DER Documentary

Peter Voulkos Working

Produced by Susan Fanshel and Ann Voulkos
color, 68 min with extras, 2015



Peter Voulkos is the undisputed creative force behind the American Clay Revolution that began in the 1950s and continues today. His energy and charisma are legendary. Peter Voulkos Working offers a window into three distinct chapters of his prodigious career. It features newly re-mastered films available digitally for the first time.

VOULKOS AND COMPANY (33 min, 1972, directed by Susan Fanshel) launch preview watch a preview
A portrait of the artist at work on the final stages of a monumental cast bronze sculpture commissioned for the San Francisco Hall of Justice. In whatever medium he worked, Voulkos always pushed boundaries. His bronze work is less familiar than his clay work, but for almost two decades his creative energies were channeled through metal. This impressionistic film brings to life the special atmosphere of his warehouse studio during the "bronze years." The film follows the substantial demands placed on Voulkos and his crew as they complete the 30-foot high sculpture and its complex installation.

WORKING IN CLAY (26 min, 1992, filmed by Ann Voulkos) launch preview watch a preview
Working in Clay intimately observes the artist in his Oakland studio as he creates plates, tea bowls and a large stack. What's captured is an intuitive process. The surface of a plate comes alive with a range of gestures from delicate lines to violent slashes. The quiet handling of a Japanese tea bowl is suddenly interrupted, revealing beauty in the accidental. While creating a large stack (Kings Chamber) Voulkos composes as he works, improvising like a jazz musician who has deep trust in both his instincts and his technical control. In these filmed moments, we see him alive in his work, powerfully present.

VOULKOS AT ARCHIE BRAY (9 min, 1955, by Maxine Blackmer)
In the summer of 1955, while working at the Archie Bray Foundation in Montana, Voulkos had just begun to experiment with stacked forms. In this rare footage, we watch him on the wheel, already a master of his medium.

Bonus Feature: A photo gallery of selected work in clay, bronze and paper from 1949-2001.

“In his vigorous forms, whether in clay or bronze, we see a free spirit with the discipline of a Zen master.”
— Dennis Power, former Executive Director, The Oakland Museum
“I am struck by how many people write about Voulkos without having watched him work. They should all have to watch this and see the building up, the tearing down — just watching how he dances with the material.”
— Frank Lloyd, Art Dealer

Related Resources
Voulkos & Co. - A website devoted to information about Peter Voulkos
Crafts Horizon Review of Voukos & Company (PDF)
Peter Voulkos: An Affirmation of Art and Life - Essay by John Balistreri about working with Voulkos
"Peter Voulkos, 78, a Master Of Expressive Ceramics, Dies" - New York Times, February 21st, 2002

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Supported By Massachusetts Cultural Council National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts