A couple of weeks ago, as part of my sabbatical, I was able to visit with two of my ceramic professors from Penn State University, David Dontigny and James Stephenson. I had not seen them in about 22 years and it was great visiting with these two graduate school mentors. Dave and his wife Lorna let me stay with them which was nice. They both are so kind, I remember when I first met them they let Linda and I store all of our belongings on their screen porch for a few weeks while we were waiting to move into our apartment on campus. They are wonderful giving people and would give you the shirt off their backs. Last year Dave had by-pass surgery and he looked like he was doing well. They recently moved to a condo in State College where they don’t have to do any yard work. Dave has a studio in the basement where he continues to make pots using red clay, slips, and glazes. He gave me several small pots that he had made along with some of his Cone 10 glazes. He also gave me a bunch of his handmade wooden molds that he used to make trays and platters with.
The first morning I was there Jim came over and along with Dave gave me a tour of the campus showing me some of the changes that have happened since I have been away. We stopped by Jim’s studio in town where he showed me his recent work. He has stopped doing ceramics and is now working on wall sculptures using sticks and branches. With some he leaves the natural wood and others he is painting with bright colors. Some are shaped like a buffalo skull that he had in his studio that was from Montana. Afterwards we went to his house where his wife Linda had lunch prepared for us. Jim had several of his wood sculptures on the walls and many old decorative ceramic tiles. While in college at PSU, Linda and I had gone to his home and seen his tile collection. This inspired us to collect many tiles over the years. Later that night, we all went out to dinner in Boalsburg at an Italian place near Jim and Linda’s home.
Dave and Jim are both from Montana and went to the University of Montana and studied with Rudy Audio getting their MFA in Art (Ceramics) from there. Dave came to Penn State first in the late 60’s and Jim came several years later. They helped built a great ceramics program at PSU and Dave later had the vision to do the Supermud conferences at Penn State. After I graduated in 1983 Jim became Chair of the Visual Arts Department at PSU for 11 years.
One of things I noticed about them on this trip was how kind they were. Dave seems to always have a positive outlook on life and gives others the benefit of the doubt. He laughs a lot which shows his humble kind disposition. Jim seemed to always be concerned about others often talking about one of their friends who was sick. He kept telling Dave that they needed to go weekly and visit a person in the hospital. I don’t think I ever saw this side of Jim. He was always pushing me to see his vision and we sometimes would butt heads. We were both stubborn back then. I remember once we had a long dragged out discussion in my studio. After that night I thought we both left with an appreciation of each other. Here are few photos I took of their work.