Artists’ Open House Celebrates the Season

Ceramicist Pam Summers is having a very good year. The Fort Worth-based artist had a solo exhibit at the Longview Museum of Fine Arts and completed a massive public art project for the city of Grand Prairie. She and her husband, glass artist Raymond Rains, picked up new galleries this year — dh collection in Fort Worth and Eclectic Galleries in Dallas — and a gallery in Key West, Fla., added Pam to its stable of artists. So, it is time to celebrate.

The couple are going to be doing just that at their annual December open house at Cliff House Studio on Dec. 6. This will mark the 33rd anniversary of the annual party. They host it no matter what kind of year they’ve had selling their art, but this year it is particularly sweet. Rains will demonstrate glass-blowing techniques, and Summers, how her raku pots are made.

The party at Cliff House Studio, on a promontory near Eagle Mountain Lake, kicks off many people’s holiday shopping. It makes for a short trip to the country for families, a bit of art-making education, and some shopping in support of local artists.

The crowds — and there are always families — scurry from one studio to the next and after seeing the demos, find their way to the gallery store where spectacular finished products are on display.

Summers is known for her polychrome glazes and raku-fired pieces. The polychrome glazes are crayon bright, and she applies them in bold, geometric patterns that are instantly recognizable as hers. She has been making these in sizes from palm-sized vessels to enormous pots for as long as she’s been having the open house.

Her collectors never tire of them, and this signature effect looks as fresh now as it did when she began making the pots.

She also has a deft hand at glossy finishes with luster ware and crackle glazes. Many of her raku firings produce a matte surface.

“I use organic materials such as horse hair, dried grasses, Spanish moss, things I find on my walks. I soak them in salt water; then, after drying, wrap them around the pots, then sprinkle on salt and copper sulfate and wrap them up like a baked potato and put them in the raku kiln. I never know what I’m going to get,” she says.

The organic materials react with the chemicals, and the result is a lovely palette of wispy, ethereal shadows that artfully play across the surface. After cooling, the pots are waxed. “Native Americans would use bear fat; I use natural shoe polish,” Summers says.

Rains pulls his molten glass into attenuated plant forms or rolls it into conch shells. He also takes slabs of glass called dalles and frames them in freestanding screens that he places along the pathways on their property.

The glass colors he chooses often are sympathetic to the glazes Summers uses, and their pieces commingle in familial unity on shelves in their shared gallery.