Connie Norman
Connie Norman

Connie Norman – Plinth Gallery Artist Interview – Me!


I am really Talking to Myself! This week’s interview is mine!  I’ve had several people ask me to post my own interview.  Now I have FINALLY posted mine as part of the Plinth Gallery Series of interviews.  My show starts this First Friday, May 6, 6-9pm. Reception with Me!  Please come by and say, “Hello” if you’re in the area, it would be terrific to meet some of the people who read my blog!  I’m also teaching a workshop at Plinth on Saturday, May 7 from 9am to 5pm.  The cost is $85 which includes lunch from Fuel Café, which is unbelievably delicious.   If you are interested there is still room please contact Plinth Gallery by email or call 303-295-0717 for more information.

I’m posting my interview a little differently, Jonathan Kaplan was so kind to play guest interviewer and gave me some questions to answer.  His questions will be designated by –JK at the end of the question.  And just to be fair I answered my own questions that I have been asking artists for a year.  They are the second part of the interview.  I tried not to overlap answers, so if you read the entire interview you will have learned more than you would EVER want to know about me.

Here is what Jonathan wrote on Plinth’s website about my work.

“Connie Norman’s current work deals with inner dialogue, words, phrases, and “snippets of conversation” often inspired by stories from her life, memories, or things overheard, that are repeated again and again. She is fascinated by the rhythmic qualities created by color, texture, and patterns, and her application of text to her pieces enhance both the surface texture and the message itself.”

Plinth Gallery Curator Jonathan Kaplan describes Connie Norman’s ceramic work as, “Graphically bold in color and surface decoration. Her unique use of impressed words and phrases evokes our emotions as we ponder a connection to our individual experience. While her ceramics are a conversation with herself, we are invited into a dialog with the work and then really, with ourselves. Connie’s work has a message for many of us.” – Jonathan Kaplan

You have achieved quite a remarkable synthesis of form and surface. How do you decide which form merits which words? -JK

I think of my forms as a canvas to decorate.  But, as I’ve been making work for specific functions I try to think of words for specific forms.

Where do the words come from? Are they narratives in your head that result in being used on your work? What is the source of this dialog? – JK

The words on my pots are snippets of conversation.  Sometimes with myself, sometimes overheard, sometimes mantras I say to myself, they are all part of my life somehow.  In one of my pieces, I was thinking about my Father.  He was in the early stages of Alzheimer, as time went on I started to see how he was forgetting so much of his life.  I made a piece that said, “This is How Much I Remember.  This is How Much I Forgot.”  Since my Dad was just at the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s I put the line just off center.

Tell us something about your creative process. How did it evolve to its present structure? -JK

I also make mixed media sculptures.  The components of my sculptures are based on a fascination with the form and function of a common everyday object, the iron. I see my irons as shrines.  I use them as a vehicle to tell my stories, experiences and dreams.  Eventually these irons were covered in text.  Then one day my husband challenged me to make something beautiful.  I started a series of pots; I hadn’t made pots in years.  After making several pots, I noticed text jumped on to the surface.  It was a funny transition, at this point my clay irons were the size of true irons.   Then I started making very large vessels (21” to 23” inches tall) covered in text.

What is your cycle of work in your studio? I know you have a family and are a committed teacher. How do you balance your family obligations with your ceramic needs? -JK

I go full blast for months then I stop.  Then go back to full blast again.  But definitely I would not be able to what I do without my wonderful husband, Todd.  He supports me totally and completely.  Right now my schedule is I come home from work, spend time with my family and then I go to my studio around 8:30 PM and work until 1 or 2:00 AM, and then I get up at 6:00 AM for work.  I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the help of my husband.  I know when I have a deadline this schedule is not the healthiest for me or anyone who comes within my a hundred yards of me.  When I don’t have a deadline looming, I try to go to bed earlier.  But I am a natural night owl.  And when I’m in my studio I’m always wide awake.  Sometimes I am thankful that I have regular job to keep me in the daylight or I might totally start living the graveyard shift.

For this show I started working months ago, and only made things dedicated for Plinth, to keep my cantankerous side at bay, by going to bed a little earlier.

Can you briefly describe how you lay out each piece and the process you work with? Your pieces have impressed lettering combined with graphic patterns. How do you begin your decoration process?-JK

My greatest satisfaction comes from thoroughly filling surfaces with color and finely detailed decoration.  My decorations start with the lettering since it is done while the piece is leather hard and the rest of the decoration is finished during glazing.  Decoration and the act of decorating are essential because it celebrates and enhances form and speaks purely of aesthetics.  I use pottery as a vehicle to explore decoration and other formal questions.  It allows me to investigate form, space and image.

I know you work with “hormonally challenged” kids, so to speak. How do you communicate the importance of a visual education when there are so many outside influences that perhaps seem to be more important in their minds? -JK

My role as an educator is to be an art cheerleader, I cheer to my students, adults, and colleagues alike. I teach as if this will be my student’s last and only year of art. I have to cover it all in such a short time. In this year, they will make art, write art, talk art; dream art and most of all appreciate art. Of course, I want my students to grow up and become rich and famous artists, but if they survive my “art boot camp” I know they will be lovers and appreciators of the arts.

What do you do to re-charge and re-in vigor your own creative energies? -JK

I love going to workshops!  When it was just the two of us, I would go to two week long workshops all over.  But now with a family I find it harder to get away for long period of time.  (Should say, I don’t want to go for as long.)  Now I look for shorter workshops.

The big thing I do now to re-charge my creative energies is write my blog.  I started the artist interviews, instead of running around the country taking workshops.  I still get to interact and learn from other artists.

You have been very successful in your ceramic career with exhibitions, publications, sales and commissions. What advice would you give upcoming ceramic artists to enhance their own careers in this highly competitive environment? -JK

I still feel like I have a lot to learn.  So I feel a little awkward giving advice, because I still go to workshops, and find artists to help me with my career.  I started out applying for national juried shows.  I would apply to ten and hope I got accepted to one.  At first it was really hard to read the rejection letters, they crushed me.  But eventually I was getting accepted into shows, and the rejection letters weren’t so devastating.  I apply for as much I can.  It is hard to balance making work and applying for opportunities.  I find I can’t do both at the same time.  I will do my administrative type work all at once, so I send out ten to twelve, and then go back to the studio.  And forget about them.

Now I am Talking to Myself, as usual!

Tell us a little about yourself!

I was born in Japan, and have been lucky enough study pottery in Tokoname for a summer.  My Mom is Japanese and has nine brothers and sisters.  I have a bigger family in Japan than I do here in the US!    Two and half years ago my husband and I adopted our son from Ethiopia.  Now I am so lucky to have two amazing kings of my heart.  I have a very international family.  My husband’s sisters are married to Brit and Australian. I teach junior high school students in a very large school, I am one of 5 art teachers.

How did you become an artist?

When I was in high school, my love with clay started.  It was my senior of high school and I was happy in my Home Ec. class, I asked the ceramics teacher if I could switch into her class.  From that point I have been on the same path, ceramics, art, clay.  My parents wanted me to go to college but they told me that I wouldn’t be one of those kids that switched majors every semester.  So I had to declare a major and stick to it.  I told them I wanted to be an art major and 20 plus years later, I still am.

Both my parents have always worked with their hands; my Dad was a gun smith always maintained a shop in very house we lived in.  My Mom always sewed our clothes, knitted, crocheted, made bread, and she was an avid Tole painter.  Although my parents weren’t what you would call artists, making things was a way of life for us.  I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making something.

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?

It took me a long time to find a “style” and I feel like I am still learning and figuring out what is my artist voice.  But I guess I would describe my style as decorative.  When text first jumped onto my work, I was only making very large vessels.  (I still like to make them; I make a lot work now that masquerades as functional.)  As I made these vessels I thought about aesthetics and the act of decorating. As I moved into making objects that seem to have a function the idea of decorating was still the main focus of my work.  When I was in college I was a mixed media sculptor, and narrative was very important to me.  One as I was thinking of making some pots, the idea of narrative came to mind.  I have always love texture; the narrative became texture, with a glimpse of my private thoughts.

What keeps you motivated?

I’ve always love the quote from Tim Rollins, “It’s not passion, it’s a deadline.” I definitely work well under pressure.  Although I love my time in the studio, I have so many distractions that I can easily be pulled away.  So I make sure I always have something to work towards, to make sure I am in the studio at all hours of the night.  I try to make sure I am in my studio every day, some days I work for hours without even noticing how much time has passed, and sometimes I just go to my studio to look around, clean up, and gather my thoughts.

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?

No I am not a full-time studio artist to make my living.  But I do consider myself a full time artist, since I teach, breathe, dream, art.

All my work is slab construction.  Often times my process starts with an idea, but I have to dream up a way to make it.  So I will sketch out my idea, and then make patterns in paper to see how the form works.  Sometimes I think, I have this down, and I go to make a new shape without all the preplanning, then I usually have a really bad night in my studio.

What or who inspires you?

Thomas Hart Benton and Gustav Klimt.

How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?

I definitely don’t have a balance. I am a full time art teacher at a public school, a three year old, and I’m trying to be a professional artist, I am definitely pulled from all directions.

I go full blast for months then I stop.  Then go back to full blast again.  But definitely I would not be able to what I do without my wonderful husband, Todd.  He supports me totally and completely.

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

I have learned the business of art through trial and error.  And I still don’t really do the” business” part yet.  But I do keep my resume and portfolios updated and have a website, blog and Facebook page.  I’m not fond of doing the business end of being an artist.  I generally take time off from the studio, when I apply for solo shows, juried shows and fellowships; I try to get a bunch of applications and then do them all at once.

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

Go to you studio and work and work and work!  Try 10 or 20 variations to an idea, keep pushing an idea.  Don’t just stop at making one, work in a series.  So often I hear people say, “This summer I’ll make art.”  When I retire, I’m make art.”  When my kids get older I’ll make art.”  If you want to make art, just do it.  I do miss TV, socializing, and shopping.  (and many other activities)  I have whittled down my life to what is important to me, (family, art, work.)  But unfortunately I still don’t have it down or balanced.  And I feel like I miss out on a lot, but I am doing what I love.  Thank you Todd for all that you do for me! You are the love of my life!  We have the most incredible family.

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One Response to “Connie Norman – Plinth Gallery Artist Interview – Me!”

  1. Linda Starr Says:

    So nice learning more about you and seeing more of your wonderful work, boy what a schedule you have, be sure to take time off, you’ll be glad you did when you get older like me.