Richard Swanson's ceramic works run the spectrum from utilitarian to art piece.
He says, "An important aspect of all my sculptural work, teapots included, is the way forms relate and flow together. I am constantly combining and simplifying to enhance movement/ rhythm/ unity. My teapots are informed by historical examples-- Inuit carvings, Pre-Columbian ceramics, African sculpture. To some extent Japanese netsuke carvings and Yixing teapots have also been an influence. I admire the concise vocabulary of these pieces, their use of everyday life as subject matter, their compact forms and their straightforward but unique way of relating figurative elements. In much of this work, the traditions of sculpture and function come together in a way that transcends ordinary ornamentation.
I make teapots in editions -- each is a numbered edition of twenty-two or less. The iron-red clay is fired to vitreousness, i.e., the clay particles have fused to the point of being impervious to water. No glazes are used or needed. The satin-smooth surface results from multiple sandings at several stages of the teapot making process.
Enjoyment of material and process has always figured significantly in my motivation to make objects, but recent utilization of media such as cloth, sawdust, burdock, peat moss, barbed wire and straw, has me on a real "materials high." The associations they inspire, their varied texture and simple, but rich, palette seem appropriate for the organic explorations I have carried over from preceding work with higher tech materials. While learning how to take advantage of the inherent tendencies of these materials, I try to persuade them to do the unexpected. This encourages a spontaneous working style, which is allowing me to balance a love of craftsmanship with a desire to develop ideas fast enough to retain the freshness of discovery.
I have gradually come to realize the extent to which the vitality and rhythms of the natural world (as encompassed in its myriad and sometimes surprising forms and life cycles) influence my sense of form and how those forms relate in space. While it is not my desire to mimic that world, I welcome its influence. The act of gathering materials from prairie, ranch and woodland has deepened my understanding of natural cycles and enriched my connection to the art-making process."