Artist Profile: Ceramic artist throws herself into her work at Good Earth Pottery

Ann Marie Cooper, 37, grew up in Edmonds and came to Bellingham to attend Western Washington University in 1995, but moved away after graduation and marriage in 2000. After many years of visiting what felt like home, her family made their permanent move back to Bellingham in 2009.

Cooper says she named her business Kulshan Clayworks because living in Bellingham is so much of who she is and who she has become. She says she can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Cooper joins seven other artists in “Dirty Dan Day Demos,” a celebration of Good Earth’s Pottery’s 45-plus years in business, from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 26, at the store, 1000 Harris Ave.

Cooper also is the featured artist at Good Earth for the month of May.

Question: When did you became interested in ceramic art?

Answer: I took a ceramics class my last quarter of high school and loved it so much that I kicked myself for not starting sooner. Through the years, I wanted to get my hands back in it, but it just didn’t happen. Then I was hired by Good Earth Pottery for customer service and marketing and it wasn’t long before I enrolled in some wheel-throwing classes at Whatcom Community College.

Q: Who encouraged you along the way?

A: My Good Earth community has surrounded me with mentors and inspiration. I particularly owe a great deal to Patricia Morse, who invited me to a two-day coiling workshop in 2011, where I found my niche in clay. I gave up the wheel and focused on hand-building, and now clay pretty much dominates my life.

I have a lovely little studio in my backyard, I run the clay program at my son’s school, teach classes for kids and adults, and last year I co-founded Whatcom Artists of Clay & Kiln (WACK), an organization devoted to promoting clay culture in Whatcom County.

Q: How long have you been involved at Good Earth?

A: I’ve been working at Good Earth for five and a half years, and I’m so thankful for it! Good Earth Pottery is owned by two splendid ladies; Deb Martin and Linda Stone (both talented potters). The gallery has been a fixture in Fairhaven for more than 45 years, specializing in handmade functional and decorative ceramics in a wide range of prices — there’s something for everyone — and many of our artists welcome special orders. We represent more than 50 local artists juried from within a 60-mile radius of Bellingham.

Q: How would you describe your art?

A: I love texture and intricate patterns I used to be an avid knitter; I think there’s a connection.

My work is primarily coil-built. I hand-roll clay into coils — long snakes of clay — and create my designs in reverse. It’s not until the piece is flipped over or removed from its building form that I see the results; it’s an exciting and challenging way to work. I fire the majority of my work in an electric kiln, and some of it in a wood-fired kiln for a very different finish.

Q: What’s planned for the anniversary event?

A: Good Earth’s anniversary event will include refreshments and eight of our artists (April featured artist Madie Klusmire, Rob Beishline, Linda Hughes, Irene Lawson, Jeremy Noet, Jesse Rasmussen, Andy Wollman-Simson and myself) demonstrating various pottery techniques; wheel-throwing, hand-building, decorating, and raku-firing.

Q: What kinds of creations are you working on for the featured May artist show at Good Earth?

A: My show is entitled “Garnish.” People around here love preparing and serving good food, so I’m focusing on enhancing the presentation of those efforts, particularly with my new spoons, which I’m really excited about. I’ll also have mugs, bowls, yarn bowls and garden art — because yards can use embellishment, too.