WHEN IT COMES to the Portland maker scene, ceramics is a genre almost as saturated as leather goods. So it says something when the work is visually arresting enough to stand out, like the pieces by Liam Drain. Sometimes using the name Potter's Field and sometimes his own (more on that later), Drain's vases and drinking vessels combine earthy stoneware with laser patterning that looks modern and complex, often mixing tones within one piece. Refreshingly, he's not terribly precious about his work. And while buying shit like "a decorative vase" sounds like an activity strictly for the bourgeoisie, his pricing is surprisingly accessible. Get it before he changes his philosophy.
On why he can't decide on a name.
"I keep going back and forth between my name and Potter's Field. Potter's Field is metaphorically rich: A potter's field is a biblical term for common graves, burial places for 'strangers,' who in more recent history end up being the very poor, itinerant workers, prisoners, inmates of mental asylums, and so on. People so dispossessed by society that when they die their body is just an inconvenience. They're called potter's fields because nothing grows in clay, so it's a good place to put unwanted bodies without wasting arable land. So for me the name touches on several things related to enclosure of common land, and the human misery that ensues from the invention of private property, which is what I think about while I work.
But it's also kind of a stupid pun. I figure eventually one of these names will stick and the decision will be made for me."
Why ceramics are the thrifty art student's medium of choice.
"I became interested in ceramics first for the practical reason that clay was free where I went to art school. They kept telling me 'anything can be art,' so I was like, 'Okay, no need to spend another cent on art supplies!' But like a lot of things, once you get into it, it's pretty endlessly fascinating. I don't have any cool theories about it or anything, but I do love how different kinds of matter like clay can go back and forth from being super soft to super hard for millions of years, before there were even lichens."
On reasonable pricing.
"This economy is terrifying and untenable. I wish people would stop thinking 'entrepreneur' and start thinking 'precariat.'"
About those patterns.
"A lot of the patterns are from security envelopes. I like the way they look, and it's kind of neat that someone started out with a very simple task—to make an envelope that you can't see the contents of when it's held up to light—and ended up making these lovely patterns. It's a bit like constellations, which were a tool for sailors to navigate at night, but became pictures and stories."