Jerri Barton is an artist of layers and fire

Jerri Cook-Barton is a multi-layered woman who dances with a multi-layered art. She specializes in painted porcelain portraits, an ancient, graceful and most rarified pursuit.

"It's really a dying art," said Cook-Barton, who has attained her mastery of the trade through 22 years of apprenticeship with her mentor, Jane Marcks, and has now taken an apprentice herself.

One intricacy which separates porcelain painting, in addition to the artist firing her own pieces, is the layering required to perfect the work. In order to get an image to hold on such a surface, Cook-Barton must work in degrees. She starts an image with basic shading. Then She must refire the piece. Then she adds, she refires, she adds, she refires and ultimately she fashions one-of-kind masterworks reminiscent of a time and discipline most rare in today's immediate sensibilities.

"That's probably why we don't see a lot of young people doing this," said Cook-Barton. "They want to paint and have it done in a day. That doesn't happen with this. They have to see it evolve, day after day; it all unfolds that way."

"This art form is very meditative. You must be so slow to do to it," said Cook-Barton. "It's actually a very private thing, in which your inspiration needs ultimate concentration. Once it's fired, it's not a forgiving medium- it's in there."

But for Cook-Barton, the forgiveness is in the finished product. "It's a great job, really wonderful," said Cook-Barton. "I'm in the studio eight hours or more every day, I'm very disciplined that way. You can tell I have a very patient husband because at times he doesn't get to see much of me."

To understand Cook-Barton's passion for an art some may perceive as archaic, one must see Cook-Barton as she is; an elegant woman whose charm lies in her dedication and snes of values. Raised in California, she grew up on the same street as her husband. Now all of her children, and grandchild, live in Oregon and maintain a closeness rare today. The sensibilities of these values translate well into her art, which is often inspired by old sepia photographs and people watching.

"I think that it really surprises people, that this work is still being done," said Cook-Barton. But it is certainly an art form she wishes to preserve. For years, Cook-Barton has taught classes on the art form, hoping to inspire people to continue the tradition. She has taught in several different states across the US, though she has maintained residency in Ashland for over 30 years now, and has traveled the world. In a few weeks, she and her husband leave for Switzerland to teach a week long course and try to sell a few pieces along the way. When she returns, Cook-Barton will be showing her work at La Soffita here in the Valley.

In addition to her travels, Cook-Barton loves teaching private classes right here in the Rogue Valley, where she hopes this art will continue to find roots.

"A lot of people are interested in looking at or touching this art, but don't want to learn how to do it," said Cook-Barton. "On the other hand, I had two young ladies come by the studio the other day who are now signed up for classes. I hope that this article encourages more people to learn about this art. You don't have to be great artists to start- I can draw that out of you."

To learn more abut this artist, and her art, go to

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