Gene P. Reck was born in Chicago, Illinois and attended grade school In Chicago, Wayne, Brighton and Wyandotte. He attended high school in Chicago. Since then he has lived at various times in Detroit, Bloomfield Township, Birmingham and Franklin.. He studied at the University of Illinois (B.S.), University of Minnesota (Ph.D.) and Brown University and began teaching chemistry at Wayne State University in Detroit in 1965. He retired from research and teaching to Cross Village, MI in 2000. One of his areas of experimental research was glass-coating technology in which he holds two patents. He has published over 100 scientific papers.
After retirement his wife, Joann Condino a fiber artist,, became interested in pottery and began working with an older potter from which they both learned. He began mixing and applying glazes for them, which was a natural due to his Chemistry background. Glazing is all about composition and control of composition. At that point he began his own work with clay discovering that the transition from science to art was a natural one.
He is often asked how one makes the jump from science to art. The answer is that art and science actually require the same skill set. He is continually struck by how artists could greatly benefit from a deeper understanding of the properties of materials and application of the methods of science. And that scientists could benefit by a more open approach to their observations. Someday he might write this up more completely.What is the corner stone of science? It is the scientific method. The first step in that method is observing the natural world. What is the corner stone of being an artist? Observation! The same skill is essential to both. Chemistry is about materials, the composition, the properties, and the changes that can occur. As an artist, whatever field, you are controlling materials. If you do not know anything about your materials you are a lousy artist. You have to know your materials. Also, science and art are about creativity. Both are about chasing ideas, and moving them around and putting new things together. There are only a limited number of ideas and concepts out there. Finally. Both science and art are about doing experiments- controlled observations. One of the failures of our educational system is this fragmentation of knowledge. The general applicability and transferability of skills is not emphasized.
Chemistry is all about matter and energy and their possible transformations so as a potter Reck uses clay and glazes (fundamental materials of the earth) and heat (most common form of energy) to produce objects in the Arts and Crafts tradition that are both useful and pleasing. Ceramics connects the ancient and the modern and our connection to the earth.
At this point he enjoys the working of the clay and the development of a glazed surface with the appearance of age. Most of his pieces are stoneware and are glazed at cone 6 in an electric kiln. He builds his work from rolled slabs of clay cut in to pieces that are assembled into a structure. Often these slabs are embossed with an extensive collection of blocks and chops, historic ceiling tiles from Northern Michigan buildings, fabricated objects or found objects. The formation of geometric structures with their patterned surfaces, angles and intersections are what he finds interesting and compelling.
He also makes a series of great lakes fish platters in several sizes using no lead, high fire glazes suitable for cooking and serving. In addition he makes a variety of vases, pots, boxes, birdbaths and pieces of various sizes, shapes and colors. Some of the pieces are designed so that they can be combined together in various ways to make larger structures. All are suitable for outside use in a garden setting. More recently, he has developed a line of stoneware and porcelain tableware composed of several different pieces.
Recently, he has begun making soup and chili bowels that allow one to heat them up directly along with sets od dinnerware.