Trust the creative process, find the art and magic

A CONVERSATION TODAY with North Carolina ceramics artist and a personal friend, Ronan Kyle Peterson. Here is what he had to say about our theme this month, amongst a few other things regarding work, cycles, and practice.

DK: I’ve seen your work evolve quite a bit in the last decade. What is it you are up to?

RKP: Essentially, I am dealing with effects of agents of growth and decay and how these agents shape and embellish the surfaces of stones and the skins of trees. Employing an earthy background palette stretched across textured but quieter surfaces, I wanted to upset that quiet earthiness with intense splashes of vibrant color, patterns, and glossy surfaces not commonly associated with tree bark or the rough surfaces of rocks amidst fallen leaves.

DK: Tell us your thoughts on ‘work’—what is it, who is it for, and why does it matter?

RKP: ‘Work’ noun-wise, would be the pots that I make to sell. Which references my ‘job’ or the verb ‘work’ that I do to make a living. The work for me is learning about color, how colors work together, how color and pattern changes perception of form, and how color pattern and texture can affect a person’s mood or perception of a pot.

The work that interests me, or the energizing part, is figuring out forms for functional purposes—cups and mugs for drinking, bowls for eating or serving from—and decorations or surface treatments that complement and complete the form.

DK: Why do you do what you do?

RKP: I make… because it makes me happy, fulfills a need, keeps me searching. I’m just infinitely blessed that others, customers, want to buy my pots and are interested for the most part in what, the work, that I am doing. It doesn’t matter in a larger context, but it does matter to me, because in the doing I am happy.

DK: Is that where the magic is? In the doing?

RKP: For me, the magic is in the making or the doing. Talking, wishing, and hoping do not get the job done. The magic is in the doing.

DK: A lot of people say they wish they had more time be an artist, make music, travel, write a book, and so on. What you would say to them?

RKP: I guess I would say, you just have to make it happen. And it will not just happen. A lot of times there has to be a sacrifice of something else: sleep, long meals, vegging out, tv, income, family time, socializing… Making time or sacrificing something else to make time seems to be hard for some people, because they are energized and content through socializing, etc. For me, working, making new work, exploring new forms, colors, combinations, that is what energizes me.

DK: What does rhythm mean to you?

RKP: Rhythm recently is not contained in one working cycle. Work is started, but not finished until later, spilling into the next cycle, and the next. It used to be frustrating, but I have found that through continued experimentation with form, color, and pattern, that ideas tend to belong aside one another: they are a continuation of thoughts I build on. I guess this speaks to an overall rhythm? I’m making a healthy offering of cups and mugs each cycle, but I have more larger pieces waiting to be finished. Now it is kind of nice to think more about the larger pieces, figure out different decorations and surface approaches that fit better, better than my original plan. I’ve started reglazing older pieces, [and] making different lids for jars. Revisiting sometimes resolves some deficiencies of the pieces. I have a general set of forms, but I’m trying out new things, mostly decoration-wise, every cycle.

Testing
PROTOTYPING. RKP’s instagram feed (and this image, in particular) caught DK’s eye for our sequence RHYTHM. ‘The image is from a kiln loading with a friend,’ he tells us. ‘Just showing how potters test glazes, not actual product or work, more process to figure out what glazes to use and how they will look in the firing.’

DK: Imagine two young people, maybe teens, who are thinking about artistic pursuits having a conversation, perhaps at a museum somewhere, and they know virtually nothing of the real experiences of people like you who have reached some sort of acceptance, it appears, in the methods you are using to make and do and share. What would you tell them?

RKP: I would say be patient. It takes a lot of time, and failing and observing, to figure things out. One thing that I try to keep in the forefront of my mind is how much help and support I have: I’ve worked for many potters with different styles and aesthetics, I have in-laws who let me use some of their space for a studio, I have galleries who work with me and for the most part allow me to bring them work that I choose to make. Growing that network, that support system, I think, is pretty crucial. And being patient, humble, and open to comment, advice and opportunities.

Discover more about RKP at his website.

Get S P A C E

The Book of Songs #5: ‘Open Heart’

‘STARTING TO START?’

‘Yes, how?’

ANTHOLOGY. The Mirror, 2014
ANTHOLOGY. The Mirror, 2014

THIS is the cover. The cover always is the last part, in the book-making process here at DK.

The reason is you just don’t know until the very end what might become, what is going to become and how it becomes is the work of the creative process. You have to start somewhere, for sure, but where and how to begin the compositions… that is the question for physics experiment designers as well as those standing and looking, at the canvas, whole.

There comes a time when you write and you collage and you find out that something exists that isn’t even in the words or the image. It is the intention. And when that intention came out in such a way that it was 10 people’s shared work, the work of looking deeply, within, well, wow, we had magic. Even though I’ve never met some of the contributors to The Mirror 2014, there are the connections that were built from correspondence and more than that, attention. Because attention is the highest currency now, isn’t it?

Readying to open THE MIRROR 2016A new volume is poised to be co-created.

I don’t have any idea, right now from this vantage, what the new collection will look like. Who’ll be part of it, what stories will be loosed? What will be the cover, what will be that new collection’s title, look & feel, and list of contributors and their stories’ names? It is a mystery, this. But the invitation is the first part. Setting the stage comes next. These things I learned from a different kind of artist—the musicians.

Playing pen, playing line, playing words, or playing notes. The compositions flourish most brilliantly, don’t they?, when they start from… what…?

‘Starting to start?’

‘Yes, how?’

‘Simple: it’s this. An open heart.’

‘Trust the process?’

‘Trust the process. Of… becoming.’

More like this

READ posts on DK’s new collection, Book of Songs >