"Potter's Hands": my great uncle at work, taken by my grandfather in the 1940s.

"Potter's Hands": my great uncle at work, taken by my grandfather in the 1940s.

Nude, Stephen Deutch, 1940s

Nude, Stephen Deutch, 1940s

My work: porcelain greenware, 2018

My work: porcelain greenware, 2018

Clay in the DNA

I grew up in modest circumstances in San Francisco, but handmade ceramics were always a fixture in my home. My mother comes from a family of artists. My grandfather, Stephen Deutch, was a photographer and his brother Eugene was a talented potter who worked from the 1920s to the 50s, absorbing the ideas of twentieth century modernism firsthand. He died before I was born so I only know him through stories, photos and the pots and sculptures that are scattered around the homes of my relatives.

Back in the 1990s I earned a bachelors degree in fine arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (concentration in printmaking and art and technology), but for the last couple of decades my work life has largely been spent sitting in front of screens. I set out to remedy this situation in 2015 by taking a wheel throwing ceramics class at the Berkeley Art Studio. I was looking for an immediate, tactile physical experience and I remembered how much I’d enjoyed the one semester of ceramics I’d taken in art school. Sticking my hands in the mud was definitely satisfying, and in the process I rediscovered an odd affinity for the pottery wheel—something I ascribe to having spent several years as a youngster training to be a ballet dancer (all that spinning, you know).

Long story short, I found that working with clay allowed me to literally think with my hands and I’ve spent the intervening couple of years working hard to bring my craft up to the level of my art.