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.