Marcus Dorsey: Mud to Masterpiece
Photos by Chris Wallace
Marcus Dorsey’s magnetic personality and warm smile are almost as complex and beautiful as his artwork. A multitalented artist who pushes himself outside the box in several mediums, Dorsey is taking the regional art world by storm.
Originally from Montgomery, Dorsey attended Troy University and graduated with a graphic design degree with a minor in fine and performing arts. Having dabbled in photography throughout high school and college, he began his professional career as a portrait photographer at Total Image, where he worked for five years. “My inspiration for my photography came from my mom. She had a beautiful rose garden that was always such a perfect backdrop. I started learning photography techniques there, and it became a passion,” he said.
Marcus has now added dance photography to his repertoire, something he said is both magical and challenging. As a photographer for the Troy Dance Department, Marcus said, “Capturing a dancer in the perfect mid-air pose is difficult. You have to catch the moment at just the right time. But if I do, it is pure magic.”
While Dorsey’s career as a photographer has continued to thrive, he said ceramics became a part of his life quite accidentally. “I fell into the mud so to speak,” Dorsey laughed. “Graphic designers, by nature are very neat and meticulous people, whereas ceramics is fluid and messy. My mentor back at Troy was the department head and ceramics professor. I had always wanted to try it, and he influenced me to get my hands dirty. My first bowl was so ugly. It looked like an ear, but I love it, and I still have it,” he said.
Dorsey has spent numerous hours in the studio perfecting his craft with the support of his friends and family. “Once I got into it, I realized it was like therapy for me. Whenever something was going on or on my mind, I worked it out in the studio. The more I poured my emotions out into the clay, the better my work became,” he said.
Dorsey claimed a summer pottery class with Sharon Reeves at Henny Penny Potteries in Wetumpka changed his life. “Even though my professor in college was great, he was left handed. Sharon showed me how to throw with my right hand, and it changed everything. Her studio was like a comforting little home, and we’d sit there throwing pottery all day and talking. She became like a second mom to me,” he said.
Dorsey said color is the most important part of his art. “Color is in everything I do. Whether photography or ceramics, it tells a story. The colors that I choose are very important to the piece.”
According to Dorsey, there are several techniques to coloring pottery. First, decoration is applied to the surface before it is covered with a transparent, ceramic glaze and fired in a kiln. Because the glaze subsequently covers it, such decoration is completely durable, and it also allows the production of pottery with a surface that has a uniform sheen.
Dorsey said that while underglazing offers color to a piece, it generally allows the original texture of the clay to remain, whereas traditional glazing is an impervious layer or coating of a vitreous substance that can serve to color, decorate or waterproof an item. In addition to their functionality, glazes can form a variety of surface finishes, including degrees of glossy or matte finish and color. Glazes may also enhance the underlying design or texture either unmodified or inscribed, carved or painted.
“I love experimenting with glazes, and you never really know what you are going to get. It’s a lot of trial and error to find the right color combos and technique,” he added.
His favorite technique, called Raku, is a type of Japanese firing traditionally used in Japanese pottery for tea ceremonies, most often in the form of chawan tea bowls. Raku usually involves removing pottery from the kiln while at bright red heat and placing it into containers with combustible materials like paper. Once the materials ignite, the containers are closed. This produces an intense reduction atmosphere which affects the colors in glazes and clay bodies. The drastic thermal shock also produces cracking known as crackling, a deliberate and desirable effect.
Dorsey has sold his pieces in art shows around the area and said the day he sold his first ceramic piece was the day he felt like a professional artist. “I walked in to my first ceramics show in Birmingham, and my piece was already sold when I got there. I walked over to it, and sure enough there was a green dot beside it. That was the moment when I felt like I had finally made it. There is no better feeling than knowing that your work is in demand,” he said.
Dorsey hopes to one day follow in Sharon Reeves’ footsteps and offer his expertise to others hoping to learn the art of ceramics in the Montgomery area. He said, “I’d love to one day be able to open my own art center and teach photography, painting, ceramics, you name it. And I’d like it to be affordable so everyone can have a chance to explore their inner artist because I believe we all have one. It just needs to be brought out with patience and without intimidation.”
Without the support of his teachers, family and mentors, Dorsey said he wouldn’t have been able to chase his dreams, and for that he is thankful. “You always hear how hard it is to make a living being an artist, but when you have people in your corner you can do it. When you want to give up, keep pushing. Just like ceramics…if it doesn’t work the way you wanted it to at first, keep working it and eventually it will turn into something beautiful.”
To view Marcus Dorsey’s work or to contact him, visit his Instagram page @mdantepics or contact him via email at email@example.com.