What this is all about

Based on the WMRA show "The Spark", hosted by Martha Woodroof, this project looks at the creative passions of college students in the Shenandoah Valley area.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Diane Livick, the Potter

            Diane Livick is not the usual college student. She attended James Madison University from 1975 to 1978 and received a degree in Art Education. She has worked as a children's behaviorist, served in the military, and after her children were grown she became a nurse. Now, years after she received her art degree, she is returning to her roots.
           “Thirty-some years later, and I really missed clay,” Diane says. “It's a medium that is so versatile. You can make it look soft, make it look hard like metal. If you enjoy working with it, and you haven't in a while, it is so satisfying to go back.”
           Diane came to Blue Ridge Community College last year to take classes in sculpture and ceramics. She has her own kiln and wheel at home now, so she is able to work on her own time. Working outside the classroom allows her a lot of freedom, where she is the only judge.
           Diane brought in several bowls she had thrown recently as a part of a collection inspired by radio telescopes she saw last summer at the Space Race Rumpus. It was the first annual bike ride and festival in Green Bank, West Virginia, to raise money for a wellness center. It is hosted by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, with the second annual race coming up next week.
           “I decided I needed to do something visually with it,” Diane says. “I've got the four bowls here, and I'm made nine or ten, and I will probably get to twenty. First I throw them and work on developing a shape I like, then I'm going to work on color patterns. I keep notes on different glazes I've done, and then I decide if I want to do water colors, free-form, a constellation or a dark sky...”
           One piece that caught my eye is a bowl colored with a deep blue glaze. It is speckled with textured dots of white and streaks of gold, and instantly reminded me of Van Gogh's Starry Night. Even with all of the years between then, both artists found inspiration in the night sky.
"European Mount, Unknown Species",
a Raku piece
           Although this collection is made of thrown pieces, throwing pots is not Diane's “thing”. She prefers hand-building and sculptural works, finding her inspiration from nature and storytelling. She especially loves myths and creation stories, and making them visual.
           “We need those stories – we need stories that have been told again and again. Until they're worn smooth as stones. That seems to be missing now, too. I think we move too fast in our society and I hope that parents are telling stories to their kids, because there need to be good stories to give to kids.”
            One of Diane's goals while taking classes at Blue Ridge has been to create a quantity of quality pieces for entry into a juried show. She had several pieces in shows when she was working on her undergraduate degree, including her favorite piece, “The Mountain Jar.”
           “It shows a cabin up on the mountain with a stream and the clouds. That is because I always wanted to live in a cabin,” Diane says. “Self-fulfilling prophecy, I suppose. I forget what the assignment was, but we were well invested in it. I've guarded that piece to be sure it won’t get broken. It’s already made it thirty-some years.”
"Hillis Plot Bowl II"
           The pieces Diane creates don't always follow her original plan. Somewhere along in the process an idea sometimes doesn't fit. Whether it is a quick piece that only takes a few minutes to throw or a more complex piece that takes weeks to form, there is no way to be sure what the final outcome will be.
          Ceramics is not the only art form that Diane enjoys. She does photography, painting, and is a musician. She’s recently returned to two dimensional art, where her style begins to really stand out. In ceramics she has an underlying theme to her pieces rather than a style, but with her paintings she tends to be illustrative. She has been working on a series called Sundown Serenade, in hopes of illustrating a children's book. With scenes of fireflies playing banjos and the three tenor frogs, her paintings spring out from the canvas out onto the frames
Diane, in red, firing a Raku piece at BRCC
           Diane is happiest when she’s creating. “Because I'm a nurse, I'm gonna analyze myself a little bit,” she says with a smile. “There's a motor pleasure-driven rewards circuit that comes from making something, from actually doing something. We're genetically wired to have pleasure when we do this for our own survival. I think a lot of society has lost this.”
           Last summer she and her son, who is a tattoo artist, were a part of a show in Dayton, hosted by a local artist. Seeing so many young artists driven to share their art inspired Diane to keep on with her own work and be a part of this community. This past Memorial Day weekend Diane showed her work at Staunton Art in the Park, and some of her pieces were recently shown in the Blue Ridge Literary and Arts Magazine.
           “Creative people tend to see things a little differently, and approach the world a little differently,” Diane says of her fellow artists in Dayton. “The collection of artists were all unique, all pushing boundaries. It really inspired me to want to be around people who see things a little differently.”
           It is never too late to pursue what you love, as Diane has proven. Even after she raised her children and worked for years as a nurse, she returned to her pottery roots, and is determined to share her creations with the world. She has never stopped learning, and I am determined to follow her lead.