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David Ernster - Tableware and Plates & Platters
David Ernster
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David Ernster

Newbury, NH

I came to a life in the arts in a rather naive way. I don’t think it was necessarily a conscious decision on my part. I spent my childhood on the banks of the Mississippi River in the upper Midwest. The river, as I have come to understand only after being away from it for some time, is an unbelievable engine for change and renewal while at the same time remaining dark and mysterious. It is a world in continuous flux as the current moves on like an endless documentary about life and time.

As a child, seeing this daily metamorphosis had a formative effect on my interests. I began to explore these ideas through my hands. By the age of 12, I was becoming fascinated with my own power to change the states and form of different materials. I began casting lead into small molds that I would make of skulls and dragons—bringing to life the worlds I imagined from the fossils I collected.

I studied metalsmithing at the University of Iowa as an undergraduate. I received a BFA in Metalsmithing and Jewelry and also worked as Production Assistant to my Professor, Chunghi Choo. I enrolled in sculpture where the focus was on cast metal and in ceramics which I took every semester. To this day I continue to work in all three of these areas. I think I am drawn to the malleable nature of these materials and the almost alchemical processes employed to manage their states and form.

I think I gravitated towards ceramics because to me in many ways it is the most basic. You can find the materials—clay—almost anywhere on the earth and use them not only to make virtually anything but also to create the kilns to fire it in.

I received an MFA in Ceramics from West Virginia University and since 1989 I have worked professionally as a production potter, goldsmith and designer, independent studio artist, and educator.

Teaching, not unlike how I have come to work as an artist, was something that evolved organically and simultaneously within my pursuits as an artist. Since my teaching assistantship as a grad student in the late 80s, I have continued to teach in one form or another through craftsmen’s guilds and apprentices in both clay and metal. For many years now my teaching has been as visiting Professor of Art at Colby-Sawyer College. I find that teaching has allowed me the freedom to explore my own work while benefiting from the creative and intellectual stimulation of my students.

I have recently built new kilns at my home studio to accommodate the scale character of my new work. I am excited by the fact that my work in metal and clay are coming back together again as they have done in the past. While I don’t think that my work has necessarily changed in a substantive way throughout the years I do feel that I am gaining more clarity from a personal standpoint about how I choose to express myself. This is very exciting and I am feeling the “pull” of the work as much as ever.