Pottery studios are typically located in a warehouse, school art room, garage or building. So when Alan Schroeder told me his pottery studio, Cornerstone Kiln, is on the 2nd floor of downtown Appleton’s City Center, I asked him to repeat it. After hearing his story of why the studio is in City Center, it’s obvious that he’s found the best place to be.
Alan Schroeder has been creating functional pottery and artistic clay creations for 40 years. It began with a fine art degree at UW-Stevens Point where he was introduced to working with clay. After graduation, Schroeder completed his education credits and moved to Appleton to teach art and coach track and football. Later, he acquired a Master’s Degree in Ceramics from UW-Oshkosh. “My professor, Paul Donhauser, gave me the confidence that I needed to do this, and I worked with him to get my graduate degree. He’s the one who first told me I could sell my work. And so I did my first art fair at the Paine Art Center,” explains Schroeder. Since that event, he has continued to sell at art fairs. A list of art fairs where he’s exhibiting at is on his website alanclayworks.com.
After retirement from formal education, Schroeder was asked to teach children clay/pottery work at the Children’s Museum which is located at the west end of Appleton’s City Center. “It’s a great location, and has a complete clay studio” Alan said. This eventually led to Schroeder taking over the studio to teach all ages and abilities of clay workers along with charter school students. The charter school, Valley New School is located in City Center and was a natural fit to make clay work part of their curriculum.
The west wing of the City Center building also houses dance and martial arts studios.
Schroeder’s Cornerstone Kiln complements the Center’s educational emphasis and is easily accessible for everyone. This is also part of what makes his studio location the best place to be.
It’s obvious that Schroeder loves to teach and his students reflect that. “When my students come in, they call it ‘Therapy Time.’ It’s an awesome environment where people can move away from all the stuff out there that’s so much a part of life,” Schroeder said.
His studio rule is: Any pot you don’t think worth keeping, you have to keep because we can do something with that. “Some of the best things they’ve created have been made from something that was initially a reject. It makes it one of a kind.”
Alan also enjoys encouraging people to do something they thought they couldn’t do. “My goal is to help give artists confidence in their work and think ‘I belong here.’ The biggest complaint from students is how quickly the time goes by and how they don’t want to leave.”
When not teaching, Schroeder can be found in his studio working on pieces to get ready for an art festival or gallery show. There he experiments with shapes and glazes. “I love doing functional, traditional work that people buy as an impulse because they love that mug, bowl or covered jar…even if I don’t find it to be very creative. I make hand-built items which allow me the freedom the potter’s wheel doesn’t. I can explore the feel of clay and glazes in a whole new way. Basically, if it isn’t symmetrical and round, it’s hand-built.”
Examples are flat sided boxes, trays, and wall art. “There are many ways you can make pieces without using the wheel,” Alan said “you’re not limited by size or the symmetrical shape.” He’s also not limited by the glazes to give the work color and depth. Glazes are overlapped and mixed together to create unique combinations.
Schroeder makes a wide variety of clay creations. Inspired by vintage car shapes and designs, his wall hangings have details reminiscent of tail fins and striping. Vessels and hand-built creations are enhanced with textured handles, glazes, stones, and touches of paint. Even the most functional pieces have a special feature or quality that makes them a work of art. His work can be seen at Urban Evolutions in Appleton, The Hang Up Gallery in Neenah, Avenue Art in Appleton, The Flying Pig in Algoma and his studio Cornerstone Kiln.
For more information about classes, visit www.alanclayworks.com.