Paul "Bear" Bradford, Artist

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Firing up inspiration from clay pottery

Valerie Christopher • The Desert Sun • September 3, 2007

As a Banning pottery artist, born of Nez Perce ancestry, Bradford's unique designs help support a legendary landmark in the desert.

Bradford draws his inspiration from nature and its surroundings for his pottery. That same spirit is reflected in many of the other frontier art pieces and artifacts displayed at the Cabot Pueblo Museum in Desert Hot Springs.

As an artist in residence at the Cabot museum for the past six years, 6 to 10 of his pieces are on display at Cabot every season.

"People literally jump all over each other to collect his work," said Lisa Lawrence, president of the Cabot Museum Foundation. "Paul hung out a lot at the museum and was a close friend of its original owner. I think his pottery is a talent that speaks for itself."

For 17 years Bradford has been making pottery. His love for taking a piece of clay, forming it to a required shape and heating it to high temperatures in a kiln, is a simple pleasure.

"It's pressure relief from day-to-day hectic stuff," Bradford said. "I love creating works that people enjoy in their home."

Creating mostly utilitarian pottery - bowls, platters, vases and bread and butter ware - Bradford is also known for his love of American Indian and Asian pottery such as Raku (Japanese pottery) and Kosai, a Japanese term meaning "hue of light."

The Kosai designs stand out as some of his most vibrant pieces because they capture rainbow-like colors through the fuming of chemicals onto the surface of the glaze.

Bradford makes a living out of the ceramics industry by dividing it up into several categories: designing, repairing (kilns), teaching and selling pottery.

Working out of his 3,000-square-foot Bear Creek studio, divided into a showroom and work room, he has made pottery for Carrow's Restaurants, cornflake commercials and Ortega chili.

As a member of the Southwest Association of Indian Arts, First Americans in the Arts and the American Ceramic Society Design Chapter, Bradford just wants to touch everyone he can with his art.

By teaching 10-week ceramics classes, once a week at Paris Hill Park in San Bernardino, he can.

"I just want to reach out to whomever wants to learn," he said. "No piece is ever the same. But to be one with your clay is the purpose."