Barry Lockman has had dirt under his fingernails for more than half a century. From playing in muddy creeks as a child to discovering a passion for pottery as an adult, clay has always played a significant, though evolving, role in his life. Lockman’s inspiration comes from the writings of master potters worldwide, including Michael Cardew of England, who believed in good form and technique over decoration, and Shōji Hamada of Japan, who emphasized the importance of using local materials.
Our State sat down with Lockman to learn more about how he harnesses his connection with nature to create a product with a true sense of place.
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OS: When did your interest in art, and pottery specifically, develop?
Lockman: I was stationed in Europe as a young man, and I spent my free time in museums. I loved spending hours looking at the sculptures, paintings, and gardens. When I turned 29, I started carving wood. I eventually decided that I wanted to learn how to draw so I could design my ideas instead of just working off the cuff. So I enrolled in a drawing course at Gaston College in 1971. One day, I walked through the kiln shed and saw a piece of clay on the wheel. It fascinated me, so I signed up for a course in pottery, too. I’ve been addicted to clay ever since.
OS: What type of pottery do you most enjoy making?
Lockman: I focus on creating things that have a function, such as vases, bowls, casserole dishes, and other practical items, because I like knowing that people can actually use my pottery. My most popular items are my 16- and 28-ounce mugs.
OS: You mark each pot you make with a honeybee stamp. What’s the significance of this?
Lockman: I like the idea that a honeybee will leave its hive and make use of whatever it finds nearby in nature. My hero, Japanese potter Shōji Hamada, said, “There’s something important in using materials where you are.” I use local clay, minerals, and glazes, so I fell in love with the idea that the honeybee is symbolic of me using what I have where I am.
OS: How do you use local supplies to both distinguish your pottery and celebrate its origins in the Foothills?
Lockman: Most potters I associate with buy their glazes, but I make my own. I also find my own clay instead of purchasing it. The clay I use now is from a hillside above a creek in Dallas — I played in that creek as a child. It’s just more natural to go nearby and dig up clay if it’s available. I feel a connection to it, and there’s a certain personal pride in knowing that I’m using local materials.
OS: How has access to public power allowed you to grow your operation?
Lockman: My first 15 years as a potter, I used a kick wheel, so I had to continuously kick to power it. When I finally saved enough money to buy a motorized wheel — you just step on a pedal to make it go — I was very happy. So electricity is a big factor in making pottery. I could work without it, but it would take a great deal of adjustment.
OS: Your love of nature has been present since childhood. How are you able to channel that passion into pottery?
Lockman: I’ve always been enthralled by nature — the peacefulness of it, I suppose. I believe nature creates beauty all around us fresh each day, and I aspire to capture some of that beauty and freshness in my pots. When I’m working with clay, it’s like being in a different world. To think that the clay I use is the remains of rocks that were here when the earth formed billions of years ago is an awesome thought.