Travis Sudweeks creates pottery for the last thirty years. During that period he developed an astonishing level of perfection while creating his pieces. His smooth, minimalistic designs carry a dose of luxury that came from a years invested in his craft.
His style is definition of what he loves to see and the things he would love to use. And trough the years it has been a proven good practice.
A lesson we all should follow. A seed of wisdom to be nurtured.
Where are you from? Where does the art journey start for you?
I’m currently based in Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s gorgeous in nature here.
The journey began 30 years ago as a 14 year old freshman at Timpview High School in Provo, Utah. I was taught by master potter Andrew Watson. I knew I loved it from the beginning, and took every class I could. I would stay after school for hours making terrible pots, but always learning and not caring how good things were. It was fun. It still is fun. I learned from Andrew for many years after high school, and I still do learn from him. We chat on the phone and I learn from his goodness at being a human who works with clay. At one point, I lived in his huge farm house studio, it was anything but glamorous and was filled to bursting with not only pottery, but old cars, musical instruments, farm equipment, horse gear, couches, and a thousand other items that could have been seen as gross or interesting, depending on the person.
What is the first emotion that drives you towards creating an art piece? Do you recognize the connection immediately and let yourself flow on the creative process? Or do you "bake" the inspiration for some time?
Excitement I believe is my first emotion when I figure out a new design I want to make, or a glaze technique that works out. Usually I can’t wait to make more of the idea. When I first started on my path to becoming a full time potter I would dream of pieces, and I just had to go and make them. I would see them all the time in odd places, at odd moments, until I made them and then the drive would go away. I’ve also found inspiration when I swim laps, sometimes a shape will just pop in my mind when I swim. Very odd. It doesn’t happen as much to me anymore, it makes me kind of sad that it doesn’t. Maybe i make to much pottery now. But either way, it’s still a lot of fun and very gratifying to make useful pieces that people will use and hopefully love for a long time.
What is the back story of your design? Because every one of us sees the world through separate lenses. How hard it must be to transfer it to other people?
My design aesthetic took a very long time to figure out, it still meanders, I feel like there are more roads to travel down with my design until I really feel like my glazes are 100 percent me. But I feel like my designs are me. I used to travel a lot, from those travels I was changed by the beauty of old and new architecture, and I found I absolutely love gaudy European architecture, the skill and art work, time and patience, and love that went in to those buildings, oh the stories they could tell. I love how these traditions continue on with the artisans of today restoring the old and keeping them alive. It truly blows my mind. But with pottery, I’ve found that I love simplicity, and I find that my favorite pieces to use, to touch, and to look at are the simple ones. Luckily, I find that many people and customers resonate with what I like to make, which allows me to keep creating and expanding my ideas and supporting my small family with pottery.
When it comes to making a living from your art, what are the main struggles? And what would be your advice for starting artists?
This could be a book. I’m sure someone has written it. But I will try to tell you how much heart ache and pain and love goes in to all my pieces. Insecurities of making and design pop up every day. For instance, why don’t I sell out on my Virtual Studio Sales? How can I make more pottery? How can my designs be better so enough people will buy them to make this all easier? When can I finally buy a damn Ferrari? Just kidding, I only want a Vespa. Money can be an issue, summer is my slow time and I’m trying to figure out how to get over this hurdle. Having enough capital on hand to purchase materials, tools, etc, is crucial and is so important. When I first started on this full time venture I had to figure out how I could throw enough pottery to get as good as I could, as fast as I could all while working a full time job. Now I don’t have enough time in the day to make enough pottery. It’s always something. Right? As of January I now take Sunday’s off. This is the first time in 5 years that I’ve taken a day of the week off. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, well I would have it a little easier to make money, a little more time off, that imaginary house in the Swiss Alps is calling my name, just kidding, it’s in Portugal.
What do you prefer, single pieces or storytelling through a whole project? And what approach do you use in each case?
I like both. Single pieces can stand out and really tell a story, for me this is especially true with large vases. These pieces show so much craftsmanship, and can really be a statement to who the artisan is. But I also have fallen in love with the look of a hundred mugs waiting to be trimmed, all pretty much identical. There is beauty in repetition.
Why do you use certain materials? What connects you with them, and makes you feel they are perfect for your art piece?
I use clay, I love clay, it connects me with the earth, it connects me with the people that use or own my pottery, it connects me to the other potters in the world that love to make pottery as well. Clay is every changing, it is an impossible process that we humans, ever the smug ones, think we can master, but we can never master clay, not even the masters.
What does ART, in general, mean to you?
Art makes you feel. It is an experience. Art has the power to take you away from your problems and sweep into a world of it’s own making. For that brief moment we become part of that art.
The FOURLINEdesign team would like to thank Travis Sudweeks for sharing inspiring thoughts with our community.