I use illustration in my work to express ideas about conservation and sustainability. These are ideas that I have developed through research which began by sharing experiences with my father on the water, and in the mountains of Northern Arizona. I pair this imagery with handmade pottery in order to exploit its universal familiarity and utilize the relationship we have with objects found in our everyday lives. The illustration becomes part of the overall experience with the object and adds to the conversation that takes place around it.
Spending the majority of my life in a large industrial city, I’ve developed a need to occasionally separate myself from my reality and travel to somewhere remote. It’s a need that has been learned through many such outings with my father. Something memorable about those trips is that at some point during a hike, sitting in a camp, or fishing our way along a stream we always discovered a mylar balloon. One of us would point and say “there it is” and we always knew what the other was talking about. It was one of the countless interruptions which reminded us that the outside world was still there waiting for us.
It seems that no place on earth is so remote that it hasn’t been infiltrated by human made objects. When we let go of a balloon and watch it until our vision can no longer define it, how long do we think about where it has gone? Once the balloon has disappeared from view it may as well have disappeared from reality itself. Perhaps trash that is thrown away is the same for us. I am both amazed and dismayed by the truth of where our trash ends up particularly the plastic that accumulates in our oceans.
We live in a geologic age that has been defined by the dominant influence of man over the environment resulting in a planet that has been changed forever and for everyone. The objects that I make, while often inspired by vessels from another age, are meant to be understood above all as being from our current epoch and so I make pottery that is of the Anthropocene.
Pottery is a medium; I utilize it to create momentary pauses in response to touch, use, or the notion of function. The user responds to an impression made in the clay or wonders at the weightlessness which a thickened rim can deny. I take advantage of these momentary pauses in order to allow the viewer to build a new understanding of the imagery. Pots can accomplish this because they are familiar. A cup or a bowl, for instance, are recognizable objects whether made from ceramic, metal, bone, Styrofoam, or plastic. The oldest known cups were made nearly fifteen thousand years ago from the top portion of a human skull and the earliest known pottery shard is roughly five thousand years older than that. Variant forms of vessel have been with us through a large portion of our development or evolution as a species. We understand pottery uniquely because of the depth of our history with it and it is this understanding that allows it to function not only in our hand but also in our mind. It can be used to infiltrate thought like a Trojan horse which is hiding ideas rather than soldiers. Of course for this to work properly the horse must be pleasing or alluring in some way. A question that I often ask myself is how then do I express the abject within the context of something beautiful?
— Bradley Klem
Bradley Klem reeled in his first fish when he was 3 years old and since has consistently sought ways to spend time on the water whether fresh or salt. He was first introduced to clay while studying painting at Arizona State University and completed an undergraduate degree in 2014 with a focus on ceramics. After which Brad was featured in the Ceramics Monthly Undergraduate Showcase and began exhibiting his work in national and international exhibitions including the Zanesville Prize for Contemporary Ceramics. He also became a Resident Artist at the Mesa Arts Center in Mesa, Arizona where his work was placed in the permanent collection at the Mesa contemporary Art Museum. Today, he continues to show his work in galleries across the U.S.
In 2015 he partnered with Alexandra Jelleberg to co-found, coordinate and direct “GrowlerFest.” As a founding director of GrowlerFest it is his aim to emphasize the link between the craft brewery movement and the vitality of handmade pottery.
He received an MFA in Ceramics from Penn State University in 2018 receiving multiple awards including the Harold F. Martin Graduate Assistant Outstanding Teaching Award and the Creative Achievement Award. He now continues to teach at Penn State as part of a one year visiting assistant professor position.