Harvey Sadow received his MA and MFA from the University of
Iowa, Iowa City. His most recent solo exhibitions have taken place in Florida, where he now lives. His work is a
part of the following collections: the Arrowmont School of
Arts and Crafts, Gatlinburg, Tennessee; the Bureau of
National Affairs, Washington, DC; Purdue University, West
Lafayette, Indiana and the Canberra Art Institute, In
Australia. In 1992, he served as consultant to the Mayor of
Palm Beach creating original concepts and designs for a new
downtown waterfront park.
As a potter, the nature of my work is the forming and firing of
clay vessels. As an artist, the nature of my work is to
actualize what I visualize, and my vision is often of the vessel
as global metaphor, viewed from a celestial perspective. There
is a balance in nature, and I want to remind people of that inner
calm which we have all experienced, but find so difficult to
maintain. So, in making my objects, I try to stay focused on
balance, because it is the key to thanksgiving.
The more I slow down the working process, the more time I spend in developing
each form and each surface; the more opportunity there is for
thoughts to become infused into the objects. I believe that it
is possible for an artist to empower works of art, and so, rather
than seeking to make vast amounts of work which is only about
money, I seek to make a few articulate objects which can actually
affect people in positive ways and reaffirm what I believe to be
truth. In this endeavor, I am constantly challenged. My mind is
continually refreshed, and my own balance is restored, so that I
remember to be thankful.
Ask the Artist
Where do you get the ideas for your work?
- I think that the ideas for my work come from three places. The first is observation of the world in which I live, and my experiences, emotions and thought process relative to it. One might say that this is my memory. It may be, but it might be a bit more complex than that.
The second place from which my ideas come is prayer. I pray for guidance and prayer gets answered.
Finally, ideas are generated by working. I try to actualize what I visualize, and in doing so, the materials and processes sometimes reveal further possibilities, which I may choose to pursue. Variations on a theme are often generated in this way. The process of discovery through observation of myself at work has provided the springboard for several series of pieces, because what I saw in the possibilities at hand were the triggers for a flood of memories, which then motivated the new work.
Do you work alone on your craft, or with others?
- I generally work alone, though my wife sometimes helps with the firings and with the business tasks. When I am looking for nontraditional solutions to problems in my work, I occasionally ask other artists for input, and occasionally I have asked chemists or physicists for input.
Do you ever teach, or take on apprentices?
- I teach workshops around the world, and occasionally teach in Australia. I have had private students, and am considering the possiblity of taking on an apprentice or an assistant. I taught at the university level for seven years, during the 1970's. I left teaching in order to give some undivided time to the development of my work, and to explore the art world, so that I would be able to help future students pursue careers in the arts when I returned to teaching. Silly me!
What's the most exciting part of creating your works?
- The most exciting part of creating my work is, in fact, CREATING MY WORK. Generating the idea, working out how to make the object, getting it right, going on to the next piece...
What's the most difficult part of creating your works?
- The most difficult thing for me is being patient, when development is not going well. There are pieces in the studio that have been in progress for five or six years. Some will ultimately be completed successfully, others will ultimately be destroyed. The decision to accept failure and destroy a piece is never an easy one.
What sort of technology do you use in your work? Has the technology of your craft changed dramatically over the past 100 years?
- I use an electric potter's wheel, an electric kiln and a gas fired brick kiln with a rolling floor and door. I also do surface treatment and revision with an airbrush and a sandblaster powered by an air compressor.
The technology involved in ceramics is ancient, and in terms of the basics, it has changed very little since the Greeks. It is in the subtitles, and in being able to work quickly, produce more work, and do more with less help that the technology has produced change in the field. Electricity seems to have produced that kind of change in almost every field. I have my clay mixed industrially and shipped in, and my glaze materials are mined and refined all over the world and shipped in. Sometimes I use undustrially prepared colorants, too.
Mass production of materials and equipment allow for some very sophisticated technology to be available to hobbyists and students, as well as professionals, and it is possible to fire kilns with computers. Does it make much difference in terms of craftsmanship, aesthetic considerations or originality? For the most part, I do not think so. It does give access to almost anyone to be able to work with clay with only a little education. That is why the academic art community has become so influential and the guild system has never developed in this country. I think that this is the root of some ethical problems, since the concept of plagiarism does not seem to have been incorporated into studio art education.
Do you have any advice for somebody just starting out?
- Nourish your spirit and guard well your soul.
Can you share a "secret of the trade" with us--something nobody else knows or that you found out only after years of experience? Put another way--what do you wish somebody had told you when you were just starting out that might have saved you hours of wasted effort?
- There are huge advantages to certain academic pedigrees in every field, even ceramics. My dad did tell me that, but I did not believe him.
Ambition can be dangerous. A fine artist, teacher and human being named Marvin Klaven told me that. I did not believe him either.
So, I wish someone had told me that I had better pay attention when my dad or Marvin Klaven tried to give me advice.
What are we missing by experiencing your work through the Internet and not seeing/hearing/feeling/smelling/touching it in person?
- A photographer, expecially if the artist is not involved in the process, can only provide a two-dimensional image from one point of view in a particular light. Beyond the simple answer that my work has three dimensions and physical texture, the making of this work involves layers of surface being fired one onto another. With every change in point of view, and every change in light (a cloud passing over the sun in a room with a window), the object appears to change. Even videotaping the object on a turntable does not unlock its secrets. One must interact with the object one's own terms.
I spent years developing ways to extend the working time on the potter's wheel, and ways of revising fired surfaces. These techniques allow me to infuse the intensity of my thoughts and beliefs into the work. I have witnessed these seemingly simple objects unlock emotions, trigger floods of memories and sometimes allow people to see the world in ways that never otherwise occured to them. I do not think that it is possible to experience that on a computer screen, unless the medium that the artist uses is the computer itself.