Anne Hirondelle

(American, b. 1944)

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Anne Hirondelle. Photo by Myron Gauger.

Anne Hirondelle (née Harvey) is a nationally recognized Port Townsend, Washington, ceramic artist who was born in Vancouver, Washington, in 1944 and raised on a farm near Salem, Oregon. Anne graduated from South Salem High School in 1962 and attended the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. She received her BA degree in English 1966, followed by an MA degree from Stanford University in Counseling in 1967. For the next five years, Anne worked as director of the University of Washington YWCA in Seattle.

A committed feminist, Anne entered law school at the University of Washington in 1973 with the intent of working on women’s issues. Although she knew from the first day that law school was not for her, she stayed for a year, and at the same time, following an interest in ceramics, took pottery classes at the Factory of Visual Arts in Seattle before enrolling in the School of Art at the University of Washington in 1974, where she earned her BFA degree in 1976 under the guidance and direction of the legendary ceramics artist and teacher Robert Sperry.

Over the years, Anne has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States, and her ceramics can be found in a number of prestigious collections, including the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Stanford Museum of Art; the Tacoma Art Museum; the White House Crafts Collection, and many others. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship, awarded in 1988; she was a finalist for the Betty Bowen Award at the Seattle Art Museum in 2004; and she was honored with the Twining Humber Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement in 2009.

Anne has always been drawn to the vessel as a metaphor for containment, inspired by Robert Sperry, who showed her that the vessel could be a legitimate form of personal expression. She began her career as a production potter, creating cylindrical, wheel-thrown vessels with soda-ash glazes, but soon realized that production work was not for her. As her work evolved through the 1980s and 1990s, she began to create increasingly sculptural vessels with elaborate spouts, handles, and bases. No longer necessarily symmetrical, these new shapes and forms became organic and architectural although still clearly recognizable and identifiable as ceramic vessels.

In the early 2000s, Anne’s work moved in a radical new direction. She found the firing process was becoming too labor intensive for her and the need to glaze was limiting her ideas. As she began to explore new approaches, she discovered that stripping surfaces of adornment could embolden the vessels’ shape. As glazing was cast aside, so too was her need to create traditional pots. She began deconstructing and reconfiguring the vessel, focusing on the concept of openness instead of containment and exploring issues of light, color, texture, and form. At the same time her drawings, which had to that point been secondary to her ceramic vessels, took on new meaning and importance as vehicles to further explore concepts of abstraction.

While the “vessel” is still apparent in most of Anne Hirondelle’s work from the past six to eight years, the time period covered by the Hallie Ford Museum of Art exhibition, it has evolved into an abstract vessel where function gives way to sculptural possibilities. As she has said, “The work has been the leader and I have followed, paying careful attention to its needs, [and] coaxing it, by small revolutions, into being.”

- John Olbrantz
The Maribeth Collins Director