Black Tree Studio

New Carlisle, IN


I’ve been a professional artist all my life. My pottery embodies my training as a fine artist, my attraction to printmaking, painting, and sculpture, plus my interests in American Regionalist art, Dada, and art from ancient cultures.

I love the medium of clay. Its “organic” nature allows me to explore its texture, color, and malleability. As an artist and potter I want the clay to show evidence of my working hand, and to experience its response as I work throwing, slapping, rolling, and sculpting it. I use hand building and wheel throwing techniques, combining different clays to create lines, patterns, and textures that reflect gestures of hand. I respect the technical challenges of clay as a medium, and the physical process of kiln firing, I enjoy also the challenge of pushing pottery making “traditions” by experimenting with materials, techniques, and firing. I glaze sparingly highlighting the beauty of the clay and my marks of hand. I prefer glazes that respond to the texture and material make up of the clay.

Although my pottery is functional (to be part of daily life) with deliberate design characteristics (like my crucibles, and wrapped bowls), each work is one-of-a-kind, organic, and distinctively modern.

Artist Biography

I grew up in a small, rural community in northern Illinois. After military service, I graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where I studied lithography, oil painting, drawing, and sculpture (BFA 1981).

My career as an artist spans more than 25 years, but my passion for pottery began in 2006 when I took pottery workshop at LillStreet Studios in Chicago. In part I did so because of my experience at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History where, employed as an exhibit preparator, I worked with artifacts designing and installing custom-fit mounts, which required an appreciation of each artifact’s uniqueness. It didn't take long after that first workshop before I realized that pottery would become big in my life.

Steven Skinner Portrait Earlier in my art career, I worked as a painter in oil, encaustic, and as a printmaker in lithography, but a desire to work in more challenging mediums led me to experiment with watercolors, which I discovered brought a creative spontaneity and expressiveness to my art. From 1988 to 2006, I worked exclusively with watercolors: my first watercolor series, (1989 to 1999), focused on Chicago’s viaducts, roadways, and bridge structures; a subsequent watercolor series (1999 to 2002), combined interior structural architecture with tropical plants found in the Chicago botanical conservatories. From 2003 to 2006, I painted The Little Things, a watercolor series of objects selected for their shape, color, patina, and personal or social significance and rendered representationally, though I enhanced each object’s qualities to subtly change their original character.