We visit Ryan Greenheck, a ceramist in the 2016 PMA Craft Show, in his Strawberry Mansion studio. Located near Fairmount Park, Ryan has called his space home for the last 6 years. We spent a few hours with Ryan to learn a little more about his craft and the process that goes into each one of his intricate ceramic designs.
Ryan got his start in ceramics in his high school art class in Wisconsin. He witnessed his new 3D art instructor work the potter’s wheel and instantly knew that was something he wanted to do. This experience inspired him to look into ceramics programs, eventually landing him at the University of Wisconsin. During his Sophomore year, Ryan realized that ceramics was his passion; this paved the way for him to pursue a career in the arts.
As we enter Ryan’s studio he explains the three major steps in creating a ceramics piece. “First you have throwing, which is wheel work.
Next is trimming, the art of crafting the tops of pieces. This is typically done using a kemper or dolan trimming tool (like the ones seen below)
The last step is glazing, which is my art’s distinguishing factor. I make all my glazes in the studio; for me glazing is the culmination of the process and all the work that goes into each piece."
When creating new pieces, he typically uses a regimented process he’s perfected over the years, with subtle tweaks depending on the size, shape, and scope of the piece in question.
“When I was first starting out I would sketch out each piece on paper beforehand. Now, I have a pretty good idea of how to create a specific type of pot or jar from muscle memory. The exception to this would be when I’m glazing or scoring – I find it helpful to draw everything out on the piece using precise measurements and pencil lines.”
Before scoring, Ryan carefully measures out the exact position of each button.
When glazing, Ryan tends to work with similar color schemes and patterns. One of his signature styles is a yellow and blue combination, which can be seen in his many jars, pots, and cups throughout his studio.
So how long do pieces like these take? “I would say it takes about three months to see a piece from start to finish. Throwing takes one to two weeks, trimming about the same. The glazing process takes a bit longer, usually three to four weeks. Then of course there’s the time allotted to allowing the pieces to dry out.”
Yet for Ryan, he is constantly turning out new work. Each day he either throws, trims, or glazes while carefully maintaining his pieces that are in-between steps. This streamlined process helps both keep him on schedule as well as provides variety in his days.
“I typically work seven days a week anywhere from six to fourteen hours a day. I’ve been lucky that I live above my studio, and was able to completely redesign the first floor studio space. It was important for me to be able to live near my workspace, so this is really my ideal set up. I can listen to music while I work, typically high energy tunes while throwing, and more subdued music during glazing. I’m also fortunate that my studio is near a park; if I need a break I’ll go over and be in nature for a bit.”
When not in his studio, Ryan teaches ceramics at the University of Pennsylvania and at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art.
“It’s funny how it worked out,” Ryan said. “When I moved here 12 years ago, I wasn’t planning on staying for long, but now I consider it my home. The art scene here is great! The PMA Craft Show in particular is a huge asset to this community, and was a big incentive for me to move here. The Show allows me to plug into new trends in art; it really keeps me in the loop and introduces me to so many different types of exciting craft. I always take my students so they can get a feel for what it’s like to be in a premier craft show.”
In addition to finding Ryan Greenheck at 2016’s PMA Craft Show, you can also stop by his annual studio holiday sale December 9th through 11th at his Strawberry Mansion studio. For more information on Ryan check out his Instagram or his website.