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    Photos by Katie Molck

    On a shelf in one of Wayne Ferguson’s three studios at the Mellwood Art and Entertainment Center is a colorful bust of Bob Ross, the late host of the instructional TV program The Joy of Painting. The bust, titled “No Happy Trees,” depicts Ross crying giant clay tears. “Because his happy trees are destroyed,” Ferguson says. Mountaintop removal, oil spills, political satire — these are just some of the themes the 71-year-old potter has been exploring in his clay work, which includes shot glasses, smoking pipes and ocarinas (like whistles with tone holes). Brightly colored jars show warplanes destroying ancient lands. A fisherman grasps a two-headed fish, the result of pollution. On vessels meant to hold bourbon, President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un hold their nuke-shaped penises.

    Ferguson is in the studio seven days a week. He watches CNN and reads about Trump every day. “I get a picture in my brain, in my imagination, and start my process,” he says. Depending on the size of the piece, Ferguson cuts a chunk of clay from a block using a metal wire with small wooden handles. Using his hands and a few simple tools like a banding wheel and gourd scrapers, he pinches, pushes and smacks the soft clay into different forms. He can only fire one of his two kilns at a time to avoid flipping the breaker.

    Ferguson has been sculpting since he was a boy and his mother gave him and his brother homemade molding clay at the kitchen table. He holds no formal degree but did take a workshop at Berea College in the ’60s. “I was a flower child, a hippie, and lived in a teepee,” Ferguson says. “We all had the mindset then that everything was going to be great, that we were all going to love each other. And now (the world) is worse than it ever was.

    “This is how I respond. I feel called upon to do something if it involves the environment or politics or Trump.”

    Ferguson sells some of his work at Craft(s) Gallery and Mercantile (572 S. Fourth St.) and Magpie3x3 Clay Studio & Gallery (2210 Frankfort Ave.). On July 7, an annual summer pottery sale will include his work, at the Masonic Homes campus off Frankfort Avenue.

    This originally appeared in the July 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine as the Studio Shot. To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

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    About Katie Molck

    Loretta Lynn is the best country music singer of all time and if you don't like pickled foods, you can leave.

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