Zak Helenske was born and raised in Fargo, ND. There, he earned his BFA in Ceramics at North Dakota State University in 2009. Completing his MFA in Ceramics and Ceramic Sculpture at Rochester Institute of Technology’s School for American Crafts in 2014 led him to an art practice that crossed disciplines. Zak has been a visiting artist nationally at University of South Carolina, McNeese State University, University of Washington, and internationally at Akademia Sztuk Peinknych in Gdansk, Poland. He has taught at University of Washington, 3D4M and Rochester Institute of Technology, School for American Crafts. In 2015 Zak moved to Seattle with his partner, artist Mya Kerner, to be an Artist in Residence at Pottery Northwest. Since completing his residency in January he has set up a studio in Ballard where he maintains a full time studio practice. In May of 2017 he was named Emerging Artist by Ceramics Monthly.
I am a potter who is interested in the development of form and the exploration of pattern. My work is wheel thrown and hand built with a gritty terra cotta clay. Surface drawings act as a framework to the pots’ forms with slip work to designate positive and negative space. By layering patterns on top of each other, carving the surface in and scraping the drawings away, I hope to integrate the surface into the form rather than onto the form. These drawings are then highlighted with a bright white porcelain slip. The immediacy of the brushwork mirrors the directness of the drawings, and the dimensionality of the materials completes the link between form and pattern. I look to industrial and architectural situations for formal references and use geometry as a language to communicate these observations. My labor is in the pursuit of an object that rests in balance, in beauty, and in nuance. I am interested in the intersection between the current pace of development in our designed world and traditional approaches to materials; clay is the medium I have chosen to navigate this crossroad.
How have you come to work with Rat City Studios:
I finished a two-year residency at Pottery Northwest in January of 2017. I wanted to stay in Seattle, hoping to continue the momentum I had built while in residence. My goal was to set up a home studio, but the housing culture in Seattle is fierce. I knew my partner(also an artist, and also looking for studio space) and I needed time to find the right place. Deb called me to offer me a small studio at Rat City, and with the understanding of what my goals were, she offered me a short term lease on a studio there. I worked at Rat City for 3 months absorbing all the great energy she is building around her community. It allowed me the time and space to continue developing my work in a new environment. I have since found a studio in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, where I maintain a full time studio practice. My time at Rat City Studios was wonderful; Deb’s dedication to her work and to her community has left a great impression on me.