‘Surfing Potter’ creates artwork inspired by — and made with — beach finds
DANA POINT — When Phil Delgado hits his favorite surfing beaches — at San Onofre and in Hawaii and Costa Rica — he’s not just looking for well-shaped waves and good sets. He also has an eye out for what’s on the sand and in the shore break.
Often he finds driftwood, sea shells, koa wood and kukui nut shells — they’re perfect, he says, for a unique style of art that has led to his nickname: “Surfing Potter.”
“These pieces inspire me for my creation,” Delgado, 69, said recently at his Dana Point studio.
“I haven’t seen anyone else do this type of work,” he said, referring to his style of working found beach objects into his pottery. “I think people are attracted to it because they have the same feeling I do about the beach. That beachy look reminds them of where they’ve been.”
In July, Delgado’s “Tropical Bowl,” a dark brown piece that included a wood handle found at San Onofre State Beach and shells from Costa Rica — took second place in the OC Fair’s Fine Arts Amateur Art Competition in the wheel-thrown ceramics category. This was Delgado’s second year entering; in 2017 he got an Honorable Mention.
In all, there were 26 ceramic pieces on display and eligible for awards in the wheel-thrown category. First and third place went to Joseph Lee, of Irvine.
Delgado said he couldn’t believe it when he walked into the OC Fair display area to see his artwork and found a red second-place ribbon on it.
“I didn’t expect to win,” he said. “I thought the piece was pretty good but you don’t know who you’re competing against.”
Delgado’s fascination with pottery started in elementary school, then continued as he moved to high school. He also loved to body board and surf.
While a student at Loara High School in Anaheim, Delgado would make trips to Laguna Beach, where he was inspired by artists he watched throwing clay at the Pottery Shack.
“I thought it was the coolest thing,” he said.
His interests in pottery and surfing grew as he served in the U.S. Navy at the former Naval Air Station Barbers Point on O’ahu. There he continued his craft and taught a class to relatives of service members on base.
After his 12-year naval service, he pursued more art education while earning a communications degree at Cal State Fullerton.
Delgado continued his artistic endeavors even while working in marketing, where he created layout concepts for specialized advertising.
After retiring, he went back to perfecting his artistic skills through Saddleback College’s emeritus program in Laguna Woods Village.
Now, he said, he has time to go back and revisit some of the tropical places he visited in the past through his artwork.
“There are a lot of stages in clay,” he said. “It’s more than just making a piece with shape. Then you go to textures and colors. A lot of art is involved in clay.
“When I tell people it has clay from the beach,” he added. “They’re like, ‘Wow,’ I’m taking the beach home with me.’”