I am a studio potter who is interested in the development of form and the exploration of pattern. I look to industrial and architectural situations for formal references and use geometry as a language to communicate my observations. My work is wheel thrown and hand built with an aggregated earthenware clay. Carved drawings act as a framework to the pot’s form, with porcelain slip-work to designate positive and negative space. The immediacy of the brushwork mirrors the directness of the drawings. The bright white slip both obscures and highlights the drawn pattern, animating the surface of the pot.
In the studio, labor grounds my energy and propagates new ideas and new directions. I start with an idea of function. This places the work within a craft tradition and an ancient history of objects. From there I follow the work, each pot guiding the next. I pause at every step in the process, appreciating each job and focusing my attention on the details and look to the periphery of the idea. Every step has its own nuance. The slip work bends and disorients the visual surface, the drawings create structure, and the forms hold mass and volume.
I am in pursuit of pottery that offers many vantage points, both visual and tactile, thoughtful and functional. Objects that engage us on a human scale in the intimate spaces where we connect in daily practice. Pots are versatile depending on their placement, adorning our living 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 from wheel to home as well as the sentiment gained from their usefulness. I am charmed by the anti-monumental, and challenged by the spatial balance between pottery, architecture, and community.
Originally from Fargo, ND, Zak Helenske received a BFA (2004-2009) in Ceramics at North Dakota State University where he focused on functional ceramics. He received his MFA (2010-2012) in Ceramics and Ceramic Sculpture at Rochester Institute of Technology’s School for American Crafts. Graduate school lead him to an interdisciplinary practice, working primarily in metal. Following school, he spent time casting and teaching both nationally and internationally at institutions like Sloss Metal Arts in Birmingham, AL and the Akademia Sztuk Peinknych in Gdansk, Poland, as a visiting or resident artist. These experiences away from functional ceramics shaped an industrial sensibility and a better understanding of both material and object. In 2015, Zak moved to Seattle, WA for a residency at Pottery Northwest where he shifted his work back to function. Now a full-time studio potter, he works out of his studio in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. Zak is represented by Vetri Gallery in Seattle and was named an Emerging Artist by Ceramics Monthly in 2017.