about the artist
North of Fort Collins, on a sprawling ranch property nestled against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains is a studio with ceramic works, oil paintings, and copper sculptures. A cat wanders about the concrete building that houses the equipment and supplies needed to make the pieces of art. Paintbrushes, sticks of charcoal, chisels, and other instruments of his trade lay strewn about the industrial building that used to be a calf roping school.
Since 1973, Jim Foster has made this little piece of northern Colorado landscape the source for his creative works.
Jim Foster is a sculptor, painter, and steward of the land who specializes in abstracts that communicate his connection with the wide-open spaces of northern Colorado, southern Wyoming, and the plains that stretch to Nebraska. He has also taught, traveled, studied, and worked in distant places across North America and Europe, but the wide-open spaces of Colorado are what draw him home and fuel his inspiration.
Painting, in particular, is a way for Jim to think in pictures and layers, and then put those images down on canvas with paint. It is a way of thinking and caring and showing your feelings in the painting.
poudre river mural
I graduated from a school that was very famous for murals in all buildings – Claremont Graduate University, MFA, Sculpture and Drawing, 2 yr. So building my own studio in 1976 in Waverly, Colorado was a way to get started making murals. This was one of the first ceramic murals and was fired to high temperatures by me. This work was weather proof and well constructed to go into a public place. I am honored to have the work on a public library.
This was the first Art In Public Places Commission by the City of Fort Collins and I was thrilled for anything I got in payments.
This piece has an interesting history. I worked for Fort Collins Parks and Recreation as Head of Art and Crafts. I taught ceramics and helped build the City Park Pottery School. I had interesting students. I was in to teaching every age level and ability and one of the classes was for handicapped and real impaired. One day a lady in a wheel chair who had no eyes asked me, “Why don’t artists like you do things for people like me who can’t see?” I was floored – I had never thought of it. So this started the Poudre River Mural in wet clay I mixed just for this occasion. It was visualized as water I saw when in the Poudre River on level with the water. Rocks were popping out of the water. It was a real river bed you could run your fingers over and feel the same feeling of water. Then I glazed the tiles as close to what the water would look like on a sunny day. Of course some people were never going to see the colors but they could feel the surface and know how the water shapes itself.
When you fire ceramics above 2,000°F you are high firing. At that point the clay is turning to glass – it becomes vitrified. That is what these vases have been, in process. When the temperature gets to 2,000°F you make adjustments on the clay being fired to color and glassify it. Adding salt at 2,000°F, you place it on an angle iron and load the whole thing up with as much rock salt as you can. Opening up a brick in the kiln, place the angle iron (holding salt) into kiln and dump the salt down the side of the kiln. It explodes like a shot gun and admits a little whiff of Chlorine gas – buuut it is over and gone. You keep pulling draw tiles out of the kiln with a long steel rod to hook onto clay samples – to see how much salt is actually getting knit into the clay. Because of the silica content the clay turns to an orange peel textured glass, and it gets thicker and thicker as you toss in more and more salt loaded with Copper Carbonate to make brilliant soft reds in glass on porcelain.
These firings take all my strength and daring – 24 hours total just in firing. When you look into the kiln you can’t see a thing except shadows of orange-white in each work at 2400°F. These vases were kept very silent – I wanted to be very reverent as to how they were fired and the artist it has taken to put all these acts together. This is a study I have been on for 45 years, happily, constantly surprised!
world peace through art
To be with two other artists (one from Fukuoka, Japan – the other from Masan, S. Korea) in 1995-2016 with a goal of accessing a world which respected art enough to inspire their publics with the idea of World Peace Through Art. So much more exciting with artists from all over the world also being included as the excitement for this idea became electric and motivational.
“My travels in art have come from long ago being a student of many really great public servants who taught art and were artist who made a living in some strange way and their training was magnified by my going to my studio to work everyday – of their training – on into my daily life and having a full time studio which I fed and controlled and produced art works to see and share and collect as my own till I die. I feel like a rich man beyond all wealth because it is other artists and myself over fifty years.”