similar but different.”
During the following months, Ross created 10 unique ceramic vessels with similar shapes but with different glazes on each one. “I think people seemed to enjoy that about them,” she said.

Laura Ross Artwork

The awards were presented at a public ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda. “It was a very nice ceremony,” said Ross, who was acknowledged at the ceremony as the artist. Making the event even more special for Ross was the fact that she knew several of the recipients. She had previously worked with Mike and Kathy Stutland, owners of Artique in Lexington, Ky. They were given the Business Award.
Especially meaningful was seeing Hazel Carver, her friend from many years before, win the Education Award. “I knew her from a long time ago. I was thrilled that she got the award as a music instructor. It was great. It was really great.”
Carver taught high school music in the Russellville school system for 35 years. Though she retired in 1977, she remains committed to music education in her community.
“It was such a nice day at the capitol,” Carver said. “I was real glad to see Laura again. She is a very talented lady. It must be really exciting to have an idea in your head and be able to put it together in front of you.”
Carver has given her award a place of honor at her front door. “No one can miss it, that’s for sure,” she said. “I’m just delighted to have it.”
Carver snickered as she added, “I liked mine the best. Everyone who went with me that day thought so, too. I’m really proud of that award.”
Ross spoke highly of the Kentucky Arts Council that sponsors the annual awards program and the 10 recipients. “It’s a great organization, and I think it’s a wonderful thing that they recognize these recipients of the awards. They have all contributed a lot to the state of art in Kentucky.”
And likewise.

• Ross’ artwork can be found at her studio at 2570 Belknap Beach Rd., Prospect, where visitors are welcome; at the Kentucky Museum of Arts and Crafts, 715 W. Main St., Louisville; and at Thrown Together on Frankfort Avenue in Louisville.

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