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12 Questions: Peter Morgan

1. What are 1-3 books that have influenced your life?

The Crosley ID Guide, which is a bird reference book created by David Crossley and published in 2011. The book features photo shopped vignettes depicting birds in their “natural setting” showing close up, far away, and obscured views of the birds, mimicking the experience of seeing them in the field. Visually, it can be a bit jarring, with forced perspective, but it features colorful, useful, and insightful writing, unlike many bird books. The Crossley ID Guideis more a reference book, than a field guide, but will drastically change the way you think about looking at and identifying birds in the field. Since the initial publication, varies editions have been released focusing on different groups of birds such as waterfowl and raptors.

2. What are you currently working on?

At the moment I am working on a collaborative tile project with my cohort Adam Hinterlang, which we call: Wildlife Fashion Art. It features silhouetted action images of animals, and uses this most fashionable colors of the day. Currently, we are focusing on a small series featuring rare or endangered animals of the American plains, which will be on view at the Clay Art Center in Port Chester, NY at the end of September.

3. How has failure set you up for later success? What was your favorite failure?

Failure has led me to be better prepared, and to plan further in advance for whatever I am doing. In hindsight my favorite failure was in undergrad and was I attempting to make a set of ten large sized dinner plates on the potter’s wheel. I was pretty excited about he plates after they were thrown and trimmed. I came in the next day to find that nine of them had developed giant cracks through the middle, and had to be tossed. Since then I have learned that you need to thoroughly compress the clay as you are throwing. Also, I have not made plates of that scale following that incident. I often regale that story to my students, so they understand the importance of compressing the bottoms of plates.

4. What is your most unusual habit?

Probably running very long distances as I compete in ultramarathons. Next summer I am running a 500k race through Tennessee.

5. If you could have any painter, living or dead paint your portrait who would it be and why?

Stuart Davis, because he is my favorite painter.  

6. What is the most indispensable item in your studio/workspace/office? What is your studio like? Could you share an image?

The most indispensable tool in the studio is my fettling knife, which is sharpened to a nice point, and has developed a great patina over the years. Occasionally I will misplace it, and have to spend as much time as it takes to find it before going back to what I was doing. This can sometimes be as much as 30 minutes. As this is a well-worn tool, it cannot be replaced as readily as many of my tools, which could easily be purchased.

Not to sugar coat things, but my studio a mess. It is in the back corner of our basement and I don’t think my wife ever ventures in there. I have a couple of tables, and a few shelves where I keep assorted tools and glazes. It works well enough for what I need it to do, but I have gotten myself into trouble when I have made something very heavy and had to get it up the stairs and through the narrow door into our kitchen. In the process I threw out my back, and was in significant pain for a week, and required a trip to the doctor.

7. When you feel overwhelmed or uninspired what do you do? What do you do to get out of a funk? What questions do you ask yourself?

When I am overwhelmed, it is usually because I am way behind on something, so I need to get myself into the studio and complete the task at hand. When I feel uninspired, I look to whatever deadlines I have coming up, and that will usually get me into gear. I find that most often my best inspiration/ideas come from working in the studio. Even if I get in there for 15 minutes or so, something transformational can come out of the experience, if not I am 15 minutes further along on my project. Sometimes, I get the best ideas, when I am running, but the problem is trying to remember them when I get home. In many ways it is similar to remembering what happens in a dream.

I often ask myself questions about why I am doing this? Would a certain professor from grad school approve of this? Why am I always battling a deadline? How am I going to get this fired in time?

8. Who/What influences your work?

It may be easier to ask what doesn’t influence my work, but to name a few it would be food, trains, encyclopedias, the natural world, the failures of language, maps/mapping, Kook Keith, Funk Ceramics, Pop Art, hashtags, birds, completion-ism, postcards, obsessiveness, knickknacks, stubbornness, color, and the worst idea in the world.

9. Do you collect anything?

I collect a lot of things, such as Hot Beverage Sleeves, Bobble Heads, Records, National Bohemian Beer Cans and memorabilia, bird themed collectable, Pez Dispensers, Boy Scout Patches, Baseball Cards, Minor League Baseball Hats, etc… My hope is to one day have a house big enough that I can dedicate a room to each collection.

10.  What words of advice would you give to your younger self?

Do a better job on your website, have a good “elevator speech,” and stop wasting time applying to jobs you are not going to get.

11.  In the last five years what new belief, or habit has most improved your life or studio practice? 

My 25-year old self would hate this, but I realized that I could show pieces multiple times, and re-contextualize them. I used to make high-concept installations/shows that were very labor intensive, and was often shown only once. I found myself moving with and storing this work for a long time, and it never seeing the light of day again. My hunch is that much of that idea came from being in school, where you were expected to present 4 different bodies of work a year. That can be a great learning experience, but it may not be the best way to maintain a long-term practice unless you have a lot of time, space, money, and opportunities.

12.  Share an inspiring image

Peter Morgan's ceramic sculptures can be seen in the current exhibition: BIOSPHERE at James May Gallery through September 2nd or on Artsy


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