THE SDSFF IS HONORED TO ANNOUNCE JOE SKOBY AS THE SAN DIEGO SURF FILM FESTIVAL’S FEATURED ARTIST FOR 2020!
Perhaps it has always been a truism, but in these times the most authentic form of art is the art of life. Even before the current situation our world was in the continual process of contracting into the confines of a series of screens. Computers, televisions and most of all, phones. In the face of this narrowing being an artist of one’s own life is a beautiful thing indeed. Joe Skoby is an artist in many senses of the word. From the lines he draws across the face of waves to the organic forms he shapes on his potter’s wheel to the food he helps produce and serve at local eatery El Pescador, you can feel the care and passion he brings to everything he does. Perhaps Joe’s greatest art though, is his life. Spend some time around him in any number of settings and eventually you’ll meet his lovely wife and children. Whether you’re at the beach, his outdoor art studio or a gallery opening Joe brings the warmth of his family and life with him. Creating happiness and balance in ones life is the true art of living and Joe Skoby exemplifies it. We’re so pleased to be working with Joe for this year’s San Diego Surf Film Festival and we wanted our friends and community to get to know him a little better. Look for Joe at this year’s Festival. He’ll be the one with the biggest smile and a couple of children trundling along.
-Keith Boyd interviewing Joe Skoby
1. When I look at your work I see a degree of the Japanese artistic aesthetic Wabi Sabi. Is that a conscious influence and if so help define that term or feeling as it relates to your work.
I think in working with ceramics there is in some ways a surrendering to the material and the elements. Its a delicate balance of controlling the clay and color as well as allowing those things to be born in their own unique way. Both as the clay spins on the wheel and as it reaches temperatures above 2,000 degrees fahrenheit, things can go in ways that were not necessarily as planned. And often times in that gone awry , a higher level of beauty manifests. Some of my favorite pieces and “ah-ha!” moments were born from mistakes on some step of the journey. I think that ceramics is a great example of the Wabi Sabi aesthetic in the acceptance of the imperfection.
2. What drew you to ceramics and pottery? I know from previous conversations that you have a connection to the Mingei Museum.
I first started with ceramics as a freshman in high school. Some of seniors encouraged me to take the class so I just followed their lead as it was the cool thing to do. I was immediately drawn to the wheel and once i began it just became something i couldn’t get enough of. A feeling I’m sure all surfers can relate to. As for what about it drew me in, at that time I probably couldn’t have given you a profound answer aside from it being fun. It is still something I contemplate quite a bit though and as the years go on, that meaning just seems to keep expanding. Again, something i think all surfers can relate to.
As far as the Mingei connection…I ended up not going to art school (a decision i both regret and am very grateful for) and studied Language and History. After my degree I got back into working with clay at the UCSD Craft Center until its unfortunate closure some years later (the Craft Center will be re-opening soon however and it looks to be amazing). I was frustratingly left without a place to fire any of my work for quite a while until I serendipitously met Taylor Smythe, a member of the family who had recently inherited the estate of Martha Longnecker, founder of the Mingei in San Diego. Taylor saw my work and heard about me not having a kiln and spoke with her family. The result was basically carte blanche access to Martha’s studio during the time it would take for them to get the estate in order and ready for donation to UCSD (2 years I believe it ended up being). That was where I learned about how to fire kilns and mix glazes through Paul Linsley. I am very grateful for having been given that opportunity for a long list of reasons.
3. The seashore landscape in La Jolla is an amazing wonderland of weather sculpted rock and the waves are among the most beautiful on the West Coast. How does that sense of place influence your work? Do you find that your surfing and time in the ocean influences your pottery or approach to making it?
I really enjoy the idea of how the places in which we live shape us and what we do. I am in constant awe of the beauty of our local landscape on the coast as well as in the deserts. The colors and shapes of the rocks, plants and water in both places are very inspiring to me.
I once had a friend hang out with me as I worked on the wheel. At the end of that time he told me that now he understands why I surf the way I do. That to me was a really cool thought on the connectedness of the two.
4. I recently watched the film “Free Form” that Jack Coleman directed which gave viewer a glimpse into your surf/artistic/family lives. It struck me that these aspects of your life are all of an integrated whole. Is that essential balance of those ingredients an important aspect of life for you? Is it something that just happened naturally or is it something you cultivated?
That balance is important. I think it happened both naturally and was something I cultivated. I could go on and on about the importance of this, but it’s primarily about recognizing the importance of it and working on it.
5. Give us a “Perfect Joe Skoby Day”. Who are you with? What do you do? Perfect menu? Soundtrack?
High pressure weather system with south swell in the water and lots of sand on the beach. Down at the beach all day with my wife Cristiana and two girls Solea and Francesca. A perfect blend of time spent surfing, playing with the girls, connecting with Cristiana and our local community. The solitude of hanging in our own little sand patch corner mixed with seeing everyone from town enjoying all of the elements we are blessed with. Life doesn’t get any better than that for me.