Both father and daughter like to work with clay. But Darin Gehrke has made a career out of it, whereas Brynn, age three, is just happy to get messy. Gehrke, a recent addition to the burgeoning artistic community in the Village of West Greenville, takes pottery seriously, having spent more than 20 years pursuing the art.
Gehrke’s work is no child’s play. Sophisticated, subtle, and imbued with the influence of his global travels, the objects are showcased in his newly opened white-on-white gallery/studio space in the Flatiron Building on Pendleton Street. No stranger to Greenville, Gehrke exhibited at Artisphere in 2012, while he was still living in New York City, but relocated here in May. Taught by Chris Staley, a skilled instructor at Alfred University in upstate New York, the foremost school in the country for ceramics, Gehrke always harbored a passion for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean pottery. He was fortunate enough to spend a year in China, teaching and traveling throughout Japan and Thailand, even getting lucky enough to try his artistry using a historic, 500-year-old kiln.
He is deeply influenced by the Japanese philosophy where, as Gehrke puts it, “art is present in everyday objects and is something that people focus on. Items that you use frequently like teapots and cups, should be beautiful as well as useful, and when people form a strong emotional connection to them, they can be filled with memories and quite meaningful. I hope my pieces are representative of this feeling.”
The pieces are a mash-up of contrasts: textures rough and smooth, shiny and dull, in colors dark and light. He makes the glazes himself and mixes a variety of clays from around the country for use on one of two potter’s wheels—one for stoneware and one for porcelain. Each piece is stamped with a custom-made wooden “chop” or signature that relates to the piece, as well as signed DRG on the bottom, notating that it is hand-made. Pieces can take up to a week to complete; in addition to vases, there are mugs, bowls, platters, tea caddies, sake sets, and teapots, all food safe—and that’s the beauty of it.