As chairperson of the Greater Gig Harbor Open Studio Tour, Barb Bourscheidt helps about two dozen local artists welcome the public into their sanctuaries for one weekend a year.
As a potter herself, Bourscheidt knows the pleasure of sharing her work with the world.
“I love having my work so accessible,” said the retired Gig Harbor resident, who first picked up clay as a young mother and soon found herself fascinated.
Bourscheidt, who moved to Gig Harbor seven years ago and took up the volunteer chair position of the tour a few years later, calls herself a “functional potter.” That is, she wants her work to be used, appreciated for its purpose and just for its art.
“I want to be able to share my creativity, through my production of an object and then someone else’s use for it,” she said. “I don’t want somebody to buy a piece and then feel like it was such a precious investment that they can’t use it.”
She mostly produces items intended for everyday use, in the kitchen or in the garden.
After she first picked up clay, Bourscheidt took several ceramics classes to hone her craft, and she frequently worked as a studio potter while she raised her kids as a form of supplemental income.
Bourscheidt said she was drawn to clay’s mutability and the ability it gave her to blend the technical and the creative.
“Clay is a really sensual medium to work in,” she said. “You’re only limited by your imagination in terms of design, and you’re only limited by your ability in terms of being able to create a piece. It’s a medium that feeds my soul, but I can also produce a viable object with my hands.”
It’s the reason artists have been attracted to clay, one of the earliest art forms, for millennia, Bourscheidt said.
“Clay objects were developed along with the history of mankind, and vice-versa,” she said. “They can last for thousands of years.”
She creates her own functional items in a small studio space in her backyard, which also is a place for her to escape into her artwork.
“It’s a real refuge from the world,” she said. “If the world is crazy, I can just go out there and put some music on.”
The annual studio tour, held the third weekend of September, gives Bourscheidt a chance to connect with her customers and to let them observe the space where she creates. She likes her customers to know how their products are made, and by whom.
All of Bourscheidt’s ceramics are made with local, non-toxic materials, and are dishwasher- and microwave- safe.
“I just like to share my ability to make things that are useful,” she said of opening her studio.
Bourscheidt believes her adopted hometown to be uniquely qualified to host an event like the studio tour, given the number of independent artists who have home studios in Gig Harbor.
“It’s wonderful to be in a community where there’s so much creativity,” she said. “And creative people tend to always want to share.”
Bourscheidt also shows work at a booth during the annual Gig Harbor Garden Tour, at other local events and, currently, at Urban Garden Company in Tacoma. Her work can be seen at naturesloverclayworks.com.