Monday, 26 August 2019 14:11

Eric Heerspink: Finding shapes in the stars

Written by  Kelly Brown
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Boat. Boat. By Eric Heerspink

Ceramic artist Erin Heerspink wants you to know one thing: Don’t label him as the “Star Wars Potter.” Even though Eric draws inspiration from the original film trilogy, one does not have to be a fan of the movies to appreciate and understand his work. A native of West Michigan, Eric’s ceramic education and career has taken him from Calvin University to Miami to Southern Illinois’ University of Edwardsville for a master’s degree and then back to Calvin as an adjunct professor. These days, when he isn’t working part-time, he’s focused on ceramics and family.

We have to ask, what do you think of the new Star Wars films (third to be released this year) and how have they influenced your work?

As a kid, I saw the original trilogy and was immediately captivated. They instantly became my favorite movies. Today, as an adult, the original Star Wars films carry with them nostalgia. It is this feeling of familiarity that I work to convey through my pieces. 

The new movies do not carry the same weight. While they are similar in many respects visually, thematically and even to some extent with the plots, they do not make me feel the same way when I watch them. To put a number on it, I’ve watched Episode VII: The Force Awakens perhaps 4 or 5 times, compared to the countless times I’ve watched the original three.

Do you ever feel artistically pigeonholed by deciding to design your work around the Star Wars trilogy?

I’ve never felt pigeon-holed, but I do have a fear of being labeled the “Star Wars Potter.” While I talk about Star Wars in regards to my work and draw inspiration directly from the films, it’s not necessary, as a viewer or user of the work, to know the inspiration or to have even seen the films. I was very deliberate to not directly include images pulled from the films. Instead, I looked to shapes, patterns, colors and lines to reference and provide inspiration. However, it is quite satisfying when someone says, “it reminds me of Star Wars” when exploring the work. 

Has that inspiration ever run out or put you in a design rut?

So far, no. There is a wealth of visual imagery within the films. I am always looking at the scenery and ship design for shapes, patterns and forms. Often these are pulled from obscure places within the films. I not only look to the movies but also to the drawing and paintings of Ralph McQuarrie. He was the lead designer and illustrator for the Star Wars films and many of the elements used in the movies were developed through his drawings. 

What is your creative process?

It’s hard to describe my process, because I’m unsure if I have one. When thinking about a new form, the ideas come often at random times and places. There has been more than one occasion where my wife and I are at dinner and I start asking her opinion of a new form as I’m sketching something on my napkin. Ideas often come when my mind should be focused on something else entirely like at a family event, while falling asleep or even at church.

How does that process translate to working in your studio?

When working in the studio, my process is more assembly line than what most people think of as ‘creative.’ I usually make pieces in batches. For example, I make 24 mugs at a time. I form all of the bodies and handles, then attach the handles, then glaze the mugs, and finally fire and sand them. Creative decisions are being made all the time about where to put the glaze lines, what color to glaze them, where to attach the handle and so on.

What’s most important to you as an artist?
Simple answer, my family. I know it sounds cliche but it’s absolutely true. I would not be where I am without the incredible support of my wife as well as my own parents. It was my parents who supported and encouraged me in my choice of majors at Calvin University. I have heard it many times while teaching, especially at the college level, ‘I would be an art major but my parents won’t allow it.’ It’s almost impossible to achieve a goal when those closest to you are not encouraging. 

My wife has been the biggest source of support and encouragement. We had our first child this past Christmas and she is the most important person in this world. It’s incredible how quickly my reason for making has changed. I find myself thinking how I just want her to be proud of her dad and to be able to provide for her.

Find his work at or on Instagram at heerspinkceramics.

ericFrom left to right: Lidded Jar, Andrew Heerspink, mugs. Courtesy Photos

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