UAA alumna Deborah Schwartzkopf lives for the art of making pottery.
“I’m thankful my life is so fulfilling because I’m doing something that I gain energy from,” she says.
Pottery is a challenging art, but Deborah says the beauty is in its possibilities. “It’s an artform that embodies many abstractions. I can build beautiful curving vessels that have layered meanings.” Deborah finds it rewarding to make items people use. “In my home growing up, hand made objects held special value and were gestures of consideration and love.”
Enticed by the beautiful scenery of Alaska, Deborah made her leap to UAA to earn a Bachelor of Arts in ceramics in 1999. It was the art department’s faculty that really challenged her. “I lucked out because I fell into such a strong program that really encourages and pushes students to get better.” She graduated in 2002.
Deborah came to Alaska to “grow up and get mental space.” She began classes in UAA’s ceramics department where she was inspired, challenged and provided a foundation to experiment within. “UAA supplied me with a safety net where I was free to research, and if it worked out, great, and if not, then that was all right too. Now, trying something new costs me time and money.”
Deborah was also inspired specifically by associate professor Steve Godfrey’s work ethic. “Observing Steve work was motivating. He would work all day with students and turn around and work on his own pottery after teaching. He was a dedicated role model and gave me a work ethic to follow.”
At UAA, Deborah was in the Mud Club that helped provide funds for artists Outside to come to UAA. “Alaska is so removed, but we still managed to have amazing artists visit. We encouraged our own education through the club and brought the world to us.”
Eventually Deborah wanted to share what she’d learned. Teaching was the answer. Today, she instructs community classes at Pottery Northwest in Seattle. “Sharing what I do is natural because I love it so much.”
Her recent trip to UAA and UAF allowed her to show students how to turn an academic degree into a lifestyle. “I wanted to show students that UAA is a legitimate path to the real world,” she says.
Deborah is currently a potter in Seattle, her childhood home, where she relocated after 10 years of traveling for school, residencies and job opportunities. In 2005, she completed a Master’s in Fine Arts at Pennsylvania State University and traveled to China. She stayed at Sanboa Ceramics Art Institute in Jingdezhen and received the Lilian Fellowship as a resident artist at the Archie Bray Foundation in Montana.
In 2007-08, she was a visiting assistant professor at the Ohio University Ceramics Program. She had a residency and show in Berlin, Germany followed by an Artist in Residency at Mudflat Studios near Boston.
In 2009, she made the 3,300-mile journey across the country back to Seattle to work at Pottery Northwest with a short residency as a guest artist at the Clay Studio in Philadelphia in January 2010.
Although Deborah’s studio-home is currently Pottery Northwest, this May she will move into a home with a studio in the garage. “I’m learning how to stay put and find balance, to build rich relationships and to create a home-base,” she says.
Deborah is also selling some of her items online (www.debspottery.com). Deborah builds porcelain forms whose “defining lines and soft planes are geometric and sensual, elegant and animated, and architectural and organic.”
Being happy in life and in her profession are some of Deborah’s greatest achievements. “Right now I’m most proud to be an artist, to get to do what I love everyday, and to maintain excitement as I challenge myself to learn and grow.”