Thursday, March 30, 2017

Potter Larry Witherspoon

     Unique, beautiful and functional.
     Larry Witherspoon, owner of El Dubya Pottery, makes pieces that look like museum art, but function like your everyday dishes.  This stoneware is microwavable, food safe and dishwasher safe.
     His work sells in The Museum Store at the Arkansas Arts Center and at The Freckled Frog downtown. 
      “I just went in and showed Sadie my stuff,” Mr. Witherspoon said of Sadie Nuffer, owner of The Frecked Frog.  “She said, ‘I need some rice bowls and some upside-down handle cups.’  And she started selling my pottery.”
    The Museum Store recently featured some of Larry’s pottery on the cover of its promotional magazine. His signature colanders, upside-down handle cups, rice bowls with chop sticks in them, and bowls with figures of koi have sold quite well. 
    “So I am really thankful and blessed.”
     But wait.  Upside-down handle cups?
     Well, you might say, when life gives you dyslexia, make art.
      Larry tells the story about throwing some odd shaped coffee cups at the Arts Center one time and bringing them home to show his wife, Desiree.  Desiree’s interest in pottery had helped get him back into it after years of absence from his “hobby.”  By trade, he is a barber.
     “I said, ‘I am really proud of them,’ and she said, ‘Your handles are upside down.’”
     Dismayed, he returned to the studio and made more cups and put the handles on “correctly.”  They didn’t work.  It turns out Larry’s dyslexia helped him create the perfect style to begin with.
     “The upside-down handles work better.  It balances better,” he said.
     Turns out people love them. 
      Larry had his first experience with making pottery when he was a youngster.  Not only did he have dyslexia, but he was hyper, and learning to create pieces on a pottery wheel helped him cope. 
     “When I was 10 or 11 years old, my mom got me involved in a little potter’s studio on Highway 10.”
      Larry said the highway was paved, but the area was pretty rustic.  He cannot remember the name of his first teacher, but he is thankful for the experience with her. 
     “She taught me how to throw on the wheel. I’d  
go twice a week after school. I was hyper and dyslexic.  As long as I was working with my hands, I seemed to calm down.”
     When Larry was an adult, he had several instances where he was able to work on a pottery wheel, but life and work (he’s been a barber for 34 years) always seemed to interfere with his hobby. Then he met Desiree at the Arkansas Arts Center.
     “She was at the Arts Center doing some pottery classes, independent study with Kelly Edwards.  I was visiting.  I threw a pot.  And then I enrolled in a class.”
        It was there that he made his first colander. 
        “I still have it.  We use it.”
     Now, Larry is known for his colanders. In fact, one of them was what got him his “in” at The Museum Store.  He gave one to a friend who was working in Canvas, the museum restaurant, and it ended up by the register as a candy bowl.  And that’s where the then manager of The Museum Store saw it and was quite impressed.
     “She said make two or three.  We can sell them. Then she bought rice bowls and coffee cups.  They sold so quick, I had to make a bunch more.”
       Nowadays, Larry spends part of his Fridays in independent study with Ms. Edwards at the Art Center. And he plans to stick with his education and his hobby.
     “The Arts Center is great. I’ve been selling my pottery at the gift shop.  I am able to pay for most of my hobby.  I am still surprised at this. 
      “I am very thankful.  There are a lot of pot-ters at the Arkansas Arts Center.  And they are kind enough to rank me up with them.”
     Larry likes to experiment with different gla-zes. His work gravitates toward light silvers and silvery gray mattes. He’ll make pottery on commission, but he warns that it’s not cookie cutter.  Each piece is one of a kind.  
       “When I can do something freely, it seems to me nice.  I play and experiment.  I am just having fun.  I want to have fun with them - and sell them.” 

     In addition to the Arts Center and The Freckled Frog, you may find Larry’s pottery at Stifft Station Gifts and Sundries and South Main Creative. You may contact him at 681-1097. This story was written by Bobbi Nesbitt. You may contact her at 221-7467.

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