[ARTIST PROFILE] Clay shifts form and function in Tietel’s hands

October 26, 2018

Each piece of clay is carefully handcrafted and drizzled in glaze in a completely new way before it is engraved with the special marking of his family crest. For senior Riley Tietel, pottery is a form of expression; each piece is filled with different parts of who he is as an artist. Pottery is specifically known for the way that every piece has been crafted through manual labor and plenty of time being dedicated towards progress.

Tietel started working with pottery in seventh grade, when it was required as part of the curriculum in middle school. Yet Tietel found that he had a passion for the medium and its application to practicality, so he started back up again halfway through his sophomore year.

I like that unlike other kinds of art, the things you make can actually be used in everyday life. ”

— Senior Riley Tietel

“I like that unlike other kinds of art, the things you make can actually be used in everyday life. The product is something that is tangible, instead of just a photograph or a painting where you just hang it up, it’s actually 3-dimensional so you can use it in many different ways,” Tietel said.

After taking both beginning and advanced ceramics, Tietel decided to continue with pottery and take it to a more serious level by joining Senior Art Seminar and indulging in the many new options available to him.

“The project I’m working on right now is playing around with different types of glaze. I’ve tried putting paint on a pot and then putting more glaze over it, so that some of the paint will show through, but only part of it,” Tietel said, “I think it’s a lot more interesting than just putting a glaze on and knowing what will happen already. It’s the idea that it can never really be the same,” Tietel added.

Tietel knows to never underestimate the importance of practice and makes sure to spend at least 75 minutes every day stationed at the studio.

“What I’ve learned most is just how important practice really is. You can have some natural skill, but if you’re really looking to get better, you have to put in the minutes,” Tietel said.   

Tietel is used to spinning the wheel most often, but recently he has tried venturing outside of his comfort zone with a new project.

If you’re really looking to get better, you have to put in the minutes.”

— Senior Riley Tietel

“My favorite thing about pottery is the fact that the work I make is all made from just my hands. I work with the wheel a lot more but I’m also working on a hand building project right now. I’m trying to create a of a giant duck since I want to spend more time working on my hand-building skills,” Tietel said.

This year Tietel has experienced much more freedom with what he is able to make, but it also comes along with some responsibility. He is now learning more about the technicalities that come along with working as a potter; firing the kiln and making glazes.

“I don’t really know a lot about how to fire the kiln right now, but I think I’m going to try to learn how later in the year. I do make my own glazes sometimes, you just have to measure out a bunch of powders and then mix it up with a little bit of water,” Tietel explained.

Before sending each piece off to be fired in the kiln, Tietel has one very important step to tie in his identity as an artist.

“I put my family crest on the bottom of every piece, so it’s kind of my marking for everything I make. It’s an “I” with a line coming out to make an uppercase “E”, so it basically spells out all of the letters in [my last name] Tietel,” He said.

I put my family crest on the bottom of every piece, so it’s kind of my marking for everything I make. ”

— Senior Riley Tietel

Tietel will continue to strive for excellence in his craftsmanship as he will explore with clay for 75 minutes each day for the rest of his senior year. “I feel like there is still a lot that I don’t know about pottery and I’m really enjoying being able to try out so many new things. I would say that’s mostly what this year is about for me, being able to experiment,” Tietel said.

This story was originally published in the October issue of The Rubicon.

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