Most people find relaxation, and maybe a few dead bugs, in their swimming pool. Chip Hilton found art in his.
“I sort of fell into art,” says the 49-year-old Mesa resident. “I was a solar technician, and my sneakers were melting into rooftops during the summers. I needed a pool. So, I built one. And while I was doing that, I made some mosaics for the bottom and just sort of dove headfirst into art from there.”
Now a full-time artist working in clay, Hilton is one of more than two dozen ceramic artists featured on this weekend’s eighth annual Self-Guided Studio Tour. The 15-stop tour is put on 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday by the Arizona State University Art Museum’s Ceramics Research Center. It’s free and open to the public.
“There are a number of world-class ceramic artists in the Valley,” says Diane Wallace, spokeswoman for ASU Art Museum. “To have the chance to see them at work and speak with them about what they’re making and why — it’s an opportunity we really want to share with the community.”
At private studios across the Valley, jury-selected artists will demonstrate how they throw pottery, construct vessels and embellish surfaces. They’ll also answer questions and discuss their work, which, in most cases, will be for sale. Also on the tour are the Ceramics Research Center, a 7,200-square-foot museum that houses 3,500 ceramic pieces, and the Herberger College of the Arts graduate students’ on-campus work spaces.
At his hand-built studio in the desert of northeast Mesa, Hilton — who also taught fifth-, seventh- and eighth-grade science before turning to art — will do hourly pottery-wheel demonstrations and Bas-relief carving.
He has created artwork for the Mesa Public Library-Dobson Ranch Branch, Phoenix Zoo’s Enchanted Forest and Solel Preschool’s splash playground in Paradise Valley.
He has also done backsplashes, fireplaces and other commissions in private homes. His diverse creations range from $5 incense burners to $15,000 murals.
“There are some great artists in this town, and I’m trying to become one of them,” says Hilton. “I’m no Picasso yet, but I do some pretty cool work.”