TRENDER: Three Wheel Studio’s Dwo Wen Chen

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


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Ceramicist Dwo Wen Chen opens Three Wheel Studio, a gallery in Providence's Fox Point.

Who are the Rhode Islanders leading in arts, fashion, food, and style? They're Trenders, and GoLocalProv offers glimpses of the people you most want to know on the scene. This week we feature a place full of imaginative pottery and other works of art, Three Wheel Studio. The recently opened studio is run by ceramicist Dwo Wen Chen.

Homegrown factor: Attended RISD

What brought you to Providence and pottery?

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I came here to go to RISD. I heard about the school all the way in Taipei, Taiwan and back then it was quite a treat to be able to just come over here and go to an arts school rather than (a school) in science or a medical field. My mother, my family has been very supportive in that front so I always have that on my mind. I had come here with the idea of one day being a very famous painter and at my graduation show I couldn't show any of my paintings, but a couple of independent study pieces in ceramics. I managed to have some clients for that--so it's really out of necessity, how I got into the ceramics field. I was young and I needed to find a career in order to stay here because I like living in the states very much. As an immigrant I had all kinds of wonderful ideas about what my life was going to be at that time.

Could you describe the work you feature in your gallery?

I really don't have a set idea of what my ceramic work should be. It's always whatever inspires me and the ideas seem to come to me at any odd times and sometimes really often and sometimes none. So the work is very free-spirited because I don't have a certain set idea of what the ceramic work should be like. I have an idea first, get inspired, say by a scenery, by an animal sitting in a certain way, by a bird that I see flying in a certain way, by some cartoon, Japanese animations, certain faces. And since I'm in the ceramic pottery making business, every time I see something that just a little bit triggers my interest, my immediate thought is "how do I apply it to ceramic work, how do I make it interesting and functional," which is a top priority in my work. I don't intend to be making artwork. My work is craft. A craftsperson I think by definition is making something that is utilitarian.

Who and what has influenced you and your work?

All the old masters. Salvador Dali, Van Gogh especially, and Mone, all these old masters. But (also) the contemporary potters, there's one Minnesota potter called Linda Christianson, and this Canadian potter called Hayne Bayless. They both influenced me a lot in terms of form and shape of the work and the sensibility, the color of what would be pleasing to the eyes and all the senses.

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The eclectic and interesting pottery on display (and for sale) at Three Wheel Studio in Providence.

How would you describe the art scene in Providence? What have been the challenges and joys of opening a new studio in Providence?

It's very vibrant and there are many different schools--not the traditional schools, but different schools of art communities: AS220, Gallery Night, Foundry Artists...These are all different groups of artists that are doing different type of work. I'm sort of ambigious in my attitude towards the convenience of the arts community in Providence. In one way it's of course very abundant--it's very easy, you know, to locate artists--but on another hand it can be very blase about some probably very interesting new ideas or new upcoming artists who do not have the skills or the connections yet to really develop. And I think the community is a little cruel about that, about new and upcoming artists, in my opinion. Because they seem to think that everything has been done here in Providence because so many people are doing so many different things.

The challenge of course is to generate enough interest in customers in my gallery and since this is a one-person enterprise I'm facing all kinds of problems with a start-up company: the funds, management, organizational details, all of that. But it's a good challenge, and since I'm getting a lot of publicity I really have good hope for the future of this gallery.  I'm not sure why there isn't such a gallery like this already that only features primarily ceramic arts. My hope is for it to become a known and respected ceramic gallery. I hope that I can select and represent potters and ceramicists that are worthy of the attention of the community.

Do you have advice for aspiring young artists?

You have to stay true to your ideas. It seems like a passe kind of phrase but you really have to stay true to your own ideas. But also be open-minded to other people's opinions and advice and be willing to absorb all kinds of skills and mediums, I think is really important. Had I thought I could not do anything but be a painter before and only done oil painting, and ignored other types of functional, three dimensional art, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now, which is very satisfying.

Three Wheel Studio is located at 436 Wickenden Street, Providence. It is featured on Gallery Night, here.

For more Arts coverage, don't miss GoLocalTV, fresh every day at 4pm and on demand 24/7, here.


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