Meet the Penland Gallery Artist: Sherród Faulks
Q: Walk me through how a project begins.
A: For me, a new collection begins in the imagination. I’m inspired by so many things — the cinematography of a movie, the crescendo of instruments in a song, the curve of an ancient Egyptian vessel. I like to envision exactly how I intend a customer to use a piece and then I sketch it out. I’ll usually sketch out a number of details such as the glazing style or particular points of functionality. My work is heavily rooted in maximizing value so I like to let my ideas marinate for a little while. This way, I dream up other uses and adjustments to make it even more useful. I’ll then draft a jig for the jigger. This is very precise work and this is where I cement the design language of the piece. The radii of the curves, the overall proportions, and the sizing are all fine-tuned in pencil before I fabricate the jig, create the mold, and then move on to production.
Q: How has your work changed over time?
A: Before ceramics, I was a software designer for 20 years. So I have always been immersed in visual media, and have developed a signature style and design sensibility over the years. That style did not immediately translate to clay. When I started in ceramics, I was doing pretty predictable work. It took me a while to feel confident putting my design ethos into clay. I’m a very minimal, geometric, iterative type of designer. As each collection expressed a new idea, I incorporated that idea into my design language. Then in the Summer of 2021, I took a couple of trips that changed everything. I began to see my distinct voice in my work loud and clear, and that holiday collection became the foundation for all of the work I’ve created this year. Now, my style is laser-focused. I know exactly what I want to say with each and every piece and I’m not afraid to make changes from run to run, week to week. The DEEP BLACK of today is the ultimate expression of well over 20 years of design thinking and work.
Q: What are your ideal working conditions?
A: I’m such a woo-woo person. The very first thing I do when I begin working, whether on the couch with the laptop or in the studio on the wheel, is light some incense. I match it to my mood — lighter and floral when I’m upbeat, heavier and muskier when I need to dig in. Next, I choose a playlist (check my Instagram bio for my faves). Of course, Renaissance has been on repeat since August but I also have a couple of others that allow me to sink deeply into the work. When I don’t have to deal with numbers or power tools I’ll light up a nice Sativa (Cereal Milk is my fave) to help relax my mind and let my hands take over. Lastly, I like a snack so I keep granola bars, sparkling water, and chips on hand at all times — even in the studio.
Q: What’s the best creative advice you’ve ever received?
A: When I was a freshman at Parsons I had a photography professor remind me: “There is no light without shadow.” That simple idea took root in my mind, and 15 years later it’s a part of everything I create. To me, it’s a reminder that all must be in balance. You don’t get soaring highlights without deep shadow; you don’t get the thrill of success without the agony of failure; you don’t get better work without constant practice; you can’t create beautiful things without pouring yourself into them; you can’t expect to be acclaimed if you don’t take risks. I think my professor meant it literally, but that bit of Zen Buddhism informs all of my work. From the way I light photos, to the pacing of videos, to the structure of collections, to the way glaze is applied — there is no light without shadow.