Posted by Colin Sawyer
If it weren’t for ceramics, Peter Morgan would travel down the path of science, and study birds. More specifically, the Harlequin Duck. Peter is also a Minnesota Twins fan, as was evident with him wearing a Twin Cities cap during our interview. Peter isn’t an artist to stay in one particular method of creation (press mold, slip cast, coiling, etc.). Peter Morgan is one of NCECA’s Emerging Artist for 2016, and I was lucky enough to sit down with Peter in his Gettysburg-area home.
Peter has a website where the viewer can see that Peter has been busy in the last two decades. Peter graduated with distinctions while obtaining his BA and BFA from Roanoke College and California College of Arts and Crafts, respectively. He also earned his MFA from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 2005. Since that time, Peter has been in dozens of exhibits across the US, as well as Europe. Most of Peter’s time was spent being a resident artist and giving lectures or teaching ceramics. His residencies include The Clay Studio, Belden Brick Factory, and Archie Bray Foundation. Peter has spoken at lectures and taught ceramics since 2002; most notably a lecture in 2007 at the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing, China. Peter insists that making his art relatable is a key component when brainstorming new ideas. Peter also makes art relatable to more people; more specifically the students and children throughout Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He does this as a Claymobile instructor through The Clay Studio. Peter also curates shows, although one wonders, “Where does he have the time?”
Peter’s medium of choice is low-fire clay, as well as a mix of commercial and crafted glazes. The general sizes of his work would fall in line with normal scale or a bit larger, but nothing monumental or miniature. The forms Peter chooses are relatively organic, as the pieces mainly center around animals. Peter’s palette changes with each piece, but blue is a prevalent hue while natural colors dominate his portfolio. The textures are primarily smooth to the touch, but still tactile with the natural rise and fall of the organic shapes. The pieces Peter creates are created out of a joy for the subject matter and don’t necessarily present a politically motivated dialogue.
Before Peter moved back to Philadelphia from Gettysburg, I interviewed Peter. He answered the door wearing his Minnesota cap. He was in the middle of moving, but he allowed me access into his studio.
What was the catalyst for pursuing ceramics? “I took a class in college.” He was so excited by ceramics that he now devotes his life to the art.
Do you have any favorite pieces? “Harlequin Duck and the Train piece. Each train was its own design and had its own challenges.”
How about from other artists? “Clayton Bailey.”
Have you been to an NCECA conference? “Yes. I presented work in Kansas City. I am probably not going to be able to make it to Portland in 2017, but I want to go to Pittsburg in 2018.”
What is your favorite clay type? “Low fire white. Earthenware with grog.”
Is there an artist you would like to work with or learn from? “I would like to work with someone in a different field; like a science background. And, see what we can come up with.”
Favorite part of being a ceramicist? “Within the process of being a ceramicist, Leather-hard processing.”
Any advice for the newest artists/ students? “Set goals and deadlines. Do something each day. Increase visibility. Learn business or how to be an entrepreneur.”
What are your plans for the near future? “I plan to move to West Chester, continue with my projects, and working with my non-profit.”
Did you ever imagine at the start of your ceramic journey that you would be doing something like lecturing in China (CAFA)? “Not really. But, it was a good time.”
Your pieces appear to have narratives; what message are you trying to convey? “There is always some sort of message. It may not always be a grand narrative, but it could be an experience. Not a whole narrative, but just an idea. The art I make has an accessibility for all ages.”
Do you create art in any other medium? “It’s about 90% ceramics, with some drawing and printmaking as well.”
As we had our interview, Peter expressed how he is working on a piece with fellow Alfred University alum Adam Hinterlang entitled, “Follow Through”. It was inspired by the idea of wildlife fashion art. I let him know that my first contact with his work was through Art Axis and that my favorite piece was Klondike Bear, with Nacho-mess Monster being another piece I enjoyed. He showed me his trick to rehydrating dry bags of clay, his trick to fire multiple tiles at once, and his favorite piece, the Harlequin Duck which is more beautiful in person and with the added benefit of seeing it in three-dimensions. Peter also showed me a piece he was working on. A true-to-form ceramic bobble-head mascot.
Peter’s work is fun and vibrant; a batch of ideas without a grand narrative. His pieces have mass appeal with their natural subjects and subtle humor. As with the other NCECA Emerging Artists, Peter helps the community push ceramics forward and draws inspiration from other fields of study. His artwork is helping bring forward contemporary ceramic art. I am looking forward to seeing more from Peter, and I am sure Philadelphians are looking forward to more inspiration from Peter as well.