Retired OBU professor launches art business

by Allison Jarboe, Arts Editor

Dr. Tony Litherland, a recently retired professor from OBU, has started his very own clay art business.

“My husband has been doing art for quite a while,” Dr. Lucrecia Litherland, Spanish professor at OBU said.

“He was best known for his paintings on campus and doodling. And pottery allows him to transfer some of his doodles to clay. Some of his pots’ designs are a reflection of his doodles, and they are symbolic and very unique.”

litherland-is-courtesy-photo-by-senior-heather-sanders
Dr. Tony Litherland (right) poses for a photo with senior OBU student, Heather Sanders (left). Courtesy Photo / Edward Sanders

Their website, clayartdesigns.com, contains additional information about Tony Litherland’s ceramic art.

“When you buy a Clay Art Designs pottery piece, you’re not only buying a functional piece full of character from a local artist, but you’re supporting the passion of an individual who is deeply invested in the community – in hopes of inspiring others through art, education and faith,” the site said.

Tony Litherland’s inspiration for his business is also stated on his website.

“In 2014, I took serious interest in pottery. I started working with the art professor to hone my skills and I have never looked back ever since. While transitioning from professor to student in my pottery classes, I had a distinct vision for Clay Art Designs. It was there that I began to develop my own individual pottery style,” he said.

“You’ll find elements of nature mixed with abstract lines and unique textures in my pottery. I also draw inspiration from my travels across the world (37 countries to date), from my wife’s Hispanic roots (Argentina) and from my current place of dwelling (Oklahoma).”

His wife, Dr. Lucrecia Litherland discussed her husband’s heritage involving art.

“He has always done well with art, even from his first pot in high school –which we still have,” she said. “His family is very talented. Some of his aunts have done amazing things, including exhibits in the White House. So he comes from some genetics that are very strong artistically.”

In addition, she spoke about the development of their business.

“The beauty of this is that now it’s full time. It’s not just a hobby anymore; it’s a real business,” she said.

She also spoke about her whole family’s participation in the business.

“We are online, and we are on Facebook and Instagram. We are developing our online market, and with this, our children are our greatest supporters,” she said.

“They help so much with identifying trends, items, colors, marketing to social media and designing our website. We have to adjust—for him it’s the art that he enjoys doing so much, and also the products that have to be sold. So we have to be aware of the needs that are there. It’s all hand made. And they’re never identical; they’re always a surprise in one way or another!”

She shared her excitement about upcoming changes in the business and explained the role she has been playing.

She also said that they will be launching their business soon for the fall, with an autumn sale on their website and on Etsy.

“We are transitioning, and he’s going into the business full time. I’m more behind the scenes, and I love helping out. I will help with glazing and other things as well. But he’s the one who pours the hours on the wheel,” she said. “He hopes to enter a contest at some point. We have a show and display room for pieces that have been completed—and are one day wanting to have a storefront.”

This past weekend, the Litherlands set up at City Hall in Tecumseh for a festival. Clay Art Designs also set up a booth at OBU’s recent Food Truck Fest during Welcome Week. She talked about its success.

“It was exciting. One of the things that sold very well were the mini ceramic pots. We like to do festivals—particularly local ones. It allows us to stay close and save money. We love the interaction with the people, and that’s where we get ideas too. Each festival we attend and each booth we set up is a fairly new experience, but it is an exciting transition.”

She offered her input on the current position of their business.

“We have some goals in mind, but starting a business doesn’t happen overnight,” she said.

“Until some of that comes into place, there’s a lot of groundwork to be laid. So, right now that’s what we’re working on. We are content with the pace we are keeping. We have a lot of ideas and good hopes for the future.”

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