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Art out of earth

Shades of Brown owner exhibits her work

Shades of Brown will display pottery by owner Melinda Curren and her mother, Marcia Borum, through May

Greg Bollinger

Melinda Curren talks very quickly. She’s probably been operating on a slightly over-caffeinated baseline since opening Shades of Brown 13 years ago. Shades—a longtime spot for creatives to showcase their work—is less stuffy than a gallery, and Curren works with many early-career artists. 

For the first time, Curren and her mother, Marcia Borum, are exhibiting their own work. Pottery by both Curren and Borum, as well as paintings by Borum, will be on display through the end of May.

“We’re the mud masters,” Curren said. “Nine years ago me and my mom started making mugs for the cafe. We’ve expanded since then, but I’m getting a little tired of making mugs.”

Curren first learned pottery from Linda Coward at Brookside Pottery, and now she has a kiln, wheels, glazes, and just about everything else she needs to create art out of earth. She says it’s a labor of love, and the process is so rewarding because of the tactile gratification. 

“Clay is super forgiving, which is what I love about pottery … There’s so much give and take to it,” Curren said. 

After making pottery “just for herself,” the mugs became popular at Shades. Curren typically loads 40–60 mugs in the kiln every month, solely to use and sell in the cafe. More recently, Curren and her mom started making other vessels for plants. The hand-thrown planters are rustic and fun with earthy glazes and whimsical cuttings.  

She loves succulents for similar reasons she loves clay—they’re hearty and resilient. She also uses a lot of snake and purple heart plants for how easy they are to cut and repurpose. Another theme emerges: the value of getting full use out of things is greater than monetary.

This show represents most of everything Curren loves to do—make things and share them with people. 

“I love pots, I love plants; I want people to enjoy them. May is good—it’s spring—to enjoy life … If you love it as much as I do, you can take it home with you. If not, I’ll take it home myself!”

For more from Kathryn, read her story on Tulsa Overground’s virtual reality programming.