The Practice of Creativity

‘Love Your Creative Self’ Series: Interview with Sculptor Darren Kendrick Powers aka ‘Johnny Glaze’

Posted on: February 13, 2012

I’m delighted to welcome North Carolina sculptor Darren Kendrick Powers aka ‘Johnny Glaze’ in the ‘Love Your Creative Self’ series. He works in metal and clay and does “welding, hammering, twisting, gluing, glazing, spraying, carving, nailing, and even head butting” to achieve a desired effect. His bowls, mugs and plates as well as hand built sculptures are often whimsical in nature. As a neighbor and friend I have watched the meteoric rise of Darren’s creative life. And, I’ve been intrigued about his irreverent alter ego ‘Johnny Glaze’ that burst on the scene a few years ago. Darren’s a newly working artist that seems to juggle it all: kids, family, community and art-making with relative ease and delight. I thought I’d catch up to him and find out his secrets.

MTB:  You created your alter ego ‘Johnny Glaze’ after turning 30 and deciding to pursue art and a creative life. How does he support you in the creative process?

DP:  When I created Johnny Glaze a couple of years ago, I thought I was doing it as a way to entertain myself and my peers. I knew it was catchy and that I could have fun with it from a marketing standpoint. I officially dubbed it as my alter ego because I thought I was beginning to lose the wild and funny guy at age 30.

But I didn’t realize that this name would define me.

“Johnny Glaze” is a second chance to do one of the things that I truly loved to do my entire childhood and lost along the way by being an irresponsible adult.  No, that is not a typo.  Until I hit 30 and became a father and active Christian, I was very irresponsible. I had been letting go of bad habits and replacing them with a true love for my family and Jesus Christ.

Johnny Glaze supports me in the creative process because he gets to draw from all of my past education, experiences, and relationships without having to carry any of the guilt from earlier missteps. Johnny Glaze doesn’t just support the creative process, he is the creative process.  He spends as much time as possible with his two adorable children (Owen and Darby); loving them, learning from them, drawing energy, inspiration, and even artistic ideas from them. And in return, he goes into the studio on a quest to create art that might inspire his children and even the community.  I tell people to enjoy the playful, whimsical qualities of my sculpture now because if my kids have dark, rebellious teenage years then my work will reflect it.

MTB: Was there any hint of ‘Johnny Glaze’ in you as a boy? Were you interested in art as a child?

DP:  I should let my mom or one of my elementary school art teachers answer this question. As a young boy, my approach toward art would have been very ‘Johnny Glaze’ because it wasn’t over-analyzed and over-scrutinized.  I think all young children start out loving art because it is an honest and innocent way of expressing themselves and their feelings. It’s also a way to interpret and depict their surroundings without fear of criticism. I love it when my mom pulls out some of my old drawings and handmade cards from childhood because the pictures and messages are so pure and to the point but at the same time so random and hilarious. One card she busted out on me recently was from Mother’s Day 1983-ish and it read something like: “I love my Mom. She loves me and sweeping and flowers.” The picture drawn in crayon with a steady, confident little hand was of me running, with open arms holding flowers, up to my mom who is coincidentally having the time of her life sweeping with a humongous broom.  Talk about realism!  I loved art then and I love it even more now because I get to not only experience it with my young children but I get to relive those glory days when using my crayons could make grown women cry. Then again, my mom might have been crying because she secretly hated to sweep and my masterpieces only reminded her how much of her day she had to spend doing it!

MTB: What happens when you have a bad day in the studio? What do you do to get inspired again?

DP: I only get to make it into the studio a couple days a week unless Maria is on day shift and I am inspired enough to go in after the kids are down for the night.  My time in there is too limited to afford a bad day, but I can’t lie and tell you that I never have bad days because I’ve already told you that I’m a good Christian, right?  My troubles don’t usually come from lack of ideas or inspiration but from the state of the clay I have to work with. Clay is tricky when you don’t know if you’re going to get back to a project in one day or five. And, because I work with a slab, how I time my projects are important because the clay has to be just right as far as moisture is concerned. I’ve learned to minimize bad days and maximize my production by being flexible with what the clay gives me. In other words, I’ve developed product lines that require clay slabs on the drier side in case the one day out of the studio turns into five days and I haven’t bagged the slabs accordingly. One of the keys to my process and my products are a positive, laid back attitude and a lot of my inspiration and originality comes from not sticking to a plan and going with what the clay and mood gives me.

MTB: What’s been your experience learning how to market, sell, and interact with the public as a professional artist? 

DP: I can barely create the time in my family’s schedule to produce the artwork much less market it.  I have been very fortunate that galleries in the towns where I work and live have enjoyed my work enough to allow me to be a “featured artist”.  I try to be enthusiastic and honest in my interactions with the public.  I love being Johnny Glaze and I love making pottery and sculptures.

MTB: Who are some sculptors and artists that you consider role models?

DP: I have a pottery mentor by the name of Laura Teague Moore who teaches me wheel throwing every Thursday down in Westmoore, NC.  Her skills as an artist and personal character are pretty impeccable! I have also received a lot of help in glazing and firing from Boyd Owen and Nancy Owen Brewer at The Original Owens Pottery on Busbee Road in Westmoore. In my humble opinion, being connected to the dynasties of Teague and Owen in the Westmoore/Seagrove area only adds to Johnny Glaze’s street cred. I consider them role models in the way they have reached out to me and with only the desire to pass on their love and knowledge of their craft.

MTB: What’s one tip for living a boldly creative life?

DP: I use Howard Thurman’s quote as a guide to living a rich creative life: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

MTB: What’s on the horizon for Johnny Glaze?

DP: I just got a new puppy from the pound, she’s a little Chihuahua/terrier mix by the name of Salty-Gelina Powers aka Salt. So, I can almost guarantee you a line of Johnny Glaze dog bowls…  Salt glazed, of course.

Check out Darren’s inspiring artist statement and see more of his work.

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Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

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