Vasefinder International 2011
Exhibitor 122

Scott Cooper

Fillmore, Indiana, USA

Title: Copper Vase

Year of Creation: 2009

Glaze: Green to black copper glaze

Clay Body: White stoneware

Dimensions: Height 10 inches, Width 6 inches

Artist's Statement: I started making pots as a college student in 1992, and soon knew that
this was what I wanted to do. Throwing on the wheel revealed a desire to make things by hand that I hadn't experienced since childhood, and the ability to have those things put to use in other people's daily lives seemed very significant. It still does.

I love the inherent qualities of clay, and the processes by which it can be formed and fired to a near-permanent state. The act of making something out of virtually nothing is mysterious and enthralling. The material constantly offers unseen potential, yet with tangible signs of
accomplishment and progress.

I aspire to make utilitarian pots that are well-crafted, aesthetically interesting and enjoyable to use. Striking a good balance between these qualities is difficult. There's no formula for doing so, which presents both challenge and inspiration. While some of my pots are less obvious than others in their intended function, none purposefully deny use. The utilitarian vessel format defines good parameters for me to work within.

My pots are primarily thrown on the wheel, assembled and decorated by hand, and fired using a variety of methods and kilns. Each is unique, and made without molds or automated equipment. My studio is a one-man operation, which means I perform each step in the process myself, from clay making to glaze firing and everything in between.

While there are many persistent qualities to my work over time, it's always in the process of slowly becoming something else. I usually have more new ideas than the time to try them, and the feeling of being perpetually on the way to the next discovery is addictive. I'm also driven by the seemingly endless potential for learning and improvement. So I'm constantly trying new forms, methods and surfaces. I explore these using a process that mimics biological evolution: making small, organic variations while working in a series, then evaluating the results. The successes are reused in a variety of ways, spawning more possibilities; the failures are abandoned to the scrap heap of good
intentions. This approach is well-suited to working directly and intuitively, with a general direction in mind but making decisions in the moment. And I use it at every stage of making: throwing at the wheel, altering and finishing forms, decorating and glazing, and during firing.

In recent years, I've developed a variety of texture and surface decoration to complement my palette of glazes, particularly in response to the salt/soda kiln I built in 2005. This decoration is based on geometry and pattern, rather than representational imagery -- there's no intended
content or message to be interpreted. Instead, I'm looking for marks, texture and areas of color that
enhance the three-dimensional form by interacting with the various parts of the pot. I'm intrigued by the numerical foundation of patterns -- the number of elements, their sequence and repetition, and the act of counting as I segment the form of a pot or apply individual marks. Adding these dots, lines and fields of color is like layering a somewhat more rational structure onto the abstract form of the pot.

I've also begun to decorate the entire pot -- top, bottom, outside, inside -- to emphasize that its three-dimensional form is more than just a canvas for a two-dimensional image. This also increases the possibility of discovery by other people. Finding an unexpected pattern on the base of a mug or inside a lidded jar is a subtle reminder that this is a unique, handmade object, and that some of its qualities can only be appreciated through use.

My early training was in the Leach tradition, which was an early-20th century mixture of European and Asian aesthetics. It was also strongly related to the Arts & Crafts Movement, which focused on issues of craft and utility as a reaction to industrialization. Since then, I've been influenced by an ever-expanding range of stuff, so that now it's something of a postmodern soup. For example, I've taken bits and pieces from other contemporary potters; from a wide range of art and objects, spanning traditional craft to pop culture and the remnants of mass-production; and from more mundane things like the view of the landscape out my studio windows. These things seem to be stored and accessed subconsciously -- I don't know why certain things stick and, for the most part, I don't want to know. It's important to me to maintain some mystery to the making process, not just to keep myself engaged, but because I believe it improves the results.

Ideally these intentions, working methods and influences result in pots that reflect the time and place they come from, and that carry traces of my identity. I want my pots to have an internal consistency of style, function and purpose.

I live and work in rural Indiana, where I established my studio, St. Earth Pottery, in 2000. Most of my pots are sold locally, from my showroom or galleries. My work is in private collections across the U.S. and internationally.

To review detail photograph, click here.
Exhibition Main Page
Next Exhibitor
Vasefinder Home