Don Staufenberg on Product Design to Infused Ceramics

Don Staufenberg in his Dublin, Ohio studio

By Janet Cooper, Dublin Arts Council director of engagement

Don Staufenberg combines his background as a product designer with Herman Miller furniture, Rubbermaid and Fitch, Inc., with his love of clay to create unique tactile visuals for a new exhibition Ceramic Infusion at Dublin Arts Council, Nov. 10 – Dec. 16. I recently caught up with the artist in his Dublin, Ohio studio for a virtual conversation.

Janet: How does your background as a product designer inform your artistic process?
Don: I’m always thinking three-dimensionally. I start with digital sketches, exploring form, proportions and how materials could work together. I explore visual alternatives and material relationships and experiment with positive and negative spaces, textures, the shadows and highlights created by external light. I also investigate layers of materials, textures, color, gloss vs. matte, the hues of different wood and layers of glazes.

Janet: What new elements are you combining in your exhibition?
Don: The show is titled Ceramic Infusion. It started at Kent State where I took ceramics classes as an art elective. I liked the material, its three-dimensionality and how it could be formed, glazed and fired. The artworks in this exhibition integrate materials such as wood, metal, fiber and polymer within the ceramic piece to create a unique tactile visual.

Deco 2 (ceramic, wood)

Janet: How would you describe your artwork to someone who’s seeing it for the first time?
Don: Clay is unique. The surface can be easily altered by adding and subtracting material. I create textures with objects to develop areas of focus, then take it a step further, enhancing the ceramic piece by integrating additional materials. Inspiration comes from my past design experiences, my current surroundings and textures/colors/finishes that I am exposed to. Each piece explores the relationship between all of these elements to create a unique and differentiated artwork.

Janet: You’ve worked with some major clients and creatives during your design career. With whom would you most like to collaborate on an artistic endeavor, and why?
Don: Working at Herman Miller with Charles Eames’ wife, Ray Eames, with Michael Graves, and with Dave Smith and Deane Richardson at Fitch gave me, as a young designer, guidance and opportunity. I would enjoy collaborating with young designers to see what could be created, and would also like to collaborate with a glass artist. Ceramic and glass would be an interesting combination.

Engine 1 (ceramic, brass tube, wood)

Janet: What’s the best thing about the greater Columbus arts scene right now?
Don: Our current arts scene is very diverse and continues to grow. There are many local artists experimenting and creating unique artwork with all kinds of materials, and galleries that continue to exhibit their fresh new work. Columbus is unique in its depth of resources for artists to learn and create. From universities, studios and creative fabrication facilities to the number of materials suppliers, there are vast resources available to develop our art passion.

Don Staufenberg: Ceramic Infusion is on view free of charge at Dublin Arts Council, 7125 Riverside Dr., in Dublin, Nov. 10 through Dec. 16. Appointments can be scheduled at visitdublinartscouncil.as.me. Learn more at dublinarts.org/event/don-staufenberg-ceramic-infusion/

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