ZANESVILLE — Pots of all sizes, shapes, colors, and textures stand outside of Andrew the Potter's studio at Zanesville Pottery in Zanesville.
As you look through a window into the artist's studio not only do you see pottery wheels, electric kilns, and shelves of green ware but you look into the world of a craftsman. Each pot is hand built, designed, glazed, and fired by Andrew Hoffer, showcasing an art that has nearly been lost in southeastern Ohio
"Most of the pottery that is left in the area is slip-cast and factory made pottery," said Arthur Kettner, Laguna Clay ceramic technician and Hoffer's business partner. "We are focusing on the craftsman and artisan sculpture side of pottery."
Hoffer was drawn into the world of pottery when he met ceramics professor Ken McCollum at Muskingum College during his junior year. Before meeting McCollum, Hoffer's hands weren't exposed to working in clay very often but everything about his professor made him want to learn more about the craft.
"I blame much of this on him (McCollum)," said Hoffer.
By the end of Hoffer's senior year he was showcasing his artwork at craft shows including the Salt Fork Arts Festival. After he graduated in 2002 he was attending up to 12 craft shows a year while working out of his garage.
Eventually Hoffer began selling his pots through Zanesville Pottery and a few years ago they made the offer to him to open a studio.
"It's beneficial for both of us," said Hoffer. "It's a really good working relationship."
Hoffer and his father took an area that was being used as storage and transformed it into a working studio. They began construction last summer and by fall Hoffer was throwing pots on the wheel in his new studio. Although Hoffer makes his living by creating pots and bowls out of clay it is not work to him.
"For me clay is interesting because of all the different stages," said Hoffer. "That's what keeps me interested in it week after week. Just the ability to do something different all the time." He has experimented with different techniques to create pieces that are visually interesting and fun to look at. His creations range from tiny pots that could fit in the palm of your hand to large pieces that require some muscle to lift.
Hoffer is looking to expand his studio by building a room adjacent to his studio specifically for the electric kilns and extra storage space. Plans to build a wood fire kiln out of recycled bricks is also in the works.
"We will be firing at 2,365 degrees Fahrenheit using nothing but wood," said Kettner. Kettner attended Bowling Green State University where he earned his bachelor's degree and then earned his master's in fine arts at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. He comes from a fairly established wood kiln history and is designing the wood kiln that will hopefully be up and running by next spring. Once the wood fire kiln is operable Hoffer and Kettner would like to see members of the community participating in kiln openings and learning something about their craft.
Andrew the Potter offers pottery classes every Saturday morning and Monday evening at his studio in Zanesville Pottery. His 10a.m. Saturday morning classes are geared toward children while his Monday 6 p.m. classes are for adults. His hopes are to get enough interest in classes to add more classes during the week. He teaches four classes for $75 and all supplies are provided.
In between expanding his business and teaching pottery classes Hoffer will continue to peddle his wares at upcoming local art shows. He will be doing live demonstrations during the Pottery Festival through Sunday, July 18, in his studio at Zanesville Pottery. There will be tents, vendors, music, and possibly a raku demonstration in the Zanesville Pottery parking lot during the Pottery Festival. Andrew the Potter will also have a booth at the second annual Y Bridge Arts Festival in Zanesville on Aug. 6 and Aug. 7.