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The poet of pots

May 22, 2005|Ann Herold

People ask him what to plant in the giant pots he makes, and for a moment Frank Gallagher can't speak. He never saw them as something to hold plants but rather as pieces of shapely architecture on which the eye would light and the brain connected to it would experience what he calls a "feeling of warmth, comfort."

The idea for the oversized pots had been rolling around in his own brain for years as he worked on projects that required his unique mix of art training and construction skills, such as the two home theaters, one with an Egyptian tableau in bronze that stoked his creative fires.

Born in Northern Ireland and trained in fine art in England, he came to the United States 24 years ago to work in construction, but you can't disconnect an artist for long. From the studio behind his digs--a former gatehouse on an old San Marino estate--he puzzled out how to "throw" a pot almost as big as a man. It would start with a giant rib cage of wood and wire onto which was poured a blend of reconstituted limestone, cement and an admix, better suited than terra cotta for the permanence he envisioned. The Botero-esque beauties would be shaped by holding a curved piece of wood--a pattern he created--to the blob of material as he walked around and around it. His first commission was an 8-foot wonder that weighs 8,500 pounds and anchors the Simmons Marketplace in Las Vegas. He thought it might be the biggest pot ever and contacted the Guinness book people. "I was told they had no category for it," he says.

He wants to make a set of pots engraved with poetry. The first would be part of a Shakespeare sonnet on autumn, well-suited he thinks to the pots' muted colors, more melancholic than festive. "People might not pick up the book, but they would stop and read this," he surmises.

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(Stoneware tip) For a unique outdoor patio, Gallagher suggests making a paper or wood pattern of a "universal jigsaw puzzle piece" and then taking it and a stack of slate tiles to a tile layer who can "wetcut" each tile into that puzzle shape. They can be interlocked to create a square in a design that will have guests talking.

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Frank Gallagher, www.allindustrialarts.com.

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