By day, as an associate at SRG Partnership Inc. in Portland, the architect juggles the design and building of commercial structures such as a hospital in Honolulu. By evening, he is husband to his architect-wife, a daddy to their 3½-year-old son and, once he heads down to his basement studio, the potter behind David N. Piper Ceramics.
So is he a ceramic artist who practices architecture to pay the bills or an architect who dabbles in pottery? “I’m an architect who’s been serious about ceramics for the last 10 years,” says the 39-year-old, who was raised in Irvine, Calif., and graduated from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. “After I get home from work and have dinner with my family, I love to duck downstairs and be by myself with my clay. The making of the work is the best thing. I only sell my work because, frankly, I don’t need tons of if laying around the house.”
Once you know Piper designs buildings for a living, you see the love for the linear in his organic modern bowls, plates, sake sets and vessels such as this Grooved Vessel. “I used to do a lot of life drawing when I was in college, and my wife says a lot of my pots have an anthropormorphic shape to them,” he says. “I think I’m just abstracting the human form. Drawing people is one of the hardest things to do, artistically, because it’s challenging to capture a person’s personality quickly.”
Piper limits his glazes to a light blue, an ivory or a brown to keep your eye on the shape of what he’s turned out on his potter’s wheel. “I keep to a simple palette because, for me, my work is about the form, not the glaze,” he says. “Occasionally, I’ll do some painting on one of my large plates. I really like the muted color of a blue celadon glaze. Sometimes—especially using a blue celadon glaze—I get carbon-trapping on the piece, which means black marks will appear on, say, the lip of a cup. It’s always a great surprise when I finally get to open the kiln door and see what’s happened to the pieces inside.”