Texas-native Gregory Story brings creative ceramics to the Cottonwood Art Festival as its featured artist this spring

The Collin-Denton Spotlighter talks with Cottonwood Art Festival Featured Artist Gregory Story ahead of the spring festival.

Gregory Story Cottonwood Art Festival
Cottonwood Art Festival Featured Artist Gregory Story – Pictures courtesy of Gregory Story

For ceramicist Gregory Story, the bi-annual Cottonwood Art Festival in Richardson was one of the first art shows he ever attended. “It’s always been special to me, not just because it was one of my first shows, but because that’s where I started to meet my art fair family,” Story said, adding that he would guess he first attended the festival back in 2007.

Growing up in a “really small Texas town” in Uvalde County, Story said being an artist “wasn’t a cool thing to aspire to, so I kind of kept it to myself.” After taking a survey of sculpture class while attending TCU for a psychology degree, however, he realized “this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Story would go on to get a degree in ceramics from the University of Texas at Arlington. After school, he eventually got a job at the Arlington Museum of Art working on special events. It gave Story the “freedom and the encouragement to put together a ceramic studio of my own, finally, and then it gave me the freedom to start doing art fairs.”

Now, about a decade and a half after he first attended the Cottonwood Art Festival, the festival has named Story the featured artist for its May 4-5 spring event. “It was quite a surprise and a great joy,” Story said.

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Story plans to bring some of the most popular pieces he produces at the Chicago-based studio he operates, Modern Clay, to the festival. “It’s all decorative ceramics. Everything I do is hand-built, handmade (and) hand-glazed,” Story said. “The majority of the work I’ll be showing is wall sculpture, which I call the WallBalls.”

Story describes the WallBalls as “an alternative to having a painting in a space.” They range from four inches to up to around 10 inches in diameter and come in a vast variety of fun, unique and inventive designs. “I started doing them about, I don’t know 12 or 14 years ago…and they really took off just kind of immediately,” Story said, adding that he began creating them as a response to prospective collectors at fairs who were concerned that their pets would knock over ceramic pieces meant to stand on their own.

Story goes through an intensive process to make each WallBall. He estimates that each individual piece is the result of more than 25 different steps, with waiting times between each step for factors like drying or hardening. “It’s nonstop, all the steps at once or all day long, so I have no idea how many I make a day, or a year for that matter. I don’t want to know,” Story said, laughing.

Gregory Story Cottonwood Art Festival
A grid of WallBalls

Story said he sees WallBall sales split fairly evenly between those who buy one that can hold a space on its own and those who buy several to make a pattern or display with them. “One of the things that I try to focus on and like to think about is that I’m collaborating with my collector,” Story said, describing how he’s told collectors to think about the WallBalls as everything from grids to “planets in the universe” or “flowers on the vine” when arranging them. “I’m creating all these little components of a sculpture, and then they’re taking them home and finishing the piece by how they arrange it on their walls.”

In addition to the WallBalls, Story plans to bring new pieces from the “Ridiculous” line of Modern Clay’s inventive and functional ceramic pieces to the Cottonwood Art Festival. The line includes vibrant, artistically designed everyday items like vases and tissue boxes. “I call them ridiculous because you have to be at a certain stage in your life when you can buy a $300 tissue box cover, right?” Story said with a laugh, going on to explain that many collectors often keep them as purely decorative pieces because of how much they enjoy them as sculptures.

Gregory Story Cottonwood Art Festival
One of the tissue box covers in the Ridiculous line

When he’s not at Modern Clay making popular pieces, Story often attends different festivals and fairs around the country. Story always looks forward to having the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and collectors alike at the Cottonwood Art Festival, singling out how much of a “shocking thrill” it will be to see all the signs and t-shirts showing him as the featured artist. “I’ve got so many friends in the DFW area, so it’s always like a big homecoming for me.” Story said of attending the festival.

The Spring Cottonwood Art Festival runs from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on May 4 and 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on May 5. The festival will then return on October 5 and 6. For more information on the festival, visit https://cottonwoodartfestival.com/. For more information about Gregory Story, visit https://www.gregorystory.com/.

This interview has been edited for clarity.


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