Follow this ceramic artist as he takes us on a philosophical journey of control and surrender from the desert of Salt Lake City, Utah to the remote village of la Encantada, Peru where he learns timeless lessons about one of the world’s oldest disciplines. Taking long, slow drags from a hand-rolled cigarette, the 25 year-old American artist begins his story.
Salt Lake City, UT
It’s all about releasing my mind to let my body do the work it knows how to do from thousands of hours on the wheel, thousands of hours sculpting clay from nothing into forms that resonate with the human condition. It is the art of transformation: literally incarnating solid form from raw earth. I am the artist facilitating the change. Ceramics and sculpting are about the opposing forces of control and surrender. I control my hands, the design, and provide intent while shaping the clay. But it’s also about surrendering to my natural urges, allowing my intent to be physically expressed without my mind consciously demanding every movement. Ultimately all ceramics artists surrender their skill, their control to the kiln’s fire, where nature takes over and the artist must wait and watch.
I have a unique intelligence that allows me to take your nose and sculpt clay into that shape. I can visualize the texture and contours in 3-D. I can imagine how the light will strike it and provide more or less detail as indicated for the participant. If you asked me to paint it, or draw it, or even describe it, you would have an inferior product. I see the same kind of obtuse intelligence in the eye of a musician hitting the note pitch perfect, or an MC freestyling with poetic aggression. It’s a lens with which I see the world, interpret it, and create it.
My study of the discipline is an exercise in exactly that, discipline. In Salt Lake City I ripped through every class available within my field and surpassed the teachers in some respects. They required me to learn the control, the absolute form and when I mastered that, they gave me assignments to explore unknown forms, materials and temperatures in the kiln. It takes hard, diligent work to excel in ceramics. You have the frat girls who come in wearing gloves to protect their nails, and you have the artist who can throw the most righteous bowl with interwoven colors, glazes in eight minutes. It takes a lot of space and equipment, neither of which is cheap. I’m fortunate to have my own studio just outside of downtown in which I can pursue discipline and enrapture myself in releasing.
Ceramics took me to la Encantada, Peru last spring to throw with indigenous peoples who have been making badass pottery for thousands of years. The bus to the village almost rolled off an impossibly high cliff, wheels spinning viciously – I could have thrown a beautiful bowl off them. Working with these isolated, pristine people, I was struck by the fact that they are not trying to innovate. They have been perfecting the same art in the same way and it’s fucking good.
I was able to go to a tiny village to work with people who are totally divorced from the modern, western life I live in America because throwing, sculpting, ceramics, is not about the product. It’s much bigger. You are a part of the moment, the clay, the fire. I re-connect to where I came from – the earth. I divorce myself from the absolute form, embracing the fluidity each moment has the capacity to possess. Variation is inevitable in ceramics. The same process creates a different result each time the ritual is performed. Each firing is unique; each piece is unique. It’s all about controlling as little and surrendering it all.