Spotlight on Ceramics

The shape of things with AnnMarie Decollibus

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ceramicist AnnMarie DeCollibus takes her own art seriously, but the lessons she’s passed on to the multitude of high school students she’s taught over the past 19 years are also a top priority for her. 

“The very first thing I teach them is how much I love what I teach,” DeCollibus says. “Then I teach them to make every mark count and that every form equals a function. I want them to be proud of their work and bring home beautiful work to their family. I do not allow kids to move forward unless they like the drawing or design they have figured out for their project—otherwise it is not a worthwhile endeavor.”

Once the teens get “hooked on clay,” DeCollibus says, they start to come to her for more information, and, from there, their talents take on a shape of their own.

Both students of pottery and also those who are interested in viewing the works of a longtime local artist who truly loves what she does can do so by visiting DeCollibus’ exhibit, “Seasons Changing,” which is on display through March at Fairhaven’s Good Earth Pottery.

The pieces that are part of “Seasons Changing” don’t necessarily focus on the very recent switchover from winter to spring. DeCollibus says the title takes note of the different color themes in her painting, but also points to the fact that she likes to build her vessels in warm weather and paint them in the winter from the warmth of her studio.

“Most of the pots in this batch were built before I got rear-ended on the freeway and hurt my neck and hand,” she says. “I had all this work to paint, so I decided to move it out. I have had to learn some new tricks, as my left hand is not quite what it used to be.”

A quick glance at DeCollibus’ history shows that she’s not the type to let an accident bring her creative urges to a standstill. In addition to being a working mother of three, she and her husband own two commercial tenders, and have tendering salmon and herring in Alaska since 1990. When she joins the crew in July and August, she has a small space on the boat where she builds pots and then brings them back to Bellingham to fire.

The summers spent in Alaska also affect some of the subject matter of her functional pottery—some of which was designed to hold the seafood that fills their plates once the season comes to an end.

“My sculpted vessels that deal with being on the ocean and being in the fisheries started as my response to the weight of stress from owning and running a fishing boat,” DeCollibus says. “Most of my images contained a man holding up a boat (that would be my husband). Then I started putting mermaids inside the boats. Now I am all about sharing the role of being the mom holding the entire family together while our family is in the fisheries.”

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