An Arkansas Artist


."Take one small kiln, add one pot and fire to temperature of around 1800’ F.; open kiln and remove pot, immediately place in a ‘Reduction’ area. ..A ‘Reduction Area’ is, in this case, a metal trash can with something combustible like straw on the bottom. ..When the very hot pot contacts the straw it starts a fire, at this time you put the lid on the can. Let the pot set in can smoldering….wait. ..When God tells you to, or in a few minutes, lift lid and let air in. ,,Hope for the best.
 .. .Please notice the Metal Stands; a lot of thought and sweat goes into them. ..The stands support and add a dimension that elevates the pots to sculpture. ..I weld the pot-specific stands using bits of found-metal." . . . Don Nibert  

Don Nibert was born in Rockford, Illinois on May 5th, 1952 to parents living in East Alton, a suburb of St. Louis. His parents had moved from Pocahontas, Arkansas for his father's position at Boeing Aircraft. Referring to his father's mechanical ability, Don repeatedly stated, "he can fix anything but a broken heart".

On weekends, Don and his younger sister, Suzanne, with parents, Martha and Bobby, would drive south to be with family in the Northeast Arkansas town of Pocahontas. Pocahontas is divided by drastic topographical change as the foothills of the Ozark Mountains meet the alluvial plain of the Mississippi River. The choices Don made in life seem to have derived from rich foundations of strong family love and ties, mechanical skills shared from his father, and an inherent connection to the mud and clayof river bottomland.

As a young adult, Don moved to the Boston Mountain town of Fayetteville to attend the University of Arkansas. An education major, he took an elective ceramics course which was instrumental in changing the direction of his academic career. Don excelled in this introductory course and developed a passion for pottery. Studying under Don Curtis, Don began to spend more time in the ceramics studio. By 1994, he had moved from creation of functional pottery to Fine Art ceramic production. As a Fine Artist, Don was a nationally acclaimed and award winning Raku potter. Raku is a centuries old ceramic process characterized by low temperature firing. The glaze, called copper mat, produces astounding colors. There are many variables for scientific experimentation and understanding of the material.

Don Nibert Raku pottery is distinct for brilliant color production which maintains colorfastness. Many Raku potters produce work which quickly loses color over time--eventually, becoming nothing but muted browns and greys. Don developed a chemical process and technique in which the bright colors of the Raku copper glaze do not fade. He used intuition and sensitivity to control the process as much as humanly possible and was rewarded with a variety of color, including the more difficult to achieve earth tones. His expert timing in post reduction produced atypical color response. Typically, the raku process produces red, blue, and purple iridescence. Nibert's mastery combined those colors with tones of warm brown, gold, green, orange, and yellow ochre.

Initially, Don created very large, wheel thrown pots using a fine porcelain mix. Later, he established his signature style by combining the 3 dimensional carved forms of his pots with steel stands (bases) made from reclaimed metals from machinery to create cohesive and unified structural works.

As Don's artistic career progressed, Fayetteville, Arkansas remained his home. Here, he found exceptional friends--creative, and generous of spirit. Working alongside friends at the Block Street Studio, Don honed his talent for welding, leading to his innovational pot stands. He found kinship with local musicians. He played the fiddle and penny whistle with the traditional Celtic band, the Mudlarks, solidifying friendships which lasted for the final three decades of his life.

Once, Don told me that he was a just a simple man. I found him to be anything but.

Joann Lacey, M.F.A.

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