The Oregon Coast Council for the Arts presents the exhibition, “Whimsical Clay,” by Emily Free Wilson and Matt Wilson, from October 2 to November 27 in the Coastal Oregon Visual Artist Showcase (COVAS) at the Newport Visual Arts Center (777 NW Beach Dr.). The artist team will present award-winning hand-built and functional ceramic works created out of mid-range porcelain. The COVAS Showcase features artists rotating from Oregon’s seven coastal counties, and based in Gardiner, the artist team will be representing Coastal Douglas County. A public opening will be held on Saturday, October 2, noon to 4pm, with available artists speaking at 2pm.
Emily Free Wilson and Matt Wilson, along with Emily’s brother, operate their business Free Ceramics, which they started in 2009 in Helena, Montana. There they converted an old funeral home into The Studio Art Center, complete with private artist studios, community spaces for rent, a showroom and opportunities for live music, workshops and events. They found a supportive arts community in Helena and have grown their business to include galleries throughout the United States.
“I need to make fun, happy, colorful things out of clay,” Emily Free Wilson says. “My imagination can turn images of rain, fireworks or candy into fun abstract designs that dance across the forms. I strive to make beautiful and whimsical pieces of art that make you smile and are a joy to use.”
In 2019, Free Ceramics uprooted from Montana and moved to Gardiner, Oregon (just north of Reedsport), where the artist team purchased a middle-school building and started the Oregon Coast School of Art. The school provides studio and production spaces, and workshops, and is developing an artist residency program. The couple is raising their two children while continuing to make their unique style of pottery.
Emily Free Wilson was born in Anchorage, Alaska and grew up in Roseburg. She received her BFA in ceramics and sculpture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and then moved to Helena for an internship at the Archie Bray Foundation. She would go onto serve as director at the Bray Foundation for over 10 years. Emily has received grants from the Montana Arts Association and the Myrna Loy Art Center. She has been a visiting artist at the Ceramics Ireland International Festival, Saddleback College, Pottery Northwest and the Jackson Art Association. Her work has been published in Ceramics Monthly and various ceramic books.
With a background in engineering and carpentry, Matt Wilson took his skills and combined them with his love of geology and science in the ceramics field. Along with Emily, Matt runs Free Ceramics, slip casts, colors and glazes, and is responsible for the science and mechanics behind the scenes.
The Newport Visual Arts Center adheres to all health and safety protocol provided by the Governor’s Office as well as the City of Newport. All visitors to the VAC are required to wear proper masks.
The Oregon Coast Council for the Arts manages the Newport Visual Arts Center and the Newport Performing Arts Center, and serves as the regional arts council for Oregon’s seven coastal counties.