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A Visit to the Philadelphia Pottery Studio of Daniel Ricardo Teran

Daniel Ricardo Teran's sweet studio.

Okay. I admit it. I am jealous. There, I said it. I am painfully, achingly, colossally jealous of Daniel Ricardo Teran’s studio space. Who wouldn’t be? It’s spacious, flooded with light, has cool architectural details, high ceilings and on and on and on…

But despite the fact that my jealousy seems to be a continuing theme of  these studio visit posts, I still enjoy them. I think it is inspiring to see how people make their lives in clay happen. And so, today I am sharing this virtual trip to Daniel’s studio. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

Just the Facts

red earthenware

Primary forming method
wheel throwing

Primary firing temperature
cone 01–2 electric

Favorite surface treatment

Favorite tools
my handmade sgraffito tools

Tucked away at the end of Natrona Street in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood of North Philadelphia, an alluring red brick industrial building houses my studio. The building was originally a machine shop, later becoming a large sign and city billboard printing facility. Charles, our studio landlord, purchased the building five years ago. Decrepit and in need of serious repair, the building had been vacant since the 1970s. Charles divided the building into seven large studio spaces, one of which I share with my partner, Naomi Cleary.

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Our studio is an 880-square-foot triangle with a high ceiling, exposed structural beams, brick walls, wooden floors, and ubiquitous daylight from the many large windows. It is the most beautiful space I have ever had the privilege of working in. We have plants in every window and used the abundant light to start our vegetable seeds in the spring. The east windows offer a genuine view of Philly—first the rail track and trains, a large electrical plant, an abandoned brewery with a Palonia tree sprouting from its roof, and in the distance, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, high-rises, row homes, and skyscrapers. I appreciate the studio’s relative seclusion and am also learning to enjoy the horn of the trains as they rush by. My space is in the south corner of the studio. I keep it very clean and organized. Keeping things visually and physically organized helps me stay mentally organized. Be it the glaze materials or my object shrine for my sanity, comfort, and efficiency, everything has its place and every process has a regimented system. Naomi’s workspace is in the northeast corner, and the northwest corner is where our glaze mixing area and two electric kilns are located. With no elevator, moving the studio and materials up the stairs was a great deal of work, but stocking a lot of material means bringing them up the stairs is infrequent. Naomi is an amazing studio mate—encouraging, motivating, supportive, and understanding of the pressures involved with making and selling pottery. We share the space well, understanding and respecting one another’s different working styles.

The separation of studio and home is important to me, and as the studio is only six blocks from our house, which is across the railroad tracks in the Brewery Town neighborhood, it is very convenient. While walking to my studio, I often find interesting discarded objects. Everything from straight-E report cards to busted water meters make their way back to my studio to inspire stories and structures for the imagery on my pottery.

Paying Dues (and Bills)
I received my BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2007 and have completed residencies at Watershed Center for the Ceramics Arts in Maine and The Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. The residencies were an incredible opportunity to work alongside other people in a communal setting. My closest friends are the people I bonded with during those residencies. I also studied abroad at the International Ceramics Studio in Kecskemet, Hungary, and have attended workshops at Pigeon Lake Field Station in Drummond, Wisconsin, and Anderson Ranch Center for the Arts, in Snowmass, Colorado. This is the first year that I have not had the “Disneyland” experience of a well-funded school or residency program. The real world is now my teacher and I am in kindergarten.

In addition to my studio practice, I have two jobs. I am currently working at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in Bronxville, New York, where I teach seventh through twelfth grade pottery and visual arts. It is an amazing one-year position as a replacement teacher for Brenda Quinn, who is on maternity leave. I also produce pieces for a production pottery in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The position in NYC is three days a week plus travel. The other days are spent in the studio, often late into the night. I am busy, but with love of everything I do, I can’t complain. In my rare free time, I talk to family on the phone, read, and garden.

I am a maker, not a marketer. I want to reach and connect with people in a real way. I don’t like Facebook, and have a hard time blogging while still feeling sincere. I also value privacy and feel that, if we are not careful, social media is going to make it a lot harder to avoid invasive corporate spyvertizing. I am happy to let galleries promote my work while I am in the studio. Eventually, in addition to selling through galleries, I’d like to have studio sales. I have a great deal to learn about selling myself and thus my work.

The myriad drawings on my pottery are derived from many sources: political newspaper clippings, sketchbook drawings, peculiar and nondescript found objects, and old medical illustration books, to name my primary sources. I am an obsessive news reader/NPR listener and I watch as many movies and documentaries concerning the reality of the world as possible. Inevitably, and often subversively, these info binges influence my work. My thrown forms act as a functional stage upon which I am intimately able to express and compose complex narratives. The drawings are meant to communicate climaxes in untold stories, the plot of which is the world we misunderstand, re-understand, and simply will never get. Pop culture makes me itch, so I typically steer clear of senseless sensational media and quick fix entertainment. I want an authentic chill up my spine and not a manufactured one, an intimate conversation as opposed to a quick comment, and real feelings of passion and desire, not those forced upon me by subversive advertising and television.

Most Valuable Lesson
I value honesty in everything and feel that trust is hard to find. If I am not doing what I want to do, then I am not really doing anything at all. If I only pay attention to all the bad in the world, I become despondent and feel hopeless, but I strongly feel that in knowing and understanding the world’s disparities, I can move forward and begin to see the special things that exist without the flip of a switch or the start of an engine. Our imaginations are everything.

To learn more about Daniel Ricardo Teran or see more images of his work visit, http://danielricardoteran.com or http://danielricardoteran.wordpress.com

Read about some other great potters! Be sure to download your free copy of Contemporary Pottery: Functional and Conceptual Considerations for Handmade Pottery.