Briefly describe the work you do.
When developing my ceramic work, I use a variety of building techniques—throwing, slip-casting, and hand-building—and allow the work to become bone dry. At this point, I use a variety of grades of sandpaper to smooth out imperfections. After it is completely smooth, I begin to lay in my color. I create my own colored slips by adding different percentages of commercial stains to the porcelain clay body used for my pieces, and adding water until they become quite fluid. When all the color has been applied, I’m finally able to bisque fire the piece. For the glaze firing, I determine where I want glossy surfaces and where I desire matt surfaces, apply the glaze, and fire to cone 6.
At what point in your life did you decide to become an artist?
I was a biology major in college taking 2-D art classes to provide a break from all the science knowledge that was required that I ingest. It was fall semester of my junior year where I took my first ceramics course and I was hooked. By the end of the year, I switched my major to Ceramics!
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I believe everything from how I was raised to my individual experiences have influenced who I am. One of my biggest influences was after graduating college, working as a toy designer for a small design firm in Chicago. Side-by-side with the owner, learning the detailed work required to produce sculpture to scale, I acquired the skills necessary to take my sculpting ability to the next level. I explored materials, cultivated patience, and discovered the many processes needed to take a project from inception to completion. I was encouraged to be part of the process, and taught not to accept my first idea, or a good idea, as the gold standard.
As a graduate student, I began to develop a body of work that pushed myself outside my comfort zone as I began to confront childhood experiences I had ignored for years—I grew up in a dysfunctional family, one rooted in alcohol addiction. Building on the precision I had learned as a toy designer, my pieces became more detailed than ever before. Because I spent so much time working with and mastering my materials, I felt a sense of control over my work for the first time. I realized the detail I put into my pieces was for more than just the viewer—it was a way for myself to counteract the chaos I had grown up in; the detail gave me a feeling of control. I had finally discovered a way to express my experiences in a way I was comfortable with.
We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?
As I complete each piece, I am able to learn an incredible amount about myself and my materials, I develop and refine techniques that will last a lifetime. I know I must continue to evolve today to get where I want to be tomorrow. After all, the perfect piece is a result of a multifaceted, always evolving process, and perfection is always one step away.
What artists living or non-living influence your work?
My hero, my mentor, my friend – Val Cushing. Val was a person that encouraged perfection.
When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?
Raising my two boys, cooking, and travel
About Scott Ziegler
Ziegler, Scott, 1973 – b. Park Ridge, Illinois. He graduated with an MFA degree in Ceramics from Northern Illinois University in 2008, currently teaches classes at University of North Carolina at Pembroke. His work has been juried into many competitive international exhibitions in recent years, including “Big Fish, Small Pot V: Fifth International Small Teapot Competition and Show,” in Pomona, California where he received an Honorable Mention and his work was purchased by the Kamm Teapot Foundation both in 2010 and 2012, the “4th Biennial Concordia Continental Ceramics Competition” at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota where Scott also received an Honorable Mention, and the “Potent Object” at Baltimore Clayworks in Baltimore, Maryland.
Scott was selected as an Emerging Artist by Ceramics Monthly magazine in 2006, and was a featured artist for the magazine in 2009 when the article “The Pursuit of Perfection” was published. In addition to having been selected for publication in Ceramics Monthly and Clay Times magazines, his work is featured overseas in a Chinese book, The Appreciations and Collections of Modern and Contemporary Ceramic Art and was included in “Studio Ceramics: Advanced Techniques,” published by The American Ceramic Society in 2010. Scott’s professional experiences also include serving as a clay mentor for the Potter’s Council, receiving the Kiln God Residency Award at the Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts, and being featured as an artist for the PBS television show “Broadstrokes.”
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.