Gary Hootman has spent the last 27 years well… refining the epic and unpredictable art of wood-fired ceramics. The ancient firing process is an around-the-clock affair sometimes lasting up to six days. It is not for the faint hearted.
Gary built his studio, and the first of his wood-fired kilns, on land owned by his grandmother near Cedar Rapids. When tending the firings became too much for him and his family alone, Gary enlisted other artists for help in exchange for kiln space.
For the last few years, Gary has worked on both sculptural and functional works, and on bringing the two together as a whole. He says his goal is “to make objects that span the history of art forms in a contemporary sense…. The universal is what I continue to strive toward.”
In a 2004 profile of the artist in Ceramics Monthly, James Kasper wrote, “The well from which [Hootman’s] efforts spring is his quest to get at the core of our human response to form, from the Venus of Wildendorf to the ubiquous and humble bowl. His sculptural and functional works attempt to get at this Jungian world within.”
Gary’s works ring with basic, even primitive, shapes and representational elements like a Native American face, botanical finger drawings, and a series of voluptuous Venuses.
What ties everything together is the wood-firing. “Wood firing and my work cannot be separated,” Gary says.
“His glazes are modified after nearly every firing to respond to, and better register the effects of five cords of wood and perhaps six days of firing,“ says Ceramics Monthly. “The 14-day cooling allows dark crystals to form like sparkling snowflakes.”
Gary earned his MFA at the University of Iowa, working in the wood-fired program started there by Chuck Hindes. He has taught ceramics in workshops and at the university level. His rural Swisher operation is known as Clay: It’s in the Hands Studio.