Al Holen

I was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN with an artist for a father. Clay was always part of life in our suburban home. Dad had a studio downstairs and kilns in the garage. Mom served meals in pots made by Warren MacKenzie, Chuck Halling and Peter Leach. I have been lucky enough to never know a life without clay. That said, my father (Norman Holen) is a sculptor. Much of his work is displayed in the home with curatorial acumen. it’s like living in my favorite museum. When I began working with clay outside of college, and considering it as a career, I was drawn to the fact that functional work goes into other people’s homes, and is used. Despite this, my upbringing led me to work that also has a sculptural presence. I enjoy walking this line and sometimes making the work unapproachable. I also enjoy making the work so tactile and inviting that touching it seems irresistible. Form and Surface are at the heart of both the sculptural and the functional object, and they are where I focus my attention. Teaching takes up the majority of my time, but I try to get into the studio for some work time each week. When spring break or summer allow me more time, I find that the work takes on new directions. This is always exciting!

Teaching is something that I feel extremely lucky to do. The relationships that I build with these young artists keeps me excited about everything in the field. The questions that they ask often cause me to dig and question my own motivations. And when the “light bulb” comes on for one of them, it is the most satisfying thing that I can imagine. I love my career, and I love my material, I have a fantastic husband, and a sweet cat. Pretty much have this life thing nailed.

The majority of my work is fired to cone 10 in light reduction. I have formulated the glazes that I use to work very well with a dark clay body that is a hybrid of a dark porcelain. Over much trial and error, it is now almost a self-glazing stoneware. The feldspar content is quite high, which helps my reticulating glaze stay with the clay through daily use, and leaves a nice tight surface on the unglazed portions of the work. I work with a lot of wheel-thrown inflated, closed, and double walled forms which give the pieces the volume that I crave. I really enjoy clay’s ability to stretch and deflate in different stages, and hope to continue to with this work for years to come. Relationships change, so the work changes, but rarely in huge jumps. There are nuances and subtleties that shift and realign. I try to pick up on these changes and work them into the clay, while keeping function and the physical presence of the work at the forefront.

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