Liam McSteenAthens, Ohio

Red Lodge Clay Center – Short-Term Resident 2023 (ASPN)

Liam McSteen is a ceramic artist and art historian from Athens, OH. He attended Ohio University where he earned a dual degree in Ceramics and Art History. As a child of Appalachia, he has been surrounded by clay and ceramic works his entire life. His interest in functional pottery stems from his deep connection to ideas of the home and sense of belonging in place, which he was often drawn to consider in his studies of art and history in his hometown. The Ohio Valley region has a rich history of ceramic production and clay mounds which have always come as an inspiration to Liam. He graduated from Ohio University with two degrees from the Honors Tutorial College in the Spring of 2023 with a thesis written on the history of clay and its use in the Ohio Valley and as well as a written thesis to accompany his BFA exhibition. Liam’s work has been selected for showing regionally at the Undergraduate Juried Exhibition hosted by Ohio University and juried by Matt Wedel, as well as multiple Juried National Shows hosted by the Majestic Gallery in Nelsonville, OH and at Watermark Gallery in Bemidji, MN.

My work deals with a sense of belonging in space and the feeling of home. When someone holds a vessel that I have made, I want them to feel a sense of familiarity, of comfort. I want them to feel at ease and feel a connection to my home that potters and craftspeople have been forging for generations. As a ceramic artist, I am interested in the traditions which have been passed down, the lineages which inform our lives and practices as contemporary artists. Therefore, an informative part of my process as a maker has been my research as an art historian. In my research I studied the effects of clay on industry and material culture in my home, the Ohio Valley.

My practice as a potter is exploratory in nature, focusing on the nuances of form and surface on the functional object as it communicates with the world around it. Each kiln unload returns new results, and the atmospheric firing process marks each pot differently. When firing in atmospheric kilns, although I can set myself up for moments of success, I must relinquish some control to the will of the flame. My work explores surface and form to establish a dialogue between the firing process and environment in which the pot will exist.

I aim to exercise a holistic view of my work. I believe that nothing exists in a vacuum. To understand the cooking vessel, one must know how to cook. To understand a vase, one must know about flower arranging. The simple potter is all but simple, I must consider the chef, the florist, the interior designer, the gardener. Therefore, when appropriate, I incorporate mixed media into my work based on which material I feel can serve the function best. I am greatly influenced by the Bauhaus movement in architecture, underlining the importance of remaining true to the materials’ strengths and weaknesses, and not hesitating to find a better fit for the role the object is asked to play. I am aided, therefore, by a constant curiosity of new crafts and trades, new jobs and techniques to inform my practice as a clay artist.