Deborah Schwartzkopf

Artist Statement

I find it rewarding and challenging to make pots people will use. In my home growing up, hand made objects held special value. They were gestures of consideration and love. I find objects a dwelling place for intention and association. The parameter of function both limits and frees me. It gives me direction and attaches me to community. Eating with family and friends instills a sense of place and relation. At the table I assess finished work and connect studio practice to living. This starts the cycle of making again. I want my pots to live in the kitchen where economy and celebration infuse life with purposeful beauty.

The processes I use yield complex forms defined by animated lines and soft planes. Simple wheel thrown and hand built parts are pieced together. With practice the process has become nimble and intuitive. This is freeing to me. I find refinement like a glacier moving down a valley: troublesome areas are meditatively eroded away and new ideas spring to mind. Slow practice yields fluidity in process, allowing me to shift focus to formal elements, intentional references, and how a pot will feel or fit into life.

Pots are a place where I embrace abstraction of emotions and communication in form. Birds are starting places in my study of stance and expression. I want to capture their expressions of precision and breath¬¬. The awkward pelican and elegant, buoyant loon embody curious shapes I mesh with geometric, sensual, and architectural elements. On the surfaces of my work, I merge our culture’s signals and nature’s placement of hue. Humming birds flash and scoot for nectar from my rosemary bush. Traffic lights illuminate the night, demanding attention as I bike through the city. With intentional placement, these visual messages imply function, trigger associations, and call for exploration. I find the relationship between form and surface integral and defining. Each informs the other within my cyclic studio practice.

The reciprocal relationship between my work and my life is unfolding; my chosen pathway in clay directs my life. I am gathering and truing my ideas, process, and dreams. I am building community and establishing my studio.

-- Deborah Schwartzkopf



I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. From 1999-2002 I earned a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Alaska and worked for studio potters in the Anchorage area. This gave me an amazing foundation to spring from. Focusing on glazing was my goal during a year of independent study at San Diego State University, I then completed a Masters of Fine Arts at Penn State in May of 2005. Since then I have taught at Ohio University, Massachusetts College of Art and Design and the University of Washington. I have worked nationally at the Archie Bray Foundation (MT), Mudflat Studios (MA), The Clay Studio (PA), Pottery Northwest (WA), Watershed (ME), and internationally at Sanbao in Jingdezhen, China, and the Residency for Ceramics-Berlin in, Germany. I also had the pleasure of teaching with the University of Georgia’s study abroad program in Cortona, Italy for a semester. I have taught over 80 workshops and exhibited all around the country, as well as internationally. After ten years of traveling for education, residencies, and teaching appointment I moved back to Seattle in 2009. I bought a house and studio space in 2013, and since then have been doing projects galore to create a beautiful, functional space to make pots in. Myself, studio assistants, studio members who rent space, and people participating in classes all work in clay here. Together, we keep the wheels turning!

— Deborah Schwartzkopf