Vince Pitelka developed his colored clay marquetry techniques for creating highly detailed pattern and imagery with inlaid colored clays. His fascination with pattern and surface led to an extensive exploration of masonry patterns in colored clays. Industrial Revolution mill towns like Holyoke, Massachusetts provided inspiration for a series of vessels and sculpture that often reinterpret the precarious structure and complex surface patterns of industrial ruins. Pitelka finds beauty in commonplace industrial vessels such as gas cans, oil dispensers, water cans, and waste receptacles.
Vince Pitelka at MudFire
Gallery group show Constructed, April 2010
Vince Pitelka Artist Statement
I make utilitarian vessels that address the visual and narrative power of pattern, and the dialogue between surface, form, and containment. I am interested in the way pattern and surface influence our perceptions of exterior form and interior space. I explore a range of vessel forms incorporating influences from architecture and industry and/or reinterpreting traditional vessel types. Of particular interest are classic utilitarian vessels in clay, tin, and copper made before and during the Industrial Revolution. The simple expectations and parameters of utility have always informed vessel design, and I find beauty in commonplace industrial vessels such as gas cans, oil dispensers, water cans, and waste receptacles.
I cover my work with impressed patterns and/or laminated colored clay patterns resembling basket-weave, checkerboard, brick, stone, wood grain, and other variations. Every container represents an aesthetic and utilitarian statement defining a relationship between outside surface and inside space. In many cases we associate this relationship with figurative concepts of body and soul, exposure and concealment. The exterior skin or surface rarely indicates the "soul" - the interior nature and/or contents. The narrative intent and functional utility is non-specific, creating an inherent sense of mystery as to the intent or purpose of containment. The forms are at once celebratory, ritualistic, and utilitarian.
Vessels such as plates and bowls openly reveal the contained space, while others conceal and protect. It is the latter which most intrigues me, and I explore variations on the closed form. Much of my current work focuses on forms that pour - the teapot, pitcher, ewer, and cruet. The element of ceremony involved when one dispenses tea, wine, or condiments from a pouring vessel represents a unique dynamic in utilitarian clay, and the multiple component parts in such vessels offer special opportunities for formal exploration.
My work is slab- or coil-built from a stoneware claybody containing fine sand. Surface pattern, texture, and imagery are either laminated with colored clays, or impressed with bisque stamps and rollers that I carve by hand and bisque-fire. Colored clay areas and plain clay parts are initially left unglazed, while areas impressed with pattern or texture receive glaze and/or oxide patina.
All of my work is soda-fired to cone 6 (2220 degrees Fahrenheit) in a 20 cubic-foot cross-draft LPG kiln. In the soda firing process, a saturated aqueous solution of soda ash (sodium carbonate) is charged into the kiln firebox as the firing approaches maturation temperature. The rapid expansion of steam transmits the vaporized sodium throughout the kiln, where it redeposits on the ware, producing a soft overall glaze. I generally charge around 1 ½ pounds of soda ash in each firing.
After the glaze firing, I often add found or formed metal parts and/or wood handles.