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Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

Johnson City artist exhibiting work in Hilton Head

"Acorn Totem"by Janis Wilson Hughes
Additional photos below »

May 05, 2014

The Art League of Hilton Head is presenting the exhibition, "Cycles of Vitality: Ceramic Sculpture by Janis Wilson Hughes," a Johnson City native, in the Walter Greer Gallery on Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Hughes' decorative sculptures draw inspiration from various cycles in nature: seasons of planting and harvesting, the migration of birds, the ebb and flow of the tide, changing phases of the moon, and our own arc from infancy to old age.

With the Appalachian woods as her childhood playground, Hughes watched the forces of nature both build up and tear down life in an endless cycle. Today the themes of Hughes' work encompass both celebrating the protective shells of latent, dormant life personified in her seed pod sculptures as well as exploring the open spaces created through the weathering of time.

"Life is filled with inevitable and interdependent cycles of vitality," says Hughes. The work included in this show explores vitality through the use of many nature inspired forms including botanical seed pods, shells, and soaring or sedentary birds that are sculpted from stoneware clay and finished with earthy surface treatments.

Hughes creates each piece by hand and uses numerous techniques to construct textured surfaces from adding flowing slip or soft clay on forms to using wood carving tools to sculpt surfaces. Areas of raw clay are left exposed, and colors are applied sparingly using underglazes, stains, engobes and custom glazes. The scale of work ranges from petite shell sculptures that hang on the wall to floor standing seed pod totems several feet in height.

Though she has been based out of Alpharetta, Ga., for 10 years, Hughes considers herself a native of Johnson City, Tenn. In 1998 Hughes obtained a degree in chemical engineering with an environmental specialization from Auburn University. After graduation she relocated to Wisconsin to begin an 11 year career as a scientist and engineer.

Over the course of several years Hughes studied under numerous potters from around the country through workshops and classes. She built her own studio in 2004 after moving to Georgia, and in 2009 Hughes left the corporate world to pursue ceramics fulltime. She is now a fulltime ceramic artist and owner of Evolution Stoneware Pottery.

In 2012 Hughes solidified the creative vision for her body of nature inspired sculptural work during a fruitful artist residency as a Fellow at the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences. While Hughes' primary focus is on making art, she also teaches her techniques through workshops, articles for pottery magazines, short videos, and full length instructional DVDs. Hughes has been featured on the cover of Clay Times Magazine and print articles in Pottery Making Illustrated Magazine and the Ceramic Arts Daily website.

Hughes' work is carried in several galleries including Boones Creek Potters Gallery in Johnson City. Her work has been included in more than 30 exhibitions across the United States, and her "Moonlight Migration Totem" was awarded first place in 3D art at the Southworks national juried exhibition in April of this year. Hughes resides in Alpharetta, Ga., with her husband and two dogs. She may be contacted through her website

A! ExtraTopics: Art, Exhibits

"Exotic Seed Pod Collection" by Janie Wilson Hughes

"Vitality Flock" by Janis Wilson Hughes