Meet Tom Hubbard

Meet Tom Hubbard

2019-2020 ceramics residents

SY: HI! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? What department are you working in?

My name is Tom Hubbard. I’m an artist working mostly in ceramics and public art projects. I’m pretty new to the area and happy to have the opportunity to get involved with The Steel Yard.

SY: What pronouns do you use?

He, him, his

SY: Where are you from?

That’s a tough one. I’ve been a bit of a gypsy. I grew up in the Midwest but I’ve called Maine, Indiana, Ohio, The Netherlands, and Georgia home before my family and I moved back to New England about two years ago.

SY: We get this question a lot… how would YOU define Industrial Arts?

I’m probably one of the few residents old enough to have taken “industrial arts” classes in school. So, I tend to think of Industrial Arts as mechanical drawing or the woodshop class from middle and high school. But, that’s a pretty narrow view. I work across disciplines with a variety of materials on a wide range of projects, some functional some not, and I don’t like to label or put things in boxes. It could be a fabricated metal sculpture, a ceramic tea bowl, a bronze casting, or a drawing in my book. Or is it products and items made specifically for industry or produced for the masses?

SY: What have you been working on?

I’ve been busy in the ceramics studio, mostly hand-building but also a bit of work on the wheel. I’ve got a large series of slab constructions that were inspired by swage blocks and industrial castings that I call Future Relics. These abstracted forms can be read as old machine parts, industrial fittings, or organic forms like the bones of an animal carcass. These sculptures incorporate stamped symbols and other incised markings and are fired in the soda kiln giving them a sense of age and mystery. I enjoy the sense of ambiguity in this work that allows the viewer to interpret the forms, their markings, and their meanings.

As a break from the more precise slab building series, I’ve also been playing with the extruder which is an underutilized tool in the studio. I’ve been extruding these long 5” diameter tubes or pipes. Working very quickly and spontaneously, I cut the pipes into pieces at random angles and reassemble them into these freestanding undulating forms with holes, rivets, and perforated sections.

I’ve also been busy in the metal shop and taken part in some of the casting opportunities through the foundry. I’ve learned to make sand molds and had a couple of the Future Relics forms cast in iron and recently helped cast some wheel-thrown forms in aluminum for another series of works.

SY: Who are your greatest inspirations? What work influences your work?

My work is primarily inspired by my personal experiences, my response to a place, or trying to solve a problem. I make sense of things by making art. Most of my work is a visual record of me trying to wrap my head around a subject to better understand it. I did a large body of work about my father, a US Marine killed in Vietnam, after becoming a father myself. Another series exploring a derelict greenhouse in The Netherlands was my way of understanding the experience of immigrating to a foreign country. As a result of numerous relocations, my recent work has been exploring ideas transience, the ephemeral, and wayfinding.

SY: Do you show your work? Where can people see it/ buy it/ experience it?

I’m still relatively new to the area but I’ve recently shown work at the Umbrella Arts Center in Concord, MA, and had work selected for the Massachusetts State of Clay Biennial later this Fall. Last year, I showed at a commercial gallery in Birmingham, AL, and had a body of work added to the permanent collection of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art in Northeast Indiana. This sounds pretty scattered, but my work has been well received in university galleries which I need to start pursuing. Any leads?

SY: Can you tell us a little bit about your artistic practice?

My background is in graphic design and I spent about twenty years as a “hired gun” solving visual problems for my clients primarily print media: annual reports, identity programs, packaging, and branding. To keep some balance (and my sanity) I always maintained a body of “personal work” – ceramics, photography, and mixed media works. Over the years, working with a variety of materials in different disciplines just merged and mingled into a set of skills for solving visual problems. The design training still informs much of my practice. That clean minimal approach, “less is more” thinking and the belief that the best solutions often come from the problem is deeply ingrained. So, there’s still a lot of design in my work but I wouldn’t call myself a designer but, …it’s not uncommon to come across typography, gridlines maps, and other graphic symbols in my work.

Over the last few years, I’ve been dividing my time between the clay studio and public art commissions. So I’ve been able to create a ceramic installation for an art museum and hang gallery shows as well as design a system of benches and bike racks for downtown Cleveland, OH. I’ve also had the opportunity to share some of what I’ve learned by speaking at national conferences of arts organizations and leading university workshops.

SY: How did you find The Steel Yard? What were you doing before you joined the Residency Program?

Before the residency, my family and I were living in Augusta, GA. I was working on a ceramic commission for the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art and public art projects in both Cleveland and Columbus, OH. My studio was the top floor of an old and very unimproved handkerchief factory in downtown Augusta.

SY: Have you ever worked in a shared studio before? What do you think?

In the past, I’ve had both private and shared studios. I’m perfectly fine inside my own head, as scary as that may be, and I’ve loved having my own space but working in a vacuum can be challenging. I actually enjoy the shared studio and the interaction with others it provides.

SY: Have you ever taken a Steel Yard course? Can you tell us about your experience?

Not yet, but I’m planning on it.

SY: Have you ever Instructed/ or been a TA for a Steel Yard course? Can you tell us about your experience?

I’ve taught and led workshops but not yet at the Steel Yard – I’m currently working on a proposal for a ceramics class.

SY: Have you ever worked on public art? Can you tell us about your experience?

I’ve been fortunate enough to work on several different public art projects. I got involved in public art while I was living in Cleveland. In my first project, I was commissioned to design a series of bike racks as part of a streetscape project. The street was in this kind of retro, shabby sleek place lined with restaurants, cafés, second-hand book shops, and antique stores. So, I hung out for a few days, talked with shop owners and people on the street, had lunch, drank coffee, and just tried to get a feel for the place. This “immersion research” as I like to call it helped me develop a solution that was specific to the street and that place. The bike racks took inspiration from the antique chairs I saw in the shops. Using just the chair backs, I developed five different designs based on classic Shaker, Queen Anne, Louis XIV, Bentwood, and Farmhouse style chairs. We produced 25 bike racks and installed them in groupings of 2-3 racks along a 12-15 block stretch of the street. The racks are completely functional and when not in use add a bit of playfulness to the street with their strong shapes and bold colors. I learned a lot on this project and realized it satisfied both the artist and the designer in me.

SY: Have you ever attended a Steel Yard event? Can you tell us about your experience?

I attended the Halloween Iron Pour last year for the first time and had a blast. Since then, I’ve been able to take part in other events, firing at pours, and always have a great time.

SY: When you’re not in the studio working- what do you do in your free time?

We bought an old, old house that that was built by a blacksmith, pretty cool, right? I’ve been working on the house building dry stacked stone walls, planting gardens, and landscaping. I also enjoy spending time with my family and our dog, Jackson, who is often with me at The Steel Yard.

SY: We talk a lot about ‘Yardies’ here- curious, what does YARDIE mean you to?

To me, it means being part of the tribe or the creative community here.

SY: What are you MOST excited for this upcoming year?

The end of the Corona shutdown and getting back to work in the studio.

SY: What do you think will be your greatest CHALLENGE?

Regaining momentum after the shutdown.


SY: Favorite food?

Just about anything off a charcoal grill.

SY: Favorite movie?

That’s a tough one. Gotta be Caddy Shack or Monty Python and the Holy Grail

SY: Favorite books?

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Tim O’Brien’s, The Things They Carried

SY: Favorite artist/maker?

Too many to list but here goes: Matisse, Calder, Noguchi, Paul Rand, Richard Sera, Vangough, Rothco, Ray & Charles Eames, Jasper Johns, Frank Gehry, Brancusi, Maya Lin, Bernd & Hilla Becher…

SY: What skill would you like to master?

Firing the soda kiln at The Steel Yard

SY: Favorite tool in the shop?

The clay extruder

SY: Annnnnnnd finally, is there anything else you’d like the Yardie community to know about you?

I taught my two sons to skip stones as young boys and told them it was necessary to keep the earth from rotating off its axis.

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