For a few years now, Blazing Needles has been selling goods made by local ceramic artist, Roman Schoewe (shown below with one of his "mugstache" mugs). It has been a fascinating few years, watching his style grow on the unique and diverse array of pieces that he continues to create. This week, we sat down with Roman to talk about his process and his art! To keep up with Roman's process and new pieces, check out his Instagram page.
BN: Initially, what interested you in ceramics?
RS: I was first introduced to the ceramic process, as a lot of people are introduced to the process, back in high school. Michael Dente was my ceramics teacher, and it was he who initially got me interested in sculpture and hand building, which eventually led to interest in the wheel. There is immediate and lasting gratification when clay, responding to your touch, becomes a form that, once fired, is forever transformed from clay to ceramic.
BN: What was the best piece of advice a mentor ever gave you?
RS: The best piece of advice I was given by a mentor comes in two parts: "don't make lazy work" and "slow down." The ceramic process is very delicate and involved; there are a number of steps to be taken before, during, and after the throwing of a piece. Clay responds directly and immediately to the actions of the maker, if any part of the process is overlooked or hurried the finished product reflects the haphazard, rushed nature of the process.
BN: Who is your biggest inspiration as an artist?
RS: I am inspired by the history and mystery of ceramics. It is a functional medium that has been around longer than the written word. Clay has been used for millennia for basic items, such as water storage containers and votive statues, and is used today in fields as diverse as medicine, architectural engineering, and water filtration. Something about clay speaks to a primal state of humanity. I feel a connection to a story larger than my own, drawing inspiration from prehistoric potters and contemporary artists alike.
BN: Which part of the ceramic process speaks to you the most?
RS: I've learned to enjoy each part of the process differently as they each relate to one another and to the finished product. However, I believe that throwing is what got me hooked on the process. The meditative, centering nature of throwing is what draws in a lot of people. Once proficient at wheel work, it is very easy to achieve a "flow state" or, as some people call it, being "in the zone." Time become irrelevant; neurotic thoughts drift and leave nothing between you and the clay. It is a humbling experience. I use the most humble of materials (clay), the most simple machine (the wheel), and the most basic tools (my hands) to create something directly reflective of my experience. After a sacrifice and a surrender of control to the hell fire of 2300*F, if all goes well, the result is a piece of my experience to share with others.
BN: Which glazes do you prefer and why?
RS: Glazing is a part of the process I had to learn to love. While it may seem mundane or routine to a lot of people, it is one of the final and one of the most important steps. A piece can be seemingly perfect up to the point of firing but one little mistake in glazing can result in the loss of many hours of work. There are countless glazes and firing techniques to experiment with. Choosing a firing technique is like choosing a palate for painting, once you've chosen your technique, then you are able to explore your limits within that particular firing method.
I believe what people enjoy in a glaze varies dramatically. Trying to find a balance of what works for the piece in my mind as an artist and what works for the customer as a daily user of a functional piece is an ever present struggle for any potter.
BN: So, what new things do we get to look forward to from you?
RS: I am currently exploring with a couple of local artist friends on some collaborative pieces involving the use of basket weaving and glass blowing in conjunction with ceramic pieces!
We hope you enjoyed the insight into Roman's process and mind as much as we did! As always, thank you for your continued support of Blazing Needles. We are so thankful for our talented and inspiring community of makers!