“I make porcelain vessels for everyday use that are both sculptural and utilitarian. I’m influenced by physically engaging textures like old barn wood or industrial flooring, and I enjoy applying common everyday materials to porcelain which is typically seen as precious.” ~ Bryan Hopkins
The Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show has over a dozen different categories of fine craft represented among its 195 exhibitors. Beginning with ceramics, we’ll be highlighting each category on our blog throughout the season leading to the Show in November.
Ceramics are well represented at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show and every year we look forward to experiencing the wide variety of styles, designs, and techniques behind each artist’s work. From thrown pottery to porcelain vessels to extruded and stretched slab techniques, each handmade piece is unique, whether meant for utilitarian use, display, or both. As the recipient of the Best of Show for 2018, we couldn’t think of a better way to start this blog series than by talking with ceramic artist Bryan Hopkins. Bryan has participated in the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show seven times and he will be back in 2019.
Bryan’s home and studio are located in Buffalo, NY and he earned an MFA in ceramics at SUNY New Paltz, but his roots are in Philadelphia. Growing up outside Philly and attending West Chester University, Bryan’s trajectory took him from being a math major in college to finding his way to clay, and eventually porcelain, the primary material he has worked in since 1990. Bryan teaches at Niagra County Community College as well as workshops in colleges and art centers around the country. His work has been exhibited in national shows and he has been featured in several niche magazines and books. There was a natural segue in asking Bryan about a correlation between math and his design process. “There’s a lot of geometry in my work. The mathematician / scientist Descartes and his simple circle formulas are interesting to me visually”, says Hopkins. “However, I’m influenced more by urban environments, architecture and the elevation of structures.” Bryan loves the feeling of freedom he has in the studio to take risks, play, and explore, which has brought forth many breakthroughs over the years.
For many craft artists, there are two very different elements to their business, creating the work and showing the work. What Bryan enjoys the most about the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show are the people. He especially enjoys talking to anyone that has a passion for craft and he knows that people enjoy meeting the artists one on one. Bryan talks about the connection a handmade object has between maker and user. “As a designer, you make something with an intent or a purpose”, he says. “Take one of my tumblers for example. I can have my idea, but the buyer will use it as they see fit, such as putting flowers in it. I like that interaction.”
When asked about his biggest career achievement so far, Bryan says it’s a toss up between being on the cover of Ceramics Monthly and getting the Best of Show Award at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show in 2018. Duly surprised at receiving the award, Bryan confessed he was busy eating the delicious food at the preview party gala and almost missed his name being called. “I was really in shock because I know the quality of the show”, he said. “It’s an accomplishment just to get accepted as an exhibitor, let alone dream of winning an award.” In parting, we asked Bryan if he had any words of advice for someone starting out in the world of fine craft. “Define what success looks like to you. Decide what you need in life to be happy. Find a good place to live. Realize you do not get through this life alone. Say yes to as many experiences as possible. Ask for and accept help. Understand there are always people better than you. Know your life is more than the work you make.” Thank you Bryan. Your words are vessels for many to hold in their hands.
Come meet Bryan and see his work in person at the 2019 Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show. Tickets go on sale early May. Stay tuned to the website and subscribe to the newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox.