THE ARTISTS: Paul Steege, potter
What is your career and current job title? My wife, Tina, and I make pottery together, and it is our sole means of livelihood.
Describe your art in a sentence or two: We make functional wheel-thrown pottery; that is, virtually all of our pieces are made on a potter’s wheel. I do the throwing, incised decoration, assembly and any other pre-dry work, and Tina does the glazing and kiln-firing. Our pots are intended for use, rather than as purely decorative objects.
How long have you been working in this discipline? We have been making pottery together for about eight years, but we both began learning about working with clay when we were in school. So, I’d have to say I’ve been working in clay for more than 10 years.
Why do you do it? I love the endless possibilities of the medium. I’m also intrigued by the technical parameters: the process of making an object out of clay and then putting it into a very hot fire, where it is transformed into stone. There is a lack of control, particularly in the firing of clay, that I am attracted to. And then, of course, it is wonderful to be one’s own boss and to have the freedom that comes with living off one’s own little enterprise.
What do you hope to accomplish? I hope that people who buy our pots use our pots, and that in using them there is a measure of delight or even joy in the act of pouring out of the pitcher or drinking out of the cup. I hope there is, for the user, a sense of connectedness, which doesn’t necessarily come from using factory-made objects.
Where do you want to be with your art, in terms of part-time versus full-time status, art positions and where your works are seen? As it is, we work at pottery on a very full-time basis. Two or three weekends out of every month from April to December are spent selling at craft shows throughout Northern California. We are happy with this scenario for the time being; although, ideally, we would like to do fewer shows and, perhaps, do better shows and/or more wholesale.
What kind of special training did you take? As I said earlier, we both started out with clay when we were in school. Tina had pottery in high school and, later, took classes at Sierra College. I took non-credit pottery classes when I was in college. Then, when I moved to Nevada County in 1992, I started taking classes from a local potter (Francesca Roveda). Since then I’ve tried to do a one-week clay workshop every summer to continue my education. But, for the most part, we learn as we go along and from fellow potters.
What’s your favorite part of your endeavors? My favorite part of working with clay comes when I take the time for exploring new possibilities; which are, of course, unlimited, and that in itself is inspiring to me.
What’s your least favorite part of your endeavors? My least favorite part: opening a kiln full of ruined pots, a not-at-all unknown experience.
How many hours a day do you spend on your work? On the average, I work about six hours a day, six days a week.
Do you consider it hard work, and could anyone do it? It is hard work, for sure, but there are many ways to make ceramics or pottery, and anyone with an inclination and the necessary equipment can do it.
Paul Steege and his wife, Tina Tesene, will have their first open studio sale at Sweetland Pottery from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 23-24. Sweetland Pottery is at 13694 Miller Road (two miles up Purdon Road from Mother Trucker’s Market on San Juan Ridge). For information and directions, call 292-3746.
“The Artists” appears each Friday. To suggest a person to be profiled, call The Union newsroom at 273-9561.
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