Emerging Ceramic Artist to Watch: Ryan Olsen, Red Lodge, Montana

Pitcher Stack, 14 in. (36 cm) in
height, reduction-fired celadons,
soda/wood-fired clay, porcelain
and stoneware, 2008.

Whiskey Stack, 12 in. (30 cm)
in height, reduction-fired
celadons and soda-fired cups, porcelain, 2008.



I am investigating how we experience what we are attracted to. This experience is multifaceted, involving an awareness of nature, various cultures and histories, and a connection to ceramic vessels. I do this with the understanding that visual and physical attraction are both different than our experience of beauty.

The idea of beauty is a human understanding of attraction. For example, an insect is attracted to a flower through form and color, not the insects understanding of beauty. My vessels operate in a similar way when their formal attributes are experienced through their physical qualities. Through form and color, their relationships become clearer. Saucers contain and hide the feet of cups, while the lips of the cups undulate to conform to vases. Their understood utility becomes hidden when the collection of forms are viewed as a whole, not unlike a garden of flowers. These larger forms can then be separated into single vessels, not unlike picking a single flower from a garden. This facilitates an understanding of the individual utility of each object inside a larger whole.

Objects that create an awareness of beauty further our understanding of the ways in which we are attracted to them. Vessels are not only utilized by their intended function as objects but also with an understanding of our capacity to aestheticize our environment. This beautification of the everyday lies in a relational experience of physical and conceptual qualities. I draw upon historical ceramic forms to introduce cultural notions of beauty—taking forms and imagery from separate cultures and interpreting them through a single piece.



This was excerpted from Ceramics Monthly magazine’s
“Emerging Artists 2009” feature, which appeared in the May 2009 issue.
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