It’s a potter’s thing: For Kelly Landrum-Hammell, life is a lot like pottery — unpredictable

Published 6:59 pm Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Like pottery, Kelly Landrum-Hammell’s life has certainly been unpredictable. Pursuing her dream of being a full time potter just seems to fit.

Hammell of Carriere, grew up in Algiers, La., moving to Slidell, La. when she was a senior in high school. After graduating from L.S.U. in 1986 with a Bachelor of Science degree, she moved to New York City to start her career.

In NYC she took a job working as an agent for models at Elite Model Management during the height of the fashion industry. After 10 years of living in the city itself she moved to New Jersey where she would live for the next five years. It was during that time she discovered her true calling — pottery.

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When asked if she had always known that she had an artistic side, Hammell replied, “I was always crafty. I did like making things — whether it was mosaics or sewing, or stuff like that — but I was never as good at drawing or painting.”

In 1998, in order to feed her artistic tendencies, Hammell gave herself a very special birthday gift — a six week potter’s course. Hammell would not look back.

Another thing she would not look back on was her former career as a modeling agent. In 2002, life’s circumstances brought Hammell back to the south, and eventually to Pearl River County. She met and fell in love with her brother’s friend, Billy. The couple moved to Carriere, where they found a dreamy country home tucked away on four acres. They share the home with their three dogs: Oscar, Charlie and Needy.

The home became the perfect place for Hammell’s studio, aptly named, 3 dog pottery. She can sit in her window staring out at the landscape while using nature as her inspiration, creating works of art that are inspiring in their own right. It is just a short jaunt to her converted barn, where she fires her pieces in the kiln.

Hammell says, “I use a variety of different types of clay, various methods of forming, several different firing techniques, and an extensive range of glaze applications and surface decoration.” Her two favorite techniques are horse hair pottery and raku.

“There are a lot of artists that do raku because it’s fun and the results are interesting,” she said. Raku is a centuries old Japanese technique of firing where a lot of heavy metals are used in the glaze to create a metallic look. Hammell says this is a strictly decorative form of pottery and should not be used for food or liquids for obvious reasons.

Hammell’s process involves firing the piece to 1900 degrees F and quickly placing it in a reduction chamber. Her “reduction chamber” is a metal garbage can which she fills with pine straw, leaves and shredded paper. These combustible materials will ignite immediately when the very hot piece goes from the kiln into the chamber. At this point the can’s lid is set securely in place to keep any more oxygen from getting to it. The piece will be removed from the reduction process after about 20 minutes and placed into water. “Once cooled it can be scrubbed to remove smoke and excess carbon, and its beauty is revealed,” she said.

Hammell enjoys this process because the unpredictability of the firing creates a truly one-of-a-kind piece of art.

“Not as many potters do the horse hair, especially here. It’s more common in New Mexico or Arizona. It really is a Native American process,” said Hammell. The results of her process create unique pieces that look like alabaster or marble. Hammell fires these pieces in her kiln to 1500 degrees F. She then pulls them out to apply the hair, which sizzles and smokes on contact. She will sometimes also use feathers and a little sugar to get a desired pattern. Once the piece is cooled, it gets waxed and hand buffed. Horse hair pottery is also strictly decorative and should not be used for food storage or liquids because of its extremely fragile nature.

Hammell often finds, no matter the technique, what she expected of the piece is not always what she gets. Sometimes the results are so extraordinarily different from the intent, her passion for the piece comes from the nature of the piece itself. She also likes to add embellishments to her work, natural materials, such as driftwood, bamboo and coral.

For her efforts, Hammell has earned numerous awards at various art shows. She is currently a member of The American Ceramic Society Potters Council, the American Craft Guild, the St. Bernard Art Guild, and the Slidell Art League. She is also a founding member of 6 Blondes and a Redhead.

Hammell’s work is currently on display at Fort Isabel Gallery in Covington, La. She is the gallery’s featured artist for the month of June. The official opening of her show “Sticks and Stones” is 6 – 9 p.m., Saturday, January 14.

To view Hammell’s work at Fort Isabel Gallery, visit