January’s Local Artist Series Presents Jonathan Pacheco

January’s Local Artist Series Presents Jonathan Pacheco

Behind every artist is a continuum of experiences that build upon each other to create the distinctive creative signature that makes that artist unique.  For Chicago ceramic artist Jonathan Pacheco, those experiences are building blocks, manifested in material, process, and concept.  “I see the growth of self as a layering process over time,” he explains, “and I try to translate that into an environment expressed in clay.”  This Chicago artist and teacher strives to communicate the nature of the human condition in his work.


Working with his hands to form, collapse, knead, and rebuild clay, Pacheco connects with experiences in his own life.  He is intrigued by the concepts of time and layering. His sculptural pieces often feature a small human figure overpowered in a monolithic setting and evoke a sense of isolation.  The viewer is called to wonder what has preceded the moment in the scene. Pacheco says, “This series of works comes out of a period of depression in my own life and are an exploration of loneliness, even in the midst of other people.” 


With a BFA in Ceramics and Metalsmithing Jewelry from the University of Illinois Urbana, Champaign, Pacheco hoped to become a working artist with his own studio.  He found work at Alligator Clay in Baton Rouge, manufacturing clay.  This hands-on practice in the technical aspects of clay composition was a good learning experience for Pacheco that would serve him well as his artistry developed.


He returned to Chicago and found work as a jeweler. After being laid off in 2012, he saved enough money to take a throwing class at ClaySpace in Lisle.  “I actually didn’t know how to throw – all my work as an undergrad had been hand building because the studio didn’t have any wheels,” he says.  At ClaySpace, he and the instructor struck up a good rapport, sharing thoughts about life while they worked.  Pacheco accepted a position there as an intern and eventually began to teach.  “I never planned to become a teacher,” he says, “but I became aware that I was actually teaching in my interactions with others.”  Pacheco joined the faculty at LillStreet Art Center in Chicago in 2017 and continues to teach at ClaySpace.  He is also employed as a Ceramics Lab Coordinator at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove.

In addition to his sculptural work, Pacheco makes functional pieces that arise from his concept of time and layering.  In a series of tea bowls, he explores surface textures and slip designs.  Using atmospheric firing methods such as salt and wood, he appreciates natural imperfections. “The clay, the slip, the glaze – these are all layers in time representing the history of the piece,” he explains. “I use a fine mesh sandpaper to erode the final piece, exposing underlayers, phases in the piece’s past.”


Given that Pacheco’s guiding muse is the development of the human psyche, it is not surprising that his current work explores the human figure.  From the small clay blips in his sculptural pieces, the person is now emerging into a more detailed representation.  Much like Pacheco himself, the figures have evolved from a continuum of time.  “In a way,” says Pacheco, “we are each a unison of stories, drawn from the many people we meet in life.”

At Ceramic Supply Chicago’s Local Artist Series Workshop on January 12, Pacheco plans to demonstrate his tea bowl hand building process and his surface design techniques on some thrown pieces.  He will also talk about the fear of building large pieces and show one of his sculptural pieces in-progress.  Pacheco’s primary focus, however, will be his conversation with the participants.  “My primary focus in teaching,” he says, “is to get the students to think about what theylike and what they think.  I don’t want them to emulate me or any other artist.”  His focus on self-exploration first is vital to self-expression.  Certainly, Saturday’s workshop participants will come away enriched by their encounter with Jonathan Pacheco, ready to incorporate that experience into the layers of their own work.


To see Jonathan Pacheco, stop by

Ceramic Supply Chicago

January 12, 2019

10 a.m. – 3 p.m.



For more information about Jonathan Pacheco, visit http://www.jonpacheco.com.