This Week's Podcast: Stoneware Vessels Ease Into the Garden - with Stephen Procter
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A work of garden art can have a powerful impact. The ornamental object might be a realistic, representational sculpture – like a life-size demi-god in marble. It could be painted metal – think Big Bird made out of car parts? It might be a concrete faux bois (fake wood) container, which is something you might see in my garden. It could easily be an oversized urn like those that are becoming more and more fashionable.
On this week’s podcast and radio show, I speak with an artist who makes striking vessels for the garden. My guest is artist/sculptor/potter Stephen Procter. Stephen makes containers from small to very, very large that embrace nearly every scheme and easily settle into any garden design. Placing art in the garden can be difficult, but big terra-cotta colored pots seem right at home just about anywhere.
“As a sculptural object, a good pot can bring a room to life, announce an entry point, or create a garden destination. Its spirit touches those who come into its presence,” Stephen says. “It’s a joy for me to explore the mysteries of line, volume and movement through my craft, and to be able to share my work with others who enjoy the timeless beauty of this ancient art form.”
He builds the containers with a coil-and-throw method, and they are fabricated in layers and joined in an uncommon way – sort of like dovetail joints. But construction follows conception. “Although I work on a potter’s wheel, my approach 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.”
Stephen’s stoneware urns are weather-resistant – he’s never lost a single one at his Vermont studio. “Water must be kept out of the containers for one out of three seasons,” he claims. To do that, he makes a drainage hole in the bottom, of course, but also creates individual winter hats. These may have decorative finials or be simple caps. The covers are as individual as the pots they’re paired with. This is sculpture, after all, and each container is unique.
“There’s a thrill of seeing how everything comes out.” When the new wet clay works are finished, they get to dry slowly. Then, the vessels go into a large kiln that is heated up to 2345º. After 2 days of cooling, the kiln is opened. Such high heat may reveal some surprises. As Stephen says, “Mystery takes a hand in the process.” See more for yourself at stephenprocter.com.