Cambrian: Arts & Events

Q&A with artists Fox and Lois Garney

Fox and Lois Garney with a couple of their whimsical creations. The couple recently opened a gallery on Burton Drive.
Fox and Lois Garney with a couple of their whimsical creations. The couple recently opened a gallery on Burton Drive. Courtesy photo

Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series presented by the Cambria Center for the Arts to heighten awareness of artists — and the arts — in our community.

Fox and Lois Garney met 40 years ago when they were taking classes in the ceramics department at San Jose State University. Soon they were in love — with ceramics and with each other.

After a few years, they quit their day jobs and decided to focus solely on their art. Their home on Lodge Hill is also their studio, with different areas dedicated to various stages in the process. One room is for throwing pots, which Fox does, and for carving, which Lois takes on. Out on the patio sits a powerful kiln which hardens the clay and allows glazes to adhere and finish the clay pieces. Another room is set up to photograph the art (for promotional purposes and to enter juried shows). Foxlo Pottery (a combination of their first names) produces a wide variety of ceramic pieces, from coffee mugs and bowls to their trademark: tall, colorful totems.

For the first time, they’ve opened a gallery, Amphora, on Burton Drive, in concert with two other couples: Michael Miller and Peggy Vrana of Earthsea and Gary Gall and Brenda Gale.

Q: How do you produce a piece together?

Lois: Fox does all the throwing on the potter’s wheel and I do 90 percent of the carving. Fox also does all the sculpting and bronze work.

Q: Are there challenges to being married and being side-by-side artists?

Lois: We each have our own interests outside of clay. Fox surfs every day, and I play tennis.

Fox: It has its moments because sometimes we disagree. It can depend on whose idea a piece was. A lot of times it’s a matter of acceptance. When it really clicks — it’s rare — the other person does something even better than you had in mind.

Opening up the kiln is something like unwrapping a present at Christmas. We’re still so excited just to see how things turned out. Although it can be disappointing, the process brings out imperfections, but sometimes the mess-ups actually make the piece more interesting.

Q: Where do you get ideas and inspiration?

Fox: We get some inspiration from the American Art Pottery movement from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s. Especially Lois’ designs are inspired by that. Mine are more quirky. The ideas are the hardest part: finding something fresh that works.

We also get a lot of inspiration straight from nature. But when you make something — say, a pot — no matter how nice it is, it’s still just the crudest image of something nature has done so much better.

Q: You’ve just opened a gallery in town. Might that change your art? Your life?

Lois: Well, we’ve been doing about 20 art shows a year, and that involves a lot of travel and a lot of work: setting up the display in our garage to see how it will work, packing, bringing extra pieces, then a day to get there, 2 to 3 days to do the show, and a day to come back, and then unpacking. It should help make our life a little easier.

Q: What advice would you offer an aspiring potter?

Fox: Most people who say they’re not artistically inclined are wrong. You just have to work at it. Sure, you’re going to be disappointed sometimes. But have fun. Don’t give up. Keep trying.

Lois: It’s really a hard way to make a living, but it’s really rewarding.

Q: Do you keep any of your work?

Lois: We sold everything we made until we put the kids through college. Now we can keep some of the things we really like.

Q: What can participation in Cambria Center for the Arts offer an aspiring or a professional artist?

Fox: Artists and aspiring artists need to have a place to show their work. The CCA at the Old Grammar School is a wonderful place for artists’ work to be shown. It has a theater for dramatic arts and the old school house is a natural gallery for visual arts. You notice people growing even when they can’t see it themselves.