John Cummings – Red Lodge Clay Center

John CummingsClemson, South Carolina


Red Lodge Clay Center – Short-Term Resident 2023

John is currently a Lecturer of Art at Clemson University in Clemson, SC. He was first exposed to atmospheric firing practices at University of Southern Indiana where he earned a B.S. in Studio Art. He completed his MFA at the University of Mississippi where he developed a passion for wood firing. Following graduate school John spent three years in Omaha, NE working as an artist assistant for Jun Kaneko. He began his career in higher education as an Adjunct Professor at UNC-Asheville, where he continued to develop his studio practice. Over his career he has exhibited work both nationally and internationally. His work is currently included in the collections of the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science, the University of Southern Indiana, and among private collectors.

As a ceramic artist, I am fascinated by clay’s intrinsic ability to record every physical action taken upon it. Through a combination of bold, colorful slips and the inherent uncertainty of atmospheric firing processes, I create expressive surfaces that provide a tactile quality to unique forms that are both sculptural and functional. I draw inspiration from the movement, gesture, and boldness of abstract expressionism, using a variety of bold and gestural application methods. From glaze trailing to striking the work with large slip-filled brushes, I aim to highlight the physicality of my process.

Firing techniques play a critical role in the creation of functional work for me. I use different atmospheric firing techniques, including soda, salt, and wood firing, to create wild and dramatic variations in surface. The kiln acts as a secondary painter, producing patterns as the flame travels through; this offers unique and exciting possibilities for each piece.

From research to firing, I am enamored with the endless possibilities of clay. I create functional pieces that not only serve a practical purpose but also bring joy and beauty to people’s daily routines. I constantly strive to explore the delicate balance between form and function. 

Clay has allowed me to create objects that are not only visually compelling but also serve a useful purpose in people’s lives. By visually referencing my hand throughout the objects I create, objects that are intended to be used and held, I establish a distinct connection with my audience. This direct reference to physicality imbues my work with a unique sense of intimacy and personal connection. I am passionate about the potential of ceramic works and their ability to serve functional, relational, and aesthetic purposes.