Her head spinning from her first year at law school, Anne Hirondelle tossed torts in favor of throwing pots. With an undergraduate degree in English and a master’s in counseling psychology, she had worked for five years as director for the feminist-based University of Washington YWCA in Seattle, when she decided to enter law school. Anne felt it would help her work with women’s issues, but she soon found that law wasn’t for her.
“After that first year I just wanted to relax, so I decided to take a pottery class,” she said. That was in 1973. She never looked back, opting instead to enroll in classes at the Factory of Visual Art in Seattle and later in the B.F.A. program at the University of Washington. During that same period Anne adopted the last name Hirondelle, the French word for the swallow, because the image of strong wings gave her courage to set out on a new path.
Initially Anne wanted to be a production potter. She and husband Bob Schwiesow, who were married by revered Puget Sound Professor of Religion Bob Albertson ’44 in Kilworth Chapel in 1967, moved to Port Townsend, Wash., 10 years later and set up a small studio in a once dilapidated cottage (now a showplace). Her kiln was housed in an adjacent storage shed.
Anne soon realized that while production fulfilled her need for function, it didn’t satisfy her need for discovery. “As an artist you’re compelled to create. You can’t help yourself,” she says. Anne’s first series of work was with glazed stoneware: thrown pieces with extruded parts and handles, drawing inspiration from a vessel’s functional form for containment. Various oxide combinations created her signature soda-ash glazes that glow with a finish like molten metal. (See photo above.)
A self-described “intense plodder,” Anne is in her studio five days a week. “I got a big dose of discipline somewhere along the way,” she says. In trying to “discover the next thing,” Anne began a new series she calls “Go,” as in letting go. Abandoning containment for openness, she created pieces that are more free in form. “The unglazed white stoneware with painted interiors enables me to address more formal, sculptural ideas,” says Anne, who led a workshop on campus last spring. “I’m continuing my exploration of form by bringing the inside out, channeling light, and seeing all the way through.”
— Cathy Tollefson ’83
Anne’s work has appeared in solo and group exhibitions throughout the country and is in many private and public collections, including The White House Collection of American Crafts. She received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in 1988 and has been a featured artist in periodicals such as American Craft and Smithsonian magazine. Anne’s garden and art can be seen in Artists in Their Gardens, Sasquatch Books, 2001.