Interview with Steve Belz - Artist of the month, April 2012

ARTIST OF THE MONTH, April 2012: Steve Belz

/ Read the full interview in Ceramics Now - Issue Two

Ceramics Now Magazine
: You are strengthening your career as a ceramic artist year by year. What was your first contact with ceramics and when did you realize you have a passion for it?

I took a ceramics class in my junior year in college, and that changed my world instantly. I was constantly in the studio. I had worked with wood and metal prior to clay, but it was amazing to find one material that possesses the qualities of many materials. Throughout its various stages, clay is plastic at first, then flexible and strong like wood, then hard like steel. This is over simplified, but basically I love the metamorphic qualities of clay. It is an incredible material that twenty years later, I am still very passionate about.

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Steve Belz Contemporary Ceramics
Assisted Nucleation, 2011, Low fire ceramic, washes, glaze, rubber cord and steel fastener, 20H x 30W x 10D inches - View his works

What is the most difficult part in constructing a new piece? Tell us about your creative process, from sketches to the final display.

I usually work on multiple pieces at one time, so that they feed off of each other as a series. My work is often an amalgamation of forms and details from mostly natural objects and landscapes. I have a lot of natural objects and photographs around my studio. I use these details as a starting point for the forms and surfaces that I create, often manipulating the scale or color of the details that I am interested in. 

I often start by sketching in a notebook to quickly work through ideas, then I move to a large chalkboard for some full scale sketching. My sketches are often covered in words that inform the themes I am working on. Once I can visualize the form I want to create I move on to construction, my favorite part.

The most difficult part of constructing my larger work is managing the appropriate humidity. I allow certain areas to dry enough so that they have strength to support the form, while other areas are wet enough so that I can continue adding more clay. All of this happens while maintaining a smooth gradation of humidity between those areas to avoid cracks. I spend several weeks working on one piece, often jumping between other pieces while I wait for one to dry enough.

I rarely build my work in the position that it will rest. This does two things. It makes it easier to move the piece around to work on it and it keeps the orientation of the object open until the end of the building process. I can have most of the form completed and then cut and dart areas to modify the form. Once the main form is completed I smooth and refine the surface. This step is very meditative for me. It has a rhythm and fluidity that I enjoy.

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Steve Belz

Steve Belz Ceramics - Featured ceramic artist

Steve Belz's profile on Ceramics Now Magazine - View his works

“The environment is in a delicate balance between well-being and decline. For a healthy society, we must be responsive to the fact that all of our activities affect the Earth. My sculptures express the beauty of nature and the tension created by man’s manipulation of our environment. I use the beauty of form to increase the viewer’s emotional connection with nature. This connection to nature can expand one person’s, and ultimately our society’s compassion for the natural world.

Historically we have manipulated plants by gathering seeds, grafting limbs, and controlling pollination of plants with traits we find favorable. These qualities were gradually developed over countless generations. What is different about our more recent modification of plants is the far-reaching selection of traits from organisms that would not be accessible without genetic engineering. For instance, splicing a fish gene with a strawberry to make the strawberry more resistant to cold could not occur if not for techniques developed by scientists. This kind of manipulation is dramatically different from our prior system of plant selection and has potentially profound effects on the Earth.

I use manufactured elements in my work to create a tension meant to bring about a consciousness within the viewer, to open a dialogue about contemporary society’s association with nature. This discussion can raise awareness of the danger that our current situation poses. A lack of responsibility and stewardship for the Earth creates many problems for the planet, among them degradation of our basic life support systems, as reflected in the loss of biodiversity, increased toxicity of our food systems, inefficient use of natural resources and global climate change. I hope that my art will encourage viewers to educate themselves and become increasingly proactive in assuring a sustainable future.” Steve Belz

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Steve Belz: Assisted Nucleation, 2011, Low fire ceramic, washes, glaze, rubber cord and steel fastener, 20H x 30W x 10D inches

Steve Belz: Assisted Nucleation, 2011, Low fire ceramic, washes, glaze, rubber cord and steel fastener, 20H x 30W x 10D inches

Steve Belz: Assisted Nucleation (detail), 2011, Low fire ceramic, washes, glaze, rubber cord and steel fastener, 20H x 30W x 10D inches

Steve Belz: Assisted Nucleation (detail), 2011, Low fire ceramic, washes, glaze, rubber cord and steel fastener, 20H x 30W x 10D inches

Steve Belz: Conflict of Purpose, 2010, Low fire ceramic, washes, rubber, stainless steel and acrylic paint, 11H x 40W x 17D inches (alternative view)

Steve Belz: Conflict of Purpose, 2010, Low fire ceramic, washes, rubber, stainless steel and acrylic paint, 11H x 40W x 17D inches (alternative view)

Steve Belz: Conflict of Purpose, 2010, Low fire ceramic, washes, rubber, stainless steel and acrylic paint, 11H x 40W x 17D inches

Steve Belz: Conflict of Purpose, 2010, Low fire ceramic, washes, rubber, stainless steel and acrylic paint, 11H x 40W x 17D inches

Steve Belz: Pulse, 2011, Ceramic, glaze, bronze and powder coating, 9H x 14W x 10D inches

Steve Belz: Pulse, 2011, Ceramic, glaze, bronze and powder coating, 9H x 14W x 10D inches

Steve Belz: Pulse (detail), 2011, Ceramic, glaze, bronze and powder coating, 9H x 14W x 10D inches

Steve Belz: Pulse (detail), 2011, Ceramic, glaze, bronze and powder coating, 9H x 14W x 10D inches

Steve Belz: Hold It, 2009, Low fire ceramic, washes, glazes, copper wires and steel fasteners, 9H x 13W x 10D inches

Steve Belz: Hold It, 2009, Low fire ceramic, washes, glazes, copper wires and steel fasteners, 9H x 13W x 10D inches

Steve Belz: Emerging Tension, 2010, Low fire ceramic, slips, glazes, rubber cords and copper wires, 5H x 8W x 5D inches

Steve Belz: Emerging Tension, 2010, Low fire ceramic, slips, glazes, rubber cords and copper wires, 5H x 8W x 5D inches

Steve Belz: Bound, 2010, Low fire ceramic, glazes, slip, rubber cord and copper wires, 10H x 19W x 9D inches

Steve Belz: Bound, 2010, Low fire ceramic, glazes, slip, rubber cord and copper wires, 10H x 19W x 9D inches

Steve Belz: Bound (detail), 2010, Low fire ceramic, glazes, slip, rubber cord and copper wires, 10H x 19W x 9D inches

Steve Belz: Bound (detail), 2010, Low fire ceramic, glazes, slip, rubber cord and copper wires, 10H x 19W x 9D inches

Steve Belz: Twisted Synthesis, 2011, Low fire ceramic, washes, glazes, rubber cords and steel fasteners, 14H x 27W x 13D inches

Steve Belz: Twisted Synthesis, 2011, Low fire ceramic, washes, glazes, rubber cords and steel fasteners, 14H x 27W x 13D inches

Steve Belz: In the Balance (detail), 2011, Low fire ceramic, glazes, washes, slips, stainless steel, rubber and wood, 13H x 13W x 7D inches

Steve Belz: In the Balance (detail), 2011, Low fire ceramic, glazes, washes, slips, stainless steel, rubber and wood, 13H x 13W x 7D inches