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Northwest Arkansas Potter Chosen to Make Awards

Arkansas Arts Council - Monday, March 11, 2019

Gailen Hudson, artist

SPRINGDALE -- Gailen Hudson turned down the volume of Grieg’s “Piano Concerto in A Minor” to talk about pottery. 

“Pottery is the only useful, tactile art we have,” he said.

Eight Governor’s Arts Awards recipients each will receive one of Hudson’s jars as awards during a noon ceremony Tuesday, March 12. Every year, the Arkansas Arts council seeks nominations for Arkansas’s finest artists, arts patrons, business sponsoring or promoting art, leaders in arts development and leaders in bringing arts to education. An independent panel of arts professionals choose the winners.

This year’s event is sold out quickly.

Hudson, a Springdale artist, experiments with local clays, glazes and styles to produce his masterpieces. Standing in his studio on a recent Monday, Hudson showed off his wheel-thrown cups, bowls, plates and jars and his hand-built laser guns, bugs, piggy banks and fish. Hudson also has large-scale sculptures. He’s been creating masterpieces for about 36 years, he said.

“I just do my own thing,” Hudson said.

Largely, Hudson’s pieces are influenced by earthenware of American Indians from the Mississippian-Central and Southern Plains and old, functional wares, like whiskey jugs. His award pieces each vary slightly and have a hefty, practical feel while remaining captivatingly beautiful.

“I told the Arts Council staff that the award should be durable and robust, as well as unique, to exemplify the strength of the Arkansas artistic community,” Council Director Patrick Ralston said. “Gailen Hudson’s works convey that strength. I’m delighted with his creations.”

Hudson, 65, moved to Northwest Arkansas in 1983 and attended the University of Arkansas. He, then, started working in construction, where he was able to gather local clays to use in his pottery. Then, in 2010, Hudson switched careers and started providing clay and doing pottery full time. He said he “got tired of being laid off” after the housing market took a hit and construction businesses closed during the Great Recession.

At the time, a local pottery supply store had closed, so Hudson bought the inventory and named it The Clay Bank, Inc. He started supplying schools, arts centers and others with pottery tools. The business supports his passion for creating his own pottery, he said.

Hudson's studio location is perfect. He lives in Springdale — within walking distance to his studio — with his wife, Cathy. They have two grown sons and a daughter.

Hudson shows his work statewide but also is among the artists with Heartwood Gallery. He continues to carefully categorize the chemistry and outcomes behind his pieces — taking notes in journals he then stores in large, plastic tubs. He’s always been good with math and sciences he said.

“I just like to experiment – see what happens,” he said.

Those experiments have paid off. This past summer, one of Hudson’s exhibits caught the eye of the Arkansas Arts Council. Staff asked to see more of his work and eventually selected this year’s awards from about 14 pieces Hudson showed them.

Hudson said he is honored the Arts Council took notice. The Council will keep another of his jars, one with varying, blue colors, as part of its permanent collection.

“It’s cool,” Hudson said.