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Art & Life with Jeffrey Siegel

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jeffrey Siegel.

Jeffrey, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I fell in love with clay the first time I sank my hands into it. I was 16 years old and a student at Culver City High School. My artistic soul was awakened. Working in ceramics is a blending of physical and emotional elements while feeling the restorative characteristics of clay.

I find working in clay captivating, rewarding and challenging as each piece develops with subtle differences in form and design. The process may be one of starting with an idea in mind, or other times just diving in and seeing what the process teaches me. My artwork is of a nonfunctional nature and created through my passion for seeing what the outcome will be and the pure enjoyment of the creative process.

My journey from having pottery sales in my front yard on Woolford Street in Culver City as a high school student led me to where I am today.  Back in my 20s as a young artist, the Clay House Studio and Gallery in Santa Monica was my second home. After working my day job in a business suit, I would put on my overalls and spend my evenings at the wheel creating. Soon I was asked by the artist/owners to come on board as an instructor. 

It was while teaching classes at the Clay House that I met Laura, my student, future wife and mother of our three grown children. We moved to San Diego where I continued my career in finance. Never giving up my love of clay I took time off to raise a family.  In my 50’s I continued to explore my work in clay as an artist and participated in workshops around the country from experts in the field.

I now have my own studio at home in Mission Hills San Diego and I exhibit my work in art galleries and art institutes along with a several semi-annual art exhibitions. I am still moved by the joy I have in creating unique artwork from clay.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I create ceramic art using various processes.  My most recent work is in white porcelain clay with horsehair applied in a raku firing process.   Raku is an exciting process whereby pottery is removed from the kiln while at very high heat of 1050 degrees. The horsehair is applied to the clay surface and burns away, leaving a black carbon imprint, creating unique one of a kind designs that cannot be replicated.  The thicker and coarser the hair, the more striking and clear the impression. If the temperature is too high the white clay will be altered and the horsehair will not leave an impression. The organic nature of the pieces and the potential variability in the process speak to my sensibilities as an artist and inspire my horsehair collection.

I have added sculpture to the body of my work and married the sculpture with the hand-thrown pieces created on the potter’s wheel and bring each piece through the Raku process.

In addition to my work in white porcelain clay, I continue to participate in desert pit-firings.  In a pit-firing we use a variety of organic and non-organic materials to burn like seaweed, sawdust and copper to bring striking visual effects to the ceramic pieces.

Working in clay is a lifelong passion for me. I am inspired by what I see and feel in nature. I am an avid outdoorsman, and can take inspiration from a simple wilderness scene. I am also inspired by the aesthetic of architectural columns throughout European history.  

For me there is a sensual undertone to the touch of clay. The movements of shaping a ball of clay into something wonderful on the potter’s wheel is a series of exciting actions and reactions. Like having a conversation with my artwork, it is common for me to say “the clay speaks to me“, launching me into artistic expression. Once clay is changed from a ball of clay and put into motion, it is like a river, it can flow and change its course.  It is the process of creating something from nothing that inspires me.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
My artwork is currently being shown at:

  • Exclusive Collections in Solana Beach, San Diego
  • The Studio Door in Hillcrest, San Diego
  • The Borrego Art Institute, Borrego Springs
  • Bi-annual Beverly Hills Arts Show in Beverly Hills

I will again be in the Beverly Hills Art Show on May 16th and 17th.  I would love for all of you to come out and stop by to meet me.

I can always be reached at my studio in San Diego for a personal showing.

Do you think conditions are generally improving for artists? What more can cities and communities do to improve conditions for artists?
Like with many artists, there are challenges: finding the proper venues to showcase my style of ceramic art and getting collectors out to see my work are two of the biggest.

 I do feel communities and cities are making more of an effort to showcase artists.  In my community several merchants have provided space for artist exhibitions.

As an artist it is also important to give back to the community.  This Spring I will be participating in a local exhibition where half my proceeds from sales will go to supporting a summer concert series in our local park.

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