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Unearthing a body of work

  • Lulu Fichter is a potter from Peterborough who pushes on the boundaries between crafted and found with her bone-like creations.
  • Lulu Fichter is a potter from Peterborough who pushes on the boundaries between crafted and found with her bone-like creations.
  • Lulu Fichter is a potter from Peterborough who pushes on the boundaries between crafted and found with her bone-like creations.
  • Lulu Fichter is a potter from Peterborough who pushes on the boundaries between crafted and found with her bone-like creations.
  • Lulu Fichter is a potter from Peterborough who pushes on the boundaries between crafted and found with her bone-like creations.
  • Lulu Fichter is a potter from Peterborough who pushes on the boundaries between crafted and found with her bone-like creations.
  • Lulu Fichter is a potter from Peterborough who pushes on the boundaries between crafted and found with her bone-like creations.
  • Lulu Fichter is a potter from Peterborough who pushes on the boundaries between crafted and found with her bone-like creations.
  • Lulu Fichter is a potter from Peterborough who pushes on the boundaries between crafted and found with her bone-like creations.
  • Lulu Fichter is a potter from Peterborough who pushes on the boundaries between crafted and found with her bone-like creations.
  • Lulu Fichter is a potter from Peterborough who pushes on the boundaries between crafted and found with her bone-like creations.
  • Lulu Fichter is a potter from Peterborough who pushes on the boundaries between crafted and found with her bone-like creations.
  • Lulu Fichter is a potter from Peterborough who pushes on the boundaries between crafted and found with her bone-like creations.
  • Lulu Fichter is a potter from Peterborough who pushes on the boundaries between crafted and found with her bone-like creations.
  • Lulu Fichter is a potter from Peterborough who pushes on the boundaries between crafted and found with her bone-like creations.
  • Lulu Fichter is a potter from Peterborough who pushes on the boundaries between crafted and found with her bone-like creations.
  • Lulu Fichter is a potter from Peterborough who pushes on the boundaries between crafted and found with her bone-like creations.
  • Lulu Fichter is a potter from Peterborough who pushes on the boundaries between crafted and found with her bone-like creations.
  • Lulu Fichter is a potter from Peterborough who pushes on the boundaries between crafted and found with her bone-like creations.
  • Lulu Fichter is a potter from Peterborough who pushes on the boundaries between crafted and found with her bone-like creations.
  • Lulu Fichter is a potter from Peterborough who pushes on the boundaries between crafted and found with her bone-like creations.

Sitting in her open, busy-looking studio, Peterborough artist Lulu Fichter is surrounded by objects one might expect to see in a museum. Sunlight from wide front windows illuminates old papers and photos hanging on a wall, a hefty collection of buckles arrayed by color on a workbench, animal skulls, bones and shells laying on a side table, old pieces of wood and metal, and of course, the latest pottery Fichter has displayed. Spiny, holey, white porcelain pots and ridged, shell-like structures are spread about the room, while colorfully metallic, shiny raku-fired bowls glint mineral-like from shelves.

When sorting between objects made and objects found by Fichter, there can be some confusion, though this is what she aims for. “When people come in and say, ‘Where did you find this,’ I take that as such a compliment,” said Fichter about her artwork.

Fichter has a love for things that look old, dead and natural that stems back to her childhood. “As a family, we were into nature,” Fichter remembered. Through hiking and ocean trips and picking up shells, rocks, bones, teeth, pods and other natural objects, Fichter grew familiar with the outdoors and collecting things, and she also found her attraction to brokenness, repetitive patterns and imperfections. “If I could be anything other than a potter, I would be an archeologist,” she said.

Her white porcelain pieces, spinal and bone-like, reflect Fichter’s desire to uncover the remains of things long dead. Some of her pieces, called “sea pods,” Fichter puts in the river behind her home to help give them a bone-like hue. The coloring, which she says takes about two months in the river, is perfect. “They absolutely look like something somebody dug up,” she said.

Perhaps because of the surprise Fichter so loves in unearthing natural objects, the artist has also found joy in the process of raku, a 500-year old Japanese firing method using special glazes, very high temperatures and combustible materials in galvanized cans that lead to unpredictable results. Fichter completes this process in her backyard, next to the river that flows behind it. With pieces turning shiny and colorful in wacky ways, Fichter is always excited to see how her pots come out. “I like not knowing what will happen,” she said.

Fichter’s desire for unknown-ness also comes from another part of her childhood, one where she and her imaginary friend, Horney Corners, went on adventures with dragons. Fichter’s mother would sit and ask her daughter what she and her friend were up to for the day, and would then draw, paint, or construct out of paper the scenes to match Fichter’s descriptions.

“My mother was very creatively nurturing,” Fichter said. “Everything she did was artistic.”

Those childhood dragons are seen in Fichter’s pots today, the shapes of her pieces looking almost other-worldly in their weirdness and resemblance to some kind of bone or spine. “Everything comes back to my mother and the wonderment of finding something,” Fichter said.

Even Fichter’s choice to begin pottery at age 9 was influenced by her mother. As a child Fichter wanted to take a woodworking art class, but her mother told her it was full. The class wasn’t full, however. “My mother wanted me to do clay,” Fichter said.

Things worked out, since after that class, Fichter hasn’t gone a year without doing clay, despite her situation changing over the years. These shifts include working for a pottery production business upon her move to Peterborough in 1988, teaching at the Sharon Arts Center for seven years, starting a business with her brother, having her studio in her small basement before moving to her current location on Union Street almost four years ago, and getting to the point where Fichter could join the League of N.H. Craftsmen’s and participate in the annual fair at Mount Sunapee for the past eight years.

Through it all, Fichter struggled with finances and still calls her studio rent “a crapshoot” each month, though the challenges seem to have been worth it. They have also been made easier by Fichter’s husband, Robert “Woody” Wood, for whom she “bakes lots of pies” for all his help with and support for her work, in good times and bad.

At one fairly bad point, Fichter had to sell all her pottery to stay afloat. At the time, Fichter was still teaching, and it is her students that she gives credit to for not giving up. “They reminded me that clay was in my heart and soul,” she said. It was after this event, when Fichter had to start over, that she began working with white porcelain and raku firing, both of which were simple, cheap, and yet open to possibilities.

These new mediums are where Fichter has found inspiration and success for the last three years, and she doesn’t show any signs of slowing. Even when a spinal injury threatened to stop Fichter from using her potter’s wheel in January, she took the opportunity to pinch the clay into what she called “phalanges,” some of which resemble the MRI photos of her own spine she has hanging in her studio.

“It was as if my body was telling me something,” she said.

The conditions in which Fichter finds her inspiration, whether outside in a deep forest or inside her own body along the ridges of her spine, don’t matter when translated to her craft. Everything she finds becomes part of her process, one that is completely immersing, mind and body. “When I’m doing something in clay, I don’t even know anything else exists.”

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