Cabarrus

Mount Pleasant artist makes mini-buildings made of clay

Artist Lin Barnhardt creates lanterns, bird feeders and birdhouses. His smallest birdhouses are for wrens, larger houses are for finches, and his bluebird house design includes a hole for cleaning out the abandoned nest.
Artist Lin Barnhardt creates lanterns, bird feeders and birdhouses. His smallest birdhouses are for wrens, larger houses are for finches, and his bluebird house design includes a hole for cleaning out the abandoned nest. LIN BARNHARDT

Lin Barnhardt must have been a fun art teacher.

In more than 30 years as a middle and high school teacher, Barnhardt liked to give his students assignments like creating a teapot inspired by a role model. Or, consider how the story ends by making bookends that illustrate a favorite book.

Barnhardt, 63, looks at art, and the world, from a unique perspective. Perspective is the key to the art he’s been creating since 1997: clay reconstructions of buildings. It started, Barnhardt said, in a dream.

“I woke with the idea that I could replicate this house with a bird’s-eye perspective,” he said.

He chose Moose Drug Store in downtown Mount Pleasant as his first model, and combining elements of architecture, sculpture, painting, shadow and light, and of course, perspective, started creating one-of-a-kind pieces.

“I hated clay in college,” Barnhardt said, who graduated from Appalachian State University in Boone in 1974.

But in talking with former teachers and colleagues, he realized there’s nothing wrong with treating clay as a canvas and using it for three-dimensional painting. It’s just the way he expresses his unique perspective.

Creating one of what he calls his architectural pieces takes Barnhardt hundreds of hours. Photographing, studying, working out the perspective and drafting only begin the process. Then there’s a poster board model that transfers to clay, using innovative instruments, like a pasta noodle rolling pin, followed by the painting.

Barnhardt’s clay pieces have been sold and displayed across the country. Wherever he’s had a show, he says that he likes to do reconstructions of important buildings in that area. He’s done a lot of pieces of buildings in Charleston, one of his favorite places to visit with his wife, Ramona, as well as a series dedicated to Edward Hopper, Barnhardt’s favorite artist, and the places Hopper painted.

About a year and a half ago, Barnhardt left the job he’d taken with the Cabarrus County Arts Council after retiring from teaching, and devoted his full time to working as a studio artist. Because his architectural pieces can be quite pricey, Barnhardt wanted to expand his work to something he could sell for less. Perhaps harkening back to that dream about a bird’s-eye view, he hit on the idea of making clay bird houses.

Barnhardt’s birdhouses, topped with beautiful colors found in nature, and a sort of squashed-acorn design, look like they belong in trees. From the birdhouse design, he developed a bird feeder in three sizes, and from that idea he’s working on a lantern. He sells the pieces from his home studio in Mount Pleasant, and is making plans to welcome people to that studio to learn about pottery.

Barnhardt hopes teaching pottery will get people interested in working with clay, and also provide a fun and different experience for folks to learn something new. Perhaps a new spin on date night, gift giving, or even small children’s parties are possibilities. But whatever Barnhardt does, it will be from a unique perspective.

Marcia Morris is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marcia? Email her at EasternCabarrusWriter@gmail.com.

Learn more:

To learn more about Lin Barnhardt, go to his website: www.linbarnhardt.com. To contact him about pottery classes or purchasing birdhouses, email him at info@linbarnhardt.com. His show, “Site Seeing: Viewpoints of Charleston Landmarks,” runs through June 7 at Surface Craft Gallery, in Charleston.

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