Everyday States of Awe: Selections from the Ceramic Work of Bill Gossman

Everyday States of Awe: Selections from the Ceramic Work of Bill Gossman

Rochester Art Center presents Everyday States of Awe: Selections from the Ceramic Work of Bill Gossman.

Everyday States of Awe exhibits a selection from the ceramic work of New London-based potter Bill Gossman (1953 - 2020). 

Bill Gossman’s career in ceramics started in the early 1970’s. He gained a foundational knowledge of pottery techniques through secondary and higher education. As a young student at Mankato State College, he learned studio ceramics and glass blowing from masters William Artis and James Tanner. Bill left college after two years, and was  quoted later in life, saying: “ I did not have any desire to become a teacher. I just wanted to make pots.”

In 1974 Gossman refined his skills by working in a production studio in Minneapolis, where he met his long- time potter friends, Paul Morris and Craig Edwards. His passion for pottery and adventure eventually led him to travel internationally. Gossmans’ first studio was in River Falls, Wisconsin, where he studied ceramics and glass-blowing with Kurt Wild and Doug Johnson.

In 1979 Gossman moved to Denmark and became the co-owner and operator of a small scale sawmill. The sawmill was located on a farm and provided wood for his first wood fired stoneware kiln in Denmark. In 1981 Gossman moved to Swaziland, (now the country of Eswatini) Africa. Gossman met Canadian potter Kirk Creed. Together, they learned how to refine stoneware clay, by sourcing local materials, established a small pottery studio, hired local workers  and built a wood-fired kiln. Wares were sold to tourists. Gossman and Creed worked with the late artist Austin Hleza, well-known for his linoleum prints, clay cars and pots.

After returning to Denmark in 1983, Gossman built a new wood fired kiln in Lyngby, Jutland. The kiln was located on a farm site, where Gossman and his wife Janne raised their two children Siri and Jais. During this time, Gossman also worked as a production potter at Sorring Lervarefabrik, an 8th generation pottery factory / studio. Here Gossman made hand thrown earthen-ware pots and worked on the “jigger-machine,” producing the traditional low-fired utilitarian glazed pottery.

In 1990 Gossman returned to Minnesota with his wife and children. Their daughter, Leah, was born in 1992. He worked for Craig Edwards, as a production potter for five years at Banner Oak Pottery in New London.  After working for Edwards, Gossman then constructed a three chambered  wood-fueled Noborigama kiln. In 2011 this kiln was rebuilt and expanded to include a large “communal chamber.”

This kiln, on the shore of the Crow River, became a resource for many regional potters, ceramic students and pottery enthusiasts, who were invited to experience the wood firings. In New London he also served as mayor for five and a half terms starting in 2008. Gossman died May 26th, 2020 at the age of 67 from squamous cell pelvic cancer.

“During the very early years of my life I was fascinated with clay. I dreamed of constructing a daub and wattle type hut on the bank of a creek near my house and spending the night in it. At sunrise I arose and dipped a clay vessel I had made into the cool waters for my first drink of the new day. This image is still with me today and though I realized then that it was only a dream, it felt real and perfect to me and I wanted to share that feeling with others. I strive to create works that convey a sense of this innocent contemplation and meditation.

I work primarily in wood fired stoneware and porcelain clay bodies. The core of my practice is grounded in simplicity and functionality: I incorporate locally sourced materials in my clays and glazes and I appreciate when my creations are utilized with daily joy and care. 

The firing happens at high temperature, so the clay bodies I use can be considered stoneware. Their makeup is under constant change: I recycle clay scraps and, whenever possible, I incorporate local clays. Most of my projects are created on the potter's wheel. I rely on hands and hand tools to form and alter the work after it is made on the wheel. 

The glazes are self-mixed and contain locally sourced materials such as granite dust, local clays and soils, and ashes from various trees and plants. Glazes are usually applied to unfired raw clay when the piece is dried to generate a more sustainable process. The firing process involves local oak, birch and ash wood. 

I am inspired by nature and by humans, by their interaction and by the results of these interactions. My family and friends are a source of inspiration and support. Because of that, firings are to me community events where family, local potters and visiting potters come together and help each other with loading, firing and celebrating our common love for art and pottery.”

This exhibition was curated by Gossman’s family, friends and collaborators: 

Janne Mortensen Gossman ( spouse)

Jais Mortensen-Gossman Lacktorin (son)

Siri Mortensen Gossman (daughter)

Leah Mortensen Gossman (daughter)

Bethany Lacktorin (daughter-in-law)

Related Events:

Opening Reception: Saturday, April 13, 2024, 3:00 - 5:00 PM

Remarks at 4:00 PM

Suggested Donation $8

Join RAC for the Opening Reception of Everyday States of Awe: Selections from the Ceramic Work of Bill Gossman on Saturday, April 13, 2024, from 3:00 to 5:00 PM. Explore the exquisite craftsmanship of New London-based potter Bill Gossman (1953 - 2020), whose journey through ceramics spans continents and decades. Join RAC as they honor his legacy and marvel at his creations, crafted with a deep connection to nature and community. Don't miss this opportunity to immerse yourself in the beauty of Gossman's work and celebrate his enduring influence on the world of pottery.

Image: Bill Gossman at work at his studio, 2018. Photo Credit: Greg Harp 

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