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From Surgery to the Studio: Ceramic Artist Draws on Limitless Inspiration

West Hartford artist Patrick Rivera is a longtime member of Wesleyan Potters. Courtesy image

Among the featured works will be pieces from West Hartford artist Patrick Rivera, who also works as an operating room nurse.

Work by Patrick Rivera of Wesleyan Potters. Courtesy image

By Brenda Kestenbaum

On Friday, Nov. 25, Wesleyan Potters will host its 67th annual show and sale from its studio at 350 South Main Street, Middletown, showcasing arts and crafts created by dozens of local artists. Among them is ceramic artist Patrick Rivera of West Hartford, who traces his earliest memory of pottery back to the 1960s and a family vacation in Mexico.

On a visit to the village center, Rivera recalls seeing a potter using a kick wheel. “He had my dad lift me up and put me on his lap to feel the clay spinning around as his hands enfolded mine over the clay,” Patrick remembers. “My grandparents bought a lantern and some bowls he made which are still at our house in New Mexico.”

More than 50 years later, Patrick, a longtime member of Wesleyan Potters, finds immense pleasure in ceramic arts, drawing inspiration from the world around him and his professional life as an operating room nurse at the West Hartford Surgery Center. He has even used tools of his trade, experimenting with discarded parts of unused and cleaned intravenous lines, ports and product packaging supports to create patterns in clay.

Rivera is excited by the unpredictability of inspiration. “There’s something seductive about knowing I’m going along with my day to day and suddenly without expectation the most innocuous thing could become what inspires the drive to create,” he says. “It’s usually something in nature: a swirl in the wood, an oddly broken piece of granite, a metal picnic table or words to a song I’m moved by.”

Work by Patrick Rivera of Wesleyan Potters. Courtesy image

Rivera draws parallels between his art and his vocation, most notably in the ever-changing process of treating patients and molding clay. “Work in the operating room is primarily focused on patient safety while at the same time constantly prioritizing what’s needed and when,” he shares. “It’s being alert to the almost imperceptible changes in sounds, voices and ‘vibe’ of the room while quickly interpreting what that means for the patient, the procedure, or what’s happening with anesthesia. I think the one skill that translates to pottery making is the prioritizing of what is needed next or what’s changed that makes something else a priority that was moments before lower down on the list. It’s a constantly changing process where what needs to be addressed may change as a result of what the clay is being influenced by.”

When asked what it means to him to have his artwork used or displayed in someone’s home, Rivera is quick to smile. “That someone has used my work to adorn and decorate their home, or to drink and eat from, means my purpose for creating is realized. I don’t think an artist could ask for a better legacy than realizing purpose.”

For more information on the show and sale, visit wesleyanpotters.com.

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