A. Blair Clemo is currently the Studio Manager and Pottery Instructor at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. He received his MFA in Ceramics at the New York State College of Ceramics, Alfred University in 2010. Originally from Doylestown Pennsylvania, Clemo spent many years in the west studying ceramics at the College of Southern Idaho and the University of Montana, Missoula. After completing his BFA in 2006, Clemo worked as the Ceramic Materials Technician and Artist in Residence at the Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis. He is looking forward to an upcoming Artist Residency at the Da Wang Cultural Highland in Shenzhen, China this summer.
I am deeply influenced by the flagrant excess present in the ornate history of the European Decorative Arts, in particular porcelain and silver soup tureens and service ware. These objects flaunt their position at the center of the table as well as their owner’s position in society. They serve food, however their greater intent is to serve as status symbol.
My current work questions how the ornament and stature of this service ware operates when expressed through a contemporary studio pottery practice. My pots reference an extravagant history, however they falter under the pressure of maintaining a flawless facade. Much of the ornament that makes up this work begins as a press molded strip of fancy clay. As it becomes form, it is squished and distorted by the act of scoring, pinching and assembling. What remains is a tangible display of the struggle between form and ornament. The more complex and visually assertive the form becomes the more the ornament recoils, yielding to the demands of form and utility. The illusion of meticulous ornamentation is threatened by the act of making pots.
There are moments of utilitarian consideration where the vocabulary of contemporary studio pottery is unmistakable. There are also moments of ridiculous opulence where handles and knobs serve little purpose other than visual pleasure. These pots balance on a fine line between sincerity and irony. They are sincere in their careful craft and potential for use; yet their assertion of material value and wealth is as transitory and uncertain as our own status in an unsteady world.