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Some People Need Air to Breathe… Mark Errol Can’t Live Without His Brent Wheel


Age: 41

Hometown: Tifton, GA

Other AMACO product he can’t live without:

Velvet Underglazes. All of them. I am quite a mixing fanatic.

Five favorite inspirational tunes for the studio:

Fresh Feeling - Eels 2) New Wave - Against Me 3) Born To Run - Bruce Springsteen 4) Ghost - Indigo Girls 5) Lust For Life - Iggy Pop

Mark Errol grew up around clay from a very early age. He attended a small town school with just under five hundred students in grades K - 12. Clay wasn’t on the curriculum. But Mark managed to get his hands on some anyway and his dedication to ceramics began.

Mark concentrates primarily on thrown wares that depict everything from abstract strokes over grids to genre scenes. Other artists, color, food, fashion, and music all play a part inspiring his imagery and forms.

“‘The screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves; like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays,’” he says, quoting Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road.” “There’s just so much there, you know? It says so much in so few words.” And that’s what Mark strives for— bold expression in a minimal space.

“When old things linger, you may be influenced to remain in the same old mindset. If all you see is old stuff, all you’ll make is stuff that looks like your old stuff. You have to make room for the new so that your work can change with you.”

As a professor at Valdosta State University, Mark works with all levels of ceramicists, from beginning students to established ones. I asked him how he refrains from imposing his own artistic vision on his students. He believes that there are two types of students: those who undeniably have an existing voice, and those who are still searching.With beginners, the voice comes secondary to learning the fundamentals of the medium. Those who have a voice of their own must learn the process. He wants his students to know that their time in the studio is for them to be themselves. It’s a judgement-free zone where they’re allowed to like whatever they like, be whoever they are, and create whatever they want to create. This goes beyond just talking about art toward discovering whatinspires them and bringing that into their work.

“My job is to help people find the confidence they need to make what they want to make. I like to understand what interests them outside of class: what television shows they’re into, what music they listen to. All of it is important to who they are.”

“What astounded me most about working with Mark was his humble attitude,”observed Arielle Day, AMACO’s Video Production Coordinator, and a ceramic artist.

“I’m new to the game, and it meant a lot to me to be able to speak openly with him. He’s so fun to watch and has such a youthful spirit, which is really reflected in his work. He’s addressing very current topics, things he goes through, and what he sees in his community. It’s all very personal but he presents it from a youthful perspective.”

What sparked your interest in working with clay?

I grew up around it. Seems like it has always had some sort of presence in my life. My big brother use to slip cast as a job in our shared New York City bedroom; my sisters did paint-your-own; and then in high school, my art teacher would make things in the classroom even though as students we could not make things. She would sneak me clay and I would make things at home. When I got to college, I took a clay class and soon I was getting my BFA in Ceramics. Twenty years later…

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

Architecture, interior design and the objects that fill the home have been a source of inspiration in many ways. It started early with wanting to design buildings and homes, and changed when I realized I could make objects that were used in homes. I am inspired by other makers, designers, music, art, color, fashion, food, places, people and love.

Do other artists influence your life and work?

I am a sponge. Painters, architects, designers, musicians, fashion all flow through what I create in some way. My greatest time out of the studio is spent looking at and exploring the creativity of others. I am constantly seeing what is happening, doing my historical research, and gaining a better understanding of this very vast and rich community I belong to.

What is most challenging about being a professional Ceramic artist?

For me the biggest challenge I face is time. Teaching full time, running a gallery, and making work that I can stand behind and be proud of while pushing and growing my research— that is what I struggle with. Post graduate school, life has moved very quickly and though I have zero complaints about it, it is just something that requires tremendous communication, commitment and at times a good sense of humor.

What is most rewarding about working with clay?

Clay rewards me in three different ways. As a teacher, when students begin to understand the material, and begin to respond with their own voice and discovery, that is really profound for me. As a maker, (I am rewarded by) searching for new avenues to explore my creativity. That feeling is unlike any I have had with any other material. Finally, as a fan, it keeps giving me the joy of finding new artists, new directions, uses, etc. that continues to humble me.

Do you work in other mediums and does that work overlap with your ceramic work?

I do work with other materials and continue to explore other outlets for my creativity. Textiles intrigue me. That sense of touch being recorded is a similar sense of clay for me. I love to draw. I draw constantly, so anything that makes a mark on paper really excites me. I enjoy making, so this will continue to change and grow but clay seems to remain a constant.

Do you have advice for someone interested in pursuing a career in the arts?

Stay uncomfortable. Stagnation is easy, and as an artist your greatest gift to yourself is to continuously remain curious, dissatisfied to the point of wanting to know, see and do more. Remember that your product is a record of the art you made at a moment in time and not your greatest achievement, but rather one step towards many more.

What AMACO products do you return to that inform your work?

My wheel, tools and underglazes, especially the Velvets. Recently I have explored the Matte series of glazes and have enjoyed how they mix and work to create an alternative surface to my gloss glaze; as well as the slight sheen they have against an unglazed velvet. They have added another layer to my surfaces. But my wheel, I mean I could not live without it.

Mark's work can also be found here:

@marksmud | @ploughgallery | Marksmud