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The Riverside Potter

Pottery has a rich history spanning thousands of years, dating back to around 12,000 years. It emerged independently across various ancient civilizations, including those in China, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Mesoamerica. Initially, pottery served functional purposes, primarily for storing food, water, and other essentials. Early pottery was crafted by hand using clay, shaped into vessels, and fired in open pits or rudimentary kilns. As societies progressed, pottery became an art form evolving into many styles and techniques distinct to each culture. For instance, the intricate designs of Greek pottery or the vibrant colors of Mayan ceramics showcased cultural identity and artistic expression. The invention of the potter's wheel came 5,000 years ago and revolutionized pottery production, allowing for more uniform vessels and intricate designs.

Throughout history, pottery evolved alongside technological advancements, social changes, and trade networks, influencing art, culture, and commerce. In modern times, pottery remains a celebrated craft, blending traditional techniques with contemporary styles, valued both for its functionality and artistic appeal. Recently we met a skilled potter in Cape. At his pottery studio, Riverside Pottery in Cape, anyone can come in and get their hands dirty—learning and making their own pottery art. He offers pottery classes, workshops, private lessons, and a gift shop.

Meet Robert Lorenz, a potter's potter.

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This Story is sponsored in part by Visit Cape!

Meet Robert Lorenz. A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ceramics and a Bachelor of Science in Education. He also holds a Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics from Southern Illinois University. Robert has previously worked as an Adjunct Instructor in Ceramics at John A. Logan College and the Paducah School of Art and Design.

My name is Robert Lorenz. I'm from the Southeast Missouri area. I went to school to study art education and started doing ceramics then. After school, I continued with it through the rest of my undergrad, and then I went to grad school and got a master's degree in ceramics. In 2019, decided to buy a place of my own and set up our own community studio here in Cape Girardeau.

I've been doing art of some kind since I was little. My brother and I would draw comics and stuff for a little while, and we'd sell pictures to kids at school. I had some excellent art teachers in grade and high school. They just encouraged me to continue doing that after school.

I can't pick any piece that's necessarily my favorite. I have favorite styles or favorite forms that I usually make. I usually make more like southern folk pottery like old crocs and face Jugs. Whiskey jugs are the thing that I make the most. It's my favorite thing to work on.

The classes that we offer at the studio are six-week classes. We do both on the wheel and hand building. People come in once a week for six weeks and get a pretty in-depth introduction to making pots on the wheel or just forming stuff by hand. We also do weekend workshops where people can come in and try working with clay for that one-time experience. It's a two-hour class where they get a demonstration on how to make some stuff, and they have some time to make their own, and then we do everything else afterward…firing and glazing and all that stuff.

Riverside Pottery is located in the former B'nai Israel Synagogue. Built in 1937, this historic Jewish synagogue designed by St. Louis architect, Thomas P. Barnett Jr., sits just south of historic downtown Cape Girardeau. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, although it has not been used as a Synagogue for decades. After sitting empty for many years, another congregation made some repairs and updates prior to our purchase. Robert worked for over a year to repair and renovate the property.

My plans for the future? I want to keep working to build this place up. I want to do more stuff here at the studio. Expand so people can come in and use the space more. I am bringing in visiting Artists and that sort of thing. I will grow this space and create more of a ceramics community for Cape and the surrounding area.

You can learn more at:

So, GET OUT THERE and make your own pot.

words & pics & vid t. smugala

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