Art Faculty Summer Projects Q&A: Thayer Zaeder, Instructor in Art


Q: Did you work on any personal projects over the summer?

A: “Ceramics is the medium of my choice. I usually head up to my house in Maine with my tools and a couple bags of clay. This year I was really doing some experiments that were influenced by some visiting artists in the spring, pueblo artists from Mexico. They worked with my students and myself in the Spring Term. A lot of what I did this summer was really meant to make some work that continued to conduct experiments based on what they taught us, which is ultimately something I want to be able to replicate with my students. So I was making my own work and my own ideas, but the end result I was envisioning was informed by the way these pueblo potters finished and fired their work.”

Q: Are you working in a similar visual or technical style as the pueblo potters?

A: “Stylistically, they’re my pots. I’m not copying or being terribly influenced by pueblo form or Native American forms, so the shapes and form exploration is coming from my artistic interests, but the materials and the final way of firing are being influenced by the pueblo processes. They fire in a very different manner than I’m used to firing my own work. They fire their work outdoors using natural materials, wood, manure. They have some interesting processes and get some beautiful surfaces.”

Q: Outside of the ceramics you worked on this summer, from where do you often draw inspiration?

A: “Well, sometimes I look at historical pots. If I’m really feeling like I need a kick in the pants, I’ll flip through books about Mycenaean pottery or some of the early Japanese pottery. But when I sit down to make something, I don’t always have a clear idea of what it’s going to become. For instance, this summer I threw a couple standard bottle shapes or vase shapes on the potter’s wheel. The interesting thing for me is to take that blank, anonymous, ‘You’ve seen a million of these’ kinds of shape and see if I can tease out something new from it. So I do a lot of altering of the form, paddling it, cutting away material, adding material, and taking it out of round.”