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Gabriel Paul Tetrev (GPT)

I began my study of ceramics and work at the pottery wheel in 2008 at Terra Incognito Studios, under the direction of David Toan, and as a student at Oak Park River Forest High School, working with Elizabeth “Pennie” Ebsen. Ten years later, I'm working full time as a potter, refining my craft in my own studio, filling commissions, and experimenting with new techniques.

For the last several years I have helped lead Oak Park’s annual Empty Bowls Community Dinner, where students’ handmade bowls are sold to raise awareness and money for charities that combat homelessness and hunger. In 2016, and again in 2017, each event raised more than $12,000.

Viaclay (www.viaclay.com and @viaclay), was my moving art project which launched in April 2016. For this art event staged on the streets of Chicago, I made one hundred white porcelain cups and gave them away to passers-by to encourage them to share a crafted object. Each recipient was asked to post their experience with a photo on Instagram before passing the cups on. In the first 60 days, more than a dozen cups passed from person to person, and photos have been posted by recipients sharing the art around the US, and in England, France, and India.

Talking About Craft

Do you see yourself as an artist or a craftsperson and what is the difference in your mind?

Like Warren MacKenzie I’m interested in utility, and I make things for people to use every day. The process of throwing a bowl or plate is an act of creation and beauty, and that process is repeated by the owner when they set their table or serve their friends a meal.

What motivates you at the wheel?

I love the rhythm of the wheel – I’m currently working with a treadle-style kick wheel that my father and I made from a Bernard Leach studio pattern. The rhythm of the wheel, the kinetic rotation, carries the work from piece to piece. I love getting in the groove and making multiple matching pieces in a single session at the wheel.

What clay do you prefer?

I’ve worked a lot with porcelain, and stoneware – I’m currently very excited about the Red Clay with Grog 108 (from Standard Clay). It’s a high-fire (Cone 10) clay with medium sized grog and sand, which makes the material very stable and gives it a rustic feel. It has a lot of iron in it, and even with an electric kiln and oxidation firing I can get close to the effect of reduction firing, or a wood-fired finish.

Your colors are very earthy and natural, but many of your pieces have a crystallized pattern in them. How is that achieved?

Glazing is something of a magical process to me, and I think to most potters, and I’ve been experimenting for years with different glazes and kiln settings. I’m currently working with micro-crystalline glazes which give that matte to glossy pattern.

 
. . . I find it really enriching to make pots which people are using and which they come in contact with, not only visually in their homes but tactilely — when they pick them up, when they wash them after dinner, and so on and so forth. And this is something which I think I have been able to communicate to both people I have taught and people that have purchased our work since that time, that they all say, it’s so nice to have these pots with us all the time and to eat out of them and be in direct contact with them in our homes.
— Warren MacKenzie, American Potter (b. 1924), on craft and his early inspirations (from the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Oral history interview October 29, 2002)