There are some amazing artists in our area, and at Seattle Refined, we're passionate about profiling them through our Artist of the Week web series as well as on the show. Recently, we've featured a Ballard paper cutting artist and an artist in Arlington who transforms mixers into 3-D masterpieces using paint. So when we heard about Sean Forest Roberts on Orcas Island and his innovative process for working with porcelain, we had to get the scoop!
Seattle Refined: Sean Roberts, you're creating gorgeous pieces of porcelain pottery!
Sean Forest Roberts: I make tableware. I primarily make cups, but I also do make bowls and vases [through my company Forest Ceramic Co.].
When we think of porcelain a lot of times we think of grandma’s teacup or something. But what you’re doing is putting a whole other spin on on it.
I color the porcelain itself. It’s using a process that I developed over the last seven years: slip casting. I throw an original form on the potting wheel, and then I make a plaster mold of that piece, and then I’m working with liquid clay, pouring into the mold and then that piece needs to dry. So, they’re fired first to a low temperature so they can be glazed and then fired again and that firing goes to 2,300 degrees. That’s how you get a full vitrified porcelain piece that is dishwasher and microwave safe.
This is my very first original design; this is the wave, and of course, it’s liquid clay I’m working with — every one is going to be different. But this is where everything started for me.
You actually don’t have a background in art, right?
I started when I was 15 doing ceramics as a hobby. I was always a math/science person, so I have a chemistry degree. And that kind of morphed into developing a new process not coming from a ceramics background.
Where is your studio?
My studio is on Orcas Island, north of Seattle. It’s a beautiful place — a lot of my inspiration has always come from nature.
When I watch your videos on Instagram or Facebook, it’s mesmerizing!
Absolutely, I mean, it’s mesmerizing up to a point; you’re carving as well. It’s a fantastic process, and we try to get that across with our videos. It is myself and my partner [Valeri Aleksandrov]. In general, we start with the colored, liquid porcelain, and if I'm marbling, I'll mix different colors together and use that mixture to create a design on the exterior of the piece within a mold.
The other main process that we use is layering and carving, so you'll pour different colors into the mold step by step, one by one, and then once that comes out, you can carve away and then show the different layers that the pieces are made out of.
You've got a new collection coming out soon?
The collection that's gonna come out soon is The Rainbow. For the last four years, I have done rounds of rainbow types of designs and really being stuck in the studio right now, we're planning on making it the biggest one ever. That really makes it fun for us, too, is that we're always changing.
You know what else is cool is the stamp kind of the "finishing touch."
It's actually a teeny little thing that I sketched in my notebook about seven years ago. People ask me all the time what it is, and I was making little trees to go along with the Forest Ceramic Company. But people see dancing figures. I just ended up loving it.
How does it make you feel knowing so many people have a piece of your art and a piece of your heart in a way?
It’s really fantastic. Whether it’s your morning coffee or your wine, when I hear people are using the pieces all the time, it’s just heartwarming.