Archived Story

May flowers and pottery

Published 9:04am Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bonnie Broitzman paints two types of art: looking inside and looking out at the world.

The more abstract paintings recognize that painting comes from within, the artist said. She paints the energy she gets from a certain subject. She also paints places in the world — and she’s been all over.

The Albert Lea native’s first show at the Albert Lea Art Center opens Thursday with an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. She has works in both the Herfindahl and Storrer galleries. The works on display include many florals and abstracts, a self-portrait from age 9, as well as scenes from Florida, Greece, Minnesota, Italy, Ireland and France.

The retired art teacher said she’s been fortunate to be able to begin each day by reading and following that with journal writing.

“Out of that time comes my desire to paint,” Broitzman said. “I don’t believe any of my intuitive work would have happened without reading and journaling every day.

Broitzman grew up in Albert Lea and graduated from Northwood-Kensett High School. She taught art in the Twin Cities and Austin before taking early retirement seven years ago so she could paint more. She credits growing up on an active farm for the discipline she has in painting every day.

Broitzman said she does something for art every day. “It’s easy,” she said. “All I have to do is open my eyes.”

She now has a house in Austin and a studio on Albert Lea Lake.

She travels and paints one day a week with a group of friends. On her longer trips, she paints and teaches. “I’m an on-location watercolorist,” she said.

Her son, Chris Charlson, who paints and does sculpture, will have five pieces of sculpture in the Herfindahl Gallery. This is the first time they’ve exhibited together.

Also in the Storrer Gallery are works by Albert Lea potter Steve Tubbs.

Over the years, there have always been a few pieces of pottery by Tubbs in his store, Ben’s Floral & Frame Designs, and even his dad’s dime store, Ben Franklin.

But it wasn’t until Tubbs welcomed his daughter-in-law, a graphic designer, into the family that he got a logo for his work and decided to designate a corner of his store to his pottery alone.

Tubbs took his first pottery class, taught by Peter Flick, in the fall of his senior year at Albert Lea High School.

“It came easy, and it was exciting,” Tubbs recalled.

After high school, he took more classes at Austin Community College from Jim Wegner, then got his own potter’s wheel and kiln.

When he transferred to the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, his counselor outlined his business courses.

“Then I asked, ‘But when do I get to take my pottery classes?’ and she must have seen the distraught look on my face, because she left, and came back and said she had just the thing for me,” Tubbs said.

Tubbs ended up earning a bachelor’s degree in individualized studies, which amounted to a two-thirds business degree and two-thirds ceramics degree.

In college, pottery was his part-time job. He and Debbie had married two years out of high school and she worked full time as a legal secretary. He’d do his school work and make pottery, then come home to Albert Lea on the weekends to fire what he’d made.

When he graduated from college, he and Debbie moved back to Albert Lea and he joined his dad in the business, as did Debbie. While owning a business didn’t always leave a lot of time for his pottery, he’d squeeze it in where he could.

He’s made the mugs for the Big Island Rendezvous and Festival since 1987. “I’ve made as few as 100 and as many as 400,” Tubbs said.

Tubbs said in the past year, he’s made an effort to produce more pieces.

In addition to the mugs, he makes wine chillers and vases, covered jars, bowls, pie plates, serving dishes, candle holders, spoon rests, berry colanders and chip and dip servers.

The items are displayed in the gallery on tables fashioned of kiln shelves and old barn boards.

Even though Tubbs has been creating pottery for 30 years, he still gets excited when he opens his kiln.

“There’s a certain amount of unpredictability with glaze,” he said, adding he’s learned that he needs to be patient when it comes to opening the kiln.

If opened too soon, the pottery can break.

He buys his clay and he buys his glazes. “It’s how you apply the glazes and what you do with them that makes things interesting. I use a mixture of two or three glazes,” he said. He sticks to greens, browns and blues.

He uses a process called “cone 8 oxidation.”

In some of his shallow bowls, he arranges clear and colored broken glass before firing them. “At 2300 degrees, it meals, then it crackles when it cools,” Tubbs said of the effect. “It’s a 30-hour cool on the process.”

The May-June show is Tubbs’ first at the Art Center.

In the Cruikshank gallery are prints and other items by Austinite Dustin DeBoer.

The show runs through June 27. Regular gallery hours are from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday through June 4. Then summer hours begin on June 5. Then, the galleries are open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.