Heart of Texas Magazine

Brian Burckhardt: The Making of a Texas Potter

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All photos courtesy of Hill Country Pottery

You’ve heard people say, “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could.” That could be Brian Burckhardt’s motto. Burckhardt, the owner of Hill Country Pottery, was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. But even as a child, he hated the cold, winter weather in Minnesota. With a desire for outdoor living and a longing to study ceramics in a warm climate, Burckhardt picked Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. Southwestern has over 8,000 courses in art and more than 300 of them feature ceramics. Brian enrolled and immediately embraced the area.

How does an outdoorsman get into ceramics? By accident. Burckhardt needed a high school elective, and on a lark, enrolled in a ceramics class. He says, “Those professors inspired me with their classes and studios, and I determined I could earn a living at a job I enjoyed.” Burckhardt’s been making ceramics since 1996 and opened his gallery in 2009.

In Georgetown, Burckhardt encountered the Hill Country. It was the perfect spot for a man who appreciates the outdoors, and he soon decided the Hill Country was an ideal place for a studio. But, Burckhardt didn’t establish one immediately. He enjoyed traveling and working in the fitness industry.

Although art is his love, Burckhardt graduated Southwestern University in 2001 with a degree in Kinesiology. He was one art history class away from a second degree in Studio Art: Ceramics. Instead of the needed history class, he chose an independent, hands-on class. He learned about handmade dinner sets and doesn’t regret not obtaining a second degree in Art. After graduation, he took time off for travel, outdoor living, and fitness training.

While visiting South Padre, Texas, Burckhardt met and married his wife, Shauna. They’d travel to the Texas Hill Country on weekends and eventually settled down in the area. Their two children are native Texans.

Burckhardt, a true outdoorsman, finds the Texas Hill Country as the perfect location to be outside. Camping, fishing, hiking, biking, and all things in the open-air appeal to him. Not only does the Hill Country provide athletic activities, but the locale inspires him as an artist. His studio sits on a hill overlooking the Guadalupe Valley, and Burckhardt mimics the rustic cliffs, limestone, and soft, rolling, hills in his ceramic creations.

Burckhardt’s much-loved Texas season is fall. Fall in the Texas Hill Country changes with subtle color, nothing like the east coast, but understated variations take place. Burckhardt takes ideas from these delicate hues, but he is most stimulated by the numerous, Texas sky displays at dusk and dawn. The blues and pinks of everyday sunrises and sunsets journey their way into his pottery.

A typical day for Burckhardt begins with him in his studio at 4:00 every morning. “That’s the best time to work,” he says. “I have no distractions. I listen to music, I really don’t care for total silence. I stop for breakfast, get the kids off to school, and then open the gallery at 10:00. I spend the rest of the day working with ceramics and talking to customers.”

Besides filling his time with outdoor living, Burckhardt adores food preparation, and his pastime is cooking and gardening. Acknowledging a preferred cuisine is difficult for him. He says, “Oh, boy, my favorite dish? I like tapas—small bites of various foods. Olives, cheeses, and dips. I love the gathering of people with food and conversation. I design my pottery around snacks and tiny bites. Many of my ideas for bowls come from a tapas get-together with friends.”

Burckhardt spends three to four weeks creating smaller pottery pieces and six weeks creating larger ones. He and his artist assistants mix clay on site, then the forming, shaping, drying, and adding elements take place. After firing the pottery in the kiln, he glazes it and fires it again. Each piece is handled numerous times. The many processes give Burckhardt an opportunity to give demonstrations as he works.

One of Burckhardt’s first creations was a bowl, and he gave it to his grandmother. That bowl is long gone now, but he still remembers it as his favorite work and wishes he had it as a keepsake.

Burckhardt speaks fluent Spanish and his pottery centers around Latin culture. If he had all the time and money in the world, he’d travel more, but for now, he’s enjoying the Texas Hill Country.

Burckhardt’s gallery address is 738 FM 473 in Comfort, Texas. But, you won’t find the studio strolling the quaint town of Comfort. Hill Country Pottery is a destination, and one worth going to. From downtown Comfort, drive east on Hwy. 473 for about eight miles toward Sisterdale. The gallery is close to the Sisterdale Winery. Ten minutes from Comfort, 20 from Boerne, and 30 from Fredericksburg. For gallery hours and to learn more, call (830) 446-2957 or visit www.hillcountrypottery.com.