A conversation with Henry James Haver Crissman

Posted by Cara Catallo on

If you’ve had the opportunity to experience recent work by Henry James Haver Crissman, chances are you’ve already got his number.


That’s by design because Crissman often incorporates his telephone number somewhere into his work. His art is interactive; a social engagement art experience.

Have a conversation with Crissman about it at his one-day Kiln Pad Pop-Up exhibition, 1-4 PM Sunday, Sept. 16, at Pewabic. A selection of recent work – plates, cups, bowls, teapots, pitchers and sculptural pieces – will be available on a cash-and-carry basis.

The frequent Pewabic instructor, who designed the mobile kilns used by the Pewabic Street Team, currently teaches at the College for Creative Studies and is working on a 150-plate commission for an upcoming gala at MOCAD, where he recently presented his “Hello Future” exhibition.

And now might be the last chance for a while to get such pieces, as Crissman moves toward sculptural. He doesn’t know when he’ll return to making functional cups, plates, and bowls.

“Everything I’ve done is rooted in a kind of art practice interest in American studio pottery, but I think the form it’s taking is becoming less connected to that,” says Crissman of his style.

Raised in Midland, Mich., Crissman always knew he would be an artist. He follows in the footsteps of two artistic grandmothers — one a potter and the other a calligrapher and illustrator — and credits their influences, particularly in the faces and words he draws in a one-constant-line style.

After earning a BFA in Craft, with a focus in ceramics, from the College for Creative Studies, Crissman enrolled in the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. He used his time at Alfred to try everything in the field before receiving an MFA in 2015.

“I was trying to make all of my desires fit into this very holistic art concept,” he says.

He realized a relationship with wordplay and his artwork. The one-line scrolling designs on his pieces — made by a Dremel tool — felt analogous with the confusion he felt when he was growing up a dyslexic. He had gravitated toward what appealed to him as a child, and what his grandmothers made.

“Because that was quintessentially me,” Crissman says. “I’m connected to all of these things in some way. It may come off as a scribble, but it’s more than that.”

So much more.


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