If you’re a fan of contemporary ceramic sculpture, then you know that there is no shortage of innovative, expressive work going on in the field. And to provide a snapshot of this diverse work, we decided to gather a few of our favorite articles on contemporary clay sculpture into a free download for our subscribers.
Today I am presenting an excerpt from this new download. In it, clay sculptor Doug Herren candidly discusses his approach to making art, surviving as an artist and his best advice for those wishing to do the same. Have a look and then download your free copy of Contemporary Clay Sculpture: A Collection of Four of Our Favorite Articles on Contemporary Ceramic Sculpture. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.
I knew from very early on that I wanted to work in the arts. I don’t expect to make much money from my work, just enough to have a studio space and time to make the art first and foremost. If my day job can be related to this work, so much the better. I do my best to teach students in basic handbuilding and throwing techniques and to encourage them as much as I can. I know how much things can stack against them. It is their own continuing interest that they will have to rely on to keep making art.
Working in ceramics was something I discovered in college. Watching my first instructor throwing pottery on the wheel was mesmerizing and something I just had to learn how to do. So my original aspirations to pursue graphic design gave way to ceramics…and all along I really wanted to be a fine arts major anyhow. Over the next few years, I
earned both my B.F.A. and M.F.A. in ceramics, and continued on to residencies, one at the Archie Bray for two years and a second one at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia. At these residencies, I shifted from making functional pottery to developing my current sculptural style. I have sold work since my undergraduate days but I have never relied on these sales completely. Teaching has been my main income since leaving graduate school and currently I am an adjunct professor at two area universities. How I’ve managed to sell work over the years has been more
happenstance. During my residencies, I always had the chance to exhibit and sell. My recent work is represented at a gallery that, for the first time, is not exclusively ceramic. Most of my sales are to collectors.
As much as I enjoy working in the studio, I often have side interests that occupy me from time to time. For a few years, I took classical guitar lessons and last year I built a large truss-style dobsonian telescope. Two years ago my wife and I bought a property that we attempted to renovate for apartments, but a year later we sold it deciding we were in over our heads. Now we have a townhouse facing a park in the city with a carriage house in the back we use for our studios.
Being a potter for so long, it’s been a challenge to shake using only ceramic solutions for my work. But the scale I employ now compelled me to use things like sign painter’s paints instead of glazes. I make stands for my work using discarded lumber from the numerous row houses nearby. I cut up large timbers for table-tops that I then fashion ceramic legs for and bolt on.
When it comes to marketing my work, I have to admit I am my own worst enemy. Pursuing contacts and galleries is something I really fall down on, yet with the few shows I have had, my sales have been decent. Being a resident at The Clay Studio was especially helpful in meeting and being seen by many of the collectors in the area. Living in Philadelphia has certainly made marketing easier because of the strong arts community that exists here.
I do photograph my own work. I have been doing this for over 20 years, for myself and occasionally for others. I shoot slides, 2¼-inch transparencies, and digital shots to cover all bases. I’ve always felt no one knows better how to shoot the work than the person who made it.
I regularly apply for the PCA and PEW grants offered here in Pennsylvania. I used to apply for more local and national pottery-oriented shows, but no longer as I only make sculptural work now. I divided my time between the two worlds for a number of years, but in the end both got short-changed. Only when I chose to develop the sculptural work exclusively did I really start to make more significant progress.
At present, I am the studio technician at Swarthmore College, where I teach occasionally and receive health insurance benefits.
My wife and I are both committed studio artists. Most of our free time is dedicated to being in the studio. For myself, it is mostly evenings and weekends that I find time for the studio. During the summer I can be there full-time, if not actually working on a piece, then spending days working on a drawing for new work.
Where to See More: See more of Doug Herron’s work on the website:Saatchi-gallery.co.uk/yourgallery/