by Susan Frampton
Beauty can be found in some of the most unlikely places in Augusta - in fierce lions standing guard at each corner of the Butt Memorial Bridge, the surprising architectural design atop a Broad Street skyscraper, and in the prisms of light created by silver locks fastened along the rail of the Savannah River dam's gatehouse. Perhaps one of the most unexpected places is the phenomenal array of art displayed in the open garage door of a building on the corner of 10th and Ellis Street, once home to a B.F. Goodrich dealership.
Tire City Potter's visionary owner, Shishir Chokshi, a graduate of Augusta State University with a BFA in sculpture and ceramics, recognized the potential of the incongruous building soon after graduating in 2001. He is something of a master of unexpected skills, with a repertoire of talents including sculpting, painting, and carpentry. Asked how he came to primarily concentrate on sculpture, he laughs, "Dad is an engineer and Mom is a painter - what else could I do?"
His father, a frequent visitor to the gallery, inadvertently reveals a telling insight into his son's persona, when describing his first attempt at watercolor painting after having only previously painting in oil.
"In oil, you go from dark to light, but in watercolor the technique is the complete opposite; bringing the subject from light to dark. But he did it," the proud father remembers.
It seems to be a recurring theme in Chokshi's life, with his having brought the darkness of an abandoned corner of the downtown area to the creative light of the space it occupies today. Wooden shelves lining the walls of the former car repair bay teem with outstanding creations by local sculptors. Upstairs, glazes are created using raw materials, and Chokshi shares that 90% of residue from his glazes are recycled and remixed into residual clay.
Tire City Potters is a haven for the community's artists and a delight for those seeking fine art created in clay. That community was much narrower when he came on the scene. But Chokshi has played an integral role in helping to create a new artistic vitality here. He could not be more pleased with the changes that have come to Augusta's art scene in the intervening years, bringing with them a new generation of fine art.
The classes offered here have played no small part in facilitating that renaissance offering a gamut of opportunities from children's fun ceramics, to timed team-building classes, to novices, and to artists pursuing serious goals in perfecting the genre. Chokshi says he has had the incredible luxury of helping those from a diverse field of occupations discover a talent they never imagined they possessed.
As Chokshi stands outside the raised garage door of Tire City Potters, the frequent sound of bugling trains traveling nearby rails provides a background music that has accompanied the success of the studio and gallery since its earliest days. Dark eyes dancing with ideas yet untapped, the artist and entrepreneur humbly and mischievously states what is beautifully obvious: "We make pots."
It is amazing. Much of the work you see here had been created by people who don't refer to themselves as potters, but what they produce reveals how truly gifted they are.