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Studio Cruise: Pottery, family come full circle for Boock

Josh Boock is shown in his pottery studio holding one of his newest designs using broken jeweler’s glass fused to the center of a plate. Patt Rall | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – Josh Boock speaks about the guidance of his father, Ron Boock, during his formative years as the core reason why he is a potter today.

That parental partnership still exists – his father was in the shop busily reforming clay remnants into tubes for future pieces when a Pioneer reporter arrived to interview Josh.

“Yes,” said Boock, “my dad and I still work together as much as possible and he is a good potter. Sometimes I can’t tell the difference between a piece I’ve made and a piece he has, but he always knows.”

Josh was in the third grade when he and his dad took a pottery class with Butch Holden. The father-son duo made a lot of bird feeders back then and fired them in an old CCC cabin woodstove that stood on the property. They worked with leather and also made some jewelry back then, taking a hiatus from ceramics.

Boock said he went to college to be a graphic designer but took some ceramics classes and “that was where it was at.”

Boock, a Bemidji State University 2004 Fine Arts graduate, studied pottery with Butch Holden and Cyrus Swan, then a teaching assistant.

“You need a lot of strength in your hands and associated muscles,” said Boock. “Everybody thinks that you just sit there but you burn a lot of calories while you are centering; you are pushing on it (the clay) and there’s a lot of centrifugal force to overcome.”

It takes a lot of physical energy to keep a potter’s hands from swinging back and forth. It is essential to center the clay properly to attain balance and keep the piece even when pulling up or pushing out the sides.

Boock will be giving demonstrations throughout the day during the studio cruise Friday through Sunday.

Squeaky Wheel Pottery is and has been a family affair for the elder Boock helped his son build the present pottery studio while still an undergraduate at BSU. Josh’s mom, Barb, helped out at arts fairs but Josh’s partner, Shay Blecken, goes with him now. Their daughter Phyn is only 18 months old so she is just along for the ride.

Boock is one of the original artists for the first Bemidji Studio Arts Cruise five years ago. Back then, his face mugs with caricatures were the big attraction along with his other functional pieces (dishes, platters, planters, vases and cups). Functional is the operative word for his pottery. Boock wants his pieces to become so important to the buyer that they will want to keep his piece close during the day or at least be able to look at it.

Apparently, other people feel the same way about Boock’s work – he has been displaying and selling at the Renaissance Festival in Shakopee for the past four years. The festival, which attracts at least 360,000 people a season, is home to Boock’s booth No. 822, which he expects to expand next year to double the size. Look for the tower and the small court yard in front.

Boock also displays at six art fairs in the area and this past summer went to Georgia. He admits there wasn’t much call for his beer mugs and wine goblets in the Bible Belt south.

Along with his pottery he makes and sells handcrafted leather wallets, up-cycled

sea glass and metal jewelry. In fact, his array of pottery encompasses a range of functional pots like the ceramic chicken cooker to the guy with the bright idea – a lamp shaped like a large whiskey jug with an exaggerated face in front and light bulb on top.

“I know it’s a cartoon image,” said Boock. “The guy who gets a bright idea and a light bulb goes off in the cartoon bubble. They are funny and people seem to really like them.”

Another innovation of Boock’s is the plate with the jeweler’s glass embedded in the center. Although he has sold quite a few of them already, there will be some on display tomorrow. In fact, Boock keeps his three electric and large gas kiln going all the time since he works full-time at his craft. You can also see some of his work at Dunn Bros. Coffee and the Yellow Umbrella in downtown Bemidji.

“I very much like being a father,” said Josh. “Phyn likes it when I push her around in that little cart over there. Being a family man brings new responsibilities and bills to pay even during the lean winter months,” he added.

Whether you go to see the pottery or the fanciful figures dotting the grounds, a remnant from Phyn’s great-grandparents, you will enjoy the visit.

If You go:

What: Studio Cruise ’12: A self-guided tour of some of the Bemidji area’s best-known artisans in their studios.

When: Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, ­10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Cost: Free

More information: 877-250-5959 or

Online extra: Go to to watch a video of Josh Boock talking about the Zen of pottery.