Deborah Schwartzkopf Biography
Deb Schwartzkopf was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. From 1999-2002 she earned her BA at the University of Alaska and worked for professional studio potters in the Anchorage area. The combination of learning at a university and as a studio assistant made for a well rounded education. She did a one year independent study at San Diego State University. It was here that she began to develop her own glaze palette in earnst. Schwartzkopf was an artist-in-residence at the Archie Bray Foundation from 2005-2007, after receiving her MFA from Penn State. Since then she has taught as a visiting professor at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, and the University of Washington in Seattle and with the University of Georgia in their Study Abroad progam in Cortona, Italy. In addition, she has exhibited and taught numerous workshops nationally and internationally. She has also been a resident artist at the Center for Ceramics in Berlin Germany, Mudflat Studios in Somerville, MA, and The Clay Studio in Philadelphia,PA. In 2010 Deb returned to Seattle and made work and taught at Pottery Northwest for two years. Deb also teaches workshops and exhibits nationally and internationally. She and her partner, George Rodriguez, bought a house in the Seattle area. They funded their kiln yard with a kickstarter campaign- IGNITE: An Essential Kiln Yard! Check out the link to view images of the building in progress!
Deborah Schwartzkopf Description
Deborah Schwartzkopf is a full time studio potter working in Seattle, WA. She has developed a distinct approach to building her complex forms blending wheel thrown and hand built sections. Her pots marry the clean lines of modern architecture and the asymmetry of the natural world.
I use porcelain for its luminosity. It glows through the transparent liner glazes and adds a soft brilliance to the matt glazes. Where the clay breaks on edges is shows through and lightens the overall palette of my work.
I take these steps when I glaze...
I recently switched to cone six electric from cone ten gas-oxidation. Previous to that I was firing cone 10, salt, gas-oxidation. Now I get variation, I previously received from the kiln atmosphere, through layering and spraying glazes.
I find that in having my own studio this is more cost effective, easier to hook up in a city and it also allows me to work through ideas fast, as it does not take as long to fill the electric kiln as it did the big gas kiln. I also feel that now that I can fire successfully in the electric my options open in terms of traveling and working in other studios. Most studios have an electric kiln…
tilitarian forms, challenging us to pay closer attention to the moments and objects that accent our day-to-day. Each piece is thoughtfully made by hand. Serve your food beautifully!
All of Deborah’s work is made from porcelain and is fired in an electric kiln to cone six (This is around 2200F).
Deborah Schwartzkopf Statement
I find it rewarding and challenging to make pots people will use. In my home growing up, hand made objects held special value. They were gestures of consideration and love. I continue to find objects a dwelling place for intention and association. The parameter of function both limits and frees me. It gives me direction and attaches me to community. Eating with family and friends instills a sense of place and relation. At the table I assess finished work and connect studio practice to living. This starts the cycle of making again. I want my pots to live in the kitchen where economy and celebration infuse life with purposeful beauty.
The processes I use yield complex forms defined by animated lines and soft planes. Multiple parts are pieced together. At times I combine wheel thrown and hand built parts. At others a singular method is used. The slab parts are patterned and laid over bisqued clay molds. I build these molds with reclaimed clay and shape them with the wheel or by coiling building. I find they give me the ability to make slab pieces with consistent volume. When I first approached hand building I had complicated patterns for every shape. Over time I have simplified patterns. With practice the process has become nimble and intuitive. This is freeing to me. Simple patterns are easier to augment and develop into new forms. I find refinement like a glacier moving down a valley: troublesome areas are meditatively eroded away and new ideas spring to mind. Slow practice yields fluidity in process, allowing me to shift focus to formal elements, intentional references, and how a pot will feel or fit into life.
Pots are a place where I embrace abstraction of emotions and communication in form. Birds are starting places in my study of stance and expression. I want to capture their expressions of precision and breath. The awkward pelican and elegant, buoyant loon embody curious shapes I mesh with geometric, sensual, and architectural elements. On the surfaces of my work, I merge our culture’s signals and nature’s placement of hue. Even in the Seattle winter, humming birds flash and scoot for nectar from my rosemary bush. Traffic lights illuminate the night, demanding attention as I bike through the city. With intentional placement, these visual messages imply function, trigger associations, and call for exploration. I find the relationship between form and surface integral and defining. Each informs the other within my cyclic studio practice.
The reciprocal relationship between my work and my life is unfolding; my chosen pathway in clay directs my life. As I strive for balance, the lessons I transfer from biking or gardening enrich my studio practice. Time with family and friends feed my inner life. I am gathering and truing my ideas, process, and dreams.