THE FIRST IN OUR SERIES FEATURING PROFESSIONAL ARTISTS WHO MAKE SOUTH MIAMI THEIR HOME.
Art has been part of the human experience for millennia; witness the cave paintings of Altamira, Spain, and Lascaux, France, which date to 15,000-10,000 BCE. That human beings need to express themselves in some form or fashion for whatever reason is well-established; that there is a universally agreed upon definition of art and artists is not. Our series will introduce you to six artists who have chosen to convey something about themselves, their life experiences, their craft and their talents through the prism we call “art.” We thank them for sharing their art
and their time with us.
Douglas Adams is a ceramicist who was born in South Miami and spent a good deal of his life right here. For 35 years, he has been making pottery with functional forms and brightly colored glazes he develops himself. Truly a one-man operation, Douglas designs, makes, produces, markets and sells his work, primarily at popular sidewalk art shows. He also enjoys the solitude of the studio.
“Every artist has a story to tell about how he or she got into art,” said Adams.
His life experiences include a stretch serving our country in US Army Intelligence in the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). After honorable discharge from the military, he decided to return to the task of seeking a college degree at FIU on the GI Bill. The key that gave his life direction turned out to be an elective course in ceramics.
“Throwing pottery on a wheel was fun, invigorating and I excelled at it,” says Douglas. He was so proficient that he earned a scholarship and Master’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Miami.
His experiences while hitchhiking across this country and Canada combined with his collegiate studies in philosophy live on in his art. The environment in which he was raised provides another influence in his work; the vibrant hues of South Florida are captured in his radiant glazes. The colors of the Florida reef that he saw when snorkeling as a child are his inspiration. The underwater world magnifies the color of objects—it is why turquoise is so important to his work.
Adams’ pottery is sold at the Coconut Grove, Beaux Arts, and South Miami Art shows. He has won over 100 awards in the “Best of Show” and “Best of Ceramics” categories. His stoneware is primarily functional with some examples that are purely decorative. The most popular wares are those made for dinner service. “I have people who tell me that they loved eating off the plates I made when they were kids. I have made things for three generations of some families.”
Douglas Adams also likes to teach others about his art form. He volunteers to go into local schools and give hands-on demonstrations to students. And he helps organize the “Visiting Artists Program” that takes place before and after the Coconut Grove Art Show. Since 1983, visiting artists have been sharing their experiences and techniques with area school children; Adams has led the program for the last 20 years.
Decades ago, Adams was cruising on a 50-foot trimaran on his way to Costa Rica with friends. Some foul weather pushed their boat aground. Unfortunately, that ground happened to be in Cuba. Douglas and his friends were arrested and held in an old hotel on the Malecón for one month. Their captors seeking $5,000 in ransom, the hapless sailors were finally set free when Douglas shouted to a Swiss diplomat that they were Americans being held against their will. The diplomat notified the American government, and they were freed soon after.
Adams loves what he does and cannot imagine “retiring” from work; he believes that work is a part of human nature.
“I never imagined as a young man that I’d be doing this. It found me — I didn’t find it.”