Chattanooga clay artist visits Park Creek

Matt Hamilton/Daily Citizen-News

Artist Bonnie Scoggins uses a projection screen as she demonstrates her style of pottery on Tuesday at Park Creek School.

DALTON, Ga. — As Park Creek School students study pottery in their art classes this year, they'll benefit from the knowledge of professional clay artist Bonnie Scoggins, who visited the school Monday and Tuesday.

Having an artist at school interacting with students makes it real for them, said Kay Dean, who is in her fifth year teaching art at Park Creek.

"You can talk about people making a living doing (art), but it's not real until they see it," Dean said.

Scoggins, a graduate of Northwest Whitfield High School whose parents still reside in the Dalton area, has been selling her art professionally in Chattanooga since 2011. A key element to succeeding as an artist is understanding the market, she said.

"You have to figure out what people want to buy and find your niche," Scoggins said.

Scoggins is active on social media and on her website (thebonniepotter.com) and she can be found most Sunday's at the Chattanooga Market, she said. Her work will soon be at The Mill in Dalton, as well.

Her art "is extremely amazing," said Dean, who taught in Ohio for 25 years before moving to Georgia.

"We're very lucky we got a Dalton Education Foundation grant to bring (Scoggins) here to show her work and how she does it," Dean said.

Scoggins used plenty of her own YouTube videos with students at Park Creek to demonstrate techniques, as well as answering a litany of questions.

"I want to show them how I make (art)," she said. "I want them to know what to do, and what not to do."

Scoggins began working with clay when she was only 9 in Idaho's capital of Boise, and she had consistent teachers for nine years through the city's department of parks and recreation, she said. Class sizes were modest, which allowed for plenty of personal attention, and lengthy — two or three hours — so "I was able to really experience the medium."

"I enjoy other (forms of art), but none of them call to me as much as clay does," Scoggins said. "I think three dimensionally, not two dimensionally."

Her current work revolves around imprints from her great-grandmother's handmade doilies she inherited in 2012, using "color and contrast to show off the patterns in the doilies," she said. "I want (others) to think of their own (relatives) when they see these (pieces) and find that internal connection, because the emotional connection is what makes it art."

Based on what they learned this week from Scoggins, Park Creek students can create their own pottery in the school's kiln, a kiln that was actually funded entirely by one of Dean's former Ohio students, the teacher said. "We do clay every year, and the kids love it," she said.

"It definitely captures their attention, because it's very hands-on," Dean added. It's also "peaceful and calming."

Scoggins concurred, noting that working with clay teaches practitioners to be calm and patient.

"With clay, bad things happen when you're not calm and not patient," she said. Pottery also connects one to the earth, using elements such as water, fire, and, obviously, clay, so it's "extremely fulfilling."

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