Ed believes deeply in giving back to his community. “While I was growing up, my folks were always volunteering for school and church projects, so I guess it rubbed off. The Peace Corps gave me a great deal of satisfaction – being involved in community development. Volunteering has been a great way to get to know people and a source of satisfaction in being of service to the community.”
Later, he got involved with the California Art Education Project, and Keesling served as the Art Coordinator for the Morongo Unified School District. In that role, he won $100,000 in grants for the district art program to develop art standards for the elementary schools, and to do teacher training to enable elementary teachers to be able to teach to the new standards.” He has served as Education Director and President of the 29 Palms Art Gallery board, past President of the MBCAC (the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council) and currently serves as an elected Director of the newly formed Hi-Desert Artists in Yucca Valley.
The history of the high desert has inspired Ed’s work. “When I first arrived here, one of the Yucca Valley traditions was Grubstake Days, named for the early prospectors who came to the area to mine for gold.” Inspired by the tradition of California miners, also known as ‘sourdoughs’ he began making sourdough jugs in the stye of traditional early American potters.
“Back in the days before cheap glass and plastic, American potters did a thriving business making all sorts of utilitarian ware, including batter jugs which people kept on the back of their wood stoves to have “live” batter for bread and biscuits each day. I’m also inspired by the native American Indians who lived in the area, especially around the 29 Palms Oasis. The Serrano, Chemehuevi, and Cahuilla all lived there from time to time. Their unique designs are found on pottery, baskets, and rock art, and occasionally on my pottery.”
Ed’s pottery business, Ed Keesling Clayworks has been in business since 1980. He has shown his ceramic work at craft shows and art galleries in Maryland, Washington D.C, and throughout the Morongo Basin. This past year, 2023, marks his 13th year as part of the Open Studios Art Tours. Locally you can find his work for sale at the 29 Palms Art Gallery, the Rainbow Stew giftshop in Yucca Valley, the Soul Connection in Joshua Tree and at the Joshua Tree National Park gift shops. The National Park reached out to Ed and together they came up with the design of the Joshua Tree mug. “The mugs have a blue glaze to reflect the sky and an incised Joshua Tree design on the front carved into the raw clay, that reflects the colors of the sand and stones.”