Eric Nelsen assembles many diverse objects and images into his sculptures. He uses wood fire techniques, coupled with cast figures from popular culture, that combines elements of Japanese ceramics, American consumer culture, and modern European painting, which force the viewer to investigate. He might use an African mask head, a Tang dynasty horse, numerous archaic vessels, a figure with a posture from the 19th-century French painter, Ingres and a scale model of Noguchi’s “Black Sun” sculpture (all in the same piece).
Early in his career, Eric Nelsen traveled to Japan to study traditional kiln building and ceramic techniques. After returning to the United Sates in 1976, Nelsen built one of the first anagama kilns in the country. Anagama is a technique in which ceramic sculptures are fired, using wood to fuel the kiln, for a week temperatures reaching 2500°F. Over the course of days in the kiln, the pieces, not otherwise glazed, are covered with molten wood ash that builds up into colors that run from gray to brick.
In 1978, Nelsen established a studio in Seattle and in 1981, he returned to Japan to work as an apprentice to Kaneshge Michiaki in Bizen. Since 1985, he has maintained a studio anagama kiln on Vashon Island, WA.