Behind the Scenes with Artist Peter St.Lawrence
These speakeasy-esque flasks are one of our favorite items in the shop, and their creator, Peter St.Lawrence, is sort of a mad genius. Since getting his BFA in sculpture from CCA in 2001, he's been making his mark here in Oakland through designing restaurant interiors, founding FM gallery, and releasing his storied ceramics. We caught up with him to ask him about his artistic vision and to find out what projects he's currently working on.
How did you get into ceramics?
The craft of ceramics is one where the more you learn about it, the more you realize you don't know. Ceramics can be as simple as an ashtray or as advanced as the tiles that allows space shuttles to reenter the atmosphere. Anything is possible with clay if you have the patience to figure it out. I love the challenge and the satisfying nature of the materiality.
Your flasks that we carry in our shop have such a storied past. Can you elaborate?
I was inspired by a prohibition era whiskey bottle that someone dug up in the Oakland hills under what must have been a speakeasy. I wanted to cast that beautiful bottle back into the world and give that history a second life. Having hand-built flasks for many years, my craft has more recently crossed a threshold with the advent of slip-casting. Using a plaster mold and liquid clay allows me to make the flasks lighter and able to hold more liquid, and therefor more functional.
What other artistic endeavors are you up to these days?
Actually, I'm really excited about working on a ceramic jewelry line in collaboration with a friend of mine. I'm not ready to get too specific just yet. But I have been obsessed by the quality of the porcelain in the shapes I've been casting.
We heard you had a hand in the restaurant design for Duende in Oakland. Can you tell us about your vision?
"Duende" loosely means having soul, and is an extremely rich concept that guided our visual decisions. It is described as the difference between a technically proficient dance and one that is expressive and emotional. Because there is something inherently genuine about duende, we tried to only use materials that are being shown for what they are: rusted metal and burnt wood with touches of gold.
In literature, duende is not clearly a force of good or of evil: It's both. Therefor creating intentional areas of darkness and lightness with textured shadow play became a theme. We tried to reference history while staying true to chef Paul Canales' Spanish-inspired innovative cooking and love of contemporary music.
What's it like being an artist in Oakland, and how can local folks support you?
I am fortunate to be the member of an incredible community of artists at FM on 25th street. Our studio has a diverse line-up of talented artists that generate limitless inspiration and cross-pollination. We open our doors to the public every first Friday from 5-9 and EVERY Saturday from 1-5. Visiting FM is a great opportunity to find some hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind items while supporting local artists.