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Stephen Procter - Scale and Presence

Scale and Presence

Stephen Procter is known for the disciplined lines and unglazed surfaces of his historically-inspired monumental vessels. His more recent work revels in the sensuality of curves and the painterly effects of layered glazes. Whether austere or exuberant, Procter's vessels emanate a sense of animate presence that transcends the usual experience of pottery and broaches the realm of sculpture.

Alongside his human-sized vessels, "Scale and Presence" will introduce new series of carved and colorful wall pieces, including tile panels, oversized platters and "orphan lids." Planters, pieces that incorporate water, and wheel-thrown sculptural forms will inspire ideas for garden and landscape placement.

Artist Statement

My work reflects my fascination with large ceramic forms. A good large vessel is a spiritually resonant object, and it has the potential to touch those who come into its presence. Viewers often are moved to touch in return: Whenever I see people stroke, hug, or sing into my pots (as they often do!), I feel satisfied that something has been awakened, a connection has been made, and the piece is doing its work.

In bold lines and generous volumes I seek to marry the visual power of ancient urns with contemporary elegance. The kinship between my work and historical forms arises from the material's native tendencies and limitations; the clay itself suggests the directions it wants to take. Human scale and anthropomorphic reference contribute to the work's aura of animate presence. A large piece is apprehended by the whole of our animal being, not just the eyes.

My unglazed vessels point toward what is most elemental in the material and the forms. Glazes bring more focus and activity to the surface of the vessel, and their application with brushes and layering introduces a painterly dimension.

Pots, music, and curves
Leonardo Da Vinci described music as "shaping the invisible." In my previous profession as a classical guitarist I spun those shapes out in time. Now, sitting at the potter's wheel, I spin them out in space. The musician and the potter work with essentially the same elements: repetition and contrast, tension and release, harmony and dissonance, movement and stasis. Above all, both are concerned with finding and rendering the beautiful line.

I love curves and exploring their nearly infinite range of emotional, sensual and spiritual suggestion. Throwing a graceful silhouette is drawing a 3-dimensional curve in space. How is it that just the right gesture (either heard or seen) evokes elation, reverence, laughter, enthusiasm, tears, or just a simple and profound sense of repose and "rightness?" Or, conversely, that the almost-right gesture feels lifeless? I do not tire of plumbing the depths of that mystery through the medium of clay.

The Process
I build large pieces in many sections, joining wet clay to the partially dried wall in a modified version of the coil-and-throw method found in many ancient cultures. Although I work on a potter's wheel, my attitude is essentially sculptural: Beginning with a rough idea of scale and mood, the details of form and decoration arise through an improvisational dance that unfolds over a period of days as the piece finds its way to completion.

The Material
Unlike terra cotta or other earthenware clays typically used for large vessels, the high-fire stoneware I use is impervious to moisture and is suitable for outdoor placement year-round, even in northern climates.