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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