Peter Voulkos

“For anybody who doesn’t know who [Voulkos] was, he’s the hero of American ceramics. He’s the guy who essentially liberated the medium from the craft hierarchy that was controlling it up to that time. The way he taught was just to come into the studio, and he approached making work by a method I call “direct frontal onslaught.” We were a small group of very committed students. Some people thought they were pretty good before they got there, but when we saw him, he just blew our minds. This is a short talk, and so I can’t go too deeply into it, but he was so far ahead of us, it was just ridiculous.
Anyway, I learned to work from watching him.”

from Ken Price’s lecture at the Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas in October 2004

taken from here..

"Ironically, Voulkos’s works championed those very qualities in clay that had formerly been deemed its liabilities, such as clay’s humble relationship to the earth, its mutable, malleable essence, and its paradoxically durable yet fragile fired state—all of these became central themes of Voulkos’s clay sculptures. In emphasizing these qualities, he transformed clay into a medium that spoke to the contemporary human condition. "

taken from here..

taken from an amazing interview here..

RB: This question has to do with how the great art systems of the world, i.e., Egyptian, Greek, Islamic, Native American, Aztec, Tibetan, etc. came into being. My feeling is that the art of these civilizations was inspired by a very small group of people or possibly even one very powerful personality or Shaman. I don't want to embarrass you, Pete, but do you think you are one of these personalities?

VOULKOS: I don't even know where to start. When I go back into time, these beautiful things were made, cities ten deep, Jesus Christ, what happened there? Huge pyramids, stones as big as a house. They can't even do it today. That stuff just boggles my mind. It's been happening for thousands of years. You can't help but be turned on by it. You gotta be dead not to respond.

Everything's related ever since the universe started. Time passes. Things happen, then they disappear. That continuous thing, that energy...not really one person. Some-times it will peak in one person, but it's a combination of everything around you. You're responding to it all the time, whether you like it or not. Like in my situation, I didn't intend on doing anything, really...I mean, I didn't even know who I was. Everything just fell into place. I don't know whether it was just timing or luck or whatever it was, but it just happened that way. All the moves just seemed to be the right moves. It just happened. Every once in a while, you read about me starting a revolution. Well, number one, I don't like guns...any kind of revolution will be within myself. I like to discover things through my own self. I didn't go into a museum 'til I was about 30 years old. I was seein' all this stuff, and started thinkin'. I wondered, what were they thinking? What were they eating? What were they doing? You start getting that humbling experience. You start thinkin' about higher powers, the Buddha, the Hindus and all of that. That's a tough one to answer.

and.......taken from same interview....

RB: If you had a chance to own any piece of art in the world, what would it be?

VOULKOS: One of Callas' tea bowls! Okay, there really isn't anything that I'd like to own. I don't covet anything. I don't sit there and wish that I had it, you know. You see a lot of great paintings and stuff in museums, but I don't exactly want to own them. I don't have anything of mine; just some remnants of things that didn't sell at the time. I don't have too much of anybody. I do love the old Japanese tea bowls. Millions of bowls were made to get to that one. It takes them days and days and days, just like me workin' on a stack, to get the whole universe in a tea bowl. I had a vision once that I was a potter out of Kyoto someplace, dressed in those weird robes and stuff. The year was about 1250 A.D. I swear to Christ that I was around at that time. The Kamakura period. The last time I was in Japan, I found this little cup in an antique shop. The guy said it was made in the Kamakura period. I was just taken by it, of all the stuff in that store. It was pretty cheap, so I decided I'd better buy it--I might have made it! Yeah, yeah...

Anyway, I could never be a collector, got to have one of those, no. I wouldn't want it. No. If I were going to spend money, I would travel, discover new things. Just like you go to India all the time. Who needs a damned $20,000 plate? You gotta be nuts!

interview here...