Claudia Ka Cartee

Potter, Seminary

Claudia Cartee is a skilled potter with an eclectic background. Her father’s family was and is based in Seminary, Mississippi. Claudia was born in Orange County, California, where her father cultivated the craft of mold making for pottery and her mother painting pieces. They soon collaborated in the making and sales of slip-cast earthenware. (Slip-casting is a technique for mass-producing pottery and is especially apt for shapes that can’t be done on a potter’s wheel.) When Claudia was nine years old, the family returned to Seminary. She helped trim pieces and kept the shop clean and orderly. She credits her mother as her inspiration for decorating pottery, and her father for her work ethic.

When Claudia was fifteen, she saw someone throw a piece on a potter’s wheel and was captivated. She taught herself to make small bowls, watched her mother carve and glaze, and made a series of student pieces that won the student division in a show. But pottery would be put on hold for a while. Her father insisted that she major in business in junior college. She moved back to California, finished her AA degree, and got a job with International Harvester in San Diego. Within six months, she was the company head’s executive secretary, a job she held for three years. But her heart remained in the world of pottery. She returned to blue jeans and completed a degree in art at California State University in Fullerton, working at a pottery studio part-time. She met her future husband there: Troy was then a pottery inspector. She set up her own studio in California, but everything was too expensive, so, in 1974, returned to the land her father had never sold in Seminary, Mississippi, where she remains. She and Troy built their home, taking some 32 years to get it right. They have revamped her studio several times and have a gallery underway.

Claudia feels that her mental skills, craftsmanship, and glazes all have improved over the years. Now that she has put aside the time-consuming and physically-taxing burden of going to shows—Troy: “Why couldn’t you have made jewelry?!?!—she has more time to concentrate on artistic decisions. In one popular artistic break from functional pottery, she makes what are called river dolls. A woman with whom she was going to share a show wanted the show to include some anthropomorphic figures. Claudia was fly-fishing in Colorado at the time, looked down, saw three stones in graduated sizes arranged like a doll, and was in business! Other pieces fall between her mainstay of beautiful dinnerware and primarily artistic work, such as what she calls her tulip series of Japanese-inspired small pieces. She’s often working on a new glaze, and always developing new ideas in dinnerware. She loves to cook and loves a beautiful presentation. She loves to seek aesthetic common ground with patrons. All of this works together: she foresees lots of wonderful changes coming.

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