Work of Luverne artisan on display at Minnesota West's Worthington campus
WORTHINGTON -- An electrician by trade and artist at heart, Jerry Deuschle has managed to combine his two vocations by teaching in the electrical program and ceramic classes at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Jackson Campus.
Additionally, Deuschle runs his own electrician business in Luverne, where he lives. All those endeavors plus an hour-long commute four days a week leave little time to work on his own pottery.
But a chance to exhibit his work at a venue midway between work and home was a good impetus. An exhibit of Deuschle's recent ceramic pieces is currently on display in the Fine Arts Building at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus.
The exhibit --which had an initial showing at the Austin Art Center --also gave Deuschle the opportunity to test out some new equipment.
"Some friends from Spencer, Iowa, decided they were going to move east to be closer to family. So they sold all their (ceramics) equipment, and I bought their power extruder and big slab roller," explained Deuschle. "I'd never used them before, so I figured I've got to learn to do this. They also had a big kiln they wanted to sell, but I didn't have that much capital. But I got a call one day from them saying, 'We're going to come up to see you, and we're bringing the kiln.' I told them I couldn't afford it, but they couldn't take it with them, so they wanted me to keep it until I found someone to buy it."
Instead, Deuschle wrote a grant proposal to Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council and received funding to purchase the kiln and create a body of work using it for exhibit.
The resulting exhibit is a departure from what Deuschle has done in the past, which was predominantly pottery thrown on a wheel. Utilizing the extruder, he created a series of rectangular vases in a palette confined to white, black and red. The resulting pieces have a slightly Asian appearance.
"It releases me from deciding what colors to use," he said about the selective palette. "The bodies are all extruded, and then I added the bottoms and feet and top. I put them together and hope they don't come apart in the firing."
Each vase has a unique form and angle, resulting from Deuschle's experimentation with the new gadgets in his workshop.
"When I first started extruding, they didn't come out straight," he said. "The books that came with it shows you how to straighten them out, but I decided I liked them this way. Why would I straighten them out?"
Deuschle has long preferred the raku method of firing his ceramics. The Japanese process involves removing the pieces from the kiln while they are still hot, and then cooling them in a reduction chamber or container filled with combustible material. The result is a unique finish.
"The temperature changes are very hard on the pieces, so I lost a few," Deuschle said. "When I first started doing raku, I was told that if you had a 50 percent success rate, you were doing well --you can expect to throw 50 percent away. I do better than that --probably 80 percent --but it really hurts when the pieces don't come out. We have what we call the eraser -- a claw hammer."
In addition to the vases, Deuschle's exhibit includes an array of ceramic tiles, also in the tri-color scheme.
"I've been doing the tiles for about six years on a small scale," he said. "The precipitation for doing all these was that they had 40 feet of wall to fill up in the gallery in Austin, so I told them I could make some more wall tiles."
The tiles are texturized with a variety of tools, including rubber stamps that Deuschle picks up in hobby shops and "doo-dads and buttons" that he finds in thrift stores. He also has a device he calls a "rollette" --a handled tool with a wheel that he can use to apply texture to the clay.
Using the extruder, Deuschle created ridged clay frames for some of his tile pieces, but has limited success with the process.
"It's hard getting it straight, keeping it straight, and keeping it together," he said about the ceramic border, which has a tendency to crack.
Never one to give up on an idea, Deuschle plans to keep tinkering with the clay frames, but the bulk of the tiles on display are framed in metal. Almost all the pieces on display are for sale.
In addition to the exhibit, Deuschle is busy planning for the annual ceramics workshop that he and his wife host on the last weekend in April. This is the 20th year for the event, and they are bringing in ceramics experts from Boston, Mass., and North Carolina for it. The visiting artists will also have their work showcased at the Carnegie Cultural Center in Luverne during April.
The opening reception for the exhibit of ceramics by Jerry Deuschle will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday in the Fine Arts Building at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus.
Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers can be reached at 376-7327.