Art Q&A: Ceramic artist Shane Lutzk works to spread awareness about type 1 diabetes

A ceramics class at the Kansas City Academy turned Shane Lutzk on to the idea of working with clay as a career.

Lutzk, who went on to study at the Kansas City Art Institute, found working with his hands helped relieve the stress of living with type 1 diabetes.

His large-scale works were recently on display at Kansas City’s Haw Contemporary gallery and are included in a collection at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The 27-year-old artist, who is an instructor in ceramics and digital art at Eastern Illinois University, was recently invited to create work for the permanent collection of the Savona Ceramics Museum in Italy.

Kansas City Spaces: What is it about clay that you like?

Shane Lutzk: I like being able to work with my hands and create large scale works that can be monuments, as well as interacting with the interior of architectural layouts.

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Shane Lutzk creates large-scale ceramic art. Judy Revenaugh

KCS: Why do you enjoy the large works?

SL: I have always been interested in architecture. The large scale work becomes its own architectural element. I am very fascinated by it because it interacts with the human scale and promotes civic interaction.

KCS: Why the rings?

SL: The universal symbol of diabetes is the circle. I’m trying to create awareness about this disease and how we can create a cure. Being able to work in this medium and express myself as an individual is an outlet for me to not worry and carry all the stress from living with type 1 diabetes. When I step on the potter’s wheel, all those worries and stresses are gone.

KCS: Do you have a favorite piece?

SL: My favorite was a large scale ring installation at Haw Contemporary, which signified how living with type 1 diabetes manipulates my body in different ways. With the installation, there was a series of 35 rings which were all hand-manipulated. In the kiln firing they experienced warping and twisting and different knots. That is, metaphorically speaking, how my disease stresses my body. So, I was acting as if the work was my personal body.

KCS: What does it feel like to have such personal work out there?

SL: It feels great. I’m really trying to create awareness. When I started creating the rings, I did not know ahead of time it was the universal symbol for type 1 diabetes. That occurred subconsciously. I started to do more research about cells and how I could create new ideas for different forms with the rings. I really tried to develop the work and incorporate this idea into bigger installations.

KCS: What advice do you give your students about finding inspiration?

I tell my students to try to travel as much as you can to get inspiration for your work. It comes from the world and from nature. They may find some texture in a different country or landscape they could incorporate onto the surfaces of their objects. What is most inspiring to me is both historic and contemporary architecture, but they might find some other place to recreate in their own way.