Jim & Lala Howard—master potters, a joyous life

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Pottery by Lala Howard

Wherever I travel, I enjoy visiting historic artists’ homes and studios. While in New York last summer, I had a opportunity to go one better, when I was invited to visit master potters Jim and Lala Howard in their home studio, and observe Lala at work. Jim and Lala have lived and worked together on the woodsy outskirts of Croton-on-Hudson, New York for more than thirty years. Their joyful collaboration—in life and in art—is an inspiration.

Pots waiting for the kiln
Over the decades, the two have developed their high-fired stoneware and porcelain ceramics into exquisitely sensitive works of art that are ever changing, ever experimental.
A home filled with light--and pottery
A home filled with light–and pottery

 

Working in harmony

The artists have very different, but complementary styles. Jim was originally a sculptor, and he has a sculptor’s sensibility in his specialty, making raku ware using the ancient Japanese technique. German-born and trained Lala apprenticed in the salt-glaze pottery village of Adendorf on the Rhine, and likens the German word ‘ton’, or sound, to her work with clay. She is always seeking “the magic of tone”.

Lala and Jim Howard, master potters
Lala and Jim met while working as professional potters and instructors at the Clay Art Center in Port Chester, New York in the late 1960s. They have been exhibiting and selling their work in museums, art centers, and galleries in the U.S. and Europe ever since.
Lala Howard at her potter's wheel
To see Lala in action was a personal treat, since I own a couple of pieces of her work.
Pottery by Jim Howard
Jim was a sculptor before he became a potter.

 

As Lala puts it,” the mountains came down to us and through friction, force, heat, cold, water and time became clay. Now we potters are raising it back to the mountains.”

“We’re in a new phase now,” Jim adds, “getting richer in colors, using more glazes, creating different feelings.”

Still, it’s the humanity that shines through in both Howards’ work.  “We’re developing toward making a good pot” Jim says—one that represents the whole human being.”

 

Living with nature

Late summer blooms in a country garden
Jim and Lala’s house is surrounded by green: a lawn that rambles into the trees, pots of flowering vines.
Homemade blueberry cobbler
To round out a late-summer morning, Lala served a delicious breakfast around the Howards’ cozy table—bagels with all the trimmings, fresh fruit, a freshly made blueberry cobbler, and Jim’s coffee brewed from home-roasted beans.

After breakfast, we stepped out onto the deck overlooking the garden and took in the quiet vista. As we stood there, an enormous hawk swooped from a high perch and strutted his stuff before us in the grass.  It was a magical moment, one that the Howards treasure and were happy to share with their guests.

Private shows and public exhibitions

Lala and Jim Howard's work on show
Jim and Lala have participated in many group and solo exhibitions through the years. They continue showing privately at their Croton studio, in Washington DC, and at Green Hill Invitationals.

A year ago, I was fortunate to attend Jim and Lala’s annual pre-Christmas invitational. Now, having spent time with these folks on their home turf, I feel doubly blessed to know them and their work.

Pinterest-perfect images

Lala Howard turns a pot on her wheelLala Howard turns a pot on her wheelRaku from the hands of Jim Howard

 

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13 COMMENTS

  1. My sisters and I used to babysit for Lala and Jim’s children Mary and John in the early 1970s. They are lovely people and I have a small collection of pieces they gave me then. I love hand made pottery because of them. So nice to see their pictures and know they are doing well.

  2. We love the Howards and have a huge collection of their art. Jim and Lala made our wedding dishware which we have been enjoying every day since 1989. They both inspired me to be a vegetarian which I have remained also since 1989. Great story and so good to see them still working their magic!

    • Thanks so much for your comment. We have just a few pieces, but treasure them. Lucky you, to have known and been inspired by Jim and Lala for so long!

  3. great article! I have known them since the 80’s and always looked forward to their NC visits. I have a small collection that I use and have been using for 3 decades! Their coffee mugs are my favorite….perfectly weighted and with a great hand feel!

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