Sunday, March 1, 2009

Jeff Campana ~ Serial Killer of Pots

The forms are beautiful, almost graceful with what appear to be carved lines that allow the glaze to settle nicely. Then I learned that they aren't carved lines, they are cuts. After throwing and trimming his work Jeff Campana then goes at them, box cutter in hand he cuts them up with the knife skills of a chef. Then with surgical precision the form is scored, slipped and put back together. Made stronger with his special joining slip mix. Beautiful work by an interesting young man. Go to his Etsy Shop and get one of his pieces soon, while they are still affordable!
Why clay?
I found clay in high school. We had an incredible studio complete with a gas kiln and a gallery. I was mixing glaze tests and loading kilns before I even got my driver's license. Our teacher would include us in his wood firings and salt firings. It was just perfect. I knew since the age of 16 that this was it. Clay was my entry into art.
If not for clay what would you be doing?
It completely defines me at this point. I can't even imagine what else I would be doing. I tried to be a business major once, but quickly came to my senses. I know with certainty that I would sooner die than give it up.
Do you listen to music when you work?
Always. All genres except pop, classical, and talk radio. I'm a fan of neo-psychadelic rock and underground hiphop, and listen to the rest to mix it up. Everything from bluegrass to electronica.
What motivates, inspires and brings you pleasure?
This may seem strange, but I look to my artwork to inspire me artistically. A constant feedback loop. New pots are based largely on what I would change if I could make some pot of mine over again. Guess what? I CAN make that pot over again. That's all I do.
Motivation comes from my dream of someday becoming a real professional artist/professor. That day is rapidly approaching. I do make my entire living off of those things, but it's all rusty broken down cars, Ramen noodles, and shirts with holes in them at this point.
Pleasure is derived from simple things; eating, sleeping, drinking, laughing, and well-earned lazy mornings, I get 5 of those per week!
Who are your favorite artists and why?
Hero of Ceramics: Robert Arneson, because he was just plain incredible. Enormously influential to the ceramics world. I see his influence in almost all contemporary ceramists in some way or another.
Hero of Pottery: Julia Galloway. Many people like her pots, they are quite nice, but I am most excited by her installations. There is a wonderful depth to her work when she makes them for solo shows. The fragmented narratives piece together to form something much grander than the sum of its parts. Brilliant and virtuosic.
Many people are reluctant to work in porcelain. I personally love throwing with it and find that the experience of sitting down with some porcelain to be magical in a way that stoneware isn’t. You have taken your work to another level by cutting the piece up then reassembling, with what appears to be surgical precision. How did this process come about?
I have always been a porcelain head. It is very seductive. I throw it, trim it, and then dissect it methodically, and immediately score and slip it right back together. A critic told me that he found my work disturbing, that there was a destructiveness to it, impending danger. During the decoration process I look like a serial killer of pots. Ice-truck killer scenes from Dexter come to mind. Once they are back together, they are more complete to me though. I came up with this process only a little over a year ago. The final push to get my MFA thesis show together. I was cutting pots in order to alter the shape, but then just stopped altering the shape. I found out that I really just liked the seams. All of those lines are free-handed with a box cutter with the snap-off retractable blade. It is very much like surgery. Maybe I should get a scalpel...
What would you say to someone just getting started in ceramics who asks you for advice?
That happens on a daily basis. I am a ceramic art teacher. I was prepared for this one!
I say: it is a lot harder than you think. Just to maintain a studio while supporting yourself with a job is hard enough, let alone making a living from it. Know that the odds are stacked against you. Perseverance is more important than talent. Never get distracted by what you think you're supposed to do. Only ever do what you experience the need to do.
What is your feeling on the artist as activist, Artivism? and the “handmade” movement?
I have no interest in Artivism. To me, art is a search for inner personal truth. Social issues are not truth, they are constructs, distractions, and they are ugly. Art is about beauty, purity. I think far too many artists mistake agenda for meaning. Not that I'm opposed to activism. I participate in that, but the studio is a refuge. In my studio there is no such thing as politics, economy, war, strife, injustice, etc. There is only porcelain, glaze, and me. That's it.
My home is my office. There, I am an avid participant and advocate for the handmade movement. I am obsessed with Etsy, and will talk longer than I should about our culture finally choosing products based on value and meaningfulness. I give only handmade gifts, either that I made, traded for, or purchased. I have great optimism for the future of craft in our culture.
What’s your favorite cuss word?
I have always liked the term "shitfaced" meaning getting so drunk you can't control or feel your own face.
What’s your favorite quote?
"Skill is the unified force of experience, intellect, and passion in their operation."
-John Ruskin

Thanks Jeff!



Handmade ceramics pottery said...

WOW, Its really beautiful....Thank you

Linda Starr said...

What a great title, maybe a movie in the making. Great pots and amazing technique. I have got to try Jeff's super slip stuff. thx.

Chris McCormick said...

Hi Linda, the more I look at his pots the more I am intrigued by them!

Jeff Campana said...

I just did a post on my website about how I make these things, step by step, full of pics, for those interested. Thanks again, Chris!

Anonymous said...

I attended your work shop last fall at M.A.C. and enjoyed it so much. I can never do it but i admire and really appreciate your passion. My first workshop was my most memorable. You rock da pot baby! Thanks for teaching me such wonderful skills.