Artist Spotlight: Steven Godfrey

Steven Godfrey lives in the largest state in the union, where he has plenty of room to consider the smaller, significant moments that can get taken for granted. Things like the light of day, or lack thereof, become familiar points of reflection. Steve will be leading a workshop at the American Pottery Festival next week with Sam Chung. Register here.

Here’s a little taste of the sweet and funny and thoughtful mixture of ideas and humor you can expect if you register for the workshop or if you are lucky enough to acquire one of his forms in the NCC Sales Gallery.

Delicate blue-glazed porcelain jar with a goose knob. Black stoneware salt cellar with a spoon representing the moon. Two-tier celadon porcelain salt cellar with cardinals supporting the second tier.

NCC: Tell us about your work.
SG: I make things that I primarily use myself on a regular basis. I make mixing bowls because I eat eggs every day. I make salt cellars because I cook. Everything I make is very much integrated into what I do every day.

The birds came about…about 11 years ago. I was home visiting family for a bit; looking at children’s books. I really loved my children’s books. Some of the authors used illustrations that gave human personalities to birds and other animals. As a young person it made me daydream about being part of those stories. When I moved into making birds I was incorporating a larger part of my existence into my ceramic work, instead of just what I learned in college. The work began to incorporate my whole life experience.

I want to address the sweetness I saw in those illustrations in my work. Because I don’t see much of that in contemporary ceramics, I think there is room to explore it.

NCC: Where do you make your work?
SG: I have two studios I work in. I got a grant several years ago to turn my two-car garage into a heated studio, and then I have a friend, who has a very large studio on the other end of town. He allows me to work there also. In one I do most of my porcelain work, in the other I do my stoneware work. It’s a luxury to not have to worry about cross-contamination.

NCC: How long have you been making?
SG: 27 years. I was really fortunate. I have a lot of artists in my family, so I grew up in a creative environment. I never touched clay until I went to college. I scoffed at the idea of taking a clay class actually. I was going to be a printmaker or a painter, but the ceramic class next to my 3D class was full of great people. The community is what really inspired me from the beginning.

NCC: What did you do before that?  
SG: When I was in junior high and high school I mowed lawns, and I think it is the basis for how I address form now. You’ll have to come to my APF lecture to hear more about that. I was kind of a workaholic.

NCC: What else do you do for money in addition to making your work?
SG: I teach at the University of Alaska in Anchorage.

NCC: What do you love most about making your work?
SG: I feel somewhat relevant in this world. It makes me feel that I might have a unique voice as a person.

NCC: What’s the hardest part?
SG: I guess I put so much energy into being creative as a teacher and as an administrator, it’s sometimes hard to maintain that in the studio.

NCC: What is the largest goal for the future of your work?
SG: Y’know, I haven’t thought about long-term goals much. I just go from year to year.

Although, there has been some music made that inspires me. One piece by Brian Eno…it’s so paired down, it’s almost celestial. When I hear it, I get flooded with different emotions. I would love for my work to embody that kind of power. I’m just not sure how to get there yet.

NCC: Your dark clay pieces are certainly breathtaking.
SG: The is a lot of darkness in Alaska or when there is light it’s full of beautiful purples and burgundies. I love the night paintings of Albert Pinkham Ryder. They really capture a similar moody darkness. With the dark salt cellars, I see the spoons as the moon.

NCC: What do you see as your biggest achievement so far?
SG: I’m not even sure if my biggest achievement has to do with my studio practice. My greatest achievement is that I’ve collaborated with my students. I think that the term “profess” is a bit overrated.

NCC: What else are you excited about in your life?
SG: I love cooking for myself on Sundays so I have good nourishing meals all week long. I love blueberry picking. I love being outdoors 4 or 5 hours, so I can fill my freezer for the winter. Hiking up mountains makes me feel younger and stronger. And there’s nothing that I love more than working on my house. I do love listening to music. But it’s hard sometimes, because my mind is so full these days. When I do slow down to listen though, I enjoy it very much.

NCC: What art do you look at for eye candy?
SG: I really love fast European automobiles. I was very interested in cars in junior high and I still enjoy European sports cars. I also love looking at Danish furniture and Native Alaskan artwork. I actually don’t look at pottery that much anymore. I look more at paintings and sculptures these days.

You know who else has done some really great night paintings? Rockwell Kent.

Steve will be leading a workshop at the American Pottery Festival next week with Sam Chung. Register here.