David Zdrazil: taking a shovel to the riverbank


by Susannah Israel

“CAA artist on a journey of discovery.”

I was delighted to hear David Zdrazil give a lecture at Mendocino College (1) about his work and philosophy, and intrigued by his keen observation of the inspiration derived from the material in nature.  It has been observed that sculptors in clay would be well advised to “take a shovel to a riverbank” (2)  in order to investigate their own motivation in choosing ceramics for self-expression.

Zdrazil describes his clay work as “a dialog between that which we create and that which exists naturally. A large part of my inspiration in clay art is the clay itself.  Clay that is found “in the wild” can be wet, fresh and slick, or dry, weathered and cracked.  It records layers of time, and marks of action; it is everything ground up and homogenized to form the flesh of the earth.  I’m fascinated by how clay provides a tangibility of the mysterious interactions of matter and energy around us.”

During his presentation, Zdrazil showed a range of images of roadsides, swamps, rivers, deserts and post-industrial fields where he had found clay for his projects.  Wherever he found it, he stopped his car immediately and dug up a bucketful, encountering some ruggedly beautiful locations in the course of his journey. His commitment to the process combined humor, curiosity, and an open-minded view that is clearly visible in the finished work.

Zdrazil creates a kind of geologic history lesson, where formal qualities, iconic patterns and lush glazes are juxtaposed with raw, organic mass,  as if the clay itself had made choices about form, finish and function.  He says, “Like the clay that it is made from, my work is an eclectic mixture, using form and design from different cultures and time periods.  It is visual poetry inspired by geography, questioning what we create and what creates us.”  

1  http://www.mendocino.edu/tc/pg/6048/mendocino_college_ceramics.html

2  Ian Anderson. The Studio Potter, 34/2 June 2006

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