Connie Norman
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Posts Tagged ‘figures’

Donna Polseno – Plinth Gallery Artist Interview

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

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Donna Polseno will exhibit a selection of her contemporary yet classic ceramic vessels at Plinth Gallery this month. Her restrained forms and lush, layered glazes have earned her two national artist grants, and her work has shown internationally. Donna has successfully transformed the pot into a provocative sculpture.Donna’s show opens during our First Friday opening night for Denver Arts Week.

For more information about Donna Polseno please visit her website.  www.donnapolseno.com

For more information on Plinth Gallery please their website.  www.plinthgallery.com   

Please join Plinth Gallery in welcoming Donna for her first Denver appearance, opening Reception, November 5th, 5 – 10pm.

Donna thank you for sharing your thoughts, I know this interview came at an extremely busy time for you. 

Sorry for the small text.  I can’t seem to fix it. 

Tell us a little about yourself!

I have been a studio artist since graduating from RISD in 1974. My husband Richard Hensley ( who I met at the Kansas City Art Institute where we studied with Ken Ferguson) and I moved to the Blue Ridge Mountains with a ton of clay that I made at school before leaving, because he had an injury at the time from a car accident. We rented a house for 50 dollars a month and made 2 rooms into a studio. We now live in an farm house that we bought across the way from that house. We never had regular jobs until 6 years ago when we started teaching part time at Hollins Univ. We share one job. We have two grown sons who were 10 years apart so it was easy to take them to craft fairs when we were young and doing that sort of thing. I count myself lucky to have this wonderful family. I started out making Raku pottery and made a sort of precocious start to my career, looking back. But after winning grants , awards, and good publicity for about 5 years, I changed my work and got dropped by books, galleries and fans. It was quite an eye opener and I spent a lot of time depressed at first, but learned a sense of who I was and a resolve to not let other influences rather than my own resourcefulness decide my work. I eventually started making 2 bodies of work as my vessels became larger and more figurative. Since that time I have always made pottery and figurative sculpture. Some people know me only as the maker of one or the other. But both are equally important to me. They feed each other in some obvious and some not so obvious ways.

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How did you become an artist?

My father was a painter and illustrator. Like me he had two bodies of work to help support a family.

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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?

I was just lucky when I was young to do that. There wasn’t as much competition either. My work has changed so much over the years I can not really answer that clearly. I hope I just dug a deep well, as Ferguson used to say.

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What is your inspiration for your pieces?

My pottery is inspired these days by nature. I live in a beautiful place and want to be outside every moment I am not in the studio. The plants and grasses and flowers I incorporate into my work are all around me. My father was a nut about nature and he was also a bird painter and amateur ornithologist as well as doing landscapes. I started painting and now sculpting birds recently as an homage to him in a way.

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What keeps you motivated?

Life. It is so full of wonder. I love using me hands and interpreting the world around me.

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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?

Yes I am a full time artist. I can only say I rarely lack ideas, but it does happen and I get cranky. My mentor Wayne Higby told me when I was a student that I was very observant visually of the world around me.

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

When I was in art school I was pretty much a hippy at first but one day as a freshman, Victor Babu showed slides of pottery from ancient to contemporary and I flipped out and knew I had to make that. I knew nothing. So unlike most people it was not the feel of the clay. My father thought I had flipped. You are going to make pots and pans he said. I did love it from first touch also.

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What or who inspires you?

I love using pottery. My home and kitchen are full of pots. It is just who we are and what we do.

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How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?

I take a lot of walks. I do Qigong, Bagua, and Yoga. I read. I study Italian. We have a small home in the mountains of Liguria in Italy. I get very recharged being part of another culture. We love to travel and have been lucky enough to travel work related to many places including China, Turkey, and Europe. One son and his wife live nearby, the other comes home for long stretches and Rick’s parents live next door so we have a loving family around and many long time friends. We are part of a group of other potters called 16 Hands and we are able to sell most of our work at home because of our group tour and these are our oldest and dearest friends as well. It all lends to a very busy but healthy feeling 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?

Just be resourceful. I have done so many kinds of work and approaches to making a living, I could write a book. But in the end it is best to say only to work hard, don’t get stuck on one idea or thing, try different methods and attitudes,be creative and positive. Hard times and mistakes are all lessons in their own way. It may not sound it, but I have had many hard times and have had to work like anyone to see those as part of the whole journey.

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

Only to put one foot in front of the other and see everything, not just pottery. It will come with sincere hard work and practice through your hands and your heart and by taking everything in.

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Thanks Donna!!!

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!!