Art in motion: Sculptor to make piece of art as audience watches

In front of a swarming crowd, Bar Shacterman will create an original clay sculpture in record time next week, using just clay and an oversize hammer.

Shacterman, a resident of Fair Oaks, outside Sacramento, will be featured at the opening reception of the Ceramics Annual of America exhibition and fair, to be held at Fort Mason in San Francisco from Sept. 9-12.

Bar Shacterman creates a sculpture on the spot for his “Clayscape” series Aug. 21 at Krowswork Gallery in Oakland, similar to what he will do for the opening of the Ceramics Annual of America. photos/alonzo young

Acccompanied by live music, Shacterman will likely spend just 30 minutes sculpting a large, new figurative piece. After the reception, he’ll fire the work in his home kiln for 48 hours and then add it to his ongoing “Clayscape” series.

“Clayscape” depicts combinations of landscape, seascape and cityscape with different textures and patterns. Ripe with sandlike clay and stones, the series is a vivid physical reminder of his past, Shacterman says.

The 45-year-old was born in Odessa, Russia, and immigrated to Israel at age 6. He fondly recalls his first steps on pristine Israeli beaches. “My first memories of Israel were the ocean, the sand dunes and architecture of the beach,” he says, adding, “Coming from a very cold country to a place that was almost always sunny and beautiful created a lot of happiness in me.”

Though the natural shapes of Israel inspired him, Shacterman didn’t begin sculpting until he discovered ceramics, long after he’d left the country.

He grew up painting instead, studying at the Academy of Art in Tel Aviv. After he completed his mandatory army service, he designed lighting for the national Israeli theater, Habima. At age 19 he met his future wife, Ruth, in Jerusalem.

The couple didn’t immediately begin dating but stayed in touch as they both spent the next few years separately traveling the world. After stops in Europe and India, Shacterman began studying traditional carpentry in Japan. It was there he discovered his interest in clay work.

“I saw a sculpture artist demonstration and thought, ‘Wow! I want to do that,’ ” he says.

He packed up and moved to New York, where he reconnected with Ruth. New York was too cold for Shacterman’s liking, so the couple moved West and started a family — they have two children, Shawn, 13, and Sarah, 8. Living in Fair Oaks since the mid-1990s, Shacterman enjoys working in the sunny outdoors on his unique, occasionally avant-garde sculpture series.

Along with “Clayscape,” he also has created a series of bronze-toned planets, eerie childlike sprites and more abstract structural pieces. He’ll have a piece from the “Sprites” collection on display at the ceramics exhibition and fair.

Every sculpture Shacterman creates is fired in his homemade kilns, set to upward of 2,300 degrees. (He makes his own tools, too.) “I like how you can control the spark that heats the work,” he says. “You control clay shape and dimensions and energy.”

He also has a few abstract pieces specifically inspired by his Jewish background, though in actuality, he says, every piece somehow connects back to his heritage.

“Everything I do is related to it; we cannot go away from what we are,” he says. “When I think about Israel, I dream of when I was a teenager, sitting and drinking coffee all night with friends in the Old City of Jerusalem.”

Ceramics Annual of America’s opening reception with performance by Bar Shacterman takes place 5:30-9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 9. The festival is Sept. 10-12 at Fort Mason in San Francisco. $5-$45. Details on Shacterman at