Expectations in clay

By Shea Stanfield

Brandon Sanderson, American Fantasy and Science Fiction author, once wrote, “Expectations are like fine pottery. The harder you hold them, the more likely they are to crack.” In the world of ceramic artist, Allison Shock of Three Star Owl, one learns quickly to “expect the unexpected” in the fact and fiction of Shock’s thoughtfully designed clay masterpieces. 

Born in Los Angeles, Shock lived in various parts of the United States during her

childhood years – Phoenix, Chicago, New York. Life in a family with an architect father made for an inspirational upbringing. Shock remembers his logical thinking and credits it with providing her with a “step-up” attitude when it came to problem solving.

“The skill of solving problems comes in handy when creating in any medium,” Shock said.

Today Shock can tell us that everything she has ever done, as part of her work, from illustrating ancient Egyptian artifacts in a museum’s storeroom to volunteering as an educator at a bird-of-prey center, is reflected in her creations. Her educational background is in ancient history, languages and archeology. From there she draws inspiration from many cultures across centuries. According to Shock, her ceramics training has been an, ‘on-the-job process’ as she has run a studio and taught clay techniques at the college level or in community facilities for over 30 years.

Shock ended up back in Arizona when her geochemist husband took a faculty position at Arizona State University. Her micro-studio, Three Star Owl, is set up in their home in south Scottsdale where she produces clay tableware and sculpture. She continues to teach adult clay classes for the City of Scottsdale at the Eldorado Community Center and at the Mesa Arts Center clay studio. Shock’s work in clay has its roots in 28,000 years of production in functional clay items. Virtually every culture on earth has developed household containers and objects from the earth where they lived. The culmination, especially for Shock who is trained in archeology, is endless inspirational examples from and in nature where she gathers 100 percent of her ideas. Shock sums it up as, “Being part of this millennia-old tradition is amazing and tremendously inspiring.”

Three Star Owl studio is open each November for the Camelback Studio Tour in early November. Last year, she joined the Sonoran Arts League’s Hidden in the Hills Studio Tour for the first time as a guest artist at a host studio. She loves her work in clay and sharing that love with others both as an instructor and artist. Her clay creations are fun, whimsical, alluring and best of all useful. Once one of her creations has made it into your home or office, you’ll wonder, “How on earth you ever managed to live with the boring industrial constructed stoneware that occupies space in your kitchen now?” Why have an “off-the-shelf” design when you can have affordable, one-of-a-kind pieces that will catch the conversation of all your guests?

Visit Shock’s amazingly informational website, www.ThreeStarOwl.com, for history in clay, cultural influences, techniques and a list of her shows, classes and, best of all, pictures of her work. Make functional art a part of your life in the new decade.

Contact Arts Columnist Shea Stanfield on flowingquill@yahoo.com.