Chad Gunderson- Tacoma, WA

Chad Gunderson
Chad Gunderson
Chad Gunderson
Chad Gunderson
Chad Gunderson

Chad's Writing About his Work:

Growing up in Minnesota, my family would always go to Gooseberry Falls State Park during fall break.  The cold nights were full of hot chocolate and card games, but during the day we would be hiking and, more importantly, digging for agates on the beach.  After finding the perfect piece of driftwood to use as a shovel, hours were spent combing through the rocks searching for earth-made treasures.  Having the right angle to the sun is key; with the right inflection, the agates glow brightly amongst the mass of opaque stones that make up the majority of the shore.

This early appreciation for the beauty of rocks and geology has stuck with me and relates directly to my work in ceramics.  After taking my first throwing class, I was captured by the transformation that happens in the kiln; clay becomes vitreous and watertight and glazes change from a dry powder into amazing glassy surfaces full of color and texture.  As I gained more experience, ceramic materials became an amazing playground where I could operate as an alchemist by creating objects with the elements of the earth and universe.  This fascination evolved into developing a way to cast solid glaze objects that allude to natural forms, but are augmented and amplified by color schemes and surfaces from commercial items.

Considering my infatuation with geology, I’ve been particularly drawn to Chinese scholars’ rocks ever since I first learned that they existed.  These stones, either naturally occurring or shaped by hand, are one of the first forms of abstract art in human history.  In my own work, I aim to incorporate many of the same enticing qualities that are admired in scholars’ rocks including: asymmetry, openness, texture, and a kinship to mountainous landscapes or figures.  Complementary to my use of color and texture, I seek to create pieces that have a sense of motion to them, that play with our sense of gravity, and that portray a feeling of growth or erosion.

The glaze I use is very viscous; it also contains chemicals that release gases during the firing.  A normal glaze will let the gasses out and then run smooth, but because of its high viscosity, my glaze traps the gas bubbles and grows to fill my molds.  One of the things that I get most excited about in my own work is the unpredictability of the glaze.  I can control overall shapes with the molds I sculpt, but I can’t anticipate how the gas bubbles form and propagate.  Many times, pockets of air interrupt the mold forms I create.  Every piece, then, becomes a response to expectation and result.

Once unearthed from the kiln and mold, my unnaturally-natural or, possibly, naturally-unnatural objects are injected with color schemes derived from sources such as video game sprites, plastic toys, and children’s crayons.  Exploring the fringe between stones sculpted by the elements and the deliberate choices of man-made items, I see my work as mutated geologic specimens that have become engineered designer relics.


Chad Gunderson grew up in Minnesota and aspires to be a world traveller, but misses canoeing the waters of his home state. He received his MFA from Arizona State University, Tempe and completed his BFA at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Despite his Masters' degree, he owns a 96 ct. set of Crayola Crayons and still plays with Legos. Chad also awaits the day that commercial space flight is affordable.

He likes rocks.

Deborah Schwartzkopf

Rat City Studios is the workspace of Deborah Schwartzkopf, Seattle based studio potter and instructor. Her mission is to engage and build community through clay – one person, one neighborhood, and one experience at a time. In service to this pursuit, she offers studio assistant positions for emerging artists, connects people through social events, instructs classes and workshops, and maintains a lively career in the ceramic arts!