Dean Roper is a New York based ceramicist whose work is highly referential, with nods to pop culture, sports and food. Recently, we collaborated on a ceramic ball washer, choosing to honor a classic golf motif with Dean's signature touch. In addition to the resulting work, we interviewed Mr. Roper. Below is part of our conversation:
WHIM GOLF: Explain who you are?
DEAN ROPER: Grew up in the Midwest, into sports my whole life. Having that upbringing, was a huge part of my life. When I found art, in high school, I realized that I was good and liked both. As I began to play less sports, I discovered that sports was finding there way into my art work. For me, it often comes down to wanting to make people laugh, its allowed me to form my life the way I want it to.
WHIM GOLF: When did your work start to take this direction?
DEAN ROPER: When I was in art school, I struggled with having to please people. In ceramics it is typically very conservative and for me that got old very fast. I was really into the idea of doing everything that I was not supposed to do, starting to obsess over that. I started making bongs and little pipes after learning how to make all of these really beautiful objects. I hated the way that really clean and beautiful objects looked, there was something disingenuous about them, my direction took the exact opposite of that.
WHIM GOLF: How do you decide to work on an idea?
DEAN ROPER: I wish I made everything I thought of. There’s an idea that will keep coming back into my mind, with that consistency I have a tendency to follow those ideas a bit further. My brain has a way of filtering through things, if something is worthwhile I will remember “oh shit, I need to make that weird cat bong or whatever.” With clay it is really awesome because you can put it together really fast and see if it works or not.
WHIM GOLF: What interested you about this work and collaborating with Whim?
DEAN ROPER:Anything sport related I am game, I am obsessed with the little nuances of sports I find really interesting. I don’t play golf, I played as a kid and feel like if I picked it back up I would be pretty good at it. This project allowed me to experience golf again in a weird way, and gave me the chance to create the golf balls that I would want to play with. It was so much fun to make that stuff.
WHIM GOLF: How do you view nativity in your work? The balance with refinement?
DEAN ROPER: For me it definitely changes with each object and I make both a little bit. Working through each object, and getting a sense of what I want the end result to look like, the needs change during that process - but this balance is something I think about often. For the ball washer it felt important to make it look a bit more naive, because it is a tight form, an icon form on the golf course. I really want to push that silhouette and just really warp it and make it look like this really weird and crude object.
WHIM GOLF: What is next?
DEAN ROPER: Right now I am turning into more interior design, shifting more toward whole interiors and I am re-modeling an old house and incorporating my ceramic work and friends work to have as much fun as possible. Also working on a van project to work on a house on wheels. Figuring out how that’s all working, its something that I will continue. I have wanted to get into interiors for a while and finally have the opportunity, continuing my ceramic work and entering it into the interiors.