Staff, Ceramics Program
MFA, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS. BA, Southwest State University, Marshall, MN
McLaughlin started his university studies as an art major concentrating on two-dimensional work at Southwest State University, Marshall, MN, but with his first course in ceramics in the spring semester of his sophomore year he switched his focus. After graduating from Southwest State he spent one year working in the pottery studio at Marylhurst College in Portland, Oregon, and earned a Master’s degree in ceramics from Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS. He then returned to Minnesota where he started his family and his career as a production potter.
A friend helped him open his own pottery studio and taught him to balance his attention between the business of selling and the production of the pottery. Consequently his customers were welcomed into his working area where they were educated in the process of producing pottery. His charismatic personality and passion for what he was doing guaranteed that no one left empty handed and would almost certainly come back for more.
He also organized spring and fall events, drawing large crowds. An annual event called “Harvest Gathering at Birch Coulee,” held on the first Sunday of October, celebrated the harvest season and the regional arts and crafts. The event, located next to the historic Birch Coulee Battlefield, attracted thousands of visitors. When McLaughlin goes home people still ask about the harvest gathering. His pottery production in Minnesota spanned close to 20 years.
McLaughlin’s artistic sensibility was influenced by his undergraduate and graduate ceramics professors, in particular undergraduate professor Gordon Dingman, whose work was similar to the work of Bernard Leach and Warren MacKenzie. McLaughlin combines this sensibility with the exploration of indigenous clays and glazes, producing work that is strong in form and delicate in surface. He favors stoneware clays, because of their potential for varied interactions with glazes, and ash glazes for their interplay with the clay. He is precise, efficient and fast, has a broad vocabulary of forms, and each is as fresh and fluid as if he’d made only one.