A Resident Artist at the Steel Yard from 2006-2012, Nidal Fakhouri has continued creating pottery and, most recently, tiles in Providence’s Nicholson File Studio. Seven years out, we asked Nidal to reflect on his time at the Yard–and how his experience as a Resident informs his current work.
SY: How did you find yourself passionate about visual arts as a life pursuit? What drew you to work with tiles and ceramics?
I always did ceramics. I never thought of it as me doing visual art, I just liked making pottery on the wheel.
When I came to Providence and found the Steel Yard, I realized that people were visual artists and potters. I had never really thought about that before, I never really met any artists until I came to the Steel Yard. During my time as a Resident, I tried to think of ways that I could do more interesting projects working with people and the community, and that’s what drew me to tile. Now, I am working to sustainably grow a crew of people making tiles for the Providence community.
SY: Can you describe your time as a Resident Artist at the Steel Yard? How did the Yard influence your creative process and visual art practice?
I first came to the Steel Yard in 2006. I was 24; I was simply looking for a pottery studio, and I had never really worked in a community arts center before. I was heavily influenced by the seriousness of my fellow Residents: everybody seemed to be working together for the community. I was initially both intimidated and very motivated.
I learned a lot from the Steel Yard Ceramics Dept. Founder David Allyn. I began working as an instructor, then I completed the Ceramics Fellowship and managed the department for a year or two.
The Steel Yard established me having a creative process; I didn’t have one before that, really. It was very undefined. Years of thinking about how to make projects that center around community-building and transfer of education are the ideals that the Steel Yard gave me.
Now that your Steel Yard Residency is over, what does your artistic practice look like?
For my six years as a Resident, I would make pottery, take it to craft fairs, and sell it. Eventually, through all the connections and skills that I built at the Steel Yard, I started doing a lot more project-based work. This began as commissions for restaurants, both North and Big King (run by Providence chef James Mark): plates, bowls, cups…Then, I started doing tile projects and that’s pretty much where my practice is now.
I also have a full-time job working as a software developer for the Weather Channel (I work on their iOS app). With that full-time work, I decided, maybe I can think about nonfunctional work I want to make. I thought back to the Steel Yard—specifically, community building and Public Projects—and established a crew called Providence Tile Works. We’ve done four tile projects so far: one downtown in front of the Dean Hotel, one for the Steel Yard in Armory Park (chess tables), one at a private residence (a tall fountain backsplash), and one at the “wedding cake house” (a grand Victorian house on Broadway being renovated into a bed and breakfast), which I just finished this December.
Looking ahead, I see myself continuing to make functional pottery on a commission basis. Ideally, I will be in the Valley making tiles for a long time.
On Instagram: @nidalfakhouri
On my website: http://fakpot.com/
Nicholson File Studios (my current studio), has two annual open studios: https://www.instagram.com/nicholsonfilepvd/?hl=en