Watch: Studio Visit with Risa Nishimori

Interview with

Jonathan Van Patten

How did you get your start in ceramics?

I had a great art teacher, Mrs. MacIntosh. She gave me my first lesson on an old pottery wheel she had just brought into the class. She wanted to see who took to it, and I did. Throughout high school, she gave me the freedom to explore clay and pottery without much pressure, which was great for a young, disgruntled dude to have at that time. I was always allowed to experiment and just be myself in that art room. The tape masking technique was there right from the start, though more rudimentary at the time. Mrs. Mac., you're great. Thank You. 

Do you practice anything outside of ceramics?

I’ve been an avid drummer since roughly the same year I began doing ceramics, though drumming was a year before at 14-15 years. Over the years, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing music with many talented people in various forms. I also enjoy writing. I have many interests, and wish I could fully explore them all, but life also requires one to make choices. To date, my top three are drumming, ceramics, writing (in order of discovery).  

Where do you find your inspiration?

My work is exploratory. It's important to keep room for "mistakes" and subsequent adaptation to said "mistakes." This leads to an expression of improvisation and play. I like the idea of old forms meeting up with new concepts. A classic shape mixed with a an antithetical theme happening with the finish. These lines and shapes on the inside and outside of these vessels are an abstract exploration of the inner workings of an individual's spiritual interior blooming into their creative work existing in the exterior world.  

My starting point is almost always on the wheel, which is a combination of intentional and exploratory. Sometimes things happen on the wheel which you don't expect, but when you allow exterior input from the physics of the materials, unexpected things can happen. This leads to more inspiration. When it comes to the finishes, a lot of my technique has a direct connection to my long standing career as a professional house painter. The skills I've been learning since my earlier years in painting have influenced my applications of glazes since the beginning. It's a way of relating to your materials. Masking, sanding, and spraying have a direct connection to how I implement the finishing of these pieces.    

What do you want people to know about this release?

All work from an individual artist is personal. There’s an inner well out of which the work finds form. These vessels act as a metaphor for an individual life, and the freedom I believe all people should have to become the best and most sincere versions of themselves. The process of becoming involves personal growth, willingness to change, openness to accepting where we’ve messed up, and the willingness to get up and try again. Failure is a good teacher precisely because it hurts our pride in its occurrence. We strive for some "thing," and then it doesn't work out, or we fuck it up because we're not paying attention. And yet, oddly, if we can accept that failure is not an objectively true thing about who we are, but rather a way of seeing where we need to change, it's the beginning of the new. It is the beginning of improvisation, experimentation, and wonder.

I want this work to inspire people to believe that they can go and do and be in a new way. The status quo should not be the thing that drives our lives. We live in crazy times. There is so much we're all taking in every day, and it's difficult to remember that information is not the same thing as truth. What is truth? You are truth. You exist and you have a soul and a life that is calling you to engage, and many of us are wasting our precious time on this earth arguing with each other and pursuing vane things that will not last. My work is about expressing the truth I've experienced over the past several years of realizing fear is personal and it's the reason so many of us do not jump fully in-to the process of becoming who we truly feel we are on the inside. 

The world will change for the better when individuals start the difficult and challenging work of bringing forth what is within them. We must learn, both as individuals and as a species how to re-amalgamate the previous pain we've experienced as a collective and a whole into something new and vibrant, from out of this world, not only for ourselves, but for the betterment of the lives of people we will never meet. To do this, one must be willing to forge their own path, and that takes real intent and lots of hard work for a long time. 

It's uncomfortable and painful to forge your own path in this life. It’s a day in, day out process of learning to exist in a wilderness that is life. When you're in it, doing the work, it's a more real than you'd prefer. But this is the task, the real work. Most of the people on that stage have a right to be there. They did the work. And even then, there was never a guaranty. It's a risk to go after your dreams, and in that process, you will be challenged. Your insecurities and hurts will be triggered, but you can learn that these things do not have to define you. Your past may have been fucked up, but it does not have to be your future, and your future starts today. 

You gotta start and show up. These past several years have been the most challenging of my adult life, but they are also some of the most fulfilling years because I'm living out of the center of my true self. This is beyond dualistic description. It is the asymmetrical wonder that is the experience of coming to know yourself more fully from within. No one can take that from you.

These challenges show you what you’re made of and what you’re not, for better and for worse. But you can get up tomorrow and try again. Your challenges are your reward. Your pain will become your wisdom. When you show up in the midst of the chaos and do your best work, even though you may stumble through it, then and only then will you find your deeper strength. It is strenuous, though the fruit is that you'll experience you're own blooming faith in yourself, and in life itself. The universe has conspired in favor of your making. Call it by whatever you like, it changes not a damn thing that Time is precious. You could die tomorrow. So you must get to work today. Follow Your Heart Now. Like I said, it's personal. 

What’s next for you?

One of my highest aspirations is to continue to learn how to work and make art well. This includes the seemingly endless hours painting someone’s baseboards on my hands and knees, just so I can go start a second shift at the studio at the end of a long day. That's where the real work begins. I’m learning how to balance creative goals with the day to day realities of work, paying bills, showing up when I don't feel like it, and sometimes I don't cause it's fucking hard. 

I'd like to spend time on the west coast, see my family, travel some, explore more ceramic ideas, maybe play some drums. etc. At the end of the day, I’m learning what it means to really work towards my desires, and it involves showing up in the midst of the chaos. We can make something special when we try. The people of the world need to get out of our heads and down into our hearts. That's what I'm trying to practice, following my heart. 

JVP Wares by Jonathan Van Patten

Expressing exploration

Jonathan Van Patten is a ceramicist whose pieces embody ambiguity, exploration, and discovery of a true self. Hard lines maze their way around the curves of thrown forms, where start and end cease to exist.

Jonathan splits time between Portland, Oregon and Brooklyn, New York, practicing art, drumming, painting, and writing. He shares with us in an interview.

Tape Masking

Image with text


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