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Passionate Potter

Irene Alexander changed her life when she decided to make art her career
Sunday, October 24, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:48 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

The artist:

Irene Alexander, a Columbia artist, took her love for art to the next level when, at 47, she decided to quit her job at a bank and enroll in the Stephens College art program in 1980. Now 71, she has a bachelor’s degree in art and sells her pottery in the Poppy art gallery.

Alexander became inspired by the early American stoneware that she collected during her days as an antique dealer. Her love for pottery became a lifestyle as she spent 10 years earning her degree

The Art:

Many of Alexander’s works consist of wheel-thrown bowls, vases and cups colored in brilliant reds and turquoise glazes, each uniquely crafted to perfection.

Q

Ceramics and sculpting can take a lot of physical strength. How do you keep yourself motivated to keep moving all day?

A

If I don’t have my hands in clay periodically, I feel like I am missing something. It has become such a part of me that I don’t function well without it.

Q

Do you enjoy making non-utilitarian objects?

A

Yeah, they are kind of funky and fun. I do it because it makes me feel good; it’s a lighter and less serious project. At one point, I was using cut-outs of children inspired by my grandchildren who I was spending a lot of time with at that point. I have also used early primitive symbols to decorate the art. Primitive art from Africa, Mexico, and South America all have been a strong influence for me.

Q

When selling art, do you try to make objects that will please your customers or yourself?

A

I make them to please myself. I almost never make sets of things; it’s too much like a machine, and I am not a machine.

Q

What kind of feedback have you received from your customers?

A

It’s all positive. My hands have made the pots, and now their hands will be touching them and using them.

Q

What is your favorite step of ceramics, the construction of the object or the finished product?

A

Probably the finished product, because that’s when it all comes together, and it is beautiful. They never turn out the same. That is what keeps the potters doing it, opening that kiln and seeing what the results are.

Q

You went from a banker to an artist in the past 24 years. How has this change affected your life?

A

Art definitely changed my vision on life, because it is a great way to show the roles of women. I think it also made me a better wife and mother, because I realized that life is just too short to not be doing something creative. I was at school associating myself with students the same ages as my kids, and this helped me understand what their lives were about.

Q

How do you think art has changed the roles of women?

A

Well, in history, women in art have never been featured, but now more and more women are becoming known for what they can do. Women were not given credit for their talents. Being here (Stephens College) made me realize that there is a role for us and has given me the ability to move forward with my art.

Q

What is your potter’s motto?

A

Everyone should drink coffee out of a handmade mug.


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