Upside down pottery

The Mad Potter of Bay St. Louis hangs upside down to make pottery.

This week, the Hancock County Library System's patrons of all ages witnessed the "take over" of the Mad Potter of Bay St. Louis and his "wild and wacky STEAMpunk Pottery Performance" featuring "The World's Most Amazing Pottery Machine."

The Mad Potter, also known as local artist Steve Barney, draws his inspiration from George Ohr, The Mad Potter of Biloxi.

Barney is also the owner of The Bay St. Louis Creative Arts Center and current president of The Arts, Hancock County.

Barney, who has performed as The Mad Potter of Bay St. Louis for the past four years, said the idea for the machine came to him "in a dream."

"It started out simple and then just evolved into this dream to build a crazy kinetic structure and a platform to teach about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)," he said.

In addition to traditional pottery methods, Barney also suspends himself and the clay upside down using gravity to pull the pots.

When the idea came to him, Barney said, he thought about his perspective of the pot when he's sitting at the pottery wheel.

"The perspective changes when I hang the pot upside down, so I thought it would be interesting if I hung upside down as well," he said.

Barney said when he first began hanging upside down, he lasted about 20 to 30 seconds. Now, he can go a little over two minutes.

He also uses his head to mold and shape pots, an idea given to him by someone in the audience during a performance at The Ugly Pirate, Barney said.

"As soon as I started doing it, everyone started making videos of it and now it's a part of the show," he said.

The "STEAMpunk" is a reference to the genre of "crazy machinery, the legend of Steampunk and its aesthetics," Barney said.

This year, Barney set a goal to perform at every library in Hancock County, which he and his assistant Joey Cerone accomplished.

"I don't have any children and it gives me a sense of purpose and passion to give back to the next generation," Barney said.

His performance also teaches the audience how to integrate art with STEM.

Barney said he performs all over the state at museums, schools and festivals.

"With Mississippi being at the bottom of the list with STEM, this is an opportunity to integrate the ideas," he said. "At Stennis, there is a great concentration of PH.Ds and scientists. It's a great opportunity to tap into their expertise and develop a workshop."

Barney said his dream would be to open a statewide STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) center.

Barney's studio is located at 101 Central Ave. in Bay St. Louis.

After Labor Day, his youth pottery class will begin again. It's held on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 5 p.m. The cost is $15 for one class and $60 for five classes, Barney said.

For more information, visit www.bslcac.com or contact Barney at 228-342-7668 and at sbarney@gmail.com.

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