Bruce Murray: Potter

Bruce Murray began working in clay in the early seventies, a time of enormous social and artistic excitement. He had earned an AB from University of Pennsylvania, spent a year on a fellowship in Rome and was just beginning a doctoral program at UC: Berkeley in comparative literature. Working with clay quickly became a strong “minor” and he founded a small pottery co-operative. His heroes were Ernie Kim, Ron Nagle and Peter Voulkos.

Then he met the world renowned Bauhaus trained European potter, Marguerite Wildenhain and that proved a life changing event. Wildenhain had a tremendous influence on Murray. She provided a role model and a path for the independent artist, one free of the constraints of a day job and willing to accept both the hardships and rewards of living by one’s art.

“Marguerite was all about seeing, about learning to see, see what was alive and what was true, that was her gift to me,” said Murray.

The next two decades were devoted to learning a variety of skills and testing dozens of clay bodies and thousands of glaze formulations. He summarizes his guiding creed with a quote from William Morris: “Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” With two other potters, Murray founded South Road Pottery in Bradford, VT. He developed a national market and reputation for their work and together they produced tens of thousands of useful and beautiful objects. About ten years ago he began to gravitate toward more figurative work, mostly portraiture, while continuing to use clay as his medium.

His recent work represents another sea change. It’s the culmination of forty years of intense observation of line and color and thousands of raw material tests. Murray has made a group of chargers and trays which are equally suited to both the table and the wall, they provide nourishment for both the body and the spirit. These current pieces are sensuous, fierce, and thrilling. The intense over-glazes contrast with the complex muted backgrounds and borders which, in some cases tend to offer some control over the often errant and misbehaving colors which are the life of the work.

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