Platters that matter

// Ceramic work at Traver Gallery

Entry into Tacoma's Traver Gallery brings on a dramatic "candy store" effect. There are so many sweet visions to explore that the viewer is pulled in multiple directions at once. There are platters and vases covered in flowers and faces. The ceramic surfaces are alive with tigers and swans. There are angels and skulls and sea gulls and dogs. There are dramatic splashes of black and there is a fair share of hand-written scrawl all over the vessels and clay slabs that in total constitute a new show called "Yours, Mine and Ours."

The show, which runs through April 15, is the result of collaboration between three artists: Cappy Thompson, Dick Weiss and Jeffry Mitchell. All three artists had a hand on many of the large, white platters. They look not unlike sheets from a sketchbook upon which multiple people have doodled and written and dripped their ink. The "ink" in this case is actually potter's glaze applied to the white bisque and then fired on so that the busy surface has a permanence that will last for ages.

Mitchell is known for his ceramic work: fantastical elephants and cutie-pie panda bears. Thompson and Weiss, on the other hand, are known for glasswork. Thompson long worked with stained glass but has become known for her mythological and folkloric scenes that are painted on glass vessels.

Weiss' trademark is his geometric glass screens. He did do a series of ceramic platters and plates that were featured in a show at Traver Gallery several years ago.

In "Yours, Mine and Ours," Weiss draws fantastic war machines and litters the surfaces with hand written passages that read like entries in a personal diary. Thompson, meanwhile, populates the clay surfaces with goddesses, tigers, wonderful flowers and vegetative flourishes. Her style is influenced by medieval art as well as Indian and Persian miniatures.

Both Weiss and Thompson have little sections of the gallery reserved for pieces that they did individually. There is a "wall of birds" with platters upon which Weiss did images of swans and ducks that are textured with drips and drabs of black glaze. Some of his waterfowl are reminiscent of the work of Morris Graves, one of the painters of the Northwest School.

Thompson's section also features big round plates and jagged-edged slabs of terra cotta upon which she has depicted many charming scenes: a row of angels, a tiger of the jungle drinking from the moon-lit pool of a stream. There are several versions of "Adam Naming the Animals" that look like they were taken from the pages of a medieval illuminated manuscript.

The central portion of the gallery is occupied by a number of large, non-symmetrical terra cotta vases that were decorated by both Weiss and Thompson. "Kali and Dangerous Machine" has Thompson's depiction of the Hindu goddess Kali in conjunction with one of Weiss' comical war machines that look like a submarine with legs.

The show is timed to coincide with the conference for the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) – a national gathering that will bring potters from all over the world to the Puget Sound region later this month.

"Yours, Mine and Ours" is a sumptuous visual feast all set out on a platter to be devoured. Come and sup. For more information visit or call (253) 383-3685.


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