Ted Norris is all about pottery and zen: to hear him tell it, the two are totally intertwined.
“Pottery is a wonderful release. It’s not something you can come and do and watch football while you’re throwing a pot,” the 60-year-old Camas resident said. “The focus is on the clay, on the wheel. You get your zen.”
In mid-December, Norris will begin to share that zen with others when he and his wife of 28 years, Anna, open Norris Arts in a 1,000-square-foot space in Camas’ Northwest Sixth Avenue Commercial Center, near the roundabout off Highway 14. Anna, a painter, will be a partner on the project but leave the day-to-day operations to the potter.
The new business will allow Ted Norris a chance to throw clay on his pottery wheels, teach beginning and intermediate pottery classes and provide open studio space to area potters five days a week. He also plans to sell his own work, as well as work from other artists, at Norris Arts.
Norris has taught classes before, but never had his own teaching studio. He said he’s looking forward to working around people again.
“I’m excited to be in an environment where I can sit and watch other people create. The theme that Anna and I really want to portray with this, is sharing the love of clay,” he said. “It’s been a dream of mine forever.”
The couple moved to Camas from Las Vegas in 2014. Before that, they lived in Hawaii, where Norris tried his hand at pottery for the first time in 1972. He visited a local surfer’s house who had a wheel set up looking out at the ocean.
“We were just in awe of this guy as ninth-graders,” he said of the surfer. “That got me hooked.”
In the decades since, the art form has been a release for Norris, which is what he hopes to provide for others.
“I’ve been (in my home studio) at three in the morning (and) I couldn’t sleep. I’ll come throw pots for awhile. You can’t beat that,” he said. “I love doing this. This is my love. But it’s just me.”
Norris currently works out of his detached garage, which is covered wall-to-wall in equipment, finished pottery and works-in-progress. He plans to move most of those items to the new storefront.
Although he won’t be able to walk out and toss clay at 3 a.m. anymore, Norris said he is excited to get back into a routine following retirement from his health-administration career.
The Camas artist said he didn’t want to be one of those retirees who just sits around with nothing to do.
“When they retire, they go into this funk. They get up in the morning. They read the paper. They go on the email, maybe they go shopping. One day they go to the casino. I don’t want to get into a rhythm like that,” he said.
Now Norris’ rhythm will be teaching Tuesday through Saturday, and manning the store for open studio time in-between classes. He said he likes the idea of structuring classes himself, rather than working in someone else’s program.
“It’s a hybrid of everything I’ve ever been a part of. That’s the neat part, because it’s mine I can build it the way I want,” Norris said.
Without access to the space yet, Norris is stashing his store set-up — including a new kiln and eight pottery wheels — at Georgies Ceramic and Clay Co., in Northeast Portland.
Once everything is in place at his Camas space, Norris said he would encourage anyone with any level of interest in pottery to stop by Norris Arts and give it a shot.
“I want it to be as open a program as possible for the small scope it is,” he said. “I think anyone can do it.”
Even if your pottery doesn’t turn out great, you might just find some zen of your own, Norris added.
“With everyone’s day-to-day grind, with everything they do and all the stresses, it becomes increasingly important for people to find some avenue in their life for escape — whether that be a creative escape or an artistic escape or just a time escape away from your phone. A place where you can just focus in on something entirely separate from your world. And pottery is that,” Norris said.
To find a class schedule, pricing and more information about the new pottery studio and retail space, visit NorrisArts.com.