Artist Matthew Causey has created three limited edition ceramic plaques exclusively for sale at the CFile Shop. Each plaque is produced in an edition of 10 and has a portrait of a famous potter on it: Beatrice Wood, George Ohr and Peter Voulkous. Causey hand formed the plaques and fired them in a long, hot (cone 11) reduction firing, so each has some variation to it. The cartoons capture something of each potters’ personality in an exuberant way. Click the Shop link in the menu above or at the bottom of this post to see the works at CFile Shop.
Typically, Causey, who is a prolific cartoonist as well as a potter and a sculptor, likes to have a direct experience of someone before he makes a portrait of them. Of course, this wasn’t possible with this list of deceased potters, so Causey had to rely on other means to get to know the characters behind the big names. The artist says, “when I draw cartoons or portraits, whatever you want to call them, I have to KNOW what I am doing, their face needs to be something I can do without looking.”
So instead of merely copying an existing photograph of Voulkos, Wood or Ohr, Causey heavily researched the potters and sketched widely to develop images and approaches that were evocative of their characters. When he was far enough along in this process of “getting to know” his subjects, Causey did an admirable thing: he sat down with a beer and made some really great drawings on napkins. There’s nothing like the immediacy of a napkin drawing and it’s amazing that this immediacy comes through in the final works. This probably has something to do with the way Causey translated these drawings onto the ceramic surface; he re-drew the napkin drawings on greenware plaques with a pencil and then “inked them” with black underglaze. For Causey, the rough surface of the unfired clay resonates with his other favorite drawing surface: rough paper. When the initial greenware drawings were complete Causey digitized them and cleaned them up in Photoshop. From these files he was able to make the decals.
We have included some images of other work by Causey below to give a sense of the artist’s entire practice. Included in this selection is a portrait of CFile’s Chief Editor, Garth Clark. Garth, who is at NCECA this week, took a break from the conference and recounted his first encounter with Causey and the genesis of this portrait to me:
“In the fall of 2012 I took part in what was a very important moment for me, a conference at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC with Matt Jones, Mark Hewitt and others. It was one of the most important events I have taken part in, revising my connections to my mentor, Michael Cardew…
“…During this extraordinary day with a jam-packed and responsive audience, I noticed someone sketching. It turned out that he was Matthew Causey. Later, one of his cartoons of me at the podium surfaced on Facebook. We got in touch, it became my FB profile image and I’ve been following his zany work ever since.
“Matt Jones said something funny in a note to Causey about the plaques, ‘your Voulkos looks like Bluto, your Ohr looks like Popeye and Beatrice Wood closely resembles Olive Oyl.'”
Matthew Causey earned his BFA in Applied Media Arts with a minor in Printmaking at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in 2000. He did post-baccalaureate work in Craft at the Oregon College of Art and Craft in 2006 and received his MFA in Studio Arts from California State University, Long Beach in 2010. He will be a visiting artist this May at the Ash Street Project, Portland, OR. He will be in a 2 person show with Lauren Mabry this summer at Eutectic Gallery, Portland, OR. In April 2015 Causey will be showing with his friend and mentor, Richard Nickel at the Clay Studio in Philadelphia. We highly recommend keeping up with this energetic artist.
Sean Di Ianni is a Contributing Editor at CFile.
Above image: Three limited edition plaques by Matthew Causey. From left to right: George Ohr, Beatrice Wood, and Peter Voulkos, now avaliable at the CFile Shop. Part of the proceeds from sales of these plaques support CFile Foundation. Thanks, Matt!