From the comfort of his home, local sculptural ceramicist Eric Pilhofer uses clay to combine the essence of spirituality with contemporary forms.
With experience in drawing, painting, metal sculpture, patchwork and weaving, Pilhofer says he settled on clay because it combined his love for all disciplines into one. “Art isn’t what it chooses to be, but it is something that has to be,” he says. “If I don’t do it, my life is out of balance. It is more of a necessity than a choice.”
Fascinated by history and archeology, each piece Pilhofer creates is a homage to ancestral spirituality, inspired by ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian culture. “I am not a religious person, but I feel that you can capture a spirituality and a feeling in a piece of artwork,” he says. “Like it was done for a reason greater than the end result.”
Through the symbolic nature of his work, Pilhofer uses a variety of shapes, colors and textures to fuse this cultural influence with ultramodern structures. With just a lump of clay, a surface to build on and his hands, Pilhofer uses a modified pinch method to create all of his pieces. Through pinching over small dabs of clay, he creates a layered, flowery and highly-textured appearance on the sculpture.
Pilhofer says that it’s a meditative process that can lead to any type of form. “I look at each dab of clay like a breath,” Pilhofer says. “What you are doing with each piece is worth more than the outcome because it is a process. I don’t dwell on the last dab or anticipate the next one.”
Pilhofer was to showcase his work at American Craft Show this past spring with 250 other diverse makers, but, like many events this year, it was postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (It’s now set for October though Pilhofer is not able to attend.) “[Pilhofer] is hand making it with a humble material (clay) … We don’t get many artists like him, and he is a stand out,” says Pamela Diamond, previous director of American Craft Council’s (ACC) show marketing.
“Though we have been unable to host our traditional large events, the importance of supporting makers’ livelihoods and sharing craft with the world is more important than ever,” says Keona Tranby, director of [ACC] marketing and communications. “… We have been in awe of makers’ tenacity to overcome challenges in sourcing, production and shipping through these challenging times ...”