Ryder Gordon, Staff

I began making pots at ten years old as a day camper at a local summer camp. I joined the ‘wheelworking’ class at the repeated urging of my cousin Elly, who is my age: as I wrote in my college essay “I played sports; I did not make pots”. Yet because of my cousin, who did not touch clay again after the two week session, I was so lucky to find my passion at a young age. Dave Bonito at Chestnut Hill School camp was the most influential teacher in the development of my throwing skills – he taught me wedging, centering, starting a pot, and pulling up the wall. His relaxed attitude also taught me to approach the making process with no more expectations than to have fun and enjoy the process, and to get dirty. I was drawn to the physicality of playing with clay and throwing in particular – using our primary tool (hands) to make. Each new ball of clay became the ultimate competition: a competition with myself.

            In middle school I took evening teen clay classes at The New Art Center in Newton, where I learned from Stephanie Young, who is a spectacular artist and expert thrower. She taught me how to throw with larger amounts of clay, how to throw bigger, and dryer. My high school teacher was Whitey Morange, who taught me about glazes as well as making functional ware, but largely allowed me to pursue my own interests. In 10th grade I was introduced to Steven Branfman by mutual acquaintances. I visited him at The Potter’s Shop and School to interview him for a Profile project for my English class – that was at least seven years ago and the Potter’s Shop has been my home ever since. Steve has been so meaningful to my development as a potter and maturation as a person.

            Steve likes to say “know what you are going to make before you make it,” or said more concisely: “make intentionally”. This is a philosophy that I have come to embrace – though it took me five years after first meeting Steve and learning about his craft. It is not an easy way to think let alone an easy one to understand. How can you expect someone to envision a lump of clay as a finished work? In 2019, I decided (or finally became skilled enough) to approach clay with this attitude of seriousness and intentionality. I got over my dislike of glazing and fear of ruining pieces by experimenting with new glazes, new combinations, or alternative glazing methods. I started to pay more attention to details in the finish of my work towards which I had previously been negligent. I began to push the boundaries of my throwing ability, trying to do more with less and stretch the clay further. All of this has contributed to the my growing confidence in clay and, if my opinion, the quality of my work.

Ryder is currently studying Art Education and Ceramics at UMass Dartmouth.