While hanging out in some Cotton Tree Lodge hammocks one day a couple of years ago, Chris Crowell and friend Joanie Alexander dreamed about having a pottery studio at the lodge. Belize abounds in clay of many different colors and consistencies. Chris, an ex potter, sculptor and art teacher, was excited about exploring pottery from the ground up. Joanie then visited rural potters in Nicaragua and Honduras with a group led by Potters for Peace, seeing artistic animated pottery that is made in low fire, low tech kilns, finished with burnishing rather than glazing.
A studio building was constructed behind the main lodge and a wood fire kiln made of local materials in 2009. Chris built a kick wheel with a boat seat, a steel comal, some cement and other found objects. The studio structure is large and open. During the winter of 2010 Juliet Challis and Hanna Flagg, both skilled potters, worked with Joanie and Chris to dig, process, test and make pots with local clay. Our Toledo resident geologist Brian Holland showed us some good clay sites, and did some digging as well. Local potters shared their clay and skills, giving us new ideas and encouragement.
Chris is offering space in the studio to local artisans to make rosewood bowls, dugout canoes and woven baskets.
Our first group of guests to use the studio came from the Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) Intergenerational Program. Grandparents and grandchildren worked with Belizean clay to create Mayan calendar tiles that corresponded with their birth dates. Chris Crowell taught one of his first art classes for awhile, and introduced the group to the variety of clays to be found in Belize and the tradition of pottery here. The fired tiles will be assembled in the garden as unique calendar installation.
Hopefully others will share interest in pottery as well. The studio is a project in the making, open to ideas, skills and energy as well as cool breezes. Any artists out there interested in having workshops at the lodge? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll work with you to plan something wonderful.