Dallas Wooten – 2018 LEAP Finalist

Dallas Wooten

Meet Dallas Wooten, one of our 2018 LEAP finalists and a feature artist in The Store for February through April. Wooten’s work explores the interaction between the viewer and the vessel, especially the moment of excitement in discovering something new even when the vessel form has been a part of our society for ages. The sense of excitement and exploration is what perpetuates his love for making, the act of eternal learning and excitement.

Read on to learn more about Wooten and his process. Stop by The Store to shop for his functional ceramic wares, which will be featured from February to April 2018.

Tell us about your work.

Dallas Wooten tumblerClay takes on many faces. The interaction between vessel and surface is something I find very interesting. How can the vessel surface invoke the viewer’s interaction with it and encourage curiosity in an individual? And in turn, how can the form encourage an individual’s curiosity? These are questions I explore through the vessel. These ideas are explored through visual cues: sections of raw clay, pattern, carving, water etching, and surfaces with different textures, every elements create a braille like feeling under the fingers.

I make objects meant to be interacted with and strategically carve, etch, and create work that was meant to fit together. These work allowed me to maintain a sense of delicacy along with encouraging the object’s use, as well as prompting the viewer to initiate the conversation between each object.

In addition to function, vessels can also be about the excitement and curiosity individuals feel when observing and exploring the object. I aim to challenge the viewer’s notion of function, encouraging them to seek more. Just as throwing is not essential to making a vessel, functionality is not always necessary for a vessel to be utilitarian. For me, I aim for the vessels to be interacted with. 

Recently, work that had once strived for precision and purity now yearns for movement and spontaneity. The way a melting glaze is directed through a carving and channeled into a point fascinates me. This channel creates a flow of movement on a rounded vessel, catching the observer’s eye as it disappears out of sight beneath the vessel. I view this work as a collaboration between me and the kiln. As the creator, I create the objects and direct how they interact with each other while the kiln is responsible for the flow and spontaneity of the surface. I let go of control and instead only making suggestions for the kiln to act on.

Dallas Wooten sake setHow does your background influence your work?

Working in many mediums as a 2D and 3D artist has given me a strong sense of versatility in my work with the use of the mark, pattern, and color. I have a great deal of appreciation for form and often focus on it in my work and use the surface as a space for mark-making.

Why were you drawn to this medium?

From a young age, I was drawn to craft: working with my grandpa on construction sites, in his workshop, and drawing. I went on working with drawing due to its accessibility and the nature of mark making, but not because of my attraction to it. During my senior year of high school, I created a ceramic sculpture and was immediately taken by the material’s malleability and versatility. I became immersed in the material, and naturally, tried my hand at making pots. I worked fluidly and confident that I was learning through every piece and that I could work within this medium as a way of lifelong learning.

What are your inspirations?

I draw inspiration from many sources. However, the material properties of clay, especially porcelain, and the many vessel forms are especially interesting to me. I see the vessel as a vehicle in which information can be obtained through.

Dallas Wooten tea setWhat is your dream project?

I’ve never thought much about what my dream project is. The community associated with clay has always drawn me closer to the medium. I would have to say that my dream project would be to create a community or resident-based studio, possibly a studio shared with other like-minded individuals to work with and around in a seamless atmosphere of making and living. I don’t separate my life as a potter from the rest of it, and strive to create a life where making is as involved in my life as possible.

Tell us about your favorite artist or artists that inspires you.

Oddly enough, I draw the most inspiration from potters exhibiting gestural and production quality vessels. My admiration of them may be due to my lack of these qualities. I am a product of academia, being taught how to think about pots, but not how to make them and learned how to make pots through my own accord. This has left with me with an admiration for the production potter and marks made with the dexterity of one’s hands.

What role does the artist have in society?

The artist plays many roles, especially now that the lines between artist and activist are often blurred. In some cases, the artist’s role is to observe the culture and report back, while in others they strive to make a point and provoke their audience. For me, I see my work as a passive, yet intrusive inclusion in one’s life. I believe almost all handmade objects are intrusive and stand out within the domestic space. I like to think about opening a cabinet filled with mugs and cups from whichever superstore with one handmade pot sitting amongst them. The bright and unique colors, texture, and form all working together to draw the eye to the handmade object immediately, then further encourages its use and exploration.

Dallas Wooten tea set

What is the best piece of advice you received as an artist?

I have received an enormous amount of great advice from mentors over the years, but what stands out to me the most currently would be the follow: many people say they wouldn’t want to  pursue a specific type of career, because it then becomes work and ruins it for them. This is true in some regards; however, I believe that the challenge is to find what you are truly passionate about then push through and rediscover what made you fall in love with it in the first place. Art can be hard, and you don’t do it to make money, you do it because you have to and can’t live without it.

What advice would you give others considering a career in art?

Being an artist is hard. If you are certain you want to pursue a career as an artist, then stay true to what you are interested in and not what you think you should be interested in. Have conviction in your beliefs. Be ready to wear many hats and work on yourself as a whole. Recognize your weaknesses, whether its writing, networking, or speaking, these are all things that you, as an artist, will be exposed to and expected to perform at some point in your career.

How will the LEAP Award help with your practice?

Dallas Wooten bowl

I believe that forming a community and networking with others are keys to connect with the audience and becoming a successful artist in the contemporary world. The exposure and representation provided by Contemporary Craft allow me to continue making quality work while pushing the work further. The time and energy I saved through the LEAP feature enables me to continue creating work without the headache of photographing work and listing it online constantly. Additionally, LEAP gives me additional representation during NCECA’s conference in Pittsburgh and provides an amazing opportunity to show my work to others who love the medium I work with.