Molding clay -- and life

Photo by Rebecca Long

Photo by Rebecca Long

By Diane Glidewell


When one views the work of artists at a Fine Arts Show or an Arts and Crafts Festival or wherever one might find the artist available to view along with his or her work, one most often finds the artist quietly awaiting inquiries about creative pieces or pleasantly offering to show more examples of what one finds appealing.

Potter Jim Weber will be found operating his pottery wheel, demonstrating how his bowls, vases, mugs, platters, and teapots take shape from the beginning of their essence, and taking opportunities to teach children and others about the craft which has been an integral part of his life for almost 50 years.

JIm will be bringing his creations and his knowledge and personality to the Jackson Fine Arts Festival at the Triangle in front of Carmichael Insurance Agency, just off East Third Street on Saturday, May 8. This is not his first trip to the Jackson Fine Arts Festival, and those who have met him before will be eager to see him and his art return. In fact, he is bringing a bowl made by a young lady named Anna, aged about 6 or 7, at last year's festival which he would like to give to her.

Jim's pottery creations are actually only part of what he brings to the festival to show and sell. His wife, Sally, also creates beautiful works from clay. Both of them create beautiful works of art, but it is easy to know who created which pieces even as they are intermingled on display.

Jim's expertise is in forming the vessel itself and the glaze which seals and shimmers over the finished work. Sally, who first worked in other art media before being drawn to clay, is more drawn to decorating the basic works. She imprints designs and patterns and paints delicate figures on the plates, vases, bowls, and cups. Sally and Jim first met in high school, became engaged to one another about 10 years later, and have now been married for 25 years and have two sons, one in college and one in high school.

Jim's mother was in advertising and took him to arts festivals, where he remembers seeing potters at work, from his earliest memories. On his twelth birthday, his dad offered him a pottery class. He found a love and took another class and another. He was able to pursue his art at the first federally funded Fine Arts Magnet School in the country in Greenville County, South Carolina.

"It was like Fame," said Jim. "Many of the students are now professionals in their fields; they lived out their dreams. I found my way through potter's wheels."

He continued his training in a production crafts program in North Carolina.

Sally and Jim came to their home in Milner, just off of Highway 36 in Lamar County in 1986-87. Their 1825 historic home, where Jim's grandfather once lived, is an integral part of their lives and their art. Pottery is invitingly displayed on the wide front porch, and the kiln they built for firing their creations can be found behind the home; other work stations can be found in between. They have lovingly restored the home from the interior rooms to the chimney and exterior boards. Jim and Sally restored the house to the point where they were able to move into it in 1988. They hold an open house and offer their pottery for sale from their home one weekend each spring and fall.

The Webers operated Clay Shaper Gallery and School in Griffin from 1996-2003, and Jim has continued to teach classes through the Fayette County Arts Center. Having meticulously honed the mechanical and engineering aspects of his craft, Jim feels drawn to introduce others, especially youth, to the art of pottery making.

"I learned everything I needed to know through the potter's wheel--math, science, art," said Jim. "I get my wheel in front of kids and say, ' You'd be good, too, if you spent time at it.' "

Jim has many times meticulously weighed out 100 pounds of clay and raced an old brown school clock as he turned out 100 beautiful mugs, each just slightly different. "Everything I do is straight forward mechanics," he says, but he has also designed a lovely teapot with a lid which screws in place to stay put even when the teapot is tipped and a batter bowl with a thumb rest handle which balances perfectly and powers well.

He is currently shifting focus away from making many small pieces to bigger, more involved projects. He now often takes two hours just to mold one piece, besides the time mixing glaze. glazing, and fired the piece. The results are often spectacular large bowls or vases.