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River Walk celebrates ceramics with featured artist, reception

Carolyn Sleeper’s work is an evolution in art. A master in ceramics, she’s moved from the wheel to mostly hand-built works — elaborate boxes adorned with animals and flora; little frogs with enormous personalities. Her work is defined by whimsy, muted colors and natural textures.

Sleeper is River Walk Gallery and Arts Center’s featured artist of the month and her work will be celebrated with an opening reception tonight at River Walk from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. As the exhibit is a compilation of her work over the last few years, the evolution of her work will readily be on display.

It started with a class at the Pocosin Arts Center with ceramics artist Akira Satake, and a technique called the Kohiki Flip. The process involves brushing a lighter-colored, liquid mixture of clay onto a darker clay, letting it partially dry, then stretching the whole to create natural cracking and distorting of the paint.

“That changed my work. I went more toward hand-building instead of relying on the wheel. It just keeps evolving into the ways that I think it works best in my work. I think my work is natural. It’s just like nature: the textures, it’s got animals on it. I like for people to see the layers of nature. Because clay is natural — and there’s nothing more natural than dirt,” Sleeper laughed.

ON A WHIM: Sleepers’ little frogs appear to be saying big things as her popular long-legged birds watch from behind. Her work is often defined by whimsy and its natural textures and tones. (Vail Stewart Rumley/Daily News)

Sleeper’s work is recognizable; her long-legged, cartoon-like birds capture many an art lover’s imagination. She’s also known for a project that took up most of last year as she raised money to help finance the living expenses for her son, Joe, as he waited for, then recovered from a double-lung transplant, a necessity because of cystic fibrosis. Sleeper’s “Breathe” mugs were sold at a variety of locations.

Sleeper said her son will be attending the reception tonight to meet the people who helped support his operation and recovery.

“It’s turned from my reception to ‘Hey everybody come and meet this guy who you helped support for his double-lung transplant,’” she said. “It’s going to be a good time and I hope everyone comes and meets Joe. He wants to thank the community.”

The reception is free and open to the public. River Walk Gallery and Arts Center is located at 139 W. Main St., Washington.