Artist Q&A: Meet Clarinetist Turned Ceramist, Deborah Pittman

After 54 years of playing the clarinet, Deborah Pittman found her passion in ceramics

Ceramic Arts Network:Did you come to pottery from a different career? Tell us about your journey and how your previous career informs your ceramic career.

Deborah Pittman: I grew up playing the clarinet and at a very young age, I knew that I would make it my life.  After earning a Bachelors degree, a Masters degree, and pursuing 3 years of doctoral studies in clarinet performance. I was fortunate to make several of my career dreams come true. I played in an orchestra abroad, spent 14 years in the Goldman Band, played on Broadway, and spent my first 9 years in California as a member of the Sacramento Symphony. I have devoted 54 years of my life to the clarinet. It was my first love and it has taken me to some wonderful places.

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The connections across the visual and performing arts are vast. Two differences really stand out for me. As a classical orchestral player I have been taught to emulate the masters–to play it the way my teacher played it, all the way back to the 1st clarinetist who premiered the work. An orchestral musician is a part of the group–a cog in the wheel. Growing up, I saw the clarinet as something I had a both a talent and great love for. I saw it as a laudable step up and out of the projects.

As a ceramic artist I create my art alone–I get to be a soloist and have flexibility to explore and develop my own ideas.

Discovering pottery has saved my life–helped me up and out of the group into art of my own design. I discovered the joy of playing in the mud during the summer of 1994. Since that time, I have become hopelessly addicted to the feel of spinning mud, to the smell of wet mud, to all the possibilities that mud holds. No one ever told me you could make music without making a sound.

I have become addicted to the feel of
wet spinning mud, the smell of mud,
to all the possibilities that mud holds.

If my ancestors had not been forced
to make the journey to the new world,
I believe I would have been a potter.

I will forever be a mud woman.

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