I use it as a platform to address real life is concerns, and experiences. To shed light on addiction , on sleep, and to commemorate a friends life and passing. It manifests in ceramics and printmaking, but the documentation of the artwork will reach more people than the vessels I make ever would.
The picture or video of the piece or process is valued more today than the art I create or technique employed. I have fought against this by fostering community through ceramics and local engagement. Ultimately, ceramics should be experienced, touched, visceral and felt. They are so much more than a picture of a pot on a computer screen.
Art has the power to create conversation, provoke emotional responses, and bring people together. By challenging social stigmas and expectations I aim to create works that are empowering expressions of truth. Art helps me find meaning in the obstacles I face.
It takes courage to walk towards an uncertain future, but for me that feels like freedom.
My father past away from cancer right after I left Medalta, so that experience was lost in the grieving process for awhile. My adventure at Medalta was a month long mentorship with Christopher Reid Flock in July 2018. My incredible experience at Medalta set the tone for my ceramic work for the next few years. Inspiring me to continue educating myself on atmospheric firing techniques and apply for grad school. Learning from the other artists as you watch them work in person is very different than instagram right? Our group was asking lots of questions and we were helping each other through feedback.
The group planned our time firing the soda kiln so we could get multiple firings. The work that I had came out of the soda kiln transformed from a bisque cup into a spiritual vessel of influence. It was crazy how much spraying soda in the kiln at a certain time in the firing process, transforms some pieces and ruins others.
I was shocked at how fast the clay dried in the prairie dry heat. My mother’s family was from the Regina, Saskatchewan area, so it was cool learning more about where my grandmother grew up in Canada. I was connecting with part of my cultural heritage and it was magical. Unfortunately, we were supposed to be the first group of artists staying in the BMO Artist Lodge. Construction had fallen behind schedule from the holiday week in July and we are sorry but you need to find your own housing. That part was a shit show for me. I stayed in a hotel across town and then eventually rented a place at the college for a decent rate. I did sleep in my car a few nights and I was cranky about it.
I’m reflecting back on my month long mentorship residency with Christopher Reid Flock. Located at the SHAW International Centre for Contemporary Ceramics part of the Medalta International Artists in Residence (MIAIR) Program located within the Historic Clay District, in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada.
My family wanted me to fly back to Vermont but I had my car and a carload full of tools and ceramic work in Medicine Hat, Alberta. I was determined to drive back
Tony Hansen and Tim the vice president took care of all my belongings and shipped them to Montreal for me. I also ordered a truck load of clay.
I went back to Vermont and spent time with family. My father was waiting for me to come home so he could say goodbye.
and bought a Bailey propane gas kiln so I could continue learning about atmospheric firing. After spending the summer learning about high fire clay bodies such as Plainsman’s P700 a beautiful porcelain clay body. It’s consistency is soft enough to use right out of the box. Unlike Polar Ice which is finicky and needs a few steps before you can start making with it. Both clay bodies have translucent qualities. The P700 glows slightly blue after a reduction firing with natural gas. Polar Ice is a mid fire cone 6 clay body, which can be fired to high fire temperatures in a gas/wood fired kiln. It has more of a white/yellow glow to its translucent fired form.
Back on Vancouver Island I missed a few opportunities to fire my ceramic work in a wood firing Anagama kiln. My exposure had been limited to pit firing, raku firing, and electric/oxidation firing. My home studio had two electric kilns. After buying several used kilns, and receiving a grant from the Nanaimo Art Council. I was able to afford my first used kiln with a digital controller. This technology made me not fear the firing process so much. I think a certain amount of fear is healthy when using a kiln, that has a month’s worth of your work in it.
Learning to use a kiln sitter, which is a semi-manual safety mechanism that flips the power off once the pyrometric cone bends enough. Indicating that the kiln has reached the appropriate temperature. my kiln had a lot of use from other people I mentored or needed kiln space in the community. Let’s just say when potters get impatient and fire clay that isn’t dry it becomes like a grenade in a kiln (sometimes). A student of mine learned a valuable lesson, when work gets rushed and impatience wins… you jeopardize not only your own work but anyone else’s work in the kiln. The lid had some S cracks from a bad screw/bracket design and that explosion ruined the kilns efficiency.
I replaced most of the kiln parts like fuses and it still wouldn’t work. This was a huge problem for me because I fired all my work in my home studio, as I was still finishing art school. Eventually I was able to definitely test/prove that it was in fact the cracks in the lid that prevented the kiln from reaching temp. Trial and error learning takes time. Not only was I in Art school but my only income came from selling my work in a couple art galleries and a local coffee shop.
Donna from Vancouver Island Pottery Supply introduced me to the President of Plainsman Clays. I pitched him an idea of allowing me to help them build a social media presence. Initially he said no, because he needed to get permission from the board. I offered to do it for free or until they had time to evaluate my proposal and assign a value to it. It took a few months but eventually the board understood that this service was important to the customers and could be a tool for the future. After months of working with Plainsman Clays, I was able to afford a new Cone Art Kiln.
My first MFA installation at Vermont College of Fine Arts had a segment of collaborations with three of the artists at Medalta. Erin Berry, Steven Osterlund, and Alexander Borghesan. That speaks to the cohesion that Mentor Christopher Reid Flock had achieved with us. He encouraged us to PUSH through our discomfort, fears, and inadequacies.
I had the pleasure of touring the new BMO Artist Lodge. I cooked dinner for all of us, and then we watched a movie together in the new lodge. It was really an honor to cook my family’s fresh marinara sauce just cherry tomatoes, basil, and garlic. I prepared Caprese salad a classic dish from Capri, Italy made with fresh mozzarella, Basil, and tomatoes. My father Antonino Di Ruocco was a world famous chef from Capri, Italy. This was my way to show my dad that he was in my thoughts.
Medium & Materials:
Porcelain, hand blown glass, LED light
15" x 7" x 31"
I was deeply moved by “how understanding our past informs our present and, more importantly, our future.” As I researched Whitman’s work, I loved seeing how he celebrated everyone; even the “The opium-eater reclines with rigid head and just-open’d lips” from his poem “Song of Myself.” This poem is often used in the recovery community to teach addicts/alcoholics that they need to forgive and love themselves. I also identified with his ability to be of service to others in an advocacy capacity. “You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.” I reach global audiences through contemporary activist art that touches people’s emotions and gives a voice to those who are most vulnerable. I believe graduate studies are reserved for people who aspire to change the world, and this is what I am doing.
I went to the mic and asked for the listeners to send me their top picks from the first 500 episodes and what part of the episodes really made and impact. For some of the people who wrote in I was able to call them and have a short conversation, and for others I read their email. Either way, this episode is dear to my heart. I hope you enjoy it.
Ciro: I will reflect on this later… Right now I’m off to demo for my friends at The Mud Studio
It was a very special honor to be a guest on The Potters Cast with my mentor Paul Blais.. talking about mentorship.
Ciro Di Ruocco is an emerging visual artist/curator, splitting his time between studios in Nanaimo, BC, Canada and his hometown of Duxbury, Vermont. Ciro’s work in ceramics is complimented by an affinity for printmaking and surface/ texture design. Ciro combines a utilitarian sensibility with a contemporary street art aesthetic, fusing his own imagery to create works that are inspired by our daily lives. Ciro is currently an MFA candidate at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
‘Ceramics brought community into my life and I’m really grateful for that”
Anna Dimoff · CBC News ·
Ciro Di Ruocco, a ceramic artist and recovering addict based in Nanaimo, B.C., uses his work as a form of advocacy for the opioid crisis and other issues that impact his life like sleep disorders. (Ciro Di Ruocco/Facebook)
After a decade of battling addiction, artist Ciro Di Ruocco found community and peace at the pottery wheel.
Di Ruocco got serious about ceramic art when he was in recovery in Nanaimo, B.C., for oxycontin and fentanyl addiction.
“When the clay is spinning at the wheel I’m not in stuck my head, I’m just thinking about what’s in front of me,” he told North By Northwest producer Matthew Parsons.
“I felt the most present when I was at the pottery wheel, and I felt like I walked away — sometimes — with something to show for what I did.”
Di Ruocco’s work is his form of advocacy, and a way to express the powerlessness he felt when his friends were dying around him of overdoses.
The community he formed while living in Nanaimo helped him feel like a “functioning member of society,” he said, after years of isolating addiction.
“What I found through art was I had something interesting to talk about and I was able to reach an older group of people that I now have this common language with,” he said. “Ceramics brought community into my life and I’m really grateful for that.”