With Sean VanderVliet

My second print publication appeared on the same magazine as the first: my favorite UPPERCASE Magazine. On issue 33. This was a piece I did on Sean VanderVliet, a ceramic artist and potter right here in Denver. It was a blast doing the shoots with Sean. And his pieces… they are absolutely GORGEOUS! Here’s the excerpt I wrote for my piece, as an intro to the interview with Sean:

I’ve wanted to photograph a ceramic artist for some time before I found Sean VanderVliet. I checked out quite a few potters, and while many of them create beautiful pieces, I always got the feeling of putting their work on display, as opposed to using them for any practical purpose. The thing which made Sean stand out was that when I saw Sean’s pots and dishes, the first thing I thought was that I wanted to put food on these pots, bring them out on the dining table and share the food with friends and family.

It was a pleasure to be able to chat with Sean and watch him create one pot after another during our photo-shoot.

Check out more of Sean’s work.

And here’s the rest of the interview:

Maliha

What made you want to go into ceramics?

Sean

I started making pots in 2000 and I haven’t stopped since. I had an appreciation for handmade ceramics before I ever sat at a wheel. Growing up in rural New Hampshire, my family always had handmade work around the house that was used on a daily basis. I knew there was something special about this and my future in ceramics was never really a question of if, but rather, when? 

 

Maliha

Which part of the process do you like that goes into making a complete piece, and why?

Sean

Typically potters will simplify their making process into 3 parts; throwing, trimming, and glazing. I would argue that you could add sketching/brainstorming before throwing, and add presentation after glazing (I had a teacher a long time ago that said a vase isn’t done until there are flowers in it, and I’m a firm believer that this is true). All that said, my favorite part of the process is actually trimming – it’s satisfying for a number of reasons, but for me it’s the step in the process that can really polish off a piece, so I give it a lot of attention.

Maliha

What drives you to continue to create?

Sean

There’s simply always something else. There’s always another shape, or glaze combination, or installation project that I have in the back of my head. I can honestly say that if I worked with clay from now until the day I died, I would never run out of new things I wanted to try. I can say that confidently because I’m actually worried I might have enough already to get me there. Like any artist that works regularly at their craft, I feel like I get better every time I touch clay. Recognizing and appreciating this growth makes it impossible to let up or stop creating.

 

Maliha

Is there someone in the same industry who you look up to? Why?

Sean

As far as ceramicists go, I’m very out of touch with the big names in the industry, and that’s partly intentional. I keep track of a handful of potters at a time whose work I feel connected to in some way. Recently, I went to Vancouver and stumbled across a potter named Haejin Lee. Her simple, colorful, and modern tableware really struck me and I’ve been thinking about her shapes and glazing techniques often. I also look up to Simon Pearce, a potter and glassblower from Vermont in the area close to where I grew up. His glassblowing and pottery are fantastic, but he’s also the model that I look to for building an honest, purposeful, and successful business centered around clay.

Maliha

What would be your ideal project/future vision/goal?

Sean

Pottery is under-appreciated in the United States. We’re becoming much more intrigued about where our food comes from and how it’s prepared, but very few ever consider what that same food is being served on or in. My goal is to bring a consciousness to that, and to encourage people to care about and appreciate the vessels they use. I want to work directly with chefs and restauranteurs to help curate how food is served in these places while simultaneously offer a line from which people can purchase things like plates, bowls, and vases for their home.

Comments: 2

    1. Hi Angela, thanks for your comment. Pottery is so cool! I am thinking of signing up for a class or something… just for fun!

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