We Are Obsessed With This Ceramicist's Tape-Pulling Videos

What is it about process-based videos that feel so soothing? Is it the satisfaction in watching something that you know will go from incomplete to finished? Either way, we're undeniably mesmerized by ceramicist Jonathan Van Patten's tape-pulling videos, which get thousands of views on Instagram.

On each piece, Van Patten painstakingly creates precise, linear designs out of tape; as he removes the tape, you follow along Van Patten's maze-like routes, as he reveals a total, intricate pattern. We were curious, so we talked to Van Patten over email to learn more about his work. (Interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and brevity.)

jonathan van patten bowl
credit: JVP Wares

Hunker: How did you come up with — or discover — this method of using tape to create patterns?

JVP: Using tape was there early on in high school, though it was very simple at that time. I grew up in the family business, which was house painting. As a teenager in the summers, masking off baseboards was just a part of the work. Why not try it with glaze? But what I'm known for, primarily on Instagram, is the very detailed, linear taping. This process began developing around 2013/2014. I had been going through a rough patch in life, and had not been consistently doing ceramics for a time before that. There was something meditative about the process of cutting the pieces of tape one at a time, and seeing how it went ... I'm often just as surprised by what comes about as any bystander may be.

jonathan van patten vase
credit: JVP Wares

Hunker: Do you sketch out a motif before you begin/know what you want the piece to look like?

JVP: I'll have an idea of what I'd like to achieve, but in life, things are often not so straight-forward. One needs to experiment, explore, fail, try again, but ultimately allow things to unfold as they will ... My approach when masking pieces operates within this vein of philosophical thinking to some degree. Sometimes you zig, other times you zag ...

Hunker: What kind of glazes do you use? Does the tape melt in the kiln? What's the process?

JVP: The glazes are mostly simple and straight-forward, applied in coats like most other glazing treatments. The tape is applied to bisque-ware, and removed after glaze is applied, but before firing. No tape is ever fired. This gives me the clean glaze lines. The videos I've posted of tape removal on my Instagram are of this state in the process. The tape is standard blue painters tape one can find at any professional paint store.

Hunker: How do you get the lines and shapes so precise? How long does is take to tape up one piece?

JVP: The tape I apply to my pieces has been cut one piece at a time with an X-ACTO knife, metal ruler, and a cutting board. This gives me the ability to get variation, control, and exploration. Many pieces take a few hours to mask. Some of the more detailed work has been fifteen to twenty hours of masking per piece.

Hunker: Do you do this full time?

JVP: I've been a professional house painter for roughly twenty years now; when I was younger, I'd never intended to continue house painting for so long, but as I've grown older, I've come to see how working for myself has provided me with the freedom to explore other modes of creativity: ceramics, art, music, and writing. My goal in the coming years is to explore and develop what might cross-pollinate between my ceramic aesthetic and use of color with interior spaces, accent walls, and general decor.

To see more of Jonathan Van Pattens designs, and to purchase, visit his website or on Instagram at @jvp_wares

Leonora Epstein

Leonora Epstein

Leonora Epstein is Hunker's Senior Director of Content. She has previously served as Executive Editor at HelloGiggles and as BuzzFeed's Deputy Editorial Director. She is the co-author of "X vs. Y: A Culture War, a Love Story" (Abrams, 2014). Feel free to reach out at leonora@hunker.com.