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Earth and Water: Theo’s Story

Theo and Lucana Hirschfield are a talented sibling duo who also happen to be deaf. This is Theo’s story.


Lea en Español

By Lisa A. Goldstein

Theo, the older of the pair, is a ceramicist who has 1.5 million followers on TikTok and 260K on Instagram. It might have something to do with his shirtless videos, but he is also known for his vases and bowls of imaginative shapes and sizes.

Theo’s hearing loss was diagnosed at birth. He got his first cochlear implant at 6 years old and wears a hearing aid in his other ear, but is considering a second cochlear implant due to declining hearing in that ear.

A high school class introduced Theo to ceramics. When he found himself constantly thinking about the kind of pieces he could make and the glaze combos that were possible, and ditching class early to get extra time at the wheel, he realized he had found his passion. Soon after, he bought a wheel for his house and started creating pieces in the garage. One day, his dad posted some of his work on Facebook, which garnered interest. “I kinda realized in that moment that I could do this seriously,” Theo recalled.

Halfway through college at the University of California Santa Barbara, Theo switched from being a sociology major to a sculpture program through the College of Creative Studies, where he was able to work on ceramics for his major. During COVID, he converted an old travel trailer into a pottery studio.

Theo’s first solo exhibition is currently displayed at his alma mater. Entitled Carnival, it is described as his “breakthrough with ceramics.” Before this, most of the pieces he was making did not have a sculptural feel to them. Some may have been complex, but they were all typically smaller in size when compared to his current work.

“My breakthrough comes from a time where I pushed myself to make larger vessels (3-4 feet in size) as well as focusing more on creating sculptures with a variety of attachments that represent abstractions of life-like objects and forms,” Theo explained. He used to use somewhat traditional ceramic studio glazes, but in Carnival, he explored the possibilities of finishing a ceramic surface with acrylics, metal, and luster.

Naturally, Theo’s deafness has impacted his art. He said being deaf has made him hyper-aware of his surroundings, and a lot of his work is influenced by things he sees and experiences. “I’m always drawn to bright colors, unfamiliar textures, and interesting forms,” he said. “At night, when I sleep without my hearing aids and close my eyes, I can almost start to vividly picture outlines and colors of forms I want to make. The lack of hearing as a sense allows me to bring these forms more into focus when I take time in complete silence and darkness.”

Theo is now working on his second solo exhibition, which will occur towards the end of 2024. He wants to keep pushing his understanding of glazes, kiln firings, forms, and multimedia finishes on ceramic. He recently moved to LA, so he is also trying to find more of a community of artists with whom to share ideas and connect.

As for his social media fame, Theo said it’s not all butterflies and rainbows. All the attention created internal pressure and led to him taking a break from producing content. He has slowly started to post again but with the goal of genuinely wanting to create rather than trying to please people and get views.

When not making pottery or videos, Theo enjoys surfing, cooking, yoga, hockey, lifting, guitar, thrifting, and snowboarding. Whew!

When asked what else he would like people to know, Theo replied, “Being deaf is epic. It really is the right time to be deaf. Technology is amazing.”

Read Lucana’s Story

Tierra y Agua: la historia de Theo

Por Lisa A. Goldstein

Theo y Lucana Hirschfield son dos talentosos hermanos que tienen sordera. Esta es la historia de Theo.

Theo, el mayor de los dos, es ceramista y tiene 1,5 millones de seguidores en TikTok y 260 K en Instagram. Es posible que en parte se deba a que aparece sin camisera en los videos, pero también es conocido por sus jarrones y cuencos de formas y tamaños imaginativos.

La pérdida auditiva de Theo le fue diagnosticada al nacer. Recibió su primer implante coclear a los 6 años y lleva un audífono en el otro oído, pero se está planteando un segundo implante coclear debido al deterioro de la audición en este oído.

Gracias a una clase en el instituto, Theo se aficionó a la cerámica. Cuando se dio cuenta de que pensaba constantemente en el tipo de piezas que podía hacer y en las combinaciones de esmaltes que eran posibles, y que salía a toda prisa de las clases para pasar dedicarle más tiempo al torno, cayó en la cuenta de que había encontrado su pasión. Poco después, se compró un torno y empezó a crear piezas en el garaje. Un día, su padre publicó algunos de sus trabajos en Facebook, lo que despertó un gran interés. «En ese momento me di cuenta de que podía dedicarme a esta actividad en serio», recuerda Theo.

A mitad de sus estudios en la University of California Santa Barbara, Theo cambió la carrera de sociología por un programa de escultura en la Facultad de Estudios Creativos, donde pudo trabajar en cerámica para su especialización. Durante la pandemia del COVID, transformó una vieja caravana en un estudio de cerámica.

La primera exposición individual de Theo se exhibe actualmente en su alma máter. Titulada «Carnaval» (Carnival), se describe como su «gran salto en la cerámica». Antes de esta exposición, la mayoría de las piezas que hacía no tenían un aire escultórico. Algunas eran complejas, pero todas eran de menor tamaño que su obra actual.

«El salto se produjo en una época en la que me propuse hacer vasijas más grandes (de 1 a 2 metros) y centrarme más en crear esculturas con diversos accesorios que representan abstracciones de objetos y formas realistas», explica Theo. Solía utilizar esmaltes de estudio cerámicos bastante tradicionales, pero en «Carnaval» exploró las posibilidades del acabado de una superficie cerámica con acrílicos, metal y brillo.

Naturalmente, la sordera de Theo ha repercutido en su arte. Dice que, por su sordera, es hiperconsciente del entorno y que gran parte de su trabajo está influido por las cosas que ve y experimenta. «Siempre me atraen los colores vivos, las texturas desconocidas y las formas interesantes», afirma. «Por la noche, cuando duermo sin audífonos y cierro los ojos, casi puedo imaginar vívidamente los contornos y los colores de las formas que quiero hacer. La falta del sentido del oído me permite enfocar mejor estas formas cuando me tomo un tiempo en completo silencio y oscuridad».

Theo trabaja actualmente en su segunda exposición individual, que tendrá lugar a finales de 2024. Desea seguir ampliando sus conocimientos sobre esmaltes, cocciones en horno, formas y acabados multimedia en cerámica. Recientemente se mudó a Los Ángeles, por lo que también está intentando encontrar una comunidad de artistas con los que compartir ideas y conectar.

En cuanto a su fama en las redes sociales, Theo dice que no todo es un camino de rosas. Toda esta atención le generó una presión interna que le llevó a tomarse un descanso en la producción de contenido. Poco a poco ha empezado a publicar de nuevo, pero con el objetivo de querer crear de verdad en lugar de intentar agradar a la gente y conseguir visitas.

Cuando no hace cerámica o videos, Theo disfruta del surf, la cocina, el yoga, el hockey, el levantamiento de pesas, la guitarra, la compra en tiendas de segunda mano y el snowboard. ¡Uf!

A la pregunta de si hay algo más que le gustaría que la gente supiera, Theo responde: «Tener sordera es algo épico. Realmente es el momento adecuado para ser sordo. La tecnología es asombrosa».

Lea la historia de Lucana

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