My short stay at Rat City Studios was perfectly timed and paced to transition from a residency to a private studio practice. The intention in joining the West Seattle community was to hold onto the momentum I had built during my residency at Pottery Northwest, while I searched for a studio of my own. Within a quiet and candid studio environment, Deb has established an educational atmosphere. I had a lot of fun eavesdropping on her and her assistants being busy, everything is a lesson!
The commute seemed to highlight my time at Rat City. Seattle is a city experiencing a major growth spurt, and my commute took me straight through the middle of it. Driving south on my way down, first hopping from one hilltop to the next until you drop to sea level. The highway spits you out right in front of the city, driving on a viaduct that travels just above the waterfront and just below the glass skyscrapers. The road opens back up into the port whose scale dwarfs even the cargo ships that float in and out. Finally, you climb back up into the hills to the south end of the West Seattle peninsula. The interior scenes of the city being built and organized contrasted by the lush green neighborhoods surrounding it, were endlessly curious. I took a lot of inspiration from these drives.
The things I made were based on a selection of my favorite shapes and motifs from my exit show. Progressions on cups and covered jars, as well as a new challenge, salt/pepper shakers. I approached this new object with the scenery of my commute in mind. My progressions are based on nuance, refining form and developing the drawn surfaces. The goal lately has been to build the surface into the form so that the pattern can give a structure to the shape of the pot. The latest drawings are deeper, carved into an already rough surface, and then layered on top of each other. They have become more disorienting but also more dramatic, I think.
I am a potter who is interested in the development of form and the exploration of pattern. These two priorities drive one another, pattern responds to form, and, in turn, form hones to the strength of the pattern. When they fit, it is very clear, and the work progresses in this way. Balance, proportion, depth, and space decide the success of the object, and by highlighting the drawn pattern with porcelain brushwork, the dimensionality of the materials completes the link between form and pattern. I look to industrial and architectural situations for formal references and social observations for conceptual connections. I use geometry as a language to communicate ideas of space, proximity, occupation, and structure. Proximity is the nearness of objects in time, space, and relationship. By layering patterns on top of each other, I draw maps that help define or bend an orientation. Rather than measuring the distance between, I am interested in the nearness of things; of people, of cultures, and of objects. Pots are some of the things that connect us across cultures and across time. My process is driven by this perspective. Pots have a versatility depending on their placement in our homes, adorning our spaces and contributing to our stories. They are a part of our domestic infrastructure, facilitating rituals of beauty, nourishment, and gathering. I am interested in the history these objects carry and the sentiment gained from their usefulness. I am charmed by the anti-monumental, and challenged by the spatial balance between pottery, architecture, and community.
Zak Helenske was born and raised in Fargo, ND. There, he earned his BFA in Ceramics at North Dakota State University in 2009. Completing his MFA in Ceramics and Ceramic Sculpture at Rochester Institute of Technology’s School for American Crafts in 2014 led him to an art practice that crosses disciplines. Zak has been a visiting artist nationally at University of South Carolina, McNeese State University, University of Washington, and internationally at Akademia Sztuk Peinknych in Gdansk, Poland. He has taught at University of Washington, 3D4M and Rochester Institute of Technology, School for American Crafts.