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Norman Lansing

Etching a Unique Niche

 Winter/Spring 20-21

A small Norman Lansing ceramic pot—smooth and squat, with subtle color changes—can sit comfortably in the palm of your hand. Thin-shelled and lightweight, the details of contemporary, traditional, and imaginative designs flow into one another. When lightly traced with fingertips, the art can be felt. This small pot is the result of five decades of constant learning. 

Lansing’s learning process has also taken him beyond just the art of etching. It has taught him to understand life itself—how precious and fragile it is.

After high school, Norman Lansing’s journey as an artist went beyond pen and ink, watercolor, and acrylics. In the early 1970s, he began to explore the process of etching (sgraffito) on a new type of canvas—ceramics. He acknowledges that there has been criticism of his use of non-traditional pottery, but his focus is on the message people receive from his art. The message is revealed on each unique bowl, which is covered with thoughts about the balance of life and about coexistence without turmoil for individuals, especially children. 

Lansing’s approach is refined. For etching, the initial wide, broad lines achieved with standard devices evolved into fine, thin lines created with custom tools. Glazing is always a challenge, because colors change during the drying process. The glaze needs to work for the pot, as well as for the artist, throughout the etching process, so creating glazes that remain smooth, with no cracks, requires ongoing experimentation. 


Lansing describes the etching of a pot as a beginning and an end—there is no middle. “You have to be alert, with no distractions, from the moment you begin.” The uninterrupted etching process takes eight to 12 hours, is unforgiving, and cannot be erased or corrected. With a free hand, etching starts in one area, and materializes as the ceramic pot is slowly rotated. The etch develops in the moment and what is being imagined at that moment is being placed on the pot. If an etching is interrupted, it is very difficult to complete the bowl.

Norman Lansing was born and raised on the Ute Mountain Ute reservation, in southwest Colorado. He continues to work with pen and ink, watercolor, and acrylic, and is constantly exploring and developing designs, ranging from modern beadwork to stylized forms. He has studied, evolved, refined, and created a signature sgraffito style on ceramic, which is recognized for its fine detail and multiple images.

Lansing’s work is exhibited at Toh-Atin Gallery, 145 W. Ninth St., Durango.

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