Phillips finds a home and an artistic outlet in Hillsboro


Michael Phillips stands with two examples of his pottery creations at the ClayWorks store in downtown Hillsboro. Phillips and his family have moved to Hillsboro after nearly two decades in Thailand. ?I?ve always wanted to be an artist,? he says.

Sunlight filters through the windows of the small shop. Rows of pottery line the walls around the room. Michael Phillips sits at the potter?s wheel shaping his latest piece of artwork.

Phillips is fulfilling his lifelong dream by making pottery and creating oil paintings and drawings, he said.

?I?ve always wanted to be an artist,? he said.

Phillips, who came to Hills?boro from Thailand, is filling in for Paula Hayen at ClayWorks, 1111⁄2 E. Grand Ave. He works in the shop while keeping it open for customers.

Most of the pottery Phillips makes will be displayed in art galleries rather than sold in the store, he said.

?I don?t know if they?re sellable or not,? he said. ?I?m just doing it because I want to do it.?

Phillips grew up in Derby and graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in fine arts. He worked as a conceptual artist, building large sculptural structures to display as gallery art.

He later moved to Arlington, Wash., and attended Seattle Bible College.

At the invitation of some Thai pastors at the college, Phillips traveled to Thailand.

?They got me preaching, and I just fell in love with it,? he said.

Phillips returned to college to finish his Bible degree and made two more trips to Thailand.

?The second time I knew the Lord spoke to me about doing leadership training in northern Thailand,? he said.

Phillips was married in 1987 and in 1990 moved his family to Thailand, where he opened a Bible training center in Chiang Kham.

Phillips became chairman of the center, which provides Bible, leadership and agricultural training, as well as a loan program and three hostels.

Although Phillips had put his artwork on hold to open the center, he had not lost his desire to create art, he said.

Phillips made friends with Somluk Pontiboon, an international artist from Thailand whose artwork is shown all over the world, and Pontiboon agreed to train him.

Phillips met with Pontiboon once a week for nine months and later twice a week until he was ready to work on his own.

?He kind of graduated me once I got to a skill level that he thought was suitable,? he said.

By this time, Phillips and his family had been in Thailand almost 20 years. The training center had acquired new staff members, giving Phillips more time to work on his artwork.

Phillips said he wanted to give time to his family, so he moved his family to Hillsboro in August to be closer to two of his sons who are students at Tabor College.

He continues to pursue his love of art by painting, drawing and making pottery.

Phillips said he would like to display his artwork in galleries in the United States where it could be sold. He would then move back to Thailand and continue to produce artwork while ministering at the Bible training center.

?I have grown to love Asia,? he said. ?My heart is to go back and get into the Thai art scene.?

ClayWorks is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday or by appointment. Phillips can be reached at 360-722-1051.

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