Artist Spotlight: Liz Pechacek
Not all makers can successfully walk between the worlds of utilitarian pottery, sculpture, and jewelry. Liz Pechacek does and she does it articulately, with depth and aplomb as she incorporates a variety of handbuilding and slip-casting techniques. The coil and pinch method she uses to make her prototypes and larger works is a slow, deliberate process that allows her to react and adjust to the profile as she goes. “Once I am done adding coils, I will spend some time refining any lumps, bumps or swellings that I deem incorrect.” She holds herself accountable with constant considerations of surface and form interplay. Perhaps it is her deliberateness and patience with the process which allows her to traverse realms of objects. The work wrought by her hands engages a new conversation each time.
There is a fullness here Pechacek’s audience can get lost in. Perhaps this is fitting as she confesses to losing herself in the process on occasion, “Sometimes, I am so lost in the building process that I wait until the end and it takes some time to decide what to do.” Northern Clay Center has watched the early evolution of Pechacek’s practice in awe as she has assumed her position as a respected professional in our region and the nation. She generously shares insight to her process and journey.
NCC: Where do you make your work?
EP: I work from my home studio close to Minnehaha Falls (in Minneapolis) and have a shared space in the Northrup King Building that is more of a show space to have events and meet clients.
NCC: Will you share with us your approach to surface?
EP: Once the work is bone dry, I sketch out shapes in pencil that I outline in wax and fill with an even coat of translucent porcelain slip (often tinted with stain.) I then cover everything in wax again, draw new overlapping shapes that correspond to what is already there and scratch into the surface using a sharp needle tool. These shapes, filled with graphic motifs, are then inlaid with more tinted translucent porcelain slip and the piece is ready to bisque and glaze. For smaller, repetitive forms, like mugs and bowls, I make a mold from the pinched prototype, cast the form, and address the surface in the same way as the larger works. Working this way is always exciting to me because every piece is different and a process of exploration. I have a repertoire of shapes, colors, graphic motifs and clay bodies that I draw upon to layer and arrange. It’s just beautiful to see the way that things come together!
NCC: How long have you been making?
EP: My whole life! My mother is an artist and kept me fully stocked with art supplies. She would take my projects seriously and ask my opinion about her work as well. I dabbled in clay, but did not fully dedicate myself to the pursuit until college.
NCC: What did you do before that?
EP: Although I’ve always considered myself an artist, I have tried lots of occupations to make a living! I have been a Union Ironworker, factory worker, waitress, caregiver, gardener, and teacher before starting my business and going full-time in 2015.
NCC: What’s your background in?
EP: I have a BFA in ceramics and a BA in art history and a lot of experience with metalwork and various types of hard labor.
NCC: What else do you do for money in addition to making your work?
EP: I teach some workshops and do some visiting artist gigs and design work.
NCC: What do you love most about making your work?
EP: I love the constant state of exploration. With ceramics, it’s always a little bit of an experiment and although that can be stressful, it’s also very exciting!
NCC: What’s the hardest part?
EP: Sometimes I have a lot of deadlines right in a row and I have to work really long hours and can’t spend as much time on the larger works as I would like. It can be stressful also, when there’s not enough time and the constant threat of an unexpected crack or flaw.
NCC: What are your goals for the future of your work?
EP: I want to continue to make large works and explore different formats, such as the wall-mounted pieces.
NCC: What do you see as your biggest achievement so far?
EP: I am honored to be on the St. Croix Pottery Tour at Ani Kasten’s stop. I am so proud to be part of this 27 years and running tradition!
NCC: What else are you excited about in your life?
EP: Last year I married the love of my life and we are so happy together with our dog and home. I have lots of good friends here and a garden and my health is good so I am thankful!
NCC: What art do you look at for eye candy?
EP: I love to go to the MIA and cruise around visiting old favorites and finding new ones. I am particularly obsessed with Egyptian art and textiles.