Theo Helmstadter

Artist Statement

The work is simple, dry, large-scale, wheel-thrown – or thrown and altered – from locally-dug stoneware clay. There is little surface design, with an emphasis instead on form and on the use of slips, stains, and the reduction firing process to achieve deep-seeming surfaces. Time is an important element in the work – the pots are inspired by very old pots made for use, and often look old themselves. A goal is to evoke the feeling of time – the sense of passage from one time to another.

Another source of inspiration is the vast empty Northern New Mexico landscape, where much of the clays and glaze materials for the work originate. The restrained warm color, the bigness of form, and the presence of the distant past – all these elements appear both in the pots and in the landscape where the pots are created.

-- Theo Helmstadter


I graduated from Oberlin College with a BA in philosophy and French. Working as an outdoor educator and classroom English teacher, I pursued apprenticeships to working potters. As a teenager I had worked in a metal shop and knew that learning to use tools and to pursue mastery of creative materials was a goal – one I would be better off pursuing through the work itself, and over time.

As with any artist, my work is an on-going experiment, an attempt to learn on the fly, a reach into the unknown. In 1998 I built my first kiln, began prospecting for nearby clays, and started my studio. It has been my full-time endeavor for the last fifteen years. I maintain an active journal and blog about creative life in the clay studio, occasionally contributing to Studio Potter and other publications. I teach advanced wheel throwing at Santa Fe Clay when time allows, and teach individual sessions as well as workshops in my own studio.

— Theo Helmstadter