Pete ScherzerRed Lodge, Montana

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Facilities Coordinator, Red Lodge Clay Center – Short-Term Resident (AIA) 2023

Pete Scherzer grew up in Ohio and Montana. He studied ceramics at the Cleveland Institute of art and Alfred University. He was resident artist at the Archie Bray Foundation from 1999 until 2001, and was resident artist at Watson Arts Centre in Canberra, Australia in 2018. He has worked at Princeton University, Alfred University, Peters Valley Craft Center, Cleveland Institute of Art, and Northern Clay Center. He was a lecturer in the Ceramics department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa from 2014 until 2019, when he began working as Facilities Coordinator at Red Lodge Clay Center. His work has been shown in numerous galleries across the United States.

I remember taking field trips to ceramic factories as a student. I enjoyed seeing these places; they were big, elaborate operations doing what seemed impossible. It demonstrated that industry will always be the winner when it comes to productivity, efficiency, and engineering. Visiting these factories made it clear that I am making work for completely different reasons. I tried to articulate this for a long time before realizing Yanagi, in The Unknown Craftsman, had thoroughly covered the topic, in a way that helped me see pottery as relevant, instead of an anachronism. The question “why make pots today?” became an issue to explore, and still remains an important issue to me today. In contrast to industrial dinnerware, I was once able to handle a Sultanabad bowl from the thirteenth century. The piece was broken, exposing the cross section. I was surprised to see the clay body looked like a mixture of sand and gravel. People had created something beautiful out of clay I would have considered unusable. It showed me that I may be inefficient compared to a machine, but I am capable of many other things. Individuals, unlike factories, can indulge in developing creative, eccentric ideas. Pottery has a passive, practical role, but at the same time it is decorative and full of content and associations. This creates a very interesting contradiction. I have always loved exploring historical pottery, architectural ornament, ceramic materials, and processes. Attempting to make sense of the jumble of ideas and influences in my head and applying them to objects as commonplace as pottery is what keeps me motivated in my studio.