How does the average person recognize design quality in a ceramic object, particularly one that has a function, such as a teapot or cup? Shokan potter and curator Doug Peltzman talks about getting basic exposure to handmade works. “It starts with defining your taste and figuring out what you like,” he says. “Then you have a sort of defined strategy, where you might be in a store looking at an object and realize, ‘This handle feels awful, the handle is too thin.’ It’s a learned skill, which becomes intuitive over time and use.
“Good design is not just aesthetic taste or how something looks. It’s how the cups sits on a table, how it rises from the table, how the lip feels when it touches your lips. I always say when I teach workshops, ‘There’s not much that touches your lips: a partner, a fork or that cup. It’s important to think about that relationship – how you interact with an object.’”
Peltzman was planning his fall studio show and put the word out to a few well-known potters in the local vicinity, asking them to coordinate their own exhibits on the same weekend. And the first annual Hudson Valley Pottery Tour was cast, molded, thrown and fired.
“Basically, I looked at who, in my mind, is making the most dynamic work in this area. The tour came together as a mutually beneficial thing.” The free tour takes place this Saturday and Sunday, featuring Anat Shiftan of High Falls, Jeff Shapiro of Accord, Kathy Erteman of Kingston, Tim Rowan of Stone Ridge, Bryan Czibesz of Kingston and Peltzman in Shokan.
Peltzman, who has been making pots for about 15 years, talks about the variety of works visitors might see on the tour. “The diversity in this show is something critical as far as education is concerned. It’s amazing, the infinite ways that people can interpret and use the same material, and how that material can speak in infinite ways. We asked, ‘How can people who come to the tour really learn a lot? And not just walk away with pots?’
“So, for instance, at my studio, you’ll see pinch pottery, done like women were doing it 10,000 years ago, and someone else who’s slip-casting with molds. I throw on the potter’s wheel, and I ram-press with a 30-ton clay-masher. Brian’s studio has this 3-D printer; he builds robots for institutions all over. They’re essentially a tool, just like a wheel or any other tool in a ceramics studio. The technology is so new; there’s an exciting thing happening in his studio that blends the handmade with the mechanically made object.”
Peltzman is enthusiastic about all the makers he has gathered for this show: “Anat is casting; her work is stunningly beautiful with a philosophical, contemplative bent to it. She was my teacher at New Paltz. Kathy, who straddles both the pottery and ceramics world with the design world, is prototyping. She designed for Crate and Barrel, bringing her expertise of making really good handmade objects to mass production, which typically gets lost. When you go to a store and pick up an object, if you’re an object-maker you can see how poorly designed some things are.
“Jeff is someone I’ve looked up to since I first came to SUNY-New Paltz and found ceramics, just by chance. He blends a Japanese aesthetic with an Americanized way of firing in a wood kiln, bringing those worlds together. And Tim has been a trailblazer in a lot of ways. He digs his own clay and uses clay native to the Northeast. In the ceramics world that I navigate, there’s been a real interest in making objects out of native clay, not pulverized clay that comes in a bag. Tim and Jeff both trained in Japan, and have reinterpreted the things they learned there.”
The Hudson Valley Pottery Tour participants have each invited outside artists to show their work, too. Peltzman says that this inclusion will be more important as the years go on, for the people who return and want to have something fresh to see. “There’s so much good work being made worldwide, and in ceramics in general. That’s what excited me the most about putting this tour together and being able to work with people I’ve looked up to for years.”
As a group, these six talented makers and their guest artists – Susan Bankert, Brian Croney, Lauren Sandler, Brian R. Jones, Haakon Lenzi and Andrew Molleur – have accumulated extensive CVs. Most of them teach, in addition to producing and showing their work. For a sneak peek at the work, visit Instagram @hudsonvalleypotterytour and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pg/hudsonvalleypotterytour/about/?ref=page_internal.
“All the makers on the tour – and every potter I know – are collectors as well,” Peltzman adds. “If you came to my home, there are hundreds of pots in my kitchen, and none are made by me. There’s also something beautiful about pots teaching you over time. I’ve brought pots into my home that, initially, I didn’t like. Things kind of grow on you. You buy a pot because you’re attracted to it for one reason or another, and then it reveals itself to you over time. I think that’s what handmade objects have the power to do: You discover new things about them.”
The Hudson Valley Pottery Tour 2017 is open this Saturday and Sunday, October 28 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and October 29 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can find Peltzman at 59 Red Maple Road in Shokan, www.dougpeltzman.com. Brian Czibesz’s studio is at 15 Gage Street, Kingston, www.bryanczibesz.com; Jeff Shapiro Ceramics is at 62 Raycliff Drive, Accord, www.jeffshapiroceramics.com; Tim Rowan is at 149 Vly Atwood Road, Stone Ridge, www.timrowan.com; Kathy Erteman is in the Shirt Factory at 77 Cornell Street #315, Kingston, www.kathyerteman.com; and Anat Shiftan is at 244 Leggett Road, High Falls, http://anatshiftan.info.