This website presents a portfolio of pottery work and information about Peter D’Ascoli, the maker.
Dr. Peter D’Ascoli’s interests move between art and science. He first studied art at Montgomery College, a community college near his hometown of Washington, DC with the intent to pursue architecture. Since then, he has continued his art education at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and Northern Clay Center among other venues. Recently, Peter joined MN NICE, an advanced certificate program in ceramics at Northern Clay Center under Ursula Hargens, and he studied glazes with Matt Katz. Peter’s work is carried by two galleries, the Waterworks Art Museum and Girl Ran Away with The Spoon, in Miles City, MT.
Peter’s ceramic work includes functional and sculptural pieces that are thrown and hand built. The tactility of pottery has always drawn Peter. His current work includes functional forms, such as bowls and plates, that one touches every day and sculptural objects that have a formal presence in space. While form is central to all his pieces, his current focus is on the surface. Peter wants to present work that is approachable and available as well as work with a message even if that message might be enigmatic at times.
Pieces of Formed Clay, an artist statement
My current work follows two directions: structured utilitarian pieces, and “sentinel” pieces which are large forms that can mark metaphoric thresholds. These forms are meant to have a presence in space.
My current dark clay body adds a contrast to the translucent glazes I use. The transparent and translucent glazes compliment the underlying surface decoration. The clay surface includes slips, underglaze, sprigs or carving. I use contrast in glazing, pairing exposed clay with glazed surfaces or glossy fluid liner glazes with soft, matte exteriors.
I find satisfying the thought that bowls and plates I have made sit on a table at a communal gathering. There is a connection made, a conversation created, between user(s) and myself and between user and vessel. Making pots for me is about generosity, compassion, expression of my inner search, contribution and productivity. If touching and seeing my pieces elicits joy and excitement then my efforts are worthwhile.
Standing on a new threshold presents prominent questions in my life. What does it look like to cross a threshold, to pass the guardians of the gate? How I express these inner realities externally is the search.
And then sometimes I just need to get my hands in clay! Forming, making, practicing a skill I have mastered. Feeling in some small way productive and contributing in life.
Imagine this graphic: The cold, hard, shiny steel wing of a fighter jet contrasted with the soft warm skin tone of a human body languishing on the steel wing
The “conflict” of the machine-driven world and the simple, natural and human centered life can be seen throughout the 20th Century: the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th Century; the studio crafts movement of Leach, Hamada and Mackenzie in mid 20th Century; and the Hippie movement of the last half of the Century. The search for a simpler, contented life with adequate materialism seems to continue thru to the present.
Dr Robert Hutchins, an educational philosopher and Dean of Yale’s Law school noted early in the 20th Century and later quoted by Chief Justice William O Douglas in the second half of the 20th Century; “…we are entering a post-industrial age in which the issue is not how to produce or even distribute goods, but how to live human lives, not how to strengthen and enrich the nation state, but how to make the world a decent habitation for [hu]mankind.”
Simplicity in living; adequacy in ownership; social connections and interactions that include love; and work that is productive and contributing these are worth striving for. I see my pottery work as a step toward those ideals. Handmade pottery provides an entry to that simpler more human and humane life.
Life in the current Western developed world is virtual, abstract, distant. We have a meta-view of life, somehow floating above the reality in front of us. We are too busy to experience, to truly feel the life that we live. The pedestaled work of art viewed from the proper distance in a clean, sanitary museum is ungrounded. Even more, the lockstep “perfection” in manufactured pieces with interchangeable aspects is likewise ungrounded.
In contrast, real human life is messy. Birth is still bloody and painful. Death is still final. Life is often tragic, painful and generally difficult. Bad things happen to good people and to bad people. The delusion that life is a sanitized condition preceded the internet, but not by much. To be sure: there are moments of joy, there are people acting heroically, and sunrises and sunsets can bring a sense of the transcendent (if not experienced while photographing them on one’s cell phone).
I want my handmade pottery to have discoverable flaws. I hope that my finger prints, the throwing lines, the sense of my hand in the forming clay elicit a human involvement, bringing a grounded sense to the pots and human life, a reminder that someone made this. And that someone likely had a messy life including the ups and downs of divorce, the death of a loved ones, or struggling with a chronic disease.
Referencing the Japanese Wabi Sabi movement, it is the beauty of the imperfections, the inexactness, the feel of a plate that was held in the making by another’s hands that become reminders that we live in a real, tangible world.
The craft of pottery represents a simpler life. Handcrafted pottery can ground us in the life that we are actually living with all it’s tragedy, fun, excitement and joy. We have an opportunity to feel, to slow down, to experience and participate in our life with the handling of these pieces of formed clay.