Interview with Ceramist, Tyler Houston, of St. Petersburg by Madeline Scharff
Morean Arts Center for Clay, located in the Warehouse Arts District of St. Petersburg, Florida, was once a lively seaboard, freight train station. Today the 26,000 square foot building houses a handful of artists’ studios, offers classes and schools to the public, exhibits professional artists work, and is available for special events such as wedding receptions.
Needless to say, Morean Arts Center is an integral part of the St. Petersburg community, which one young man, Tyler Houston, discovered upon depositing himself in Florida’s mecca for art, after graduating from Southern Utah University with a Bachelor in Fine Arts in Ceramics. While he considers himself extremely lucky to be working and teaching at Morean Arts Center, surrounded by other acclaimed artists and art museums such as the Chihuly Collection and the Dali Museum, Houston brings his own skill set to the Morean Community.
His work has been exhibited nationally at shows such as the National Student Juried Exhibition in 2013 and the Kansas City Clay Guild Teabowl National in 2014. Photographs of his work have also been featured in publication such as the Creative Quarterly Fall in 2013 and the Kolob Canyon Review in 2014. Houston’s laid-back attitude, genuine interest in the work of others, agile hands, and inquisitive mind, have brought him far in life and prove to be a unique asset for both the community of Morean Arts Center and St. Petersburg.
How old were you when became interested in ceramics and what did you find appealing about it?
TH: “Freshman year of high school I took a ceramics class. I think that would make me 14 at the time. Once I started the class and understood the possibilities of making it a career I had my heart set on it.”
What kinds of pieces do you create?
TH: “When making pots I try to explore different forms. I find that I am most satisfied when I pick a form to make that I struggle with until I feel like I figured it out. Pitchers were a form I was always struggling with throughout Undergrad but now I’m having a lot of fun making them. As far as sculpture, it takes a while for me to formulate what I want to make. I will usually have a vague idea of the finished piece. Usually, I’ll force myself to start a piece, not knowing what exactly the end product will be, so I’ll problem solve as I continue working with the clay.”
You primarily work with clay– what do you like most about working with that medium and what do you find challenging about it? Do you work with any other materials?
TH: “I don’t usually use other materials. I have in the past, but as of now clay is the best material to use for the pieces I’m making. I really enjoy how heavily process based ceramic work can be. You really have to think 30 steps a head before even starting a piece. It is also one of the hardest aspect of the process, but I enjoy the challenge.”
How did you learn about Morean Arts Center? What does a typical day there look like for you?
TH: “I learned about the Morean Arts Center primarily through social media (Instagram). Then I made an effort to learn more about it because it seemed like a great program. I typically spend 6-13 hours a day in the studio, 6 days a week. We are expected to be working as full time artists. Time really flies by when you start working and before you know it, the suns down. I teach classes whenever I can. It’s important to gain teaching skills for Graduate school and I enjoy it.”
In what way has St. Petersburg affected or influenced your artwork?
TH: “Interacting with artists and their work has really pushed me to set the bar high for high quality work. When I handle a mug made by another artist, I take the time to appreciate the craftsmanship and thought put into it, which forces me to become more self critical. We could all be a little more self critical.”
What is the sense of community like at Morean Arts Center and in St. Pete?
TH: “The best part about St. Pete is the people and community I am surrounded by. Everyone at the center works hard and helps to create a great atmosphere. When we load the Anagama, a lot of local artists as well as members of the center work together to make it happen. Loading and firing the kiln takes anywhere from 5 – 8 days so we spend a lot of time together. The art scene in St. Pete is strong. I have never been exposed to a community where so many artist from different mediums work to make it so solid. There is always an art function to attend and I have met so many great artists. It pushes me to make great work and get involved with other artists in the area.”
What sort of overlap or interaction does the Morean Arts Center have with the community of St. Pete?
TH: “The Morean Arts Center has helped the public become more aware and interested in art. We constantly have classes running as well as schools and the public visiting the center. We are definitely a big part of the growing art community.”
What advice do you have for young artists? Whether they be writers, film makers, pianists, or painters?
TH: “Hard work always beats talent.”