I remember well when we met Erik for the first time. It was October 2017 and we were in the process of planning rami. Triza, Kate and I were meeting different ceramicists in Vienna to chat with them about their experiences and needs. Erik was one of the first people we talked to about our idea, so we were excited to hear what he had to say. He had invited us to his studio where we spent some very relaxed hours just chatting, drinking tea and looking at his ceramics. I loved that he could tell fascinating stories about every single one of his pots.
Could you tell us a bit more about your story and how you ended up making pots in Vienna?
In 2011 I was studying journalism and needed to fill some arts prerequisites. I did two of those with clay: one under Natalie Shelly and one under Bede Clarke. In 2013 I met a girl in Innsbruck and eventually moved to Austria. I was using those cups I had made in 2011 and decided to buy a kickwheel from Willhaben from outside St. Pölten and, with the help of my friend's van got it set up in my kitchen. In 2016 I found a cellar in Vienna for my wheel and in 2017 an electric kiln too and in 2018 a baby and a salary. Also in 2016 I (helped, with Anja, among others) set a pile of Croatian wood on fire and in 2018 put a shovel in(to) Lower Austria.
Why did you dive into working with clay? Are you self-taught or have you learned from someone else?
They don't know they taught me, they did, and I don't know what it is, do you only do what you're taught? 'Taught' sounds active, and some of it was (active from their side). There's information, there, passive, waiting, and what do you (I) do with it listen (maybe).
How would you define the style of your work and how did it develop?
Right now I make rough flat surfaces thickly glazed with simple glazes. That's an explanation not a definition. I don't have regular access to my workspace because life gets in the way, and I need to make pots that aren't houseplants, where I can "forget" to go to my workspace on a specific day and in a specific time window to meet my pots on their terms.
And I started making flats because I dug a few buckets out of the Saxony ground and it was positively un-plastic and unformable except in flat molds, and so I did. And I began once-firing because of this clay, because this clay when bisqued seemed weaker than when green, and was no more glazable.
"They did it and you can too but like you do."
What do you find most fascinating about ceramics?
They did it and you can too but like you do.
What is on your mind when you are shaping an object?
Look at your clay, look at what you want to do, no don't do that no oh god damnit [spread over 2 weeks].
What are three adjectives you would use to describe your ceramics?
What projects are you currently working on? Anything you’d like to share with us?
Steinbeisser, restaurant commissions and a baby.
What does a day in the Erik Haugsby studio look like?
7pm and we have our dinner and 8pm and my baby's in our bed and 9pm and bicycle lights are on and 9:15 to 9:30 down the stairs and the fluorescent tubes are on and the water's on and there's a mess from last time (and I'll leave a mess this time) and some pieces have dried since last time I'll take them out of the plaster forms and open orange buckets and pull out clay [a green tarp on the ground covered with clay whose moisture is Lower Austria's wetness, and I walk on the clay because it's on the ground, because I don't have enough shelves, and it dries, and it takes weeks to, and then I crush it, and then I soak it, and then I filter it, and then I dry it, and then I put it in orange buckets] and put clay into plaster forms, and wait for that clay to dry, and do it again, and sometimes vary which orange bucket I take (which) clay from (and sometimes instead of clay in plaster forms its glaze on clay (glaze that's a mix of purchased powdered stones and found clay and found wood ashes, to recipes guesses that aren't better organised than your shopping list, mixed and wetted and sieved and put into other orange buckets), and sometimes look at my wheel but mostly only when I'm using it as a shelf to hold a board of clay surfaces which need to dry at 12ºC and 60% humidity and no circulation, and look it's 3am. I need to get up at 7 and at 3:30 or 3:45 in the front door and 3:32+ in bed.
Picture of Erik in his studio taken by Nathan Murrell
Do you have a dream project you would love to complete one day?
I'll get there, because this is it.
I know this is a difficult question but do you currently have a favourite piece?
It's this little rectangle.
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