ARTIST SPACES: An intimate place to craft ‘kissing pots’ – Duluth News Tribune

But she wanted to downsize. This time Clark would take her time and get exactly what she wanted.

“I wasn’t going to settle,” said Clark, a glass artist-turned-potter who is also the gallery director at Lizzard’s Art Gallery & Framing.

Eventually she found the perfect spot: an 1,100-plus square foot home on Jefferson Street in the Congdon Park neighborhood. The two-level house was built in the 1911 and came with a space that had been converted from a tuck-under garage to a basement. It was a foreclosure that sat empty for three years before she walked in and imagined the view she could have if she knocked out the solid back wall, turned it into a walk-out basement and added windows.

“I opened the door and looked back and saw (Lake Superior) and said ‘This is it,’ ” Clark said.

It’s a raw space with a concrete floor and walls. Clark has set up her wheel in a southwest corner, where she can look up and see the lake. She works under a print of horses running in shallow water — it reminds her of one of her favorite songs, “Wild Horses” by the Rolling Stones, she said.

Clark has hung paper lanterns with pictures of birds and square flags with colorful images, labeled with “happiness,” “tranquility” and “harmony.”

Works-in-progress sit on a shelf at her right. Extra supplies are tucked into a space at the back of the studio. There is a kiln in the corner by the washer and dryer. Her supplies are shelved in the back, where she streams a classic rock station on Pandora.

Her cats, Buddha and Zen, come and go.

“I spend more time down here than I do the rest of the house,” Clark said.

These days, the former glass artist who has a masters in ceramics from the University of Wisconsin-Superior has been into pottery. She is the creator of small, gift-friendly pots that accompany “The Kissing Pot,” a story by Superior writer Linda Berg and illustrated by Justin Flores.

“I make one thing,” Clark said, as she shaped clay during a recent visit. People ask her if it gets boring, she said.

“Are you crazy?” is her response. “It’s not so much ‘What are you going to make?’ I put on my music, make my pots and everything is just …”

Besides, she added, each one is different.

About 30 years ago, Linda Berg and her then-husband Gene Kulig had a romantic ritual: If either forgot to hug or kiss the other on the way out the door, the forgetter had to put a dollar in the kitty.

The couple had been married five years when Kulig set out for a weekend at his new hunting shack. He gave Berg a parting kiss, but returned to give her another since he was going to be gone an extra day.

“To make sure he was covered,” Berg recalled.

Kulig ended up having a massive heart attack that took his life, leaving behind his wife and two children — a 3½-year-old and a 10-month-old. The last time she saw Kulig, Berg put a dollar in her late husband’s pocket.

Years later, Berg had remarried and her oldest daughter’s wedding was on the horizon. She woke at 4:30 a.m. and saw Kulig, she said.

“Get up and write down our story,” she said he told her.

So she did. She worked quickly and created a story about a young couple, the kissing commitment and a special pot where the dollars are collected. By the time her new husband Richard Berg woke, the story was completed.

Berg asked Clark to create a pot to go along with the story as a wedding gift to her daughter. Then, she came up with a list of about 200 more people who might like the story. Berg self-published 3,000 hardcover copies in 2010, books that are sold alongside Clark’s kissing pots — either at Lizzard’s, or Forever Marge’s Floral — typically as wedding or anniversary gifts. (They are also available on Amazon, but the pots aren’t included.)

Clark and Berg worked on the design together, which includes a lid.

“I told her I want all the pots to be different because all marriages are different,” Berg said. “And even if there are small flaws, I want those. I don’t want a perfect pot.

“It’s way more amazing than I thought it would be.”

Clark believes in synchronicity, she said. She moved to Duluth from the Chicago area and planned to spend two years here. But here she is, still, years later.

She fell in love with fused glass work, she said, and did it for a long time. But Clark, 65, had gotten tired of it right before Berg approached her with the idea for kissing pots. Now, time spent not throwing pots is time spent waiting to work on the pots.

“I can’t hardly wait to get back to it,” Clark said. “I’m very lucky. Maybe I manifested it.”