915 Spring Garden Art Studios hosts an artist’s open studio tour in the Spring and during Philadelphia Open Studio Tours in the Fall. Spike the biker, Jeff the photographer and DoN visited the artist’s studio building on a sunny but chilly Sunday afternoon, starting on the fifth floor and working our way through the studios that were open. Frankly by the time we got to the third floor we had been there three hours and we found respite in the lounge area near the old timey caged elevator. Our art crawling trio realized this was more than could be accomplished in one visit, there is just so much to see and DoN loves interviewing artists which made our visit take longer. But DoN doesn’t like to just pop in and out of studios without engaging the artists in conversation.
As a veteran of Philadelphia Open Studio Tours, DoN is aware of the extra work required to host guests in your workspace, the least DoN can do is talk to the artists. And as this series of blog posts attests, there are lessons to be learned. With a bit of renewed energy the art crawlers went to the first floor to visit the inspiring studio of long time 915 Spring Garden Art Studios, Peter Cunicelli. Peter is one of the first artists DoN blogged about on DoNArTNeWs way back in October 2008. Since that time the ceramics artist has moved his studio from an upper floor to the first and the extra effort our weary art crawl crew summoned to visit his art space was well worth it.
Peter Cunicelli explained, “Everything here is hand built, everything’s slab form built, including other than the stand-up vases, that’s much more random. The vases are more precise, they’re templates.” DoN noted how unique each piece is an asked if the artist ever makes a series of popular styles? “…some of them, I might do a lot of them, I’m not crazy about the glaze on that one but I might redo it with a more matte glaze. Sometimes I’ll do multiples just to do multiples, you know, each one gets better. And other times I’ll do a one off, sometimes they’re too involved and I don’t want to do another.” The space is beautiful with the aspirational ceramics everywhere, DoN wondered if the artist gets inspired by his own creations? “I do, I don’t want to sound narcissistic, but a lot of those are pieces I could never sell.”
“Sometimes it’s because there’s something wrong with them, whether it’s the glaze or a crack, or like the glaze on the green one chipped off. But I like having them there, it reminds me I keep having to like what I’m doing. There’s a lot of form up there (referring to a high shelf loaded with various vases) that I like, so I try to reuse it or do something with it. The really original stuff, almost twelve years old, I would never sell. I also have them at home, I just like being surrounded by them. I was never formally trained so I just ran with it. Do you know Doug Herren? He’s Philadelphia, his work is amazing. When I started he was doing very functional work, thrown work and a combination of thrown and hand built. I love the fullness of his forms and crisp lines, so I started trying in my own way to mimic that, that’s how I ended up developing my own style. Now he does stuff that’s very industrial, it’s all sculptural, really beautiful work.”
DoN asked where Peter Cunicelli exhibits? “Right now, Show of Hands, 1006 Pine Street, but this year I want to get out there, get into some galleries. It has to be out of my zip code but, Show of Hands has an amazing salesman. I always admired his eye, he always has amazing stuff. I went in one day, I was with a friend of mine and I went up meekly to him and asked if knew of any craft shows or does anyone ever bring you work? He said he does but sometimes artists have delusions of grandeur. I thought, ‘Alright, I’m going for broke now’, he asked about my work and I said I have a website. So he went to the website and pulled up one image and went, ‘Gasp!’, and I wanted to say, ‘Delusions of grandeur, eh?'”
“So he said to me to bring six pieces, then I got a call asking for nine pieces, and then ten. I think I brought in eleven pieces the first time, he’s a salesman, a really good salesman. Most of the pottery he has in there is very traditional, so mine sticks out. And I like having that, I like it being different. I don’t want to be the best, I always say I want to be the bottom of the barrel because I want to be surrounded by greatness, but the ceramic work there is very good and very traditional. Which is nice, and I think it’s one of the reasons he’s able to sell it, it’s a good place, he’s got good craft.”
Peter Cunicelli told DoN that he has yet to sell anything from his website, using it as a portfolio of his work. He also used social media, like e-mail newsletter and FaceBook, to advertise the open studio.
Read more about 915 Spring Garden artists:
Written and photographed by DoN Brewer except where noted
Thank you to Contributing Photographer, Jeff Stroud
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