Stephen Procter | Episode 804
For Stephen Procter a chance encounter with clay grew into a passion and a mid-life career change. Formerly a classical guitarist, Stephen found that making gestures through sound and time offered many analogies to making gestures in clay and space. Large scale is a hallmark of his wheel-thrown vessels, and an attribute that contributes to the quality of animate presence Stephen aspires to achieve. In his forms Stephen seeks to reconcile classical Mediterranean influences, organic shapes, and the innate tendencies and beauty of the material.
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Do you see your pottery as being a legacy to you work?
I’ve never thought of it that way. A legacy in the sense that I expect these pots will long outlive me and that I expect that they will provide whatever mysterious kind of sustenance that it is that they offer people for a long time to come. That’s my hope at any rate.
What does it do for you to know that there is someone that is working along side you that is going to take that knowledge and skill and make it live on beyond you?
It’s deeply gratifying. At this point in my life I feel like you know, I have invested a lot in figuring out some stuff that seems to work for me and seems to work for people who interact with the pots and I am not looking for someone who is going to slavishly imitate what I have done. On the other hand I feel, I guess their is an element of seeking immortality through the next generation if you will, and it’s very pleasurable.
What in your mind are you hoping to pass on to your apprentice?
That is a huge question. There’s a certain skill set that I have developed that I would like to pass on, but even more than that I think I would like to pass on a kind of mode of inquiry so that the people that work with me come away with some tools of reflection and curiosity that will help them find their own way with clay. The other thing, and I don’t know how to explicitly pass this on but there’s a certain mysteriousness about the quality of presence and aliveness that these vessels have and maybe it touches on something esoteric and I don’t know how other than example to show somebody how it is that gets imparted to the vessel or how it resides as it responds to the site that it is gong to the live in. All those things happen but they are very hard to put words to.
When you are making pots what do you hope that your pots do for the recipients. for the people who are going to be taking them into their lives?
That’s a great question. I used to think of that more prescriptively than I do now in terms of the particular way in which they might be influenced or inspired but over time I have seen people interact with the pots in so many different ways. So in general I would say that I hope that it somehow uplifts them. What I hope most of all is that they respond to the invitation that the pot is, to pause and enter a psychic realm that is different from the day to day.
What does a big pot do to you?
(laughter) Well, it makes me really tired. After getting to the end of making a big pot it’s like, Oh no, now I have to make a lid! I’m so exhausted. So there’s that level. But I don’t think that’s the level you are asking about. So what does a big pot do for me? The process for making the pot for me is totally engaging. I can kind of get lost in the process of discovering what the curve wants to do or how the decorative elements relates to the whole. So the making of the pot is sort of like a giant meditation for me in a sense. And once the pot is dry I am not that interested in it any more. We had this incredible experience together, this journey of creation, and I hope it makes it through the kiln.
What is one failure that you kept coming up against and how did you solve it?
I think the difficulty I was having was finding slow, gentle curves that really satisfied me that landed. I found that each time I went to a different size zone I had to relearn how to make the curves work. And that strategy you mentioned earlier of making the plywood templates that I could mount on hinges next to the pieces as I made them was a bit of a breakthrough for me in terms of getting closer to the forms as I imagined them.