Of the eight featured artists in “Carved, Coiled & Formed” at the Gallery at the Network, Robert Howell offers the only nonclay works. What look like bronze fish are nearly light feathers, but they aren’t papier mache.
“I was making sculptures for myself for the garden,” said Howell, who also does abstract expressionist paintings. He developed the “faux bronze” technique 10 years ago for his Los Osos home.
His goal was to fashion pieces that were portable, aesthetic and durable. “I chose materials designed to use in housing construction,” which can withstand snow, cold and freezing, Howell said.
“Constant exposure to sun is the only problem,” he said, as it is with any material, but the South Bay’s frequent fog resolves that issue.
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For Oceano potter Charles Varni the sun is essential, as his electric kiln is solar powered.
“I have the greenest ceramics in the world,” Varni said.
He uses very little glaze, relying on the clay’s earth tones for color.
The artist, a succulent collector for 40 years, always sought “cool pots” as containers, he said. In the early 1990s, he took a handbuilding class at Hancock College to make his own.
Varni still builds pots by hand, not with a wheel. He uses flat building, coils and extruding, which he learned from the late ceramist and instructor Bill Shinn.
Pismo Beach clay sculptor Rebecca Reibel also learned her craft through Varna’s Hancock instructor, Bob Nichols, who took over when Shinn retired.
“I had done just about every other media,” she said, having earned a graphic arts degree. “I figured there had to be something that really spoke to me. Bob Nichols put a piece of clay in my hands, and I thought, ‘Oh, this is good.’ ”
She studied ceramics for a decade, selling her sculptures at the college, and has been at The Network for 10 years.
Regarding her process, “I usually let my mind wander as I form a figure,” Reibel said. While working on a woman in a gray gown nestling a red bird, Reibel was pondering the recent Casey Anthony trial. Anthony is the Florida woman acquitted last month of killing her 2-year-old daughter.
“I wasn’t so sure we got the truth,” she said, thus the woman’s questioning expression and the title “Truth.”
Reibel and her husband moved to the Central Coast in 1985 after raising their family in Crestline, in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Steve Weaver also grew up in San Bernardino, and at 20 found a summer job in Needles, near Palm Springs. He ended up staying 25 years, driving trains for Santa Fe Railroad.
In the late ’90s he took early retirement and settled in Cayucos.
“Best move I ever made,” said Weaver. “I figured I could be a beach bum, since I grew up surfing.”
He switched tracks when he followed a lifelong yearning to take an art class. Weaver learned ceramics at Cuesta College and was soon selling his distinct work.
Although it looks like he used a rasp to texture his featured pottery, it’s a result of salt and a hair dryer.
“I jokingly call that my ‘rough stuff,’” Weaver said.
Rough or smooth, bright or subdued, heavy or light, the exhibit covers it all.