Someone told Hans Hintzen the clay fish on his mugs looked angry.
So he went with it, calling his work Furious Fish and creating the furiousfish.net website.
Besides the pleasing alliteration, the potter/sportsman/real estate agent wants his work to send a message, what with pollutants rampant and plastic ending up in the bellies of whales as well as inside freshwater fish.
"I suppose you could say the fish are furious because they are threatened," Hintzen said. "There is hardly a fishery in the world that is not facing some kind of serious danger these days."
He is donating 50 of those mugs to the Runestone Museum to raise money for educational programs, to be kicked off this Friday, May 10, with an artist meet-and-greet at the museum. Although he now hails from Chicago, Hintzen graduated from Jefferson High School in Alexandria in 1976. That's where he learned to make pottery from teacher Joe Capistrant, who will also be at the Friday event, along with another former student, Scott Engh of Prior Lake.
In the past, Hintzen said he has donated his work to nonprofit environmental groups such as Trout Unlimited. However, last fall he was talking to his cousin's daughter, Amanda Seim, who happens to be the Runestone Museum's executive director.
"I like what she has done to broaden the museum's offerings and expose kids to local history," he said. "It has become much more than just a rainy day activity for tourists."
He suggested donating the mugs as a unique way to raise money for the museum, and Seim agreed. He is, she said, "an avid and accomplished angler and has always had a passion and talent for pottery."
Most donated mugs are of walleyes, Hintzen said, with a limited number of muskies, northerns and trout. Some are also of trees, with carved "bark." They hold 14-20 ounces - large enough, he said, for the dedicated coffee or tea drinker. There are also some left-handed ones, designed to have the fish facing southpaw drinkers.
Hintzen creates the mugs at the Chicago-based artist cooperative Lillstreet Art Center. They are high-fired stoneware that are each thrown, decorated and glazed using the finest quality clays and glazes, the museum said.
After the mugs are thrown on a potter's wheel, they are "bisque" fired at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, when glazing is complete, the mugs are "reduction" fired at 2,300 degrees.
Hintzen's concern for what he calls "dramatic changes taking place in the underwater world" isn't the only motivation behind Furious Fish.
"I want to celebrate fishing and the wild places that still remain by creating art that someone will use every morning as their favorite coffee/tea cup," he said. "If it makes them think about the fish and the fishery and possibly how they can help by reducing their consumption and waste production, that's a big plus."
As for the event, he said, "I also saw this as a chance to pay respect to Joe Capistrant, our art teacher at Jefferson Senior High who really encouraged my interest in pottery."
Capistrant called it rewarding to think he might have played a role in Capistrant's work.
"In teaching we never quite know when something we've done sparks an interest that either lasts a lifetime or comes back after many years," he said. "I think that Hans's very generous
contribution of his fine work to the Runestone Museum as a fundraiser is a great idea and a
testament to his deep feelings about his early life in Alexandria."
If you go
WHAT: Artist meet-and-greet with potters Hans Hintzen and Scott Engh and their former teacher, Joe Capistrant. Fifty Furious Fish mugs will be sold for $45 apiece to raise money for educational programs at the Runestone Museum Foundation.
WHERE: Runestone Museum, 206 Broadway St., Alexandria
WHEN: Friday, May 10, from 2-5 p.m.