Brainerd potter Nick DeVries was named a 2018 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.
The award of $9,500 will enable the artist to explore new clay bodies, glazes and decals to expand his current body of work. The project will culminate in an opening event and public exhibition at Ripple River Gallery in Aitkin, where DeVries has exhibited and sold work for more than a decade. The opening event is scheduled from 2-5 p.m. Aug. 18. His work will be on display at the gallery from Aug. 15 to Sept. 16. The event is free and open to the public.
DeVries of Baxter studied art-ceramics and painting-at St John's University, in Collegeville. He moved to Minneapolis and worked for many years at a production pottery in the Twin Cities, but left that work in 2011 to be a full-time, self-employed potter. The artist and his family relocated to Brainerd in 2016.
For DeVries, art was always a passion, beginning when he was in elementary school, a news release stated. He filled sketchbooks throughout his childhood and as a student at Brainerd High School DeVries took almost every available art class. As a college student, DeVries spent summers in St. Joseph working with the late Jim Loso, a potter and high school teacher who gave him firsthand experience in a potter's studio, as well as experience traveling and selling pots at art fairs. Without that crucial experience with Loso, DeVries isn't sure he would have known how to build his career, the release stated. Loso proved to be the friend and mentor he needed.
"Jim Loso was easily the most influential person in my career, and my life for that matter," DeVries stated. "I miss him and think of him often."
Over the years DeVries built a career with regional and national exposure. He is represented by 10 galleries and has exhibited at some of the top national and regional art festivals. He has been published in and featured on the cover of Ceramics Monthly.
"Making pots for a living is a dream, a hard dream where you have to work a ton and push
constantly to make better work, gain exposure, and make at least some sales," he stated. "There's no road map for this kind of a life. It's kind of a choose your own adventure book, but there are no guarantees that the adventure will work out in the end."
Through this grant project, DeVries is exploring a red clay body, an earthier look that contrasts
with the more urban, industrial look of the porcelain clay body he has used in recent years. This
grant project gives him the financial breathing room to explore and let the influence of moving
back to rural, central Minnesota take hold on these pots. In his new work, DeVries states the natural world outside his window takes root: the cute red barn in his backyard, the big red and white pines that tower over his home studio, the oaks and the maples that sprinkle the backyard. This quieter life is why he and his family left the city, after all, and it only fits that his everyday view would make its way onto the pots.
"After many years living in Minneapolis we started to yearn for a quieter and slower pace," Devries stated. "While we enjoyed our time in Minneapolis and still love to visit, we couldn't be happier to be in Brainerd."
This grant/activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature; and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.