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Melody Ellis – Artist Interview

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010
Today’s interview is with Melody Ellis. I have loved her work for years. I can’t remember where I became acquainted with amazing sculptures, but her work has always been one of my favorites. All of her work is made from earthenware clay, steel and range from 7 – 9 inches in their largest dimension. Most of her work has moving parts as well. Check out Melody's website:  http://www.melodyellisceramics.com/ m.ellis jumping%20dog%20sideTell us a little about yourself! I'm approaching 40 and have a small child who gets most of my time and attention. I'm fortunate to be married to another clay artist (Matt Wilt) who is my instant community when I need some technical help or input. At present, we have to carefully schedule our time so that we can both get studio, social, and family time. I relax by gardening and playing with our daughter and our dogs, or getting together with friends. m.ellis Rocking%20Monkey m.ellis Rocking%20Monkey%20detailHow did you become an artist? My parents and maternal grandfather were very handy people when I was growing up-- always making or fixing things.  Whether it was painting or carving or cooking or gardening, I got the message that making things by hand was a useful and engrossing occupation. I also come from a family of avid object-collectors, so I got to live in a house full of interesting and mysterious artifacts that I still find inspiring. m.ellis Mr%20Punch How would you describe your style? One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look? I guess I would describe my style as exuberant, dark, humorous, controlled, detailed... It's a difficult thing to say when one develops a "style", as it's a process of evolution that is never complete. The more you work, the more it develops all on its own-- it's just a natural process. punch What is your inspiration for your pieces? I love to look at other artwork, whether historical majolica, handmade quilts, mosaic, or contemporary painting. I tend to gravitate toward figurative and narrative work, which is my own subject matter as well. But I do also take inspiration from toys, antiques, book illustrations... I think you just have to keep your eyes open and take it where you find it. It can come from anywhere. Just being in the world, gardening, interacting with people and animals, taking a walk with my daughter,  it all finds its way into my work. m. ellis Judy%201m.ellis Judy%202What keeps you motivated? Sometimes it's the desire to see what happens next or to try something new or to just finish a piece I'm excited about.  Sometimes it's a deadline, and that's valid too-- that really works for me when I'm not feeling particularly interested in working. A good audiobook and the prospect of some quiet concentration time can also be very alluring. m.ellis Busts Are you a full-time artist? How do you come up with your creations? Can you walk us through your creative process when dreaming up new pieces? I can't say I'm full-time. I don't have an outside job, but being the mother of a small child who is not yet in school is very time-consuming and really restricts my studio time. As for new pieces... a lot of that, for me, has always been dependent on having the time to daydream and ponder and sit quietly with my sketchbook, or get out to shows for new inspiration.  Those things are in short supply these days, but I can usually get excited about an idea just by looking through my sketchbook at things I haven't gotten to yet. I start with a drawing of a finished piece I'd like to create, and my next step is to figure out how I'm going to construct it. Since my sculptures have jointed parts and hang on the wall, there is a lot of planning ahead required to make a successful piece. That's a fun challenge for me. I always have a well of unrealized ideas to choose from because I don't get into my studio enough to make all the work I'd like to-- but this keeps me energized and excited about making new work. M.Ellis Pugilist%201m.ellis Pugilist%202What was it that made you want to start creating? Did something specific trigger it? I have always enjoyed making things by hand, since I can remember. Nothing else I've tried, or other jobs I've had, has really changed that or taken me from it. m.ellisLive%20Mermaid%20mosaicWhat or who inspires you? My family, other work I see, colors, textures, pieces I've made that have been successful or unsuccessful, discovering a new material or process, the excitement of a show coming up, approaching a new concept and hoping it will work, spending time with friends who are artists and who experience the same struggles and successes, getting out of the studio and into the world. m.ellisKrampus%203 m.ellis Krampus%202M. Ellis Krampus%20dHow do you maintain a healthy work and life balance? I don't have much choice right now-- my schedule is pretty structured at the moment. Having less free time has really made me appreciate the quiet studio time that I do get to myself. I'm a bit of a daydreamer and slowpoke, and I've learned since becoming a mother that I can work even when I'm not in the mood, and I can work a lot faster and more efficiently than I thought. I now work in chunks of time as I get them, and I can shift gears a lot more quickly than I used to. The rest takes care of itself-- I play with my daughter, have family outings, see friends, garden and spend time outside-- almost anything I want to do, I can do with a 3-year-old, except working in the studio. monkey-1-hi-resYou, like most people enjoy the process of making and crafting and didn't get into it for the sake of "business". But eventually you found yourself having to make the transition from crafter to a businessperson. What have you learned so far and what advice can you give others in the same situation? I have always made it a point not to mix business and art more than is necessary. I know this would be completely impractical for many, but since I am not a full-time artist making a living from my work (and have never aspired to be), I have enjoyed being able to work slowly and do whatever I like in the studio. In the past, I have had full- or part-time jobs to support myself, and kept a home studio where I worked as much as possible. Now my husband supports the family with a university teaching job, I take care of our daughter, and Matt and I both eke out studio time where we can.  Having said that, of course the time comes when one must decide if, when and how to show one's work-- and then price it. My disinterest in business and production ruled out craft fairs and shows. I have mainly tried to find a few fine craft galleries that can show my work in exhibits on a regular basis, and then taken part in group shows when I can. I do keep track of expenses and income, but that's more for my own amusement than for any other purpose. I declare my art income, and there is a reckoning on tax day some years, but it's all pretty small potatoes. m.ellis figureheadWhat advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look? Look at a lot of stuff that excites you, work as much as you can, try new things, talk to and watch people-- especially those who are good at what they do, and are generous with their knowledge. Take every opportunity that comes your way, as much as possible. It will all lead you somewhere, even if that path isn't evident at the moment. m.ellis Amazing%20Twin%20Girls%20mosaic Melody, thank you for contributing to your interview to my blog, I’m sorry it took me so long to post.  It was a real pleasure reading about you and your thoughts!!

Sheila Hrasky – Artist Interview

Thursday, August 19th, 2010
 hrasky 2 Check out Shelia’s web site  http://www.sheilakhrasky.com/ Shelia is represented by Plinth Gallery!  Sheila K. Hrasky is a fine art artist of the West who works ceramics, oils, acrylics, and watercolors. Sheila is known for her nesting ceramic flower bowls and on location paintings. She remains true to the process and produces original art daily. Tell us a little about yourself! I grew up in the mid- west, Illinois. My love of Art was known at an early age. With support from my family and a lot of trips to the Museum at The Art Institute of Chicago, my passion for Art became very clear. Art was more than something to just pass the time, it lead my studies all the way through college achieving a degree in Art Studio. I was educated at The Rhode Island School of Design and the University of New Mexico. After graduation I spent the next ten years working as an artist, living in New Mexico. In 2004 I trailed north to Livingston, Montana where I continue to follow my dreams and make Art daily. hrasky 1 How did you become an artist? I knew from a very early age that I was an Artist. I was always creating something; I have a piece of ceramic art from almost every year of my life. So it was the logical choice to follow my instincts and become an Artist. hrasky 3  How would you describe your style? One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look? After I graduated from College, in Art Studio in New Mexico I started going to the Flea Market in Santa Fe with some of my artwork to sell. By the end of the first month of selling my art I had a fairly good idea of what I wanted to make to sell in Galleries. So over a period of 4 days I came up with my Idea of the Flower Bowls. Form fitting function was one of my biggest concerns, so I decided to hand cut the edges like flowers and then paint the bowls in a timeless floral pattern I focused on my strengths and gave myself the time and discipline of throwing pots daily to get more efficient at the process. hrasky 4 What is your inspiration for your pieces? My inspiration comes from my love of color and pattern. I knew it was important o my work to supply the form …a bowl which people can use…. and then use great color in a way that makes the piece irresistible. I observed how people would buy things and color is a big motivator, so now I follow trends in style, color and patterns. hrasky 6 What keeps you motivated? The Process keeps me on going, I work on my Pottery daily, and it sets the routine. It is very fulfilling because every part of the clay process has something very rewarding about it. I truly enjoy making one thing well. hrasky 7 Are you a full-time artist? How do you come up with your creations? Can you walk us through your creative process when dreaming up new pieces? I am a full time artist…living simply, but keeping my dream alive. I probably come up with a new edge every couple of years. Sometimes it life that inspires me, a new trend in color or just the way two colors look when they are right next to each other. hrasky 8 What was it that made you want to start creating? Did something specific trigger it? I have a clay work of art from almost every year of my life. So naturally I was drawn to it, but really what sold me on Clay was that I can make something that people could use, a functional bowl. I have found some security in this form of art. Once I had the form…the bowl, I got to have a lot of fun with the designs and the way I Painted each bowl. hrasky 9 What or who inspires you? I am inspired by Color. It motivates me to keep trying new designs on my bowls. hrasky 10 How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance? Focus and Discipline, and the understanding that I love living the life of an Artist. I am pretty grateful to be able to create art on a daily basis. hrasky 11 You, like most people enjoy the process of making and crafting and didn't get into it for the sake of "business". But eventually you found yourself having to make the transition from crafter to a businessperson. What have you learned so far and what advice can you give others in the same situation?After I graduated from College I started to make out of Clay whatever I could think of and then went to the Flea Market in Santa Fe and stood in front of the Public and Listened to what they liked, and a month later I was developing my idea of my Flower bowls. It worked instantly and through perseverance a year later I was in a Gallery that my College Professor shows in. ceramics What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look? Do your research. In my case I spent a Year seeing what people were making out of Clay in Galleries I wanted to be in and I found my niche, "Color " in a sea of shades of Brown pottery in New Mexico. And then I worked very hard on Technique. Know your market and believe in yourself. hrasky 5 Shelia, Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful work!!

Marko Fields Plinth Gallery Artist Interview

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010
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Marko Fields Darwin was Right and Exxon Helped

 Plus, More Cautionary Ceramic Tales of End Times

The work of Marko Fields is an exciting new addition to Plinth Gallery's exhibition schedule.  His highly narrative vessels reflect his sense of mythology, spirituality, and philosophy.  Using a variety of materials, Fields builds highly patterned and embellished pieces that tell stories which may be socially or politically important. His newest series of figurative works feature the frog as a barometer species, which speaks to our eco-health. Fields' work explores current themes that are both timely and highly relevant. Marko’s show opens this Friday August 6, 2010 from 6:00 – 9:00.  Check out Marko’s webiste: http://markofields.com Plinth Gallery: http://plinthgallery.com/ Prince%20Darwin%20Attends%20Captain's%20Mess Tell us a little about yourself! I was born and raised in Wichita, KS, the youngest of four in a fundamentalist Baptist family. I have never been fundamentalist material, so it was a struggle finding my way. I happen to be one-eighth Comanche and a lot Irish (my Mom was ashamed of her own one-quarter Comanche, three-quarter Irish white-trash lineage) so I suppose the dysfunction of my youth logically contributed to my genetic predisposition to addiction. My youth, though not without some achievement and happiness, was mainly misspent. During my childhood I was blessed with a classic studio art education. I suppose I have always drawn, painted, written and played music. In 1976, I dropped-out of college, giving-up on my dream of one day teaching art at the university level. In 1977, heartbroken by a love-of-my-life, I hitchhiked from Wichita to South Florida, never returning for other than visits. After three years in South America, mostly in Bolivia, I returned to the States, if one calls Key West part of the USA. My first five years in KW led to my ultimate bottom, wherein I sought recovery. I spent another 5 years in KW. I met Amy, my wife of 20 years, in KW and she gave me the gift of going back to college to finish my BFA and then get an MFA. Dropping back in to KU in 1991 as a sculpture major, I discovered clay by taking Ceramics 1 and I realized quickly I had found my life’s work. I’m all better now… Yeah, right. I’ll celebrate 25 years clean on August 9th. Life is actually amazing; I have two kids: Michael (18) and Abby (15). Quite frankly, they are extraordinary. I have to assume that is because of my wife, Amy. I am just grateful that they aren’t doing what I did at their age… fields_venus%20gaia%20head%20edit How did you become an artist? See above. It’s a long answer and if you really want to know, come to the opening. I can talk faster than I can type. fields_gaia's%20new%20friend How would you describe your style? One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look? My work is very narrative, though that does not describe a visual style. I would say that my work is defined a passion for personal iconography, visual movement, texture, anthropomorphism, animation, gesture, personal mythology, irreverence, the blues, humor and entoptics. If you really want to know about entoptics, come to the opening… I am told my style is very distinctive. I agree. I’ve always been able to identify my work. fields_dang%20devilled%20egg%20tray_edit What is your inspiration for your pieces? Is this a trick question? There is no single inspiration for my work; it goes piece-by-piece with me. harbingerrisingtidea20003 harbingerotherview What keeps you motivated? Commitment. I believe that there are things that will only be done if I do them. Of course, this happens to be true for everyone, but a lot of folks don’t know it. I believe in art; it is essential, it is worth doing. Art contributes to the quality of life. It’s THAT important. irrespressibleteapot irrepressibletopdetail Are you a full-time artist? How do you come up with your creations? Can you walk us through your creative process when dreaming up new pieces? First, I am full-tilt boogie in the studio probably four months a year, beginning in May. Then I begin my academic and NCECA work cycles from September until the NCECA conference. I do work in my studio nearly every day and I am always thinking about work; I rarely dream about my work. Dreams are where I work on my pathologies. But, I write a lot, and sketch ideas and thoughts. My creative cycle is this: 3% conceptualization, 95% showing-up and 2% magic. Talk to me about this at the opening. Come to the opening. I will answer any question, sometimes with ‘I don’t know.’ There are a lot more questions but let me just say that I believe in what I do. I’m lucky that every aspect of my employment revolves around clay. As I am writing from Mexico, and I’m really tired, I’ll just say: Come to the opening. It will be fun, if nothing else. 62890001 Thanks Marko, I hope you have a wonderful turn out for your reception!!  It looks like it will be an amazing show.

And the winner is…..

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
Congratulations to Laurie Erdman.  

It was a really hard decision!!!

 I read all of them.  And I knew so many people on the comments personally.  I didn’t know if I would be able to choose objectively.  So I had a friend choose a winner for me.  She really struggled with it as well.  Thank you to everyone who wrote in.  It was really nice to read everyone’s story.  All of them were touching in so many different ways.  It was so nice to get know people this way.  And also it was nice to see who is reading my blog.

I’m so Lucky!!!

Monday, July 19th, 2010
This is one of my favorite sayings for my bowls.  I truly feel that I am so lucky and so thankful for all the amazing family that I am a part of.  I thought it would be nice to share some “Luck”.    All you have to do to win this Lucky bowl is, write a comment on my blog about how lucky or thankful you are.  I’m a little nervous, I hope someone out there wants a gift from me.  I will pick Monday the 26th.  Don’t forget to include your email.  15 Also, go to Facebook and “like” my page, (Connie Norman Ceramics) it would be great to get up to 900 followers.  I’m at 828 now.  I never believed that I could have that many followers.  When I started FB ceramics page I thought I would only have my friends and family “like” my page.

I am the feautred artist on Art Palaver!!

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Two posts in one night.  I'm trying to catch up with everything that has been going on. I am very excited to be the featured artist on Art Palaver this week.   If you don't know the Art Palaver blog it is about helping artists sell art by offering resources to help you better market and promote yourself and your art.  The blog has some great advice and artist features.

Round Two – The DIA vessels!!

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
This has been a tough computer week.  We have three computers and all three decided not to work.  One is in the shop, this one I'm using went to the fix it place, the very nice man fixed it on the spot, and the last one the wireless isn't working.  Since school is out I don't have that computer to use.  I went to school in hopes of using my computer, but it was already bagged and tagged.  Any my room was completely torn apart for cleaning.  These two posts show the majority of my DIA (Denver International Airport) commission.  I left out 15 bowls.  The biggest vessel(the first one shown) is going to Denver's Mayor Hickenlooper, and the others and the bowls are going to Denver's City Council, and some other people  sometime in July.  I was told that everything is on display in the DIA offices.  I hope to make it to Denver before July to see Wesley Anderegg and Jen Allen's shows, and hopefully my stuff at DIA.   If you want to see the entire DIA commission click here  and here to see the ones that went to Japan. These pics are my work.  I know I have a lot of hot spots, but I don't know how to get rid of them with shinny glazes.  (Suggestions Please!!)  Please tell me what you think....  

A Visit To Plinth Gallery

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010
Last Monday, Memorial Day I drove down to Denver to deliver some work to Plinth Gallery.  This Friday (June 4) is the opening of Jen Allen’s show (see her interview below) and the third anniversary of the gallery.  For the festivities Jonathan Kaplan, Plinth’s owner asked if I would bring a few pieces down for the celebration.  I’m delighted to have work as part of the birthday, and thrilled to be having a show at Plinth in the fall of 2011!!! Plinth%20Sign 29898_395859314911_50069509911_4324116_7987886_n may 2010 080 Here is Jonathan in the back room of the gallery with my work.  If you're following the interviews Jonathan was interviewed on my blog in February.  If you missed his interview click here. Saturday was a big delivery day, Laura from DIA (Denver International Airport) met me at Plinth to pick up the rest of the commission.  It felt really good to get it finished and delivered.  It was a lot of late nights making pots for them.  (I will post images of the pots in the next post.)  They will be on display in the offices of DIA, until they are given to Mayor Hickenlooper and the Denver City Council in July.  I’ve been told that they will send pictures of the event.  I’ll post them on the blog when I get them. may 2010 079 Another view of the back room of the gallery and Jonathan.  I love the built in shelving for the mugs and cups, a potter’s dream.  Plinth is the only gallery dedicated solely to ceramics in the Denver and Front Range region of Colorado.  It is  located in the River North Art District (Rino), which is Denver’s new and fast growing art area. final_header_rino may 2010 082 may 2010 083 may 2010 081 A view of a very small part of Hayne Bayless’  show and work, and the front of gallery.  Also a few pots made by Lisa Pedolsky, who is going to have an interview on the blog soon. may 2010 086 I wanted to get more pictures of the gallery, but these guys were waiting soooooo patiently to go to the Denver Zoo.  I was rushed with the pictures.   We had a great day at the zoo, with my friend Sherry and her kids.  It was so fun to watch the kids discover the animals.  And I got to use my new found knowledge of exotic animals, from my extensive studies of  Go Diego Go, The Wonder Pets, and Dora the Explorer.

Jennifer Allen Plinth Gallery Artist Interview

Monday, May 24th, 2010
 jen allen1_%202%20pitchers Jen’s website: http://www.jenallenceramics.com/ Plinth gallery: http://plinthgallery. This month Plinth Gallery Artist interview is with Jen Allen.  Her show opens First Friday June 4, which is also the third anniversary of Plinth Gallery.  Jennifer makes truly beautiful ceramics. Her functional pottery forms “describe contrasts between modesty and generosity, grace and awkwardness” while they relate to her love of sewing through details such as folds, seams, darts, and pillow-like handles. Jen’s exquisite pottery is the way she, communicates with the home, the hand, and the mind.” How did you become an artist? I’m not really sure that I became an artist; I think I’ve always been one. I have painted and drawn ever since I can remember. As a child, my father built my sister and I a miniature workbench next to his, so we could tinker with wood alongside him. I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t building or creating something. My sophomore year of undergraduate school I took my first ceramics class. It was then that I choose to pursue an art degree over an education degree. jen allen2_%20%20apple%20green%20cruet How would you describe your style? Generous and graceful, useful and comfortable jen allen3_%20%20celadon%20tulip%20vase jen allen15_%20%20yellow%20tulip%20vase One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look? This question is a tough one to answer because I don’t know how long it’s actually taken me to develop a style. Consciously, probably since I was a beginning undergrad student. Every choice you make helps mold you in very specific ways. In retrospect, I can clearly see many common threads that span the 14 years that I’ve been working with clay. My “style” came together swiftly in graduate school. It was there that I learned how to look at my work objectively and hear what it was saying. When my intentions met up with the actual language each piece was speaking, I knew my work was honest and was my own. Developing a style is never something you seek out; rather, it’s something that just happens given time and determination. It’s something as unique and individual as DNA. jen allen4_%20%20candle%20holders What is your inspiration for your pieces? My inspiration comes from a myriad of sources. Most notably from landscape, textiles, home, food and historical crafts. jen allen5_%20%20green%20jar  jen allen13_%20%20grey%20teapot What keeps you motivated? I’m kept motivated by my husband, my dogs, my students and my constant need to speak more clearly through my work. jen allen6_%20%20cupsjen allen12_%20%20creamer%20and%20sugar Are you a full-time artist? How do you come up with your creations? Can you walk us through your creative process when dreaming up new pieces? Yes, I am a full time artist. When creating new pieces, I often start by thinking of utilitarian forms made to fulfill specific purposes in the home. Next, I sketch many iterations of each form. I post these sketches in front of my wheel and construct quick 3-D sketches of my favorite drawings. From there, I’ll refine the one’s I feel are the most successful. I go through a similar process when coming up with new decorative motifs. I research textile designs from certain eras, when design was influenced by times of renewal, prosperity and optimism. Specifically, I look to kimono patterns from Edo period, Japan, post WWII textile design, and Arts and Crafts era design. I then sketch a blending of these sources on scraps of paper and post them on my studio walls. When it comes time to decorate my work, I’ll look to my drawings as inspiration. jen allen7_%20%20celadon%20teapot How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance? The truth is, I don’t. I’m definitely a workaholic. I would like to have more balance in my life and am constantly trying to figure out how to do it successfully. jen allen8_%20%20grey%20jar jen allen14_%20%20green%20vase  You, like most people enjoy the process of making and crafting and didn't get into it for the sake of "business". But eventually you found yourself having to make the transition from crafter to a businessperson. What have you learned so far and what advice can you give others in the same situation? Choose how you want to establish yourself in your local, national and global communities. Know that these decisions are going to make distinct differences in your career choices. As for specifics… keep all records and receipts!!! Keep track of all incoming revenue and outgoing expenses. Set money aside to pay state and federal taxes. Be mindful of loss rates and adjust if need be. jen allen9_%20%20sauce%20boatjen allen11_%20%20shallow%20bowl What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?   If you are searching for a style, you’ll never find one. It’s not something that happens overnight, it’s a process that takes years to develop. Always be aware of the current trends in ceramics and have an extensive understanding of ceramic history. Make a lot of work, but don’t make it thoughtlessly. Be conscious of your creative choices, be in the moment with your work and be able to access your work objectively in order to move it forward. Eventually you’ll notice sensibilities that remain constant throughout. When this happens, you’ve gotten closer to identifying what “your work” looks like. jen allen10_%20%20three%20bud%20vases jen allen16_%20%20two%20creamers Thank you so much!  I can’t wait to see your show.

Lana Wilson – Artist Interview

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

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I have been a fan of Lana Wilson’s work for years. I’m thrilled that she was willing to participate in an interview. Lana’s interview talks about her 40 year love of clay, her new series of functional work. She is so generous she shares with us colored slip recipes at the end of the interview.

Check out Lana’s website here.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I became an artist because being a teacher's aid at Pasadena Art Museum for children's classes was so much more exciting than student teaching in the public school. So I decided I would just become an art teacher instead of a regular teach-all-the-subjects elementary school teacher. Then the teacher I was working under (for free, of course) told me the shocking disconcerting news that I couldn't teach children's art on enthusiasm alone. She told me we would decide the following week what to do. So my senior year at Occidental College over a glass of lemonade, after I had cleaned all the children's paint brushes she announced I had to go to art school if I wanted to be a children's art teacher. I took her word as gospel. I only applied to one school: California College of Art (and Crafts, as it was then) in Oakland and took up residence in Berkeley in the 60's. This was a good plan with far reaching great consequences.

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How would you describe your style? One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look?

Right now I would describe my style as inspired by ethnic fabrics from India, South America, Africa and Bali. I finally figured out how to get some of the batik and other pattern technique effects using colored slips. How long did it take me to develop my style? Well, you can skip looking at anything I made for my first 10 years. I have had about 8 or so periods in my work. The first period would be described as hopeful wandering. The second was functional, cone 9 reduction in my beloved Alpine kiln. Then I did eggshells embedded in porcelain and saggar fired with kelp for vases (yep, nonfunctional) on pedestals, chairs, and boxes with drawers. Then I moved on after a few years as every period lasts two to eight years, to porcelain with metallic salts. I made vases and boxes with workable drawers and more vases during that period. Then we moved and I had to fire in an electric kiln so my lichen fascination started. Vases, teapots, more boxes with workable drawers appeared. Then came ritual boxes and dry glazes and an emphasis on bright colored layered very dry surface glazes. Then when my first grandchild was born I started doing functional again. I couldn't give them away. Even my daughters didn't want them. So it was like the hopeful wandering again. Then I hit upon black and white with slivers of color and now lotsa color. I didn't count the phases. The idea has always been to follow what fascinates me and slug through the six months to a year that it takes to figure it out. So that is eight phases in 40 years or an average of 5 years each. It has been so much fun but some of that hopeful wandering wasn't quite as fun.

                   wilson8F571FEE-FCFD-4FC4-917B-D8C7064991B4  wilsonB4EA46F5-18A6-48C2-9270-1A1F1D74A934

What is your inspiration for your pieces?

During this period of work my inspiration is process. I just am fascinated by what I notice while I am making things: process I paint the colored slips on and try new combinations of colors or thicknesses of slip together and dots of slip and spattering. Then when I drag a serrated edge across the soft leather hard clay, I notice skinny close together serrated teeth give me less white showing. Then when I roll it out with a rolling pin I see that it starts to look like some of my favorite cloth I have collected or seen in wearable artist's work. So the excitement of continually watching what is happening and wanting to repeat some color combinations or inlays or colored slip applications and knowing I don't want to repeat some things makes it a movable feast of involvement and fascination for me. 

lana wilson  

What keeps you motivated?

What keeps me motivated is the process of discovery and getting a tiny bit better at it as I move through six months or a year of work. I do so love making things. I lose track of time. But I am also grateful and motivated by having requests for work. I remember when I first started all this about 40 years ago when someone first wanted to buy my work I felt I should pay them.

What also keeps me motivated is opening the kiln and figuring out how I did the parts I like and how to avoid the parts that did not work and what new possibilities it all suggests.

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Are you a full-time artist? How do you come up with your creations? Can you walk us through your creative process when dreaming up new pieces?

I am a full time artist but I would have to qualify that as I am old enough now that I have to take naps and I can't work as hard as I used to. But I don't go out for breakfast or lunch, I work almost every single day and it is such a huge and dominant part of my life.

I come up with what I make through process. I just make stuff and try stuff out. For the way my pieces are I can draw shapes and get ideas but it is when I am trying things out that it begins to gel more in my mind. What the clay does is like a chat, "I'll do this and then what will you do to keep this conversation going??" I do so love the discovery process that this "chat" draws me back.

Sometimes seaweed or branches on a tree inspire me to new shapes or seeing rocks or shapes of fields from an airplane make me think of new shapes for surface decoration or for teapot possibilities. This kind of process means I make many pieces that are not at all successful but they lead, maybe, to something worth keeping. Sometimes I go back and try an old idea and think of a new way to do it. 

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What was it that made you want to start creating? Did something specific trigger it?

I've been making things in clay for over 40 years. I was not a child who drew all the time. One of my sisters was considered the family artist. I realize I am not particularly talented but all of my mom's six kids are workers so my enormous interest, healthy work ethic and childish but excessively handy enthusiasm have helped me through all the failures that have resulted from my experiments. Just plain working a lot is key.

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What or who inspires you?

Nature inspires me. The way green leaves fade into red, orange and brown are colors I want in my work, the way seaweed collects and lets lines and colors intermingle. I like old stuff too. Today I looked at old lampposts that were peeling green paint off an undercoat of red paint and then rust was bursting through. I love folk art from Asia. I love the fiber arts of shibori and the patterns of ikat from an island near Bali. The actual process of working inspires me, seeing what happens and paying attention to an accidental discovery in form or surface design and then trying to repeat it and improve it. 

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How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?

I am not sure that I do! I try though. I see my kids and grandkids but not enough. I see friends for dinner and events. But I don't go out for breakfast or lunch. Cuts into the studio time way too much. I talk to distant friends on the phone. I do love to make things in the studio, that actually balances my life.

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You, like most people enjoy the process of making and crafting and didn't get into it for the sake of "business". But eventually you found yourself having to make the transition from crafter to a businessperson. What have you learned so far and what advice can you give others in the same situation?

I found that I needed to pack with two boxes so nothing breaks when I ship it, I learned to pack and invoice, I learned to charge a little less than what people might expect so I could sell easily, I learned not to be out for the last dollar, I learned to ask and seek and be open to the great suggestions or critiques people have given me that have so helped improve my work now that I am back into functional after 20 plus years of doing non-functional work. I have found having different sources of income, teaching, workshops and making work and writing a book has helped. Another thing I have learned, share what you know, it will come back to you. People will share with you and we all need this clay tribe.

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What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?

Pay absolutely fierce attention to what interests you and work a lot. Try ten variations on an idea before deciding it might not be worth your time. Don't expect everything to come out of the kiln the way you thought it would. Look at other work a lot: paintings, clay, historical ceramics, plants, machines, folk art, architecture, fiber arts, jewelry, etc. Read autobiographies and biographies of visual artists. Enjoy your life, appreciate working with your hands and forget being a materialist. Trade with other artists. Give away a piece once in a while: makes the person who admired it feel great and you feel good too. Relish you get to make things!!!!!!!!

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Lana Wilson’s Colored Slips (Thanks to Denise Smith)

For the body of my present work I use paper clay, P’Clay from Aardvark, Rosette Gault’s functional formula for cone 6. This clay has solved many cracking problems with the bowls, teapots, etc. that I make.

To make the colored slips I use bone dry Half and Half cone 5 by Laguna. Then I add the mason stains below. If it says chartreuse 50% I weigh out 100 grams of small pieces of bone dry clay and add 50 grams of 6236 chartreuse. It mixes up more smoothly if I let it sit for an hour or so. With this basic system you can use any white clay, cone 04 to cone 10 and mix it with the percentages of the colored slips below. Then use a clear glaze for your cone temperature.

On a soft slab of clay I paint one or two coats of black slip on and let it dry before carving patterns with a serrated rib. This will be the underside of a plate or the inside of a cup. I turn over the slab and paint black again and when it is dry enough I paint different colors on top, blending them, spattering them, painting stripes, etc. When that is dry enough, I paint another layer of colored slips. When this is dry I use different serrated edges to carve through these slips. I press soft and hard with the serrated edge when dragging it across the clay to get different effects. I also use loop tools to carve out scoops of clay and take the pieces carved out (I call them fossils), turn them upside-down and inlay them back into the clay. The final step is to put a piece of newspaper on top of the slab and with a rolling pin, roll over the whole slab to flatten the serrated lines and firmly inlay the fossils. I almost always relish the subtle changes this final step yields.

COLOR SLIPS (mostly Mason Stains, mixed to cream consistency or thinner)

6600 black 8%

6485 a tan orange 20%

6024 Orange 30%

6236 Chartreuse 50%

6027 Tangerine 15%

6211 Pea Green 50%

6339 Royal (blue) 5 - 10%

6288 Turquoise 50% or 6242 10%

6069 Dark Coral 30%

6304 Violet 50%

50779 Red 18% (from U.S. Pigments, or a good red stain)

KATE THE YOUNGER CLEAR (by Richard Burkett) cone 5 to 6 electric

to use over the colored slips. Shiny, resistant to crazing, cool slowly.

Ferro frit 3195 70.00

EPK 8.00

wollastonite 10.00

silica 12.00

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Fun pictures of Lana’s garden!!

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Lana thank you so much for your generosity and your interview.