A native of Venezuela, Guillermo Cuellar worked as an environmentalist before meeting potter Warren MacKenzie, who was teaching in Caracas. Guillermo began to assist and teach at workshops given by MacKenzie and other American potters including Linda Christianson, Mark Pharis, Randy Johnston and Jan McKeachie. He established a studio in Turgua in 1986 and founded Grupo Turgua, a non-profit association dedicated to promoting the work of Venezuelan craftspeople in 1992.
The artist states, “I fell in love with clay in college in the ’70s, every waking moment consumed by the potter’s wheel and the unpretentious beauty of old pots. I discovered A Potter’s Book by Bernard Leach, a champion of pottery traditions of East and West. I wanted to be a part of the historical sweep of traditional pottery. Ten years later in Venezuela I began potting full time. Warren MacKenzie was invited by a local potters group to come and teach. MacKenzie had apprenticed with Leach in the 50’s and, beyond becoming a friend, he shared his studio with me and his appreciation of historical pots. From discussion, from living with his collection of great pottery, his library and MacKenzie’s own work I avidly soaked up the spirit of the old pots I admired so much.”
Guillermo’s work incorporates the stylistic and utilitarian aspects of his international influences. About his process, the artist states, “I do not consciously design my pots with drawings or plans. I set out to make teapots, for example, and the making process generates ideas, each piece responding to the one before. Subtle variations on simple forms often result in dramatic changes in the character and personality of a pot. Small details, accidents, a dent, texture, an accent, a curve of belly, a kink in a handle may all have surprising results.
Guillermo studied ceramics at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, IA. He has exhibited his work at the Venezuelan National Art Gallery, the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Caracas Sofia Imber, the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Puerto Rico, The Smithsonian Institution, Northern Clay Center in Minnesota and private galleries in the United States, England, Venezuela, and Chile. He now resides in Shafer, MN, where he has established a home studio and is a host potter during the annual Minnesota Potters of the Upper St. Croix Valley Studio Tour. When not making pottery, Guillermo leads South American wilderness trips in Peru, Chile and Argentina.