Maker/Mentor 2018 Featured Artist: Neil Laperriere

July 16, 2018

Hawaiian Skink, c. 1989, ceramic, Neil Laperriere
Neil Laperriere was only about four years old when he tagged along with his older sister to a class at Pewabic. He worked diligently to create a colorful Haitian Skink lizard like the one they had at home. He thought he nailed it.
 
"I was super proud of it. In my little kid mind, it came out perfectly. It was a masterpiece. Until it was fired in the kiln. That’s kind of where the story begins,” says Laperriere, who years later came to work at Pewabic and now is Quality Control Specialist. “I had everything right, everything the way I wanted it to be, but clay has a mind of its own.”
 

The fledgling ceramicist hadn’t yet mastered the skills that can make or, well, break a clay sculpture and so his reptile lost several toes, and an eyeball during the firing process. His sister saw an opportunity to tease her dejected sibling. “She told me it wasn’t a Haitian Skink because they had all their toes and two eyes, says Laperriere, “though ironically our Haitian Skink Dot was missing a leg.” Laperriere spun that his creation was a lesser-known Hawaiian Skink, which, he explained, run so fast that parts come off.

Neil Laperriere and his sister Anne, 1989

 

Fast forward fifteen years -- Laperriere attended Rochester Institute of Technology in New York to study metal and jewelry design, graduating in 2007. When his former college roommate moved to California to work with his own craft of photography, Laperriere realized he too needed a change. He applied for a job in the fabrication department at Pewabic in 2008 and is now Quality Control Specialist, inspecting works as they come out of the kiln. A silversmith by trade turned visual artist, Neil Laperriere has a unique perspective on art and what has led him to where he is today.

“I’m Pewabic’s goalie. Practically everything Pewabic produces goes through my gate, whether it’s giftware or architectural. Not to be biased, but I genuinely have the best job here,” says Laperriere, who calls his work a privilege. “I’m convinced I see more Pewabic than everyone, at least finished goods,” he says. “It’s my job to delve into our entire output, quite literally. It’s amazing.”

The fact that he found his way back to one of the places that possibly launched his life as an artist isn’t lost on Laperriere. “I think chance is infinite. I think if you’re living a true life where you’re supposed to be there are infinite possibilities. I’ve lived my best life and it led me here. In hindsight, I don’t want to be anywhere else.”

Neil Laperriere, Quality Control Specialist




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