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Arne Handley: Making pottery

mindlessly (but in a good way)

Just do it.

Nike might have copyrighted the slogan but as a potter Arne Handley lives by it. His career as a teacher taught him that you reach a point where it comes naturally.

“If you have to think about it you’re doing it wrong — and the same with pottery and with any kind of art,” says the Medicine Hat artist.

Handley, who retired 14 years ago after a long teaching career, first saw pottery as a teaching tool. While teaching in Jasper he took classes with a Hinton potter who passed on basic concepts of what pottery should be.

Two years in Japan, where he taught English, helped mould his own perceptions of what clay could be made to do.

On returning, he began teaching in Medicine Hat, where he taught mostly junior high school, and where he still lives.

He would go on to build his own studio and gas kiln and has taught at Medicine Hat College and Red Deer College.

Handley has developed his own shorthand to get him from clay to creation.

“When I prepare the clay I’ll actually draw in the lumps of clay a line drawing of what I want so when I’m sitting down to make the pot I don’t think about it I just look down at that line drawing.

“So when you’re creating that piece you know how to do it and you’ve done your thinking before. Then it just becomes in some ways mindless — mindless not in a negative sense, a positive sense,” he clarifies with a chuckle.

In his 40-plus years moulding and throwing clay Handley has perfected the art of not being perfect.

“I like things that aren’t quite perfect. If you look at my pots the glaze often doesn’t cover the clay or some of the lines on the edges aren’t perfect."

Those little deviations often create pieces with a better flow.

“It’s that other sense of what the pot is.”

Handley is a long-time Red Deer Arts Council member and has shown his works in many Central Alberta shows. His works will appear next at the Lacombe Art Show and Sale on April 19. To learn more go to www.arnehandley.com.

I am a father, husband, reader, potter observer and outsider.

I am a teller of tales, lies and leader to beauty.

I am Arne Handley.

I am proud to call Medicine Hat home. (And Red Deer my friend!)

Join me in discovering the best Alberta has to offer.