The delicate lines on the sides of these mugs were inspired by the patterning found on orchids, Rempe says.
Dreamvillager, August 2010, San Diego, CA by R. Adam Ward
For Coronado teacher and ceramic artist, the measure of his pieces is how they feel in the hand. It seems like a paradoxical idea to try to render one of nature’s most fleeting forms in a hard, stone-like substance, but that is exactly what ceramic artist Eric Rempe does. The Coronado High School art teacher and artist uses natural forms as stencils that he sandblasts onto his work.
Rempe, who will exhibit his pieces during the Fifth annual Coronado Art Walk on Sept. 18-19 , 2010 at the Coronado Ferry Landing, hopes his creations also contain something else ephemeral.
Crafting ceramic objects is an ancient art form to which Eric Rempe applies many modern techniques. For example, he creates stencils on a computer that he uses to sandblast onto the finishes of the work he creates. Besides the orchids and bamboo inspiration he uses to create silhouettes on the sides of his pieces, he wants them to create an association when people use objects he has crafted. People say, “I use your mug all the time, and I can’t tell you why, Eric, but the coffee tastes better out of your mug,” he said. “Or the food tastes better off of your plate.”
Rempe attributes this phenomenon to the connection between maker and object that the end user benefits from. The idea is about more than just getting away from mass-produced consumer culture sold at big box stores. “I believe that the work that I make has a potential to raise awareness of what you are doing,” he said. “When they get used somebody is reminded of the experience when they met me.”
The process Despite practicing an ancient art form, Rempe incorporates many modern techniques into his work. He uses a computer program to design the stencils that he uses, then sends these files to a printer. The printer operates a machine that will follow his coordinates and uses a tiny computer-driven knife to cut out foam stencils. Rempe describes it as a leap forward compared to hand cutting. “Basically, anything I can draw on the computer, or anything I can scan on the computer, I can cut out because of this technology,” he said.
Rempe created these tankards at right. Their unique shape was inspired by the shape of newly-sprouted bamboo.
To get the finish to be a combination of glossy and matte, he sandblasts his glazed items. This involves using a sandblasting gun to strip away some of the glaze. He puts the item inside a protective enclosure with built-in, massive, long, thick gloves to protect his hands. He must judge the result through a small window.
Inspiration Besides silhouettes, Rempe tries to embed parts of himself in his work. He wants his best work to speak about who he is, he said. Adding, “I’ve been a gardener all my life.” His main two botanical muses are orchids and bamboo, including “the patterning on the bamboo when it first comes out of the ground,” he said. But Rempe doesn’t worry if the viewer misinterprets, or, as he might say, reinterprets his original inspiration. “I draw the orchids the way that I do, or I use the particular orchids that I do because they are kind of abstract,” he said. One of his creations, Rempe said, gets many different responses from people about what they see. “Some people see squids,” he said. “Some people see seed pods. Some people see people dancing. Some people see aliens.” For him it is an interesting window into how people’s experiences shape their perceptions. For example, those who see ocean imagery are often water people. “They are surfers or divers and they are making associations from their life and trying to, sort of, figure out what that is,” he said.
Unlike some fine artists who might avoid the idea of functional art, Rempe embraces it. He said his deceased father drove home the importance of the feeling and functionality of objects used in everyday life. Rempe wrote about his father’s advice in preparation for a show he did during the Spring at Grossmont College. Rempe’s father, who used to work in the carpet business, gave him this advice: “Maybe you already do this with your mugs, but before I would fire a mug, I would take it in my hand and try to imagine what it would be like to drink a cup of coffee from it,” he wrote. “I would say to myself, ‘How’s the hand?’”
Rempe still follows his father’s advice, even though he knows it must look odd to observers. “If strangers had a window into my studio they would surely wonder about the odd potter taking phantom sips from unfired cups, holding bowls aloft as if passing them, or pouring from an empty pitcher,” he wrote.
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