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Local Artist Creates Functional Masterpieces

By Allison Wilson

To the discerning eye, there is a subtle distinction between handmade pottery and a mass-produced piece you might buy at a retail or home goods store.

One obvious difference is that the handmade piece will be one-of-a-kind. Even if you have a set of dinnerware, for example, each piece will be alike but slightly different- because each one is individually made. A more intrinsic and undefinable quality is the life in the piece.

"There is a life, an energy, in each piece that a machine cannot, under any circumstances, replicate," says local artist Roger Galuska, owner of Rock Garden Pottery in Rochester. "Those who appreciate individuality and art will recognize this. A beautiful piece from a retail store can fool you at first look, but on closer inspection, that piece will have a homogeneousness and perfection that will eventually lose its interest."

Galuska, a former journalist and editor for prominent West Coast newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose News, has been making pottery for 25 years, specializing in wheel-thrown, functional pieces. His online gallery encompasses everything from mugs, to trays, to soap dishes, to vases, to spice jars- all of which are available for purchase. He also creates custom pieces upon request. He says he focuses on the lines of each vessel as he throws it, always "in search of the perfect form."

"There has always been a certain snobbery and conflict over form versus function," he says. "But the two don't have to be at odds. My aim is to create the beauty of art within my functional work, bringing another dimension to that moment with yourself and that mug of coffee or tea, or that favorite casserole for dinner."

Galuska also teaches semi-private pottery classes at his Rock Garden Pottery studio, as well as in an adult education program nearby in Maine. He says that his students often arrive with big plans for what they intend to make, but quickly learn that throwing pottery on the wheel is not as easy as it looks.

"I try to establish a non-threatening environment with individual encouragement and attention," he says. "By the end of the class, you would be amazed how much work is created by people who have never touched clay. When students get discouraged, I call them over to the work rack and say, 'Look at what you've done. Three weeks ago was the first time you've ever touched clay. I think that's pretty remarkable.' And it is!"

In addition to sharing his passion for handmade pottery locally, Galuska travels around New England showcasing his work at fairs, festivals, and farmers' markets. He says that making a living through his art hasn't always been easy, but the feedback of his customers has made it well worth the effort.

"My ability was a gift to me later in life, and that compels me to continue," he says. "There is a lot of myself, my family and my background in each pot, and such gifts are meant to be shared. I hope people who take my pottery with them into their homes find a bit of the comfort, beauty and joy I hope my work contains."

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About The Author

Allison Wilson is an award-winning writer and communications professional whose...

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