Mitch Sigmund: Potter Extraordinaire
I started pottery as a sophomore at Wisconsin Dells High School. Having been thrust into a ceramics class against my will, I was very resistant to it at first. Regardless, the magic of clay immediately disintegrated all doubts. I have not looked back and have now been potting for nearly 35 years.
My foundation in clay was supplemented by observing and interrogating every potter I met. I would glean every scrap of knowledge or technique I could from each and then weld the pieces together to form bits that worked for me. My early influences included: Steve Becker, John Tiller, Brad Wells, Don Hunt, Bruce Breckenridge, and Bruce Howdle.
Teaching pottery was the biggest single improvement to my abilities. I believe you have to truly and thoroughly comprehend a skill or idea in order to effectively instruct someone in it. The more I taught, the more I learned, and the more effective I became as a teacher and a potter.
A few years after I started working at a production pottery, I went back to college to complete my BFA. While there, I tried to unlearn production throwing. I soon realized that this was a mistake. My production background gave me an extreme advantage over other students who simply couldn’t work out an idea as quickly as I could. My learning curve expanded. After I learned to embrace rather than shun the vessel, my limits were boundless.
In 1997, I competed in the Cambridge Pottery Festival and US Pottery Games. I finished third in my division on my first try. From 1999 to 2005, I have finished first or second in my division, after which I retired from that competition.
In 1999-2000 I was granted the opportunity to assist pottery legend Don Reitz. This was a tremendous experience for me and has reshaped how I approach art, pottery and being in the business of art.
After many years of occasional art fairs and shows, I finally made the commitment to be a full time artist in 2012.
2019 has been a transitional year so far. I made the decision to reduce the number of shows to facilitate spending more time with my daughter in the summer. I have not regretted it in the least. From that cutback, I experienced something unexpected. By producing less volume of functional work, I have had more time to think about new work. I visited the studio of Babette Wainright where I was stunned by her work. Further, the sculpture of Babette, Reiko Uchytil, Ryan Meyers and others has revitalized me. I am suddenly flowing with new ideas and directions.
Soon I will be building kilns. With those kilns, my work will take an entirely new direction. I am very excited about it and hope to share it with you in the year to come.