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.

Emerging Ceramic Artists

See the work of twenty promising contemporary ceramic artists when you download this freebieEmerging Ceramic Artists.

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.

  • Such an incredibly beautiful journey! You and your work through all of the arts provide such great inspiration. It’s an honor to know you as a colleague and friend in creativity.

  • Barbara L.

    Deborah, I am impressed with your choice to change careers. Your work is dynamic and sensitive. Beautiful pieces. It shows who you are and who you have become. I am a potter in Boston area. Do you have a website?

  • Lorraine B.

    Hi Deb, how lovely to see you featured, and to see more of your beautiful work. They could do a whole separate feature on your ocarinas! Best wishes, Lorraine

    • Deborah P.

      Thanks Lorraine. I have also been creating whistling water pots- I’m hoping to add Udu Drums to my repertoire. Keep sending me information on your shows- I’ll make it one of these days.

  • John K.

    I met Deborah last fall as a participant in a demonstration of “Smoke bomb Raku” with my Raku class and found her to be an inspiration as a ceramic artist!

    • Deborah P.

      Thanks John, we did that activity as a part of the Sacramento Open Studio Tour a few weekends ago. Now I have to wait until the Fireworks sellers return to town, close to new Year’s eve. Let me know if you are aware of any place to buy the smoke bombs. I found some online, but I’d have to buy a huge amount. They have a smaller pack, but there’s a minimum you have to spend on an order- crazy)

  • Linda C.

    I have a similar story, but as a pianist and piano teacher. Started pottery at 60 and agree with you that it changed my life, too. Sounds dramatic, but it is true!

  • Fred E H.

    Deborah, your work is very good both artistically in design and in use of color and firing choice. I only wish I had your talent but I don’t play the clarinet either !

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Enter Your Log In Credentials
This setting should only be used on your home or work computer.

Larger version of the image
Send this to a friend