Michael Porter Recaptures Earlier Eras with Clay

By Janet Keeler Wilcox
Much like Andy Warhol who created art using Coke bottles, Brillo boxes and soup cans, Michael Porter also uses replicas of objects along with childhood memories for his inspiration as he creates art.  In the hierarchy of art, he explained, painting is at the top of the list and ceramics is at the bottom! But he has managed to master both! Many of his ceramic creations reflect the era just after World War II and the beginning of modern electronics. He loves starting with a lump of clay which always “challenges” his creativity.
For his License Plate series he took a simple piece of history and used it to symbolize man’s individualism and freedom. Typically, as humans we resist being labeled or put into categories. In like manner even license plates can show a piece of personalized history and identity, which is symbolic of mankind’s individualism and freedom.  He has created over 1000 license plates and about 100 sculptures.
The creative process is very important to Porter and correlates with Robert Fritz’s view of art: “Love is what creating is about; it is generative rather than simply responsive.” Porter’s art has a two-fold process:  He first envisions what he wants to make and then takes that idea, “through a doorway into a darkened room metaphorically speaking.” As I mentally step further into the room “the darkness starts to dissipate and creation begins. It is much like the birthing process in which the idea unfolds and grows into its creative final form,” he explained.
For over 50 years Michael has kept his hands covered with clay while mastering the potter’s wheel.  In the process he has also taught hundreds of others this tactile art. He began his teaching career in 1987 in Manti where he taught art and also coached basketball.  When he and Sherri moved their family to Blanding, he taught at Whitehorse High School from 2005-2012. He also coached the Raiders Basketball team during those years.
As a teacher he taught students to “be courageous and expect the unexpected.”  He explained that beginners often struggle as they begin working with clay. Because there are many different glazes and degrees of stiffness, it is easy for things to go awry.  Often it is because of those catastrophes and discouraging times that a beginning potter learns the most. But it is also how they learn “the nature of clay”, explained Porter.  Because of similar past disasters Mike began experimenting with paper pulp as an additive to clay and finally came up with a formula that worked well and was less frustrating to the potter.
For his Masters of Fine Arts from BYU exhibit, his art was curated and showcased by Lee Cowan at his gallery in Springville, Ut. There were two categories: one portraying light and guidance such as “Lehi’s Compass” and “Chandelier.”  The Post-Industrial Culture pieces which were placed on pedestals.  Items for this exhibit were selected because they reflected a time period just after WWII and the beginning of modern electronics and technology that exploded in the 1960’s and ‘70’s. “I wanted to shed light on the culture of that era,” he explained.
His unique creations have attracted buyers from all over the world from Santa Fe to Germany, Great Britain, Scotland and Tokyo, Japan.  Several of his former students have also gone on to be creative potters: Leo and Chris Blackhorse and Herman Oliver. He also mentored Nikki Saffrit when she was doing her student teaching and Abe Lyman is one of his students now.
Michael Porter earned his Bachelors of Fine Arts from Utah State University in 1972 and a business degree from the University of So. Calif in 1985.  Later he earned his teaching degree from SUU in 1990. He and his wife Sherrie have 8 children and several of them are also artistic.
A longer version of this story will be featured on Blanding Bits and Pieces.
This video on YouTube shows some of his efforts: https://youtu.be/yW1CxImFN0o
During those years both as a teacher and as an independent potter he won many awards which include:
*2014-- Best of Show: Four Corners Arts, Cortez Colo: “Industrial Seed Pod” 
*2009--Utah’s Outstanding Art Educator of the year, presented at the Springville Museum of Art. In a Panorama Articles published March 18, 2009 it stated that Porter had taught since 2005 grades 7-12. He taught such tings as art foundations, printmaking, ceramics, typography and cartooning.
*2005 & 2006: Back-to-back purchase awards from the National Ceramic Show: Feats of Clay, Lincoln, Ca.
*2005—Provo Freedom Festival art exhibit: Jurors Choice Award for ceramic “Sousaphone—the Last March” 
*2004--Student and Faculty Show: Brigham Young University—Jurors Choice Award
*1993—Six County Invitational, Snow College Ephraim, Utah—1st Place 
*1992-- Horseshoe Mountain Invitational: Mt Pleasant, Utah –1st place Watercolor

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