Torpedo Factory’s Scope Gallery offers “to-be-used” pottery

Meet a potter, and chances are she’s a good cook.

“I would say 99 percent of us are phenomenal cooks,” boasts potter Tracie Griffith, citing a couple reasons. “We tend to like to experiment and don’t mind getting our hands dirty.” Both are certainly key to pottery. Hand-molding wet clay into a particular shape can be tricky and dirty, and the results of baking it in a kiln can be unpredictable. “You have to be really open to a lot of variables…. You’re just never guaranteed to get the same product.”

Suan Ying: Pear and eggplant dishes

Suan Ying: Pear and eggplant dishes

As a result, every piece of ceramic art on display at Alexandria’s Scope Gallery, where Griffith works, is one-of-a-kind. And naturally a lot of it was made for cooking or serving food. “Everything in the gallery, all the dishware is microwave/dishwasher/oven/food-safe. This is to-be-used pottery,” she says. “We take great pains to fire those pots at 2,000 degrees.” The heat ensures the clay becomes waterproof. Every year over Thanksgiving the gallery in Old Town’s Torpedo Factory offers a food-related show, with works from the Kiln Club, the Washington-area professional organization for ceramic artists.

Over the next month the Scope Gallery offers Seeds of Summer, a garden-focused exhibition put together by another local pottery group, Washington Ceramic Guild. “We tailor [the shows] after us as individuals, what our interests are,” says Griffith, noting that gardening is another affiliated pottery passion. “We all like our herbs and our different things to cook.” The show includes painted and decorated handmade flowerpots, garden containers, vases and multiuse trays.

A native of California, the Reston-based Griffith distinctly remembers visiting the Torpedo Factory as a girl on an 8th grade trip. “I remember the brick sidewalks, and going into this thing and seeing artists just making huge, wonderful things,” she recalls. “It’s just unabashed creativity in here, not only pottery but the whole arts community.” And as a co-op gallery run by its member artists, “every time you go into Scope Gallery you’re going to find an artist there and can talk to them about their work.”

Seeds of Summer opens Monday, June 30, and runs through July 27, in the Scope Gallery of Torpedo Factory Art Center, 105 North Union St. Alexandria. Call 703-548-6288 or visit torpedofactory.org.

Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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