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Joanne Savoie - An Eclectic Potter
by Carol N. Wells

Joanne Savoie’s pottery captured my attention because of the unusual organic textures, colors and nontraditional shapes. Her work is a delicious combination of sculpture and rich glazes.

Born in Montreal, Joanne moved with her family to New York State during junior high school. It was in seventh grade that her art teacher made a great impression on her and mentored her in working with clay.
But she claims her head was really turned when, as a sophomore in high school, she visited the southwest art museums in Durango and Colorado Springs. It was her first encounter with Native American pottery. When she returned to school she would stay after to spend time in the art room and make handbuilt pottery pieces, mainly containers. This was her incubation period during which she searched for different forms and designs, however, Joanne was limited by the low-fire techniques available to her.

I asked Joanne what it was that made her choose clay as a medium over any other. “It was the feel of working the clay in my hands that felt like I could communicate through it.” Joanne’s pottery does more than just communicate. There is an elegance to the pieces, and an intangible magnetism that draws you in for a tactile and visual union with each piece.

When Joanne graduated from high school, she moved to Vail, CO to participate in the Colorado Mountain College summer art workshops. This particular college provided an extensive ceramic program where established artists from around the country came to teach classes. Joanne did work study to afford the classes for two summers. During her time there, she met staff from the University of Colorado at Boulder and decided to attend college there and major in studio art with a minor in art history.

Joanne worked her way through college in the art history department as an assistant librarian for the slide library for three years. There, she made slides and was an official “slide pusher.”

“What’s a slide pusher, exactly?” I asked Joanne.

“Its the person that pushes the slides through the projector while the professor is giving the lecture,” she explained.

Joanne jokes about her first introduction to Moab while driving through on her way to California, “I drank from Matrimony Springs,” she laughed.

By this time, Joanne was spending her summers in Moab as a river guide and waitressing, and she left college just short of a degree due to finances and a growing crime rate; and felt she had a greater support group in Moab. Joanne had developed tendonitis from throwing pots and decided she couldn’t totally support herself as a ceramicist. When she broke away from college, her art took a back seat. She worked as a ski instructor during the winter months, in Vail, and lived in Moab during the summer. Joanne finally moved to Moab the same year that the Utah State University opened its extension program in Moab, where Joanne completed her degree and earned her teaching certificate.

After moving to Arizona for two years with her husband, they moved back to Moab because Joanne had gotten a teaching position here. When her son started Kindergarten, Joanne was part-time and was at last able to get back into her ceramics.

Shortly after the Moab Arts & Rec Center started, Joanne helped put together the ceramics program for the MARC. Joanne still produces wheel thrown pottery but believes the wheel is only a tool to an end and she still searches for a way to use the wheel away from throwing the “perfect” pot. Her insights to her sculptural work began in college as she experimented with organic shapes.

Through her keen awareness of the medium, Joanne gives us some insights to being an artisan in clay, “Even though clay is organic, once fired, it becomes permanent. I’m inspired by the natural, physical world, rivers and rocks. I’m fascinated by the permanence of rocks, yet the action, the forces of nature are always there. The sensuality of river rocks is what inspires me. Clay comes from this natural form of erosion of rocks. I began experimenting with using rocks as forms for colors, shapes and textures to inform my own work. Integrating telltale signs of the action of water on land is how I communicate movement in something that’s fixed. Handbuilt is the challenge and the joy to manifest those ideas into being.”

Joanne says she still loves to throw pots, but for her, it can get boring and tedious, “In nature, repetitious patterns only last for so long before the entropy of nature breaks it down and a new pattern is revealed. When I’m throwing pots, my own entropy interferes and I have to break it down and do something different. It’s like ripples in water or in sandstone, the pattern only goes one way for so long before it does something else. A lot of people enjoy the Zen practice of throwing pot after pot with changes in nuances. I find that kind of work easier as a request from someone else, like someone needing a set of dishes. But for my own personal work, I find that being true to my nature is making one of a kind pieces that come from time spent with myself.”

Joanne’s personal quest as an artist is lifelong, “If you’ve found the answer your art has probably died, or you’ve died,” she says, as we both laugh over the truth in her statement.

I asked Joanne what fills her well, what keeps her going? “I love to teach! Children, adults; I learn so much from the people I teach that I can keep going with my art. It can be a double edged sword, in that it also takes time away from doing art. I feel good about getting paid for time spent with people, more so I think, than making money from my pottery. Besides, it’s hard to part with the pieces you really like. And at the show I had at Cave Dreamers Gift Gallery, the fact that I sold pieces to people I knew, was more important than the price tag.”

Joanne Savoie’s pottery makes you want to touch it and have it around you, for it is an ingenious reflection of nature frozen in time.
Joanne’s work is available at Cave Dreamer’s Gift Gallery, and she continues to teach ceramics classes through the Moab Arts & Rec Center.

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