“I am a simple man” – this is what I overheard in Dryden Wells’s conversation to a student in his ceramic class, I think it has perfectly described his character in general.
Moving from America to China, only for one thing – ceramic art & design. Now Dryden is a professional ceramic artist based in Shanghai. He found himself in the realm of tactile, and his artwork follows his simplicity driven character in a sculptural and experimental way. Meanwhile, Dryden is also teaching at The Pottery Workshop on a regular basis sharing his great passion for ceramic to his students and guide them to find their own creative style.
By experiencing the class myself, I found it also very helpful for stress relief. The process of shaping clay by hands reflects your current mood, it allows you to slow down and gradually find out your hidden emotion. Clay is such an interesting medium which is flexible but easy to fall apart without enough care, it can become any form you want with enough patient and focus. I guess it is the same philosophy when it comes to dealing with life…
The following photos are showing Dryden’s recently installation artwork making.
Q: What was your childhood dream? What about now?
A: I remember being young and the feeling of “not wanting to grow older.” Wanting to enjoy my youth and that time of life. As life went on, I realized, whatever it is that I did in life, I wanted to be working with my hands. I spent a lot of my adolescence working with my dad and younger brother, painting houses. As a teacher, my father had summers off and would use this time along with any other free time, to pick-up extra jobs for supplemental income. The three of us working together continued on for years until I eventually left for Graduate School in Texas at the age of 25. In retrospect, I have always seen this part of my youth as critical to why I now work with clay. Whether painting a house, building a table or working with clay, I realized early on that I need to be doing something tactile, something that I could stand back from at the end of the day and appreciate. Working with clay and working with my hands continues to be the driving force in my life, but as years go on, my appreciation for family and the desire to someday have one of my own, only seems to grow stronger.
Q: What makes you to go back to graduate school studying ceramic design after being an Art teacher in elementary school?
A: After finishing my undergraduate degrees, I decided to teach elementary school art at a great school in an amazing school district…very supportive of the arts. I was very happy in this position. However, the opportunity to go to grad. school for Ceramics, an opportunity that had also been offered to me the year prior, was presented to me again during the Winter of that first year of teaching. My parents, while very supportive of my teaching career, encouraged me to quit my job and go back to grad. school to study Ceramics. They knew ceramics was my passion and being that I was not married, had no children and no financial debt, that then, that moment in my life, was a perfect time to do it. They told me, if after going back to school I was not happy and wanted to return to teaching, there would always be kids to teach…it would always be something I could return to if that is what I truly wanted. I feel very very fortunate to have such wise, loving and supportive parents.
Q: Is ceramic design popular in the States? Is there a big difference between the field in the States and China?
A: I don’t think Ceramic Design is nearly as popular in the States as it is in Europe. . There are many university Ceramic programs across the United States, however, very few of them teach “ceramic deign.” Most all are geared towards the fine arts or craft.
Q: Please share with us some details about your current project and where did you get the inspiration from?
A: As a variation of previous work, the chair or table leg form has recently become an important part of my creative process and vocabulary. The original old wooden forms that I have either been given to me, found or bought, not only are references of home and family for me, but also have markings that speak to their own individual histories. In this specific series of works, I use molds of the chair / table legs to slip-cast new forms in porcelain. Because of the softness of the porcelain when being taken from the mold, I am able to alter and stack the forms, blurring the original identity of the each object, taking something that is associated with being rigid and hard, and making it appear soft and flexible.
Q: Does ceramic design follow trends? Do you follow certain trend?
A: I think like any other creative industry, there are definitely trends in ceramics, often easy to identify. I never intentionally follow trends, however, this does not mean that I am not influenced by them. I, like most people, am a product of my environment, and as an artist, create work influenced by and in response to it. Working in the arts, specifically in the ceramics industry, I get to see a lot of exciting new work, ideas and techniques. I never intentionally follow trends but there are times when I realize aspects of them have appeared in my work.
Q: Please share your recent book or music…
A: I am currently reading, “What the Buddha Taught”(non-fiction). Previously, I read, “The Sex Lives of Cannibals”(fiction) and “Sex at Dawn”(non-fiction). I don’t have special interest in books about sex, just happened to be the way it worked out. I will say though, I prefer nonfiction over fiction. In regards to music, I have been trying out a new album by “Dawn of Midi.”
Q: If you could bring one thing from your hometown St. Louis, Missouri to Shanghai, what would that be? (Could be food, culture, music or even people…)
A: No question about it, I would bring my family. But if I were also able to get to bring a second thing, I would bring Cardinals Baseball (Hometown baseball team)