Studio Brings Back Art Of Pottery

From displaying gigantic vases crafted with centuries-old techniques to using innovative technology to participate in “cyber” shows, representatives of the Linn Pottery Studio and Gallery in Wheeling find ways, ancient and modern, to promote the art of pottery.

Paul Latos, an experienced potter, owns and operates the studio and gallery, located at 1035 Chapline St. His sister-in-law, Michelle Latos, serves as manager of the retail operation which opened earlier this year.

In recent weeks, visitors have gaped in awe at a pair of extremely tall porcelain vases made in China by artisans employing techniques that have been used for thousands of years. The vases are new, but the design is ancient.

The Jingdezhen entry vases stand about 7 1/2 feet tall and each weighs about 300 pounds, Michelle Latos said. The hand-thrown and hand-painted vases are cream colored, with designs done primarily in blue and accented with touches of red.

Paul Latos obtained the two Chinese vases while attending a conference at West Virginia University on the subject of Chinese pottery. The shared Chinese and American symposium was titled “Shared Journeys II.”

After he purchased the huge vases, people at the conference loaded the heavy vessels onto his truck. Back home in Wheeling, “getting it into the shop was an adventure,” Michelle Latos quipped. “We put them wherever we could get them on the floor. They’re not exactly where I wanted. (But) I’m not moving them again.”

However, she said, “We would sell them if someone really wanted them.”

The vases were created in a Chinese province where pottery has been made for many centuries. These vessels were produced in Jingdezhen, a city known as the “porcelain capital” because it has been producing quality pottery for 1,700 years, Michelle Latos said. Approximately 95 percent of the city’s 1.5 million residents work in the pottery industry, she said.

“These are hand-thrown and hand-painted.” In this operation, she explained, “One man prepares the clay; one throws the clay; one paints; one glazes. It takes eight hours to paint a 10-inch plate. The painter is the one who makes the most money,” she added.

The artisans “have a template for the carving, but they do it all free-hand,” she remarked.

Accompanying materials state: “For thousands of years, Chinese artisans have developed and mastered techniques that have set the standard of excellence in ceramics throughout the world. High fired porcelains, underglaze and overglaze techniques, celadons, copper reds, temmoku, yaoware carving, ashglazes and tri-colored lead glazes are just a few of the contributions made by Chinese artists over the centuries.”

The giant vases are “the only Chinese things in our shop. Everything else is made in the United States,” she pointed out.

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Meanwhile, the latest technology is being utilized to market Paul Latos’ modern, Wheeling-made pottery.

Currently, the studio and gallery is participating in a month-long virtual show and sale. The project, dubbed “QRt,” is being presented by Twin Oaks Gallery Art and Frame in San Marcos, Calif.

The event is continuing through Sunday, Jan. 8.

Hundreds of artists from all over the world were invited to submit their “entire portfolio of art” to be displayed in the conceptual art show.

Rather than having artists pack and send their original artwork to the California gallery, the show organizers created a Quick Response code, a matrix barcode, for each participating artist. Instead of hanging paintings or displaying pottery, show officials mounted the QR codes on the gallery walls, Michelle Latos said. “We didn’t have to send any pieces,” she added.

Using smartphones to read the QR code, visitors gain access to the Linn Pottery Studio and Gallery’s website. They can view the shop’s entire catalog and make purchases online, she said.

Of benefit to both buyers and sellers, Twin Oaks Gallery is not taking any commissions from sales. “All sales go to the artists,” she said.

In keeping with the gallery’s use of 21st-century technology, an opening reception took place on YouStream Thursday, Dec. 8.

Michelle Latos said the gallery owner related that her daughter came up with the idea for the virtual show. The current “QRt” show is “the first one this gallery has done,” the Wheeling woman said.

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Art lovers who take in the virtual show or visit the Wheeling shop can see and purchase Paul Latos’ latest pottery work, creations inspired and influenced by what he learned at the Chinese-American symposium. Since attending the conference in Morgantown, he has been experimenting with new pieces in colors of celadon and ox-blood red and featuring a Chinese glaze known as temmoku.

“He likes the celadons,” Michelle Latos said, examining her brother-in-law’s newest creations. During the conference, “he learned and refined some of his skills,” she said.