We had the opportunity to get to know ceramic artist Nick Weddell during the NCECA conference. Nick received his BFA from Texas State University in 2016. He is currently a first-year graduate student at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. Nick's extensive knowledge for glaze is immediately apparent when viewing his work. Read on for a glimpse into his current studio practice. View and shop Nick Weddell's work in store and online.
What is your first memory of clay?
Nick: I remember being in Elementary school and touching clay for the first time. I hated it. I was the only person in the class who needed help from the teacher with making a pinch pot. When I was younger I could not stand touching certain things like clay or even paper that was too absorbent-the texture overwhelmed me. When I touched clay again in high school I cringed at the feeling of the clay drying on my hands.
Did you always want to be an artist?
Nick: Not at all, I am still not convinced that I am an artist. I went to school for Meteorology, I was also deeply interested in chemistry and astronomy. In high school I took art classes to fill up space around my math and science classes. I loved science and still do, it probably has something to do with wanting to understand the fascinating processes that happen around us constantly and with immense complexity.
Ceramics took ahold of me partly because I responded so well to touch communication and tactile expression but mostly because I had never encountered an art so deeply rooted in science. Ceramics allows for endless experimentation and what people refer to as the ‘magic’ or ‘alchemy’ of the ceramic process is actually just complicated chemistry. It can all be understood and controlled and collaborated with to produce mysterious and amazing works that stem from human creativity.
Did you grow up with art and creativity in your life? Did your childhood environment influence your current passion and practice?
Nick: I would say the closest thing to art I made as a kid I made using Legos. They allowed for my imagination to express itself in endless ways while instating parameters with which to work in. It is very similar to the parameters involved with making functional pottery. There are guidelines you have to work in while, at the same time, there is a lot of room to ask questions, reinvent, and push on the ropes of the boxing ring, so to speak.
You incorporate less traditional glazes into your work. Why is that?
Nick: Coming from a background rooted in the natural sciences, glaze feeds my scientific side in that it allows for me to experiment endlessly with what is possible. I am starting to think of glaze as a surface less; but rather as form. Glaze and clay are made with similar materials, they just lie on different points on the spectrum of melt. I seek out glazes that lie on various points of this melt spectrum and love to blur the lines that define clay and glaze as separate entities. I am drawn to glazes that exaggerate and pronounce their own form.
What are some of your current artistic goals?
Nick: I love artwork, especially ceramics. My continuing lifelong goal is not only to make the best ceramic artwork I can, but also to spread that artwork into the global sphere. For those unfamiliar with ceramics, I hope to urge an awareness of daily rituals, inject artwork into the everyday, and inspire curiosity and exploration.
Did you ever have any "ah-hah!" moments that contributed to your love for clay?
Nick: Every time I open a kiln full of glazed work is an ah-hah moment for me. Each time I fire I experiment with new techniques, surfaces, and material combinations so that every firing yields new and exciting results. I love testing glazes (this should be no surprise) because I love exploring and getting to know this complex and chameleonic material.
How does community play into your practice?
Nick: Well for one I wouldn’t have a practice without community. Andrea Gill told me once to imagine if there was only one rapper rapping. Rapping wouldn’t exist! Members of a community need each other to ricochet and build ideas off of each other. It’s essential to further the line of our craft, our art by encouraging each other and pushing each other to grow. Only very recently in the history of ceramics has it become a ‘one-person does all’ process. Historically, and still in many countries outside of the U.S. and Europe, making ceramics is a group practice where each member has a specific job. My favorite part about visiting other potter’s homes is seeing their collection and hearing them explain who made each pot and the story behind where and when they got it. Similarly my favorite part of making (aside from unloading glaze kilns) is seeing photographs of my work after it has gone out into the wild blue yonder. It feels like the pots have fulfilled the purpose that I made them for and will continue to do so for either 10,000 years or when you drop it, whichever comes first.
How much time do you spend in the studio a week? Do you keep "regular" hours?
Nick: I spend so much time in the studio. I am not constantly making pots as I am still in graduate school and have many responsibilities including taking classes and teaching classes however I still spend 14-16 hours a day in the studio. I am still young and thankful that my body can take working long and ever changing hours. Weekends are spent in the studio, there are no days off. I am sure things will settle out when I finish school but for now I try and take care of my body while also working 80+ hours a week. I love working overnight and sleeping from sunrise to lunch time.