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The Arts Scene: Smoke-fired pottery offers spontaneity

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YAKIMA, Wash. -- Fall is magical in Yakima, especially with all the colors and textures, and I don’t mind the cool air with the bright sunshine. The warm, rich earth colors of our landscape, covered with fall leaves, is a constantly changing natural work of art, even with a little bit of rain.

The dramatic landscape and sky of Yakima is what also influences Debbie Sundlee when she is creating ceramics. She says she takes her “cues from its diverse landscape of basalt rock, rich soil, mountains, forests and water.” She creates useful classically proportioned containers on which the surface is painted, and uses smoke-firing techniques that create “strong, but controlled, colors spontaneously.”

Jan Crocker also creates smoke-fired pottery using a nonglazed method in what she says is “creative chaos endemic with using fire.”

Sundlee describes how “the serendipitous lick of flame and smoke from natural burning materials creates unique flashes on the surface of the clay.” For Crocker, she says of this process that “sometimes I have spectacular results and, of course, others are not so good. One always learns from whatever happens. The lovely earthy tones and colors one can achieve are truly inspiring to me.”

Sundlee and Crocker are showing in the Yakima Maker Space Gallery ( You can view the exhibit from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays through Nov. 17.

You may want to view the gallery during the Craft Beverage Walk on Saturday. Yakima Maker Space is one of 11 venues that are taking part in this event, which runs from noon to 5 p.m. Single Hill Brewery will be serving in the gallery.

As you are on the Craft Beverage Walk, don’t forget to stop by the lobby at Hotel Maison, where you can see work by Bill Brennan, Albert Van Troba and W.D. Frank while you sip beverages by Bale Breaker Brewing Co. and Naches Height Vineyard.

For tickets and more information, visit

• David Lynx is executive director of the Larson Gallery at Yakima Valley College. Learn more at

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