230 Oregon and Southwest Washington clay artists will show their work at the annual Ceramic Showcase April 25, 26 and 27
by: Elena Boryczka, Tigard potter Deborah Shapiro shows some of her latest work.

Stop by the Ceramic Showcase at the Oregon Convention Center April 25-27 and be one of the first to glimpse Deborah Shapiro's newest sketches in more than 20 years.

'I'm a little nervous; I haven't done any real drawing in over 20 years,' the Tigard artist said of the work she began more than six months ago. 'People are used to me drawing in abstract, so I will be judged - and I'm OK with that.'

She continued, 'You have to put yourself out there sometimes [to experience growth].'

Shapiro, along with nearly 200 other potters, will put her work on display during the three-day event by the Oregon Potters Association that attracts between 10,000 and 15,000 art lovers.

Doors will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday in what is hailed the 'nation's largest show and sale of pottery, sculpture, garden art, home accessories and other works in clay' ( Live music, wine tastings, two galleries, educational booths and special areas for children will round out the lineup at the Convention Center.

Shapiro is known in and around the pottery world for her unique porcelain works, which she has been creating for more than 30 years after being introduced to it during a high school class.

'I just liked throwing pots,' she said. 'The first time I stuck my hands in clay I loved it. I know it sounds cliche, but it's true.'

Shapiro and her husband Andre, who is also an artist, work hard throughout the year to create an abundant supply of porcelain plates, mugs, vases, toothbrush holders and other useful items. Together the line of handmade, hand-glazed products ('we never use molds,' she said) includes about 30 items. The predominant colors are blues, greens, blacks and whites, and most of them display a unique design Shapiro came up with about 15 years ago.

'That's the No. 1 thing people ask me,' she said with a laugh, revealing that much of the time people incorrectly assume it is an Asian character or symbol. 'It started as quick sketches of dancers moving, and it's totally abstract . . . it's been developing for probably 15 years.

'We just tell everyone it's our own language.'

The Shapiros, according to Ann Selberg, a fellow artist and member of OPA, 'are hard-working potters. There is great discipline required to produce the volume of work required to do the number of shows you see on the resume. With winter being the slow season for most potters, I would guess you will not find their studio idle; there would be a building up of Bisque Ware and continued production to meet the demands of the warm-weather months.'

As a past president of OPA and a current spot on the board of directors, Shapiro is a very well-regarded member of the art community.

'Her work is very careful and clean. It exhibits a level of consistent craftmanship that can only be achieved through years of experience and through careful consideration of every detail,' Selberg said. 'She has studied with some very prestigious artists.'

Another design in Shapiro's line of work resembles a cat curled up for a nap, which she now carves onto teapots and mugs. She said she was inspired by the couple's adopted cat, Trianda, who makes a habit of curling up near her while she throws clay on the wheel. So taken was the artist by the actions of the pet - whose name means 30 in Greek because she was a stray who showed up at their door exactly 30 years to the day the couple met - that she decided to sketch it, later bringing the moment to life through pottery. Items featuring this design will be available for purchase at Shapiro's booth at Ceramic Showcase.

When asked what she wanted people to get out of the work she creates, Shapiro gave two equally thoughtful answers. First, she said, was the obvious potter answer of wishing more people would be OK with living with handmade items rather than mass-produced goods from giant companies.

'You can go to Kmart and buy coffee mugs, but they're boring and generic,' she said.

The other thing she hopes results from her work is an appreciation for beauty, a dream she has held ever since she set out to be an artist all those years ago.

'What do I want people to know about my work? I don't think beauty is a four-letter-word. Contemporary art and craft really can be looked down upon. I still want people to rejoice in the beautiful, and I hope they see that with my work,' Shapiro said. 'I haven't changed a bit with that. There is enough ugliness in the world.'

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