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2015 Winter Newsletter

My Plan for 2015 (besides shoveling snow)

First name, last name, I don’t remember: his students just called him “Gunner,” and he was one of my favorite education professors at Saint Lawrence.  He had all sorts of good things to say, but thirty-three years later what I remember is, “If you’re not on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.”

In January I focused on Bellven pots — the pieces Mark Bell and I make collaboratively.  Because it was a new year, I started taking the design a bit further.  The top image shows what happened as I was pushing the limits of carved porcelain.  Oddly, this was okay with me. It felt right.  Therefore, I’ve decided to consider this the perfect way to inaugurate the coming year.

The important lessons keep coming around and around.

While working, I reflected on 2014.  It was a full and rich year — full of shows and making work for those shows.  It was a year of getting it out there.  It was a year for meeting new people and sharing my work.  My list of collectors and fans grew significantly, and I’m very pleased with that.  I am less pleased with what happened inside the studio. Don’t misunderstand me, I made good work — indeed, some of the most refined pieces I’ve ever made.  Overall, though, the work didn’t advance the way I would like.  My main focus for the year, especially the second half, was on having enough of the right work for shows and events.  I kept my skills sharp.  I worked long, efficient hours, managed production by reducing loss rate, and balanced studio time with computer time.  I had fairly clear, prescribed outcomes in mind and I worked toward them.

It’s time for the pendulum to swing away from product and toward process.  I look forward to a refined return to what is best about my work, to spending my energy on projects that open and expand my studio practice, and getting back to that edge.


Here are the major projects planned for 2015:

  • The collaboration with Mark Bell will continue. In fact, it’s been so inspiring that I intend to set up two more collaborative projects. Possible confederates include architect John Gillespieand multi-media artist Mark Kelly.
  • Ever since painter Alan Bray introduced me to it, Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space has been a significant source of inspiration. I intend to continue a series combining clay and wood based on the Nest chapter from that book.
  • I want to go much larger with egg forms. And I mean much larger.
  • In 2005, I spotted a particularly intriguing pattern on the perimeter of a 16th century shoji screen at the Art Institute of Chicago.  I drew it into my journal. I redrew it, again and again, for a few years, before carving it into the surface of a porcelain vase. Two years ago, I began my most ambitious iteration of this motif. I plan to finish it this year.

That should be more than enough. I suspect this list will take me well into 2016 and even beyond.


A few important nuts and bolts:

Come visit me!
My work is on display in our home gallery.  Visitors are always welcome. In fact, conversation and interactions with visitors are an increasingly vital part of my practice.

What can I do for you?
In lieu of shows, I would like to do more commission work. The trick here is timing. Have something particular you want me to make for you or as a gift? Attending any weddings this summer? Important birthday or anniversary coming up? Want some cups, bowls or plates for holiday giving? If so, let’s talk.

Shop on Line!
The website portfolio is all up to date. My current inventory is now available for sale on line. Click on the “Shop Now — Order On Line” buttons on the home page or contact page of vandervenstudios.com.

That’s the year as I see it.  I look forward to hearing from you.

With love and gratitude,

Siem