Ferndale artist takes part in exhibition showcasing historic Detroit ceramics studio

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published March 16, 2016

 Ferndale ceramics artist Rick Pruckler sits on his porch March 11 with a piece of his art. Pruckler is one of 25 artists in the show at the Janice Charach Gallery to celebrate the long history of the Pewabic ceramics studio in Detroit.

Ferndale ceramics artist Rick Pruckler sits on his porch March 11 with a piece of his art. Pruckler is one of 25 artists in the show at the Janice Charach Gallery to celebrate the long history of the Pewabic ceramics studio in Detroit.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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FERNDALE — Fresh out of graduate school, Rick Pruckler had the opportunity to work at Pewabic, a nonprofit ceramic design studio in Detroit. And ever since that day in 1986, Pruckler has been in and out of the historic studio.

Now Pruckler, a Ferndale resident, has a chance to show how Pewabic helped shape him as a ceramics artist as part of the “Abiogensis: From Clay to Community” exhibit at the Janice Charach Gallery to celebrate 25 artists with Pewabic backgrounds.

The show opened March 13 and runs through April 21 with work from the artists filling the two-story gallery.

“I definitely responded to the historic nature (of Pewabic), and it drew me into the place that was very vibrant and a lot was going on all the time,” Pruckler, 56, said. “Kilns are always firing and it is a living tradition that never stopped. And they weren’t locked into entirely old styles, as they worked in design to bring new techniques in, so my time was very enjoyable there.”

Currently, Pruckler puts some work in at Pewabic and teaches a class, but most of his time was spent there after getting out of school.

During that time, Pruckler worked on several projects, from work on the People Mover to helping design the line of pottery the studio sells.

“People have modified the design since, but I set the initial design for that line,” Pruckler said. “And I have done some mural work for them over the years, and other design work.”

Pruckler was born in Iowa, and at the age of 8, he participated in a community arts program on the weekends, which introduced him to ceramics. He earned a full-ride art scholarship to the University of Iowa and went to the University of Michigan for his graduate degree.

Getting that early introduction to ceramics and pottery, Pruckler said he had a natural connection with the medium.

“I have always had a tactical sense of form, which is what I enjoy about ceramics, that interaction of movement, and the clay is very responsive to that,” he said. “I have worked with wood and metal too, but clay is usually my strongest medium because I had a very good response to clay from the start.”

For the exhibit, Pruckler said he chose some large sculptural vessels as well as some smaller pieces, such as a teapot, to show. With a big interest in glazes, Pruckler said a lot of his work has flowing water imagery.

With 113 years of history, Pewabic has a deep lineage of artists who have come through there, something that makes the new exhibit something special, Janice Charach Gallery Director Kelly Kaatz said.

“These artists comprise a who’s who of the most creative and groundbreaking ceramic artists plying their crafts across Michigan and the country,” she said. “It is a great tribute to the vitality of Pewabic that each and every one of the artists has a passionate history with the organization. We are greatly honored to partner with Pewabic in presenting the exciting work of these gifted ceramic artists.”

While Pruckler’s work at Pewabic has evolved throughout the years, he said he is currently enjoying teaching there. He also taught at Wayne State University for 25 years and currently runs the ceramics program at Macomb Community College on a part-time basis.

“I always wanted to teach, as it just came naturally to me,” he said. “It keeps me in touch with the community of other artists; otherwise, I would be in my basement most of the time. I just really enjoy teaching and interacting with other people who work with clay.”

The Janice Charach Gallery is located at 6600 W. Maple Road in West Bloomfield Township. The gallery is open Mondays-Thursdays and on Sundays. The hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays-Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays, and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays.

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