Lee Oululani Plevney is a ceramic artist working in Hawaii on the island of Maui. She throws, carves, and sculpts clay into bowls, vases, platters, and surfboards. She discusses her passion for art with Filthy Lucre.
How would you describe your style of art?
As a ceramic artist, I create sculptural and decorative pottery in an organic, fluid style with coastal influences. For my wheel-thrown work, I begin with the classic ceramic forms of vase and platter then alter these forms by manipulating the clay, both on the wheel and through hand-building. I also create wall hangings using hand-building techniques. All my work is glazed in a unique coastal style that reflects the colors of the ocean surrounding Maui and the greens and reds of the island. I seek to reflect the beauty and mystery of the ocean and sea life surrounding Maui and the open spirit of aloha permeating the culture.
How long have you been working in ceramics?
Eleven years – My transition to ceramics began in 2007 when I immersed myself in studies under Richard McCoy, Jim Valentine, Jeff Vick, David Camden, Tom Coleman, Robert Briscoe and Steven Hill. I continue to learn every day in my studio as I stretch the boundaries of what clay can do to capture the beauty of Maui.
Your work is clearly inspired by the ocean and coral; when did that begin, and what was your first foray into that concept like?
In the early 2010s, I participated in a workshop by the renowned potter Steven Hill. For over forty years, he had been refining an approach using slip and glaze as if he was painting. Simultaneously, he had developed a firing technique that supported the subtle gradation of multiple layers of glazes. I was able to translate his techniques into a way of representing the deep blues and subtle greens of the ocean. I mixed my own glazes and applied them to simple vases and small platters to perfect the glazing and firing techniques. I remember feeling intense satisfaction that, finally, after years of work, my vision of the ocean was coming to life on my pottery. Over time, I added waves and sea turtles and began to alter the vases and enlarge the platters. I continued to experiment with other types of sea life such as corals and seaweeds.
Is Hawaii your adopted home, or are you a native?
I call Maui my home but I started out in San Francisco where my mother, an indigenous Hawaiian, moved before I was born. When I moved to Maui I was really just returning to the place that has always been my true home in my heart and soul.
How would you describe the Hawaiian art community? Is it growing?
Hawaii has a diverse art community creating a wide range of fine art and crafts. Hawaii nurtures local art, actively supporting the entire spectrum of artists. Art galleries on Maui such as Schaeffer, Lahaina Arts Society, Maui Hands and Viewpoints host a variety of local artists and group and solo exhibitions throughout the year. Hotel galleries are also strong supporters of local art. Overall, it seems that the art community is stable.
What do you see in your future? How has your work evolved, and where do you see it going?
In my immediate future, I will be moving to a large space for my pottery so that I can more easily create work. Early on in my artistic career, I began creating with platters and vases as my basic forms. Over time, my work has evolved to include three-dimensional waterfalls and wall sculptures. I will continue to experiment with what clay is capable of using different sculptural techniques and focusing on incorporating coral as a stronger inspiration.
Visit leeplevney.com to learn more about Lee Plevney and see her work.