Meet studio potter Deb Harris

Deb Harris is a studio potter living in Chapel Hill, where she creates wheel-thrown, functional porcelain pottery. Her glazes are traditional Chinese, Korean and Japanese formulas, and she is known for her sgrafitto and slip trailing designs that are influenced by early Asian arts and the natural world. Deb started creating pots full time in 1997. Since then she has won awards at CenterFest and had her work accepted into the prestigious Smithsonian Craft Show. She also teaches classes at Claymakers.

I bought my first bowl from Deb 20 years ago, and still use it today. She is one of Zola's most popular artists year after year. We asked her to tell us about her art and her inspiration.

When did you start creating pottery and how did you get into it?

When our children were very young, there was an ad for a pottery class during school hours at a local arts center. I became hooked and quickly transitioned from being a physical therapist to a full-time potter.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of being a potter? The most challenging?

Forming the clay from a stiff block to a fluid form is the most gratifying part of pottery for me. Glazing by far is the most challenging. Finding the right formula, mixing, applying and firing to get the effect you desire can be nerve wracking. This is wonderful when it works, exasperating when it fails.

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Are there people who have inspired you?

Leonora Coleman (in Durham) was my first exposure to NC pottery at the Carolina Designer Craftsmen show in Raleigh in 1992. I soon started classes, and my adventure in clay took off. Cynthia Bringle, Susan Filley, Michael Sherrill, Cliff Lee and others have influenced and inspired my work. Our family enjoys traveling, and I’ve been fortunate to experience the art and cultures of several eastern countries. Japanese aesthetics and Chinese forms are of special interest to me

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Are you inspired by any artistic traditions?

Ancient Chinese Dynasties have many pottery traditions. Learning how celadons and copper reds were developed from traces of iron and copper fascinate me. There is always more to learn. Another strong influence is the Japanese idea of art as part of everyday experiences. This motivates me to create work for people to hold and enjoy using.

What do you want people who buy your work to know?

Buyers should know that each piece is to be held and used. The work goes from my hands to theirs. Creating the item gave me pleasure in the making and now the hope is to give the user some joy in using handcrafted pottery in their lives.

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