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Stephen Fabrico Crafts One-of-a-Kind Ceramic Art

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Feats of Clay

 

Stephen Fabrico’s ceramic art runs from teapots to totems

Apart from four years in the Navy at the invitation of Uncle Sam (who drafted him), Stephen Fabrico, 59, has spent his entire adult life working with clay. Growing up on Long Island, he “even played with ceramics in high school,” he recalls. “There was just something about clay that attracted me.”

His Navy duty done, in 1974 Fabrico enrolled at SUNY New Paltz to study ceramics. “All I wanted to do was make pots,” he says. After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, the enterprising young ceramicist moved his BFA display directly from the college art gallery to the Rhinebeck Craft Fair. “I immediately got wholesale orders,” he says. “I was in business, and I didn’t even have a studio.”  That was quickly remedied when he found a small, very inexpensive place in Rosendale. “The secret is always to have a low overhead. Creativity is arrested when you have to think about how to pay the rent all the time,” Fabrico says, noting that although he didn’t much like being in the navy (“I hate taking orders”), his VA benefit meant that he graduated with no school loans to repay.

Fabrico married a fellow ceramic student, Sara Gast, and the couple purchased an Arts and Crafts-style house in Bloomington, near Rosendale — a house they chose because it had a large chicken coop they could convert into studio space. (Gast, who developed an allergy to clay, is now a floral designer.)

Fabrico’s work has evolved over the years. “You’d think I was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” he remarks. “I reinvent myself all the time. Somewhere along the line I started making big garden globes — some are 20 inches in diameter — and from that I developed component sculptures for the outdoors.”

Although he still makes conventional pots and such, he’s most enthusiastic these days about his ceramic totems, inspired by a carved wood one his wife bought at an auction. “I’ve always had a thing about totems,” Fabrico says. “But I realized I couldn’t make a totem in one piece, because you can’t fire them that way. So I came up with a concept to make them in sections and then slip them over an armature of a one-and-three-quarter-inch pipe to keep them stable.”

Fabrico finds inspiration in unexpected everyday objects, like the charcoal-burning Weber grills that he uses to mold his garden globes. “Part of a totem tapers to three inches,” he notes. “The form for that was one of those things you see in the supermarket aisle that says ‘Slippery when wet.’”

Fabrico welcomes visitors to his studio. Call 845-331-4760 or contact him at Whitemud48@aol.com. ●

Fabrico likes to use found objects in his work. The base of the totem at left is a hub from a tractor trailer. “It weighs 150 pounds so it adds stability,” the artist notes. Totems begin at $1200; birdhouses are about $75; the 18-inch “snake jar” runs $250. Teapots, which begin at $80, “pour really well because the spout joins the pot at the bottom instead of halfway up,” Fabrico says. “Some people use them for saki or even maple syrup.”

 

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