AltDaily: How did you become interested in ceramics?
Steve Marder: I first became interested in ceramics through local art teacher Robert Davis in the 6th grade. I had worked with clay many times as a kid, but my lifelong interest started in Mr. Davis’ class.
What kind of work did you start making when you started in ceramics?
I started with wheel throwing, and like most folk’s beginning throwing efforts, I made a lot of hockey puck looking objects before I had a grasp of the technique. I remember my first desire was to make flower pots for my mother.
How has your work changed over time?
After learning pottery techniques, Robert Davis suggested I study the work of Peter Voulkos.
Once I looked up Voulkos, specifically Rose Slivka’s book “Peter Voulkos, A Dialogue with Clay,” I was mesmerized as most people are by what I saw in those images. At that time, around the time I was 14 years old, I was less interested in functional pottery, and began making sculptural objects. I have continued on that basic path until today, with the addition of some tea ware and other forms.
Can you tell me a little about your work with Peter and Peter?
When I was a senior, 18 years old, I was all set to go to Maryland Institute College of Art. After visiting the school in Baltimore, I was left a bit disappointed. I’m not sure what I expected to find there, but I knew I hadn’t found it. Everything changed when I went to Peter Callas’ studio in New Jersey to assist during the summer workshops that year. Peter Callas and Peter Voulkos offered me the full time studio assistant position at the New Jersey studio. After about 1.5 seconds of consideration, I accepted and deferred my scholarship and enrollment at MICA. At this stage, I had been working in clay seriously for about 5-6 years, and really thought I knew something. Upon the first day of work at Callas’ studio, I quickly realized I knew very little, and had better become a walking sponge. While working for the two Petes, I mixed, wedged, and fired many tons of clay. Everything I do now, techniques in the studio, wood firing, teaching heavily influenced by the philosophy of Voulkos and Callas.
Do you have any favorite artists? Why?
I have a very long list of favorite artists. I would first start with the artists with whom I’ve worked directly, the two Petes of course, John Mason, Jun Kanako, Paul Soldner, Okazaki, Rudy Autio, and Don Ritz. Other artists whose work I gaze at with amazement would be Stephen DeStabler, Daniel Rhodes, Arakawa, Egon Schiele, Franz Kline, Willliam DeKooning and many others. There are many examples of regional pottery work throughout the world which would have to be included in this list, such as North American southern slave pottery, pottery of the Congo, enlightenment period ceramics of Korea, Japan, and China, with other certain wonders of the world such as the terra-cotta army in China.
Could you talk about some of the places you have worked? I know you have been at the Hermitage and vastly improved the ceramics studio there.
My first ceramic ‘job’ was assisting Bevan Norkin, a crystalline glaze porcelain guy in Norfolk. Norkin is a glaze genius, and I learned a lot from him. The City of Norfolk hired me when I was 17 to teach beginning ceramics in local recreation centers. I worked with them for almost 7 years, coming back to them when I returned from New Jersey in 1999. That job taught me quite a bit about speaking to groups of people, and especially the patience needed to teach. During the last 10 years or so, I’ve done various classes and workshops at local Museums and ceramic studios, most recently acting as ceramic studio manager at the Hermitage Museum in Norfolk for about 3-4 years. In all these studios, I’ve tried to add a little something to the content, and bring some the lessons I’ve learned.
Can you explain what drives you to create your artwork? What can you tell me about your forms, surface or content of the work?
I suppose what drives my work in my inherent desire to make things. I have interest in engineering architecture, technology, and physics and probably would have been perfectly happy working in any of those fields. I just like to make things. My curiosity with mysterious language, archetypal imagery, anthropological history and process probably guides most of my forms and content. Most of my work has variable subject matter, which can be viewed as separate themes within the same objects as archetypal stream-of-conciousness forms.
Why did you decide to start the Ceramics Studio ORZO in Portsmouth?
This year I decided to open a new studio in Olde Towne Portsmouth to provide a venue primarily for experienced ceramists. In all the local studios in which I’ve worked, I noticed that it was very difficult to provide programing for both beginner and experienced level ceramics outside a university setting. I wanted to make a central studio, attended through membership, to fulfill that niche.
What does Orzo mean?
Orzo is the nickname of both Peter Callas and the late Peter Voulkos. They and people close to them always called them Orzo, or Orz for short. The word Orzo not only reminds me of them, but also identifies a certain modus operandi, or method of working in the new studio. I thought if I had to come up with a word, abstract or not, to describe what happened in a studio with Voulkos, it would be ‘Orzo’.
What is the purpose of the studio, and what is your vision for it in the future?
The purpose of the new Orzo Studio in Portsmouth is to provide a venue for ceramics open to experienced artists, and a learning center for the area. The studio will also add some beginner classes in the evenings this summer. My vision for Orzo Studio is membership studio access, with additional classes and workshops taught by visiting artists. The studio will provide regular demonstrations and lecture free to the public, which will be advertised. I also hope to include programming in cooperation with Portsmouth Museums for kids and adults.
What will you be offering for the public at Orzo?
Orzo Studio will provide a regular schedule of free demonstrations in wheel throwing, sculpture, and surface. These free programs will likely run on a weekend afternoon schedule. Details to come shortly.
How can the public enjoy the new studio?
The public can enjoy the new studio during weekend demos, and can also enjoy several ‘open house’ events throughout the year. A regular schedule of workshops featuring the world’s top ceramists will be available for an admission fee. During Gosport Art Show and the Seawall Art Festival, First Weekend Series and other local outdoor events, Orzo Studio’s doors will be open, and live demonstrations of wheel throwing and sculpture will be set up both inside and on the outdoor patio areas facing Court Street.
Visiting Artists will include : Daniel Johnston, Peter Callas, David Stuempfle and many others. Contact Orzo Studio via www.orzostudio.com.