My studio practice is an overtly optimistic alternative to the pessimism that is present in many aspects of our culture, capturing simple joy and delight through the act of making. Using playful form language and intuitive mark making, I invent my own array of stylized plant life in the form of contained environments. The trees I sculpt are methodical and rhythmic, inspired by both wild and manicured plants, but constructed within the limitations of the process of coil building and the tensile strength of clay. I work with an emphasis on experimental spirit in the studio, constantly taking risks with aspects of my making process and the materials I utilize. I find beauty in the immediacy and materiality of clay, working spontaneously and playfully to imbue the pieces with palpable energy. My forms are embedded with awkwardness and honesty through my manipulation of ceramic materials, combining a reverence for craft with an overstated and garish flamboyance.
My high-spirited objects draw inspiration from Pennsylvanian Dutch folk symbols and metaphors of good fortune, perseverance, hopefulness, and strength. The most prevalent representations of these themes emerge in the form of various birds and flowers. Referencing this tradition, I adorn each of my pieces with stylized birds and flowers as a symbolic pattern of abundance and celebration. The foundations of my sculptures also include vessels to suggest generosity and plentiful harvest through pottery’s deeply rooted history as crafted objects intended for containing and offering.
My imagined scenes are a celebration of life’s abundance and a celebration of ceramic processes, offering delight through optimistic symbols and lush ceramic surfaces. I hope this work can be an opportunity to stimulate playful imagination and draw attention to the importance of finding moments of joy in our increasingly complicated daily lives.
— PJ Hargraves