The art of working in clay is a very ancient form of artistic expression, dating back over five millennia. It was to what was essentially a utilitarian medium that people began to add design, both painted and sculpted, purely for personal pleasure, thus expressing an inner need to be creative. In today's technological era of computer generated graphics, the need to create through the use of pigments or clays still fires artistic imaginations and there is no less a need for handmade objects d'art than in past ages.
Randy O'Brien has been a full time potter for over two decades. In his own words he explains the fascination he has for working with this basic earthen material. "I find a lot of pleasure exploring the infinite possibilities in ceramics. My glazes are a three-dimensional surface. They add as much form to a piece as does the clay. I take my inspiration from the natural world. Lichens, mosses and mineral formations influence my decisions." Randy's approach to ceramic art is one that harkens back to the natural realm, drawing inspiration from Mother Earth.
Randy began to work in clay while he was a student at the University of California, Berkeley from 1981 to 1982. He later studied at the University of California, Santa Cruz where he studied with ceramic artist Al Johnsen. His love for adventure and the great outdoors next took him to Alaska where he continued his studies at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. During his sojourn into Alaska, he opened a pottery studio in Homer where he created distinctive stoneware with unique glazes that he found inspiration for in the mountains and glaciers of Kachemak Bay. He ultimately finished his studies at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1996 with a specialization in ceramic art. It was while completing his degree that he began to experiment with the use of low fire glazes.
The experiences he has garnered from the natural realm have played a very significant role in the overall development of his current style, which has received much acclaim. His vessels are very colorful and exhibit a crusty or mottled finish with deeply incised fissures that render a glossy obsidian like finish while the raised, colored portion resembles natural elements such as moss, lichen or bare earth. Each vessel possesses a distinctly three-dimensional surface, with no two pieces exhibiting the same patterns. To create these very special effects, Randy uses a mix of volcanic ash and metallic oxides, which when slowly fired render this uniquely crusty appearance.
The distinctive quality and individuality of his ceramic art have generated a sizeable following, a show in Hong Kong, inclusion in numerous exhibitions at Baltimore Clayworks as well as several solo exhibitions across the country. His work has been featured in Southwest Art magazine, Lark Books' "500 Tiles" and "Surface Design for Ceramics", "Experience Clay" by Maureen Mackey, Ceramics Monthly, Phoenix Home and Garden, ArtBook of the New West, and Sedona Monthly, as well as his pieces made special appearances on the sets of Dr. 90210, The Class, The Mentalist, Better Off Ted, and The Apprentice.