Photo Gallery | Jim Larkin of Hot Springs Selected as 2012 Arkansas Living Treasure by the Arkansas Arts Council
LITTLE ROCK, AR – Jim Larkin, a potter from Hot Springs, has been named the 2012 Arkansas Living Treasure by the Arkansas Arts Council. Larkin will be honored at a reception from 5:30-7 p.m., Tuesday, May 22, at the Hale Bathhouse on 341 Central Ave. in Hot Springs. The reception, sponsored by the Arkansas Arts Council and the Department of Arkansas Heritage, is free and open to the public.
Now in its 11th year, the Arkansas Living Treasure recognizes an Arkansan who excels in the creation of a traditional craft and who actively preserves and advances his or her craft through community outreach and educating others. A distinguished panel of practicing craft artists and community leaders selects the recipient based on the quality of work, community outreach and total contribution to the field of traditional crafts.
Born and raised in Lonoke, Larkin and his wife, Barbara, a potter and painter, have owned and operated Fox Pass Pottery on 379 Fox Pass in Hot Springs for almost 40 years. He has been making pottery since 1969.
"I've always been a maker," he said. "You know how people sometimes say that their most influential book is the Bible? As a kid, mine was W. Ben Hunt's 'Big Book of Indian Crafts.' "
Larkin, 65, and his wife work in their shop and studio five days a week and enjoy the one-on-one visits with customers. "I have always felt that I should make myself available to the visitors as they come to our shop," he said. "Visitors can come directly from our showroom into the studio and watch us work. When I can, I will stop and give tours of the glaze and kiln area, along with wheel demonstrations, and explain our process."
Though Larkin earned a degree in chemistry and biology from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, his interest in pottery ignited while attending an art show at Henderson State University. "I saw some students working a pottery wheel and I thought to myself, 'Man, I want to do that.' At the time, I didn't have time to take a pottery class, but I certainly didn't forget it."
After college, Larkin taught high school chemistry, math and physics, but his heart was in pottery. He spent every spare minute he had learning about the craft. "I read everything I could find and talked to every potter I could get to sit still," he said. "Soon, Barbara started getting interested in it, too." The couple began attending as many workshops and ceramics conferences as they could.
"We loved pottery so much that in the early '70s we asked ourselves if we could make a living doing pottery. We decided to give it a try and we opened the shop 39 years ago. So far, so good," he said, smiling.
Larkin was selected as Arkansas Living Treasure not only for his beautiful work, but for his extensive community involvement and his years of teaching the craft to others.
For six years, Larkin participated in the Arkansas Arts Council's Arts in Education program, teaching art to students in Jessieville. For more than 20 years, he taught ceramics classes at the National Park Community College in Hot Springs, where he built a gas-fired kiln for the program. He also designed and taught a course called "The Science of Pottery" for the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Science and Arts in Hot Springs. In addition, he has given numerous workshops throughout the state, including the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock.
Larkin makes his work on the potter's wheel while Barbara builds her creations by hand. He and Barbara mix their own clay from several different clays and minerals and they also mix their own glazes. In addition, he makes many of his tools and has built several wood-fired and gas-fired kilns for himself, as well as for schools and other potters. He built the most recent kiln – a two-chambered, wood-fired salt kiln – with his son, Fletcher, who is also a potter.
He describes his style as traditional and said he enjoys making functional pieces the most. "People get to know my work through using it, rather than just keeping it on the shelf," he said. "Customers often tell us how a favorite mug, sometimes bought 25 or 30 years ago, gives them a sense of relaxation and connectedness as they enjoy their ritual of coffee or tea each day."
The selection committee included Ed Clifford of Bentonville, member of the Arkansas Arts Council; Anne Douglas of Texarkana, Arkansas Arts Council member; Jerry Fisk of Nashville, Ark., bladesmith and 1999 National Living Treasure recipient; Debra Bunting, heritage arts manager for the Nebraska Arts Council; and Bill Griffith, program director for the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tenn.
About the Arkansas Arts Council
The Arkansas Arts Council was established in 1966 to enable the state of Arkansas to receive funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1971, Act 359 (A.C.A. § 13-8-101 et seq.) gave independent agency status to the Arts Council, with an executive director and a 17-member council appointed by the governor. In 1975, the Arts Council became an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.
As an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, the Arkansas Arts Council shares the goals of all its agencies, of preserving and enhancing the heritage of the state of Arkansas. The other agencies are: Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, the Delta Cultural Center in Helena, Historic Arkansas Museum, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center and the Old State House Museum. Funding for the Arkansas Arts Council and its programs is provided by the state of Arkansas and the National Endowment for the Arts.