Memory Sticks


Several sources describe an “Ebenezer” as a monumental stone chosen and set up to signify the great help God granted. After crossing the Red Sea, Moses set up stones to remind the Jews escaping slavery, of what God had done for them. I think of my stacks as notes to myself, and to those viewing them, as reminders of help. I handle and shape each form with purpose. I stack and re-stack them like a poet plugs in words, changes and reorders them. These are my musings about God’s protection and help. They are both as random as my thoughts and as composed as a prayer. They are playfully deliberate, borrowing from generations of clay technique, but striving for something new to say.




Born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Downing graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a BFA in sculpture with extensive coursework in English and Psychology. He has taught Art for thirty years in Durham, the last 23 years at Durham School of the Arts and the Durham Arts Council.


“Working with high school students has stretched me, expanding my view of the world. My work with adults helps balance the scale. I have enjoyed working with serious young artists and mature artists who want to make art materials speak their truth.”


His exposure to clay as an art form goes back to making clay apples with stick stems in a neighbor’s stream as a child. “Clay has always fascinated and challenged me. It is such a basic material. Clay is both free and temperamental, formless, yet loaded with potential. It holds the stories of our ancestors but is fragile and easily destroyed. The scrap piles and shards speak through the generations. I find clay a great teaching material, full of life lessons, self-correcting in its limitations and possibilities.”


Downing’s work has been seen in the triangle at Somerhill Gallery for 20 years, Raleigh Contemporary Gallery, now, the Mahler Gallery for more than 25 years. Special invitations have included the National Teapot Shows at Cedar Creek Gallery, work featured at Craven Allen Gallery and Greenhill Center for North Carolina Art. In addition to solo shows with the Durham Arts Council, He has participated in several faculty shows with both Durham Arts Council and Durham School of the Arts.