Rat City Living - Stephen Ruby

Stephen Ruby


Website: www.stephenrubyceramics.com

Steve has been working with clay, creating, for over a decade.  His interest in wheel throwing pulled him into the medium.  However, over time, exploring and creating functional, utilitarian work left him searching for more.  Beginning at a city college and working for many years as studio assistants and technicians revealed the dexterity and complexity of a seemingly basic art form.  His interest quickly spread to glaze making, mold-making, surface decoration, hand-building and sculpture further increasing his understanding of the versatility of clay.  Soon he began searching for ways to make his interest in clay into a career.  Recently he has returned to the bay area and settled in to Oakland, CA where he is beginning to realize his place in the ceramic world.  Making ceramic art is his dream and in order to make it a reality he realized that a balance between teaching, making art, and running a studio could enable this to happen.  Teaming up with Anna and Katie, a vision developed around Merritt Ceramics to be an outlet for creativity for themselves as well as the local community.  

Artist Statement:
I love the making process.  I have been influenced through history and my environment and as a result that manifests into my work.  Being filtered through my personal lens, I am left with a hybrid between traditional influences and my personal esthetic.     

After exploring a new medium (monoprinting), I have found that the way I look at ceramics as a medium has changed.  Through exploring scraffito, a type of decoration made by scratching through a surface to reveal a contrasting color underneath, I find I am able to utilize classic design while updating it to fit my style.  Being influenced by native American, Mexican and Asian motifs, my designs have begun to take a more floral esthetic allowing me to experiment with stains, underglazes, engobes and glazes as options for creating contrast through color resulting in more dynamic surfaces.  It is through these motifs, that I feel free to utlilize the entire surface through repetitive design and the creation of negative space to emphasis contrast.   

I consider my past experiences as a form of accumulating tools or options that I can pull from during the making process.  While initially I was attracted to ceramics via the potters wheel, I find that today I spend much less time on the wheel than I do decorating or embellishing forms that have already been made.  

How have you come to work with Rat City Studios:
My obsession with clay began on the potters wheel.  I had wanted to learn how to throw for a long time and as I made more and more thrown forms, I soon realized I wanted to add my unique perspective to the traditional forms I was throwing.  I began to alter and adjust symmetrical forms to a more unique orientation.   This is when I discovered work by Deborah Schwartzkopf.  I felt that she had taken clay in the direction that I had wanted to, creating unique forms that left me thinking about the process.  Eventually I applied and was accepted to an assistantship with her and George Rodriguez.  It was an eye-opening experience into the lives of full-time ceramic artists.  I loved being privy to their processes and receiving guidance and critical inspiration.  At that time, Ceramistas Seattle was born, eventually becoming Rat City Studios, where my studio space was located.  I was guided into developing my own glazes and a more focused approach to making work.  Before my assistantship, I was having a hard time developing a voice in my work due to the fact that I was so attracted to every aspect of the clay making and glazing process.   I wanted to do everything.  Rat City Studios helped me clarify my goals and I realized I still could pursue all the aspects I was interested in, but I had to proceed one step at a time, seeing through one direction of exploration before beginning a new one.