Hi. I am Bryan Hopkins.
I am teaching this summer at Touchstone Center for Crafts in PA, and Penland School of Craft in NC.
I think most people have heard me say I was a mathematics major in college. (My math hero is Bertrand Russell. Look him up.) I took ceramics to fulfill an art requirement and was hooked. No new story there. With the encouragement of my ceramics professor, John Baker, I set up a booth at a local craft show/farmers market- two 4x8 sheets of plywood on sawhorses. Pricing was low, and I basically paid people to walk away with my work. That was in 1989. Somehow I have been making and selling pots for 30 years! Now I know what you’re thinking- he looks WAY too young to have been at this for 30 years. Check the wrinkles, they don’t lie.
In those 30 years I have always had a part time job to support my habit. Photographer, meat room cleaner, short order cook, screenprinter, barista, health food store worker, supermarket produce manager, college professor, deli clerk, workshop instructor. All of those jobs, in my mind, are equal. Sure, teaching at a college is qualitatively better than scraping fat off a meat room floor, but both are a means to a very selfish end. Each of those jobs subsidize(d) me and enable me to only make the work I want to make; to only make work I am passionate about; to pursue a ridiculous and unattainable goal of perfection. And those jobs allow me to say no to commissions and exhibitions I would otherwise need to financially survive.
What’s up with this new work?
I thought I was not a fan of Frank Gehry’s architecture. Too many curves. Give me Louis Kahn any day. Or I.M. Pei (before those fucking glass pyramid things). I am a Brutalist fan. Cold, stark concrete structures just do it for me. But then I started making this new series, and am reconsidering Gehry.
If you are wondering what I love most in architecture? Stairwells. Pei’s stairwells are breathtaking. When I taught at SUNY Fredonia I would eat my lunch in the stairwell, in awe. The marks of the process of concrete casting are left evident, which is trendy again, even in civil structures. So when I started casting my cups 5 years ago, I wanted to leave evidence of that process of making. Check the cup on the right. Math, architecture, ceramics, utility.
Why do you keep making artwork?
Because I don’t know what else to do. Because it protects me from my depression, Because at this point I am possibly not skilled to do anything else. If I go more than a week without making something I get to a bad place in my head, a place I do not want to be. Luckily I know how to cope with these feelings, and I can build something (like a deck at my house, or a sandcastle on the beach) to keep positive. I guess making work keeps me sane, and let’s me be a functioning person who is not horrible to be around.
Where do you go for inspiration?
I look at books of antiques. I look at architecture. I make a cup of coffee. I sit alone with my thoughts. I draw. I hang out with my family. I take things apart and put them back together.
And I ride and race my bike. There are lots of similarities between racing bikes and being an artist: Practice, focus, patience, always looking to improve and striving for some sort of perfection. Riding is meditative, and allows me to think about nothing other than that moment for hours on end. Meditation at a heart rate of 170bpm.
Important also is where I do not go for inspiration. I do not look at Instagram, or Facebook, or any other sites that are a fucking popularity contest. Social media upsets me more often than not.