The patchwork structure of Campana’s pieces causes the glaze to flow between the seams during firings, resulting in varying shades of color.
It’s an understatement to say that studio potter and University of Louisville professor Jeff Campana’s process is complicated. At first glance, his pots look like brightly colored puzzles, almost too intricate for human hands to form.
“Believe it or not, it came in a dream,” Campana says of his current work. “I saw a tea set that I would go on to make four months later.” He made that piece in October 2007, the first example of what he calls “cutting as drawing.” And now, he can focus on nothing else.
Campana begins by throwing bottomless forms and disks on the wheel. Once the forms hit the “perfect stage of dryness,” he takes a box cutter and slices them apart, smoothing the edges with foam. From there, it’s an elaborate dance between the artist and the organic material before the piece is complete.
His glazing process is just as detailed. It can take up to six steps over several days to layer each piece with the appropriate combination of originally mixed shiny and satin-matte glazes in bright green, royal blue, lavender and amber.
“I never stop thinking about my work,” Campana says. And it’s fitting. He can lose as much as 30% of a kiln load. The traditional dinner plate still eludes him—even after more than 100 attempts. “I’ve been told that I’m crazy for making these, because of the labor involved,” he admits.
But he isn’t about to change his direction. “I’m still just learning how to make these things,” he says, adding that he plans to add more “interactive sets” that combine forms and functions, along with new glaze combinations.
His ultimate goal? “To make work in the gray area between pottery and sculpture,” he says. “I think of my pots as both interior design products and art objects.”
This article was first published in the Spring 2009 edition of NICHE magazine. To see what the artist is currently working on, go to www.jeffcampana.com