Iren Tete, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Ceramics Monthly: What excites you about the field of ceramics?

Iren Tete: The art world has been quite accepting of artists working in clay. In turn, the ceramics community is progressively more and more accepting of research outside of the field. It is an interesting relationship to witness and participate in.

When using clay, I consider its material properties—what it is able to do and how I can use those properties to transform an idea into a three-dimensional form. This continues to diversify the forms that I am making.

1 Iren Tete’s It Always Stayed, 3 ft. 5 in. (1.2 m) in height, terra cotta, porcelain, white maple, 2019.

CM: What roles do color and repeated forms play in your work?

IT: I have always been highly specific in my use of color. This body of work employs a primarily monochromatic color palette based on a particular color theory that affects my conceptual and formal decisions:

White is emptiness. It is a beginning, waiting patiently to uncover the endless possibilities that await it. Black is strength. It’s the end of the day, a journey fulfilled. Desaturated pinks and yellows suggest the memory of a feeling or thought. Bleached by the sun’s rays, the vibrancy of their color is now a memory.

I work in mini series. This starts with a clay form; quick, impermanent sketches; and a few objects based on that initial form. Repetition also plays a role in the way that I construct my lattices. They are built piece by piece, serving as metronomes that mark their time.

2 Iren Tete’s Words are Like Ghosts, 5 ft. 8 in. (1.8 m) in length, porcelain, stoneware, engobe, white maple, 2019.

CM: What do you do to stay engaged and develop new forms?

IT: Reading and writing both play an important role in idea generation and form creation. I spend time reading the words of poets such as Rainer Maria Rilke and Ada Limón as well as listening to the spoken word of Paul Morley. Their word use is beautiful and often confusing. I love that and want my work to embody both of those characteristics.

Staying engaged with my practice is easy. It is just as important to take breaks from the studio as it is to pursue new avenues of research that lead to surprising new work. I want to be surprised. This past year has been about learning to trust myself, my work, and the symbiotic relationship that exists between the two.

Topics: Ceramic Artists