Artist Statement by Daniel Vito

I have been making pots since 1972. It has been a passion. Twenty years ago I made a copper red vase and when it came out of the kiln I said “If I die today, I will be fulfilled.” That is surely a rare experience for most people. But fortunately, I have been able to arrive at that moment more than once. Creating a beautiful, and wholly satisfying object, is a wonderful experience. As I potter, I have been richly rewarded.

I see with my hands. The need to touch things, pick them up and hold them made my mother, teachers and shopkeepers nervous. I always had a need to work with my hands, to build, create and fix things. It made me feel good about what I had done.

Every aspect of clay excites me. When soft, it is sensitive to the slightest touch and reflects everything done to it. It is forgiving and can be erased and reworked. A finished vessel is a record of my emotional response to volume, line, form and surface. The final firing resolves and clarifies that response – hence my studio name “Fireborn”.

One of the most exciting times for me is in the days after a firing when I select the best works from the kiln and put them in my home: a small pot on the kitchen table, a new rice bowl, a large piece on a sculpture stand in my living room. I look at them and discover things I didn’t understand at the time they were worked, but which now seem so necessary.

Traditional functional pottery and Asian glazes have always inspired me. I have traveled extensively, visiting ruins, museums and living potters. Functional pottery and ceremonial vessels tell the story of past civilizations. I am part of that continuum. I strive to blend form and function, science and art, design and color and texture into beautiful timeless pots.

I have always found pottery to be a very sensual, touchy-feely, thing. The balance of a piece, the way a pitcher or teapot pours, how many fingers fit in a mug handle, how the lip of a mug feels on your lips, the ring of a piece when you “ping” it with your finger, the smoothness of a pot’s foot, all these things are important to me. You too, when you hold a pot sense these qualities, even if on an unconscious level. On the surface, literally, we are all drawn to color. Next, I think we see the shape, and appreciate it in terms of the pot’s function. But it is the hands that have the most intimate contact with the piece and where I find the most joy.

Without getting too philosophical about all this, let it suffice for me to say that, although neither drawings nor a website can show it, you can be assured all of these aspects are fully addressed in my work. My intention is for everything I make to become, for you, a treasure; to be prized enough for you to need that special bowl or mug when you have breakfast and to be willing to go to the sink and hand wash it if need be so you can use it. Whether I make a simple mug or a large decorative art piece, I make each with loving care.

In 1985 I met my wife and partner Donna Hetrick. Together we created Fireborn Studios. We collaborate on many pieces and also make our own work. I sign some of my work “Fireborn” others I sign “Vito”, and sometimes I use chops.

Recently my work has evolved over the years to include both practical ware for daily use, as well as more sculptural works of ceramic art. In the past, I focused on wholesale production of high-fire porcelain dinnerware in a variety of dynamic, colorful glaze finishes. I still produce dinnerware, vases, and a variety of utilitarian vessels inspired by classical forms. Lately, I’ve been exploring more abstract experiments with pure form, creating stoneware wall tiles which I decorate with various slips, engobes, and carved lines. The beauty of these tiles lies in the inherent drama and dynamism of color, line, and silhouette.



Dan Vito has been working with clay for over 40 years. As the owner and co-founder (with his wife Donna) of Fireborn Studios in Pittsburgh’s Southside, Dan has had a long, successful career as a production potter and ceramic artist. Inspired by the forms and glazes of classical antiquity, Dan’s porcelain work embodies the beauty of museum-quality craftsmanship with a focus on every-day use and utility. His pieces span a range of form and function, including production-level dinner and kitchen ware; one-of-a-kind vases, jars, and ceremonial vessels; abstract wall-hanging tiles and chargers; and many other unique pieces, both practical and purely aesthetic. Dan works primarily on the potters’ wheel, throwing carefully proportioned pieces and frequently altering them with an array of tools and techniques. His forms are characterized by a sense of elegance and fluidity, often accentuated by free-form surface decorations and finished in a wide variety of high-fire glazes, which he formulates and mixes himself. In addition to wheel-thrown pieces, he also works with slabs and molds to produce trays, platters, and wall-hanging pieces. In the autumn of 2019, Dan spent six weeks attending the Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen, China. While there, he studied the arts of mold making, brush making, and traditional Chinese wheel throwing techniques. He brought back with him a set of molds which he now uses to slip-cast various forms, both functional and sculptural. Recently, Dan has been experimenting with low-fire stoneware to create a series of wall-hanging pieces, which explore “pure form” by focusing on the two-dimensional silhouette, accentuated by splashes of colored slips and curvilinear carvings. These pieces are an evolution of Dan’s life-long fascination with classical form, and demonstrate his more theoretical and philosophical approaches to working with clay. By bridging the gap between two and three-dimensionality, these pieces embody the limitless potential of clay to express form, occupy space, and engage the viewer as both aesthetic object and archetype of utility. Dan is the former president of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Pittsburgh, and a member of both the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Society of Artists.