A pottery platter on display at the Earth & Fire show at Mad River Valley Arts.

By Sam Talbot-Kelly

Mad River Valley Arts (MRVA) presents the craft of two of the oldest traditions in humanity; ceramics and glass art. Both consider the practical functions in earthenware, of weaponry, jewelry and decorative objects, but at “Earth & Fire, formed in earth, forged in fire,” there is a unique blend of art and design using traditional and experimental techniques transforming these ancient arts and redefining them into new life.



Fifteen artists are on view at the MRVA gallery in the Village Square, Waitsfield. Venetian vessels made by Michael Egan recall the Impressionist discipline of painting the moment in Plein Air. Ceramicist Valery Dearing presents a darker view, where marbled charred surfaces hot out of the kiln reflect the alarming climate changes of earthquakes, storms, wildfires, the effects of war.

The work of Noel Bailey expresses another kind of ethereality. His earth-scapes juxtapose in a creamy galaxy, where black holes beyond all universes divide and unite into hydrologic disruptions.

Hand built stoneware platters in peacock tones made by Tom Bednash are featured and Leslie Montalto integrates glazed and unglazed surfaces with natural motifs decorating her vessels. Joy Paradissis Playter describes her process of functional pottery as “play with clay.”

Self-taught artist Luke Iannuzzi brushes with ancient past; whether Asian, Etruscan or Greek. Bette Ann Libby is motivated by mythology as she pursues ceramic form and process figuratively.

ML McLaughlin’s ‘Ode to the Circle’ in the shape of circular vases, and decanter series reference the flow of seascapes, voids and the rhythms of nature.

Jean Sharry, the curator of the show, has been Earth and Fire’s life force from initial idea to the exhibition’s final manifestation. She treated every detail of a production with precision. This is equally visible in her own work on display. It tours the potential surfaces of vintage objects and batik stamps fusing hand-carved decorative elements with the natural cracking of raku firing.

On a very different note, glass artist Spencer Kirk-Jackson a former engineer and informational technologist pushes the boundaries of glass blowing into layered color-filled dimensions.

Meeting the floral glass work of David Leppla is like encountering the regal decor in a stately castle. Extraordinary detail for the sensuous curve, his organic plant motifs bow to the freedom from restraint.

His partner Melanie Guernsey Leppla presents a unique construction of the cairn form, which to the Buddhists are a way to worship balancing energies and fortune. Her stone totems stack and arrange soft gentle thoughts one on top of the other.

Audrey Mosley has found an immediacy in her creative process with stained glass work. Abstract designs compose the flat panel of colored decoration and controls the amount of illumination to come through.

Joan Siegel’s path has flowed through many cycles of connecting shape with the natural world, whether through quilting, mosaics and most recently stained glass. “Fayston Summer” reveals the play of abstract shapes twisting and turning across pictorial space with innocent ambiguity and sea green transparency.