Ivan Samuels

“If you have interest in pursuing creative arenas don’t worry about obstacles, they will always be there. If you’re interested in the arts, the best advice to give would be to dive into it and get your feet dirty.”

“I would say it is a constant journey finding your identity within your work and your spiritual self. As life changes, my body of work changes and finds a new direction.” Ivan Samuels is an incredible artist and is also the founder of his own brand of functional pottery, Lambpots Ceramics. Samuels is an educator in the ceramics field, and spends much of his time helping others find their love of clay and hone their artistic voices. Samuels is finding ways to bring new and interesting twists to functional pottery whether in form, color, or design. As an educator in this industry, Samuels is spreading the lesson that obstacles will exist in any journey taken, but it’s important to be receptive to one’s passions and push through them. Although often inspired by the environments around him and human experiences, Samuels explained that these forces sometimes act as a catalyst for creation and other times act as an obstacle to overcome; “Your environment and the essence of nature along with the human experiences you encounter are constantly evolving. It can inspire you and at times it can halt your creative vision”.

Samuels explained that he, “started ceramics as a hobby while searching for a new creative outlet”. Youth education and development has been an important and significant factor in Samuels life, and he recalled that, “at the time I was a Recreation Director for adolescents in a Life Skills Program managed by the state of New York. Mentoring and Youth development has played a significant role in my professional life. Creating clay vessels on the pottery wheel was a therapeutic process for me. It gave me a creative balance and helped me find a new vision for myself, while helping youth and their process into adulthood”. His current work is influenced heavily by nature, and particularly the Summer season. His beautiful functional pieces have been hot ticket items with his viewers and the clay community; “I have been working on planters throughout the harvest season for all of those who love to nurture plant life. My incense jars have been quite the item for home décor and lifestyle. People love to burn sage and resins to smell beautiful aromas and create personal alters for cleansing with my incense forms. I have been working on bottle forms and drinking vessels. I try to stay busy and balance my teaching efforts with my personal projects”. Samuels and his pieces go on a tandem journey throughout the creation process, and Samuels said that his pieces are often influenced by his own emotions at the time of creation; “My work is utilitarian so when creating a cup, bowl, or jar I allow the vessel to help me grow within the process. The form and the surface of the pot and the color palette of glazes used has a lot to do with my mood at the time. What will it be used for and what were my intentions? Create work that makes you feel good and don’t get to attached in your creative process.” Being an educator in this industry Samuels has had many students and has found that the ceramics industry tends to blur the lines between teacher and student, with valuable lessons coming from either side; “I have been fortunate to be on the teaching end of this amazing clay material and medium. I learn new things from novice and seasoned potters all the time. I would encourage those interested in pursuing ceramics to keep a open mind, focus on creation and stay diligent”.

This understanding of the clay community and the lessons that can be taught by those within the industry has led Samuels to have many mentors throughout his journey. For instance, Samuel said, “outside of reading several books on the history of ceramic artists and attending Wheel Throwing and Glazing Workshops, I could recall a fellow potter, friend, and mentor at the time who encouraged me to find my voice and the market of people that would be attracted to buying my work. This was during a three year period studying at the Mudflat Clay School in Boston, MA. Finding a market for those interested in your work is always a focus on one’s artistic agenda. However, her input and her admiration of my work propelled me to start searching various ways to platform my work. Whether it was participating in art initiatives and craft events, dinner parties, book readings or just finding that level of comfort to be confident in presenting my work to audiences”. Samuels has found that an artist website and a strong social media presence have been instrumental in ensuring that his work reaches the audience; “I find Instagram has been one of the more prosperous social media platforms I have used to expose the global clay community to my work. What is so great about it is it gives you the means to promote all of your upcoming gallery events, craft sales, and endeavors within your surrounding clay community. This platform is a great marketing device which has allowed Lambpots, which is my brand of functional ceramics, to be accessible to people who are interested in visiting my online store and purchase pottery and possibly be collectors of my brand. It is very important for clay craftsmen to develop a website for the mission of their business and sculpt a creative identity. Websites are a great way to encourage marketing ability, to share your artistry and to mandate your creative process and assess growth. It is also more of a personal business agenda which encourages your creative mission/goals and to be an advocate for your creations”.

However, being an artist is more than understanding how to market your work; there must be a strong artistic voice behind the work and a reason for creation. Samuels shared another memory of an important mentor in his life and said that, “I can also recall studying with an instructor that had French ancestry and worked as a production potter abroad in Europe. He made really nice wheel thrown porcelain bottles. He told me that I have to find what my inspirations are to find my voice within my work. I appreciated how he shared how his culture and history traveling helped inspire his voice within his ceramics practice. At the time, being an African American man honing the craft in a clay community amongst a population of people from European ancestry, which I found to be a great setting for my growth, I found his words to be golden because I always knew my interest in the pottery wheel was personal and it had a lot do with my personal life experiences. But to hear that from a seasoned potter resonated with me that clay is more than a craft, it is an extension of your life and identity”. While Samuels has found his audience and he has made a name for himself with his gorgeous functional pieces, the journey hasn’t always been without obstacles. However, adversity and resiliency just happen to be adversaries in nearly every aspect of life, and Samuels explained that it just comes with the artistic territory; “One of the more common challenges is how much time do you put forth for results. Those results sometimes can be financial; are you reaping the benefits for your creative agenda? Are you making your work for your own fulfillment or for other audiences? Space can be an obstacle as well. I think the more space you have the more you can conjure ideas and create. What kind of a community of artist would you like to be around that can help influence your work? Other times you may not be aligned with the space and community around you. Resiliency and adversity is all just a part of the process of life, no difference in the creative arenas”.  

More importantly, Samuels would advise other artists to forget about the obstacles and to just make art, do what they love to do, and to be receptive to their passions; “If you have interest in pursuing creative arenas don’t worry about obstacles, they will always be there. If you’re interested in the arts, the best advice to give would be to dive into it and get your feet dirty. That will help you determine if it’s something you would like to pursue. There will be many periods within your lifetime when inner passions can reveal new interest if you’re receptive and intuitive. Hobbies can become careers and also encourage an invigorating lifestyle”. Acting as an inspiration to others and exposing people to the ceramics artform have been the contributions that Samuels feels are his most important in this industry; “I take much pride in being a ceramic artist because I have seen how I have inspired other to pursue the craft. I also feel creating pottery has and continues to open people’s eyes to this ancient craft that all civilizations throughout the seven continents have been a part of. My favorite experiences have been when I have the opportunity to showcase my work in gallery sales, craft events, and coffee shops. I also find it really special when someone is interested in a custom-made order and commission you for the work. I am really stoked when they trust your creative vision and allow the work to manifest”. Ivan Samuels is an incredible artist whose intriguing work captivates the audience with unique colors and form. He’s also playing a crucial role in passing this artform along to others and has truly embodied the community of sharing and inspiration that this industry has the capability to be. His gorgeous work will no doubt continue to inspire others in the ceramics community for years to come.

Educational/Personal Growth Opportunity

“I would encourage those interested in pursuing ceramics to keep an open mind, focus on creation and stay diligent.”
Now it’s your turn to be challenged:
“If you have interest in pursuing creative arenas don’t worry about obstacles they will always be there.  If you’re interested in the arts the best advice to give would be to dive into it and get your feet dirty.  That will help you determine if it’s something you would like to pursue.  There will be many periods within your lifetime when inner passions can reveal new interest if you’re receptive and intuitive.  Hobbies can become careers and also encourage an invigorating lifestyle.”  How do you dive in?  What can you do to immerse yourself in the creative process and your passions more?