Art by Don Ellis’ advanced students is displayed at San Juan College. An opening reception will be on Friday.
Art by Don Ellis' advanced students is displayed at San Juan College. An opening reception will be on Friday. (Courtesy of San Juan College)

FARMINGTON — For the last 35 years, San Juan College instructor Don Ellis has been creating pottery.

At one time he owned Cloudcroft Pottery, but when a teaching position opened at the college, he accepted the opportunity and left Cloudcroft to move to Farmington.

One of his first students after accepting the position was Fiona Clark, a budding potter.

Since then she has continued to take classes from Ellis and will be one of the approximately 30 students displaying their clay and glass art at the Henderson Fine Arts Gallery this month. An opening reception for the exhibit will start at 5 p.m. on Friday.

Clark creates ceramic objects and often adds mixed media or found items to her art, such as handles made from sticks she has found.

Art by Don Ellis’ advanced students is displayed at San Juan College. An opening reception will be on Friday.
Art by Don Ellis' advanced students is displayed at San Juan College. An opening reception will be on Friday. (Courtesy of San Juan College)

Unlike many of Ellis' students, Clark builds all of her art by hand instead of throwing pots on wheels.

Clark said Ellis has taught her more about glazing, firing and kilns rather than focusing on wheels.

"He lets you be a lot more open," she said. "He's open to everything and, whatever you have an interest in or want to learn about, he's always available to help you."

Ellis first threw a bowl on a wheel when he was 8, however it took him until college to realize he wanted to pursue ceramics.

"I took one clay class and I fell in love with it," he said.

He said he immediately called his mother and told her he was going to be a potter. Shortly afterwards, he bought his first wheel.

Ellis will be showing his art alongside his students' work during the exhibit. He said he has recently been experimenting with a process known as naked raku.

Instead of using glazes the naked raku relies on the fire to color it.

Ellis said raku is a faster process of firing than most. It involves heating the kiln to 1,850 degrees and then reaching in and pulling the pot out of the fire, producing nearly immediate results.

"Every time you do it, it's different," Ellis said.

He said raku is a Japanese word that translates to pleasure.

"The process is a pleasure and the end result is, hopefully, a pleasure," he said.

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.