'Letting some creativity out' - a return to art roots

On any short list I'd create of movers and shakers in Fremont, Mike Peck's name would appear. Ditto for the short list of quality landlords - those concerned and involved - in Fremont. Now Mike's name has landed on my short list of artists I respect, even though his Nov. 4 art show will be the first one of his I've attended.

Mike started Fremont Architectural Pottery in 1974. "Fremont was the closest venue that had a storefront I wanted." Mike recalls that time - cheap rent and empty storefronts - without romantic patina. He salvaged windows from a glass recycler - "high class dumpster diving" he calls it - to replace broken ones. He filled them with pieces of art "so it looked like something was there."

As Fremont Architectural Pottery he created beautiful art sinks. Marketed to architects and builders, Mike worked the home shows and quickly saw all his time dedicated to filling orders rather than creating art. A few pieces got out. He created the "Slug Cup" and the "Chamber Pot of Commerce" in 1986 as prizes for the Fremont Chamber Briefcase Relay Race - and winners still compete for them today.

Mike admits, after 25 years he got bored with sinks. "Slowly I was making more buildings than making pottery," he explains. "There is a connection," Mike said of his shift from clay to property, "just a different kind of dirt." He rented his first storefront from the Oddfellows, and eventually bought the building. Mike roughly estimates that he now has 100,000 square feet of real estate in Fremont, in six buildings. Of those, he remodeled some, added on to others and finally built one from scratch.

Until about six years ago, Mike operated a store out front with his property management office in back, but he says it probably should have been the other way around. He enjoys welcoming tenants. "It's nice to see a business grow and have them be successful. Businesses that are able to work with the neighborhood." Mike, a hands-on landlord, shops and dines in the area - and that means he cares who rents from him and he looks for what he wants to have. "I've chosen to be close to the properties I own and my business."

"When you are a workaholic it is hard to give up control." Control? Or opportunities? With a successful property management business to operate, as well as his efforts to help area businesses with security issues, Mike decided to return to pottery. Over the years he's had a hard time finding blocks of time to do art, but workshops he attended earlier this year inspired him to make the time.

He planned the November show six weeks ago. When we talked about the pieces he'll show, he described them as current. Hot from the kiln sounds more accurate. In studio space he's maintained here, he's been furiously at work for the last month "letting some creativity out."

In describing the works, Mike mentioned "kind of angry fish" that make up one part of the show he's titled "Ceramics, Sculpture & Remembrance." The exhibit focuses on finishes and surface, Mike's work with the Raku process and pieces he's made in memory of his dog and a long time friend. I look forward to seeing his works and Mike agreed that it will be surprising - to him as well. "You'll either love it or hate it." The show also features works by artists from Pottery Northwest, since Mike thought the gallery too large to fill with just his works.

The show opens November 4 at the R Gallery (619 North 35th St, #100) from 6 - 9 p.m. as part of our First Friday Art Walk. Mike laughingly credits his daughter, Ragan, with pushing him in all of this. As to following Dad's footsteps, Mike says "she picked out the fun part," and has shown more interest in art than property. As every opening needs a closing, Ragan suggested a Raku party and Mike agreed to take it on. If you can't make it to the show this month, Mike plans to pull pots from the kiln Dec. 2. It will close the show, but I respect the way Mike has demonstrated that it needn't be where the art ends.

Kirby Lindsay, a Fremont native, thinks winter cold an entirely flawed idea and has begun, already, her countdown to spring. She invites your comments at fremont@oz.net.

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