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@Work: Kazooti Clay Studio


May 13, 2005 – People have always called her "Rootie Kazooti," after the baby-boomer era puppet show from the 1950s. Now that Ruth Prager of Kazooti Clay Studio is working on a logo for her business, she may go with something whimsical to match the name.
She's been camped in the corner of Tillett Gardens for just about two years now, creating functional but unusual pottery.
The "finger plates" are so named because the bumpy texture is formed with her fingerprints. Also, there are the famous moisture resistant saltshakers, which are not only practical, but the design makes them dinner party conversation pieces. Prager says it's an old concept, but she's added a bottle neck and cork to make it purely original. There are also aesthetic embellishments like faces, shells and fish.
"I tell people they're not allowed to leave until they test drive a salt shaker," she says with a laugh.
Prager also makes sconces, mugs, oyster bowls, candleholders, rests for spoons and teabags—anything you can think of and even some things you haven't. She also takes on custom orders, the most recent challenge being a large bathroom sink.
"I want to do more strange things," says Prager, her enthusiasm growing, "stuff that I gotta tell you what it is."
Every piece that comes out of the Kazooti Clay Studio is a "unique, individual thing," she says.
Of course that statement could also be applied to the artist herself. Prager started working with clay as a young child, dating her first "clay experience" back to third grade. Throughout college and later as an adult, she always found herself in a pottery class while making her living in the corporate world.
"After six years I got sick of corporate America, I put my stuff in storage, bought an RV and drove around the country," says Prager.
After driving from Texas to Alaska and back, Prager decided to return to Ft. Lauderdale. Back in corporate America, Prager found herself confronted with the "same old thing," she says. "I thought 'I'm wasting my life doing things I'm not being appreciated for.'"
Prager attended the Glassell School of Art in Houston, Texas, focusing her time there working on clay. "It was something I love. I can't explain it." When she bought her own wheel, that love became something palpable, and later, profitable.
"It was an opportunity to do what I wanted for me. I didn’t count on it to make a living."
Then came another love, this one in the form of a dot com dating service. Living in Ft. Lauderdale, Prager found herself in a long-distance romance with a man named Mark on St. Thomas. After eight months, they decided someone needed to make a move. Prager, forever willing to embark on the next adventure, packed her things again and this time moved to the Virgin Islands. "That's how I got to the islands," she says with a smile. "Love."
She scoured classified ads looking for a job, and spent the rest of the time on her front porch turning clay on her potter's wheel.
Then came the day Prager ran out of clay. She was on her way to Kilnworks on the East End to buy more when she passed by Tillett Gardens. There was a tiny sign that caught her eye. "Artists' Studio," it said. "I flipped a u-turn and never made it to Kilnworks," says Prager.
Soon the woman who had only sold one or two pieces of pottery had a stake in the artist community. She opened the Kazooti Clay Studio and contented herself to live the island artist's dream.
But somehow Prager can never truly escape her corporate background. She's taken on roles as a member of the St. Thomas-St. John Arts Council, the Executive Director for Arts Alive!, and has organized a life drawing class for herself and fellow artists.
Currently Prager is also organizing Tillett Gardens' Summertime Festival, scheduled for July 23 and 24.
"I need to make another sink, I owe someone a sushi plate, another sconce, and I need to have 50 salt shakers on the shelf at all times."
Despite the packed schedule, Prager is staying just where she is.
"I feel like I live this charmed life."
Prager's work can be found at Dolphin Dreams, St. John Spice, Native Arts and Crafts Co-Op, and at her Tillett Gardens studio.

Visit the Source Kazooti Clay Studio Web page!


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