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Elizabeth Robinson – Plinth Gallery Artist Interview

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

ELIZABETH ROBINSON: “Gestating”

“Elizabeth Robinson’s work is a very personal statement embodied in accessible work that is meant to be used. Her pottery is an intimate statement about the importance of the handmade object and the role such objects have in our daily rituals. Her attention to detail in both form and decoration results in work that is a joy to experience.” - Jonathan Kaplan, Plinth Gallery

Please join Plinth Gallery in welcoming Elizabeth for her, opening reception,  March 2, 6-9 PM.

Exhibition on display March 2 – 24th. 

Second Saturday March 10, noon-9pm

For more information on Elisabeth Robinson please go to her website.  And if you are in the market for beautifully designed postcards visit Beth at Postcards for Artists.  And to see the upcoming exhibitions at Plinth Gallery make the jump to their website. 

Tell us a little about yourself!

I am the mom of two small boys and a self employed artist and designer. I live in a small, remote town in Northwestern Colorado, and by remote I mean one stoplight and 55 miles by small roads from the nearest other small town. I have an undergraduate degree in biology, a master’s degree in fine art and travelled the world as a child.

I know that you are a Pottery Mom, how do you divide your time between work, children and life?

There’s never enough of it to go around, but I focus on trying to keep my priorities straight. What works for me is to have a clear daily routine with the kids which prioritizes their physical and emotional needs while also building in little spaces of time at home to get work related things done like designing postcards, communicating with galleries and customers, bookkeeping etc. Often I am working on these things late at night or early in the morning since I don’t want what my kids remember the most to be Mom staring at a computer screen or telling them to be quiet because she’s on the phone. Most importantly, as far as studio time goes, is that I have a work schedule, and barring illness or family crises, I don’t deviate from it. The most challenging part of that is, I can’t stay late or go in early when I need to get more work done, I’ve got to get what I can done in the time I have.


How did you become an artist?

I think I’m one of those people who have always been an artist. I remember wandering around as a kid with my sketchbook and drawing pencils and books on how to draw birds, horses and kitties. I always loved to make stuff and had a particular fascination with useful things. For some reason I didn’t like the idea of majoring in art in undergraduate school, but I was always taking a studio class. By the time I graduated, I had decided I wanted to be a potter. I realized I wasn’t going to be very good if I didn’t give it my full attention, so, I went forward with that, travelling the country and working in lots of different studios before going to graduate school.


I know you live in a remote part of Colorado, how do you get your name and artwork out, and keep current?

Honestly, Facebook is probably my best tool in this case. It makes it so easy to keep in touch with old art friends, colleagues and teachers and share what we’re up to.  I also have a Facebook studio page, Elizabeth Robinson Studio: which helps to promote my work and inform the general public. I try to keep up with maintaining my website and sending out email newsletters, but with 2 boys under 5, my computer time is limited. Living in such a remote area is helpful in the sense that there are few distractions.  With small children at home, my studio time is limited, but my focus is there, so I get the work done, and keep sending it out.

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?

Years ago I came across a blogger who described my work as: “your grandmother’s china meets wabi sabi.” That sounds about right. I’m interested in the junction between mass and delicacy, refinement and physicality, loose and formal lines. I think my work comes off as sophisticated and awkward at the same time.

I can honestly say that I’ve put little thought into developing a ‘style.’ When it comes to making things, I’ve depended first on instinct, then an awareness of my interests, and followed it up with a healthy dose of analysis. That last part I learned in Grad School. In one sense, I have a fairly modernist point of view in that I think that many people can pursue an idea or work with a similar inspiration and the work will have a uniqueness to it that is reflective of that person’s individuality. Not that there aren’t good copyists out there, but I think you need to look at a person’s body of work over time to determine if that is the case.

To have a ‘style’ that is your own and recognizable depends on having a fair amount of consistency in the work over time, either in aesthetic, subject matter or concept. I would never recommend, however, that someone stay with a body of work just for the sake of developing a style. I think that if you dig deep and make the work that is most interesting to you that the rest will follow, then go ahead and market the hell out of it.

 

How has your work evolved over the years?

The body of work I have been pursuing for the last 10 years, which has become very focused on the surface of the pot, and imagery that creates ever shifting compositions based on perspective, started in graduate school with an interest in pattern, decorative motifs and a lot of printmaking. Before that I was primarily interested in form and firing methods that created complex surfaces through atmospheric effects, wood and soda firing mainly. Gradually I realized that I wanted to deal with the surfaces more intentionally through my own hand and the making process itself, this process of activating the surface has evolved from thick slip painted on in distinct areas of pattern and fired with an atmospherically sensitive glaze to the layers of color and imagery that is characteristic of my work right now.  This latest evolution became firmly established when I set up my studio in Rangely and for the first time only had access to one little electric kiln instead of a kiln yard full of wood, salt, soda and reduction kilns. The surface wasn’t going to be complex an interesting unless I put it there myself.  As this aspect of my work evolved the surfaces of the pots became smoother and the forms became simpler, mostly as a result of my concentration on what I was doing with the surface, but also because I was working with a mid range porcelain that’s pretty, but has a lot of limitations. My work is in a period of transition right now. After years of small and simple porcelain forms, mostly dinnerware, I’ve switched to a terra cotta clay and am excited to be exploring larger pieces and working with the earthy qualities of this material.

What will you be showing in your solo show at Plinth Gallery opening this week? How did you come up with the title for the show?

The show is titled ‘Gestating” and it’s going to be a bit of a mix. I am showing some of my favorite porcelain pieces that I’ve saved back over the past year as well as some brand new terra cotta pots.

A little over 5 years ago I became pregnant with my first son who was born in the summer of 2007, and my second son was born in the spring of 2010. During this time my work was present, vital, but going through a period of refinement, constancy. I’m done having babies but I feel my work is now in a process of developing into something new.  I have to admit I feel a bit like a pregnant woman who shows up at the pool in a bikini, not because she thinks she looks cute, but because it’s the only thing that fits, and she might as well own up to it.

What is your inspiration for your pieces?

My work is inspired by a mix of global folk traditions and modern industrial forms, including my mother’s childhood teacup collection, decorative motifs and modes of ornamentation, landscape and painting. I take what is familiar and comforting and mix it with a bit of the unexpected.


What keeps you motivated?

I have always been driven to make things so I’ve never needed a whole lot of motivation to get into the studio. I admit, however, that sometimes after a period of time away from the studio it’s hard to get going again. Also, at the end of a making cycle, or after a big deadline, I usually take a break, usually because I’ve gotten behind in other things and need to catch up. Our family’s budget depends on some income from my studio, so money is certainly a motivating factor, as are show deadlines. Also, given that I have 2 small children at home, and time is even scarcer than money, it’s imperative that I have a work schedule and stick to it, so in that sense, just having the opportunity to go to the studio is a motivating factor, whether I feel like it or not.


Please tell us about your other business.

I have a home based graphic design business called Postcards for Artists. I focus on doing custom layouts for postcards, business cards, brochures, etc. I have always been comfortable on the computer, and my goal is to make the process of creating promotional materials streamlined, affordable and easy for artists, individuals, small businesses or whoever. I can help people through the process of picking their images, choosing their text and offer multiple layout options, or I can just do exactly what they already know they want. I keep it casual and easy and cater especially to those who aren’t comfortable with this part of the process or who need to focus their energies elsewhere. I’m good at working with the last minute deadlines artist are often faced with, and I think I have a knack for looking at someone’s work, or talking to them, and knowing how to design the card to suit their style. I love it, I get to know so many great people and it’s a great source of extra income that I can fit into day to day life at home with the kids.


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 crafter to a businessperson. What have you learned so far and what advice can you give others in the same situation?

Oh man, I am still trying to figure that out! I know that the key is following through on your commitments, keeping good records, meeting deadlines and always putting your best work out there. Being easy to find, taking good pictures, and communicating quickly and well. Easier said than done!


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

1. Make LOTS of work and keep working even when you don’t feel like it or when mistakes happen. If the work doesn’t turn out, do it again, keep at it until you have a real sense of completion to the idea. This, of course, is an excellent quote on that subject by Ira Glass.

Ira Glass

2. Seek honest critiques from people whose opinion you respect. Listen to their input, take what is useful to you and let go of what is not.

3. Follow your instincts.

4. Don’t be in a hurry to show or sell, take as much time as you can letting your work be just for you. Once you start thinking more about money and audience there are aspects of that which inevitably influence what you make. That’s not a bad thing, there is a lot that is relevant and important to consider when it comes to audience and finding a home for the things you make, but the uniqueness of your work will develop best if there is a good incubating period away from these things, and that’s much easier to get BEFORE you start showing and selling. JMHO.

New Plates and Salt & Pepper Shakers

Monday, February 28th, 2011

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All the salt and pepper shakers together.

The first four plates are salad or dessert plates.

This is my first attempt at making plates….So what do you think?

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Plenty of Love

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Guilty Pleasures

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You Are So Loved

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This is The Year

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This is the Year -  Dinner Plate and Salad/Dessert Plate.

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This is the Year -  Dinner Plate and Salad/Dessert Plate and condiment bowl, that says I’m So Lucky.

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This is The Year dinner plate alone.

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Breathe Deeply

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Invisible Strength

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You Can’t Have To Much Sky

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I’m So Lucky

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Posey Bacopoulos – Artist Interview

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

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A few months ago I received a letter telling me that Posey Bacopoulous had images accepted to the upcoming book 500 Vases, (due out next month). I was very confused. I looked back at the envelope and then again at the letter. The envelope was indeed addressed to me. At first I was extremely disappointed, I thought my application had been rejected, and somehow  I got  Posey letter, instead of my rejection letter. What diabolical trick!!  As I went through the rest of my mail that day, I found another letter also address to me from Lark Books, this HAD to be the terrible rejection letter. But amazingly, it was not!! I had also been accepted to 500 Vases!! Now the mystery is how did I get Posey’s letter? I have no idea. I did throw it in another envelope and mail it to her. Thus our conversation started and I asked her to be interviewed on my blog. This is one of the more interesting stories of meeting an artist’s to be interviewed on this ol’ blog.

For more information of Posey’s work visit her website at www.poseybacpoulos.com 

Tell us about yourself

I am a studio potter living in New York City. I have lived in the New York City area all my life except for a time when I went to college in Madison, Wisconsin at the University of Wisconsin. My apartment is in Greenwich Village. It is in a big tall building and I am on the 14th floor so I have great views of the Empire State Building and west to New Jersey . My block is really lovely with lots of trees and beautiful old brownstones. My studio is in Long Island City and I get there by subway. I do not own a car. The trip door to door is about half an hour and I use that time to catch up on my reading._poseyMG_8499How did you become an artist?

When I was in school in Madison I studied European History. When I graduated there was not much for me to with that degree so I went back to school to get a masters degree in elementary education. I came back to NYC and started to teach elementary school. I was a classroom teacher and taught everything-reading, math science etc. One day I decided it would be fun to take a class at night and be the pupil instead of the teacher. I called a friend and asked her if she wanted to go with me. She said she had always wanted to take a pottery class. I did not really want to do that because I did not think that I was artistic. I had never had any art classes in high school or college. But she convinced me to go and that was it. Clay is very seductive and I was hooked very quickly. Teaching school I had my summers off and I started going to all the craft schools-Penland, Haystack, Anderson Ranch.posey1178How would your describe your style

Living in NYC it would be very difficult If not impossible for me to have a gas kiln or a wood kiln. So after spending a semester in Italy in the University of Georgia Studies Abroad program where we did majolica I decided to continue working that way. It is suited to my city life as it only requires an electric kiln. My style is a contemporary approach to the majolica of the Italian Renaissance. I have been working with majolica for the past 15 years. The floral motifs on my pots are patterns rather than actual representations that serve to divide the space in interesting ways.posey4066What is your inspiration for your pieces?

I like to look at Japanese Orbie and Mimbres Indian pots. I am inspired by the way that they use their decorative techniques to enrich their pots. Whenever I see a “good pot “ either old or new I am inspired to make my own pots.posey4073What keeps you motivated?

I am motivated by the search to make “better and better” pots. I love to make pots and I love to decorate and I combine these two loves in my work.posey341079-R1-E002Are you a full time artist?

I am a full time studio potter. I find that one pot leads to another. If I try a new form on a mug and it works I will then try it on a pitcher and then on other pots. There are so many variations on single idea. It keeps me going. It seems there is always something new to work on.posey341079-R1-E007What made you want to start creating?

I took my first pottery class and was quickly hooked on clay.Posey%20%20Bacopoulos%20Flower%20BasketWhat or who inspires you?

I was lucky to be able to go to various craft schools when I was learning to make pots. I was inspired by the many teachers I worked with during these summer workshops. Also I have a large collection of pots in my apartment which I look at and use everyday. I am constantly inspired by them.posey_bacopoulos%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20scalloped%20PlateHow do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?

I do not always. I try to work during the week and take off on the weekends but it usually does not work out. I am often in the studio on Saturdays and sometimes on Sunday. I do take time to exercise and do Pilates two mornings a week. But my life does revolve around my studio.I enjoy being in the studio and working.posey_MG_5747You 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 crafter to businessperson. What have you learned so far and what advice can you give others in the same situation?

I think of the business aspect as part of the whole process. It completes the pot when someone buys and uses it. The “business” is not as much fun as making pots but it is the end of the process that gets the pots to the user.poseyBAC-P-174What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice?

Make lots of pots and then make more. It is through the making that you find your own voice. It’s a process and lots of hard work but in the end it is worth it. 

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Lisa Pedolsky – Artist Interview

Monday, July 12th, 2010

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Check out Lisa’s web site, Two Fish Studio.

Lisa’s work can be seen at Plinth Gallery.

artful-home-spring-catalog-09-0011 Lisa Pedolsky’s forms are hand built slabs constructed in terra cotta. Beginning as a sketch, each form evolves with the use of patterns, cutting, folding, darting and assembling. Lisa uses many homemade or found objects to create unique patterns on the clay and to apply slips and glazes in an interesting way. 

I first became aware of Lisa’s ceramics when our work appeared together in The Artful Home Spring Catalog in 2009. (The photo on the above.)  Then our paths crossed again when Jonathan Kaplan of Plinth Gallery introduced us for the interview series.  If you’re dying to know how she puts her work together she is teaching a workshop at the Taos Clay Studio, July 17 &18!

Tell us a little about yourself!

I grew up in and around New York City and involved myself in the arts throughout my childhood.  In the early seventies I moved to the Bay Area where I pursued my formal art education at California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, and U.C. Berkeley.  Presently I live in Durango, Colorado where I am a studio artist.

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How did you become an artist?

I’ve been a “creative” all my life. In elementary school an hour in the art room was the highlight of every week, and in my later childhood years I was scandalized to learn that Art was not everyone’s favorite subject in school. Playing at art was part of my home life as well, and art progressed naturally as I became more serious and focused over the years. It was a given that I would study art in college. (What else was there?) My post college path was circuitous for a time but I always returned to art. I think it was both nature and nurture that did it for me.

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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?

Style is a tough one to convey in words. I have not consciously worked at developing a style. Rather, it is something existent that I have cultivated. Each of us has innate tendencies: our touch, flamboyance or exactitude, approach, etc. An overview of my work from earliest pieces to my most recent body of work will reveal characteristics throughout that are uniquely mine. As my work has developed and matured over time these characteristics have become more pronounced and refined.

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What keeps you motivated?

It certainly helps to love one’s work, which I do.  Many years ago I identified myself as a strongly kinesthetic learner. I find that information and ideas are best addressed when I am in motion, and so it comes as no surprise that my process is so physical in nature. Working with my hands both engages and frees my mind.  The purest moments in the studio occur when I am completely given over to the work and time seems not to exist.

I am compelled to create.

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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.

My process of slab construction is very much like package design or dressmaking, and a plan must be hatched before I touch the clay. I spend hours thinking about forms and do a lot of problem solving before taking pencil to paper. All pieces start as drawings from which patterns are made. Patten pieces are attached to the clay slab followed by cutting, folding, darting, connecting, etc. I also have a strong idea about surface treatment from the start. That said I’m open to deviating from my original plan if something interesting presents itself along the way. It’s an exciting, engaging process. Attention to detail and fine craftsmanship are paramount in my work, and I find my own character in this regard to contrast with that of my gritty earthenware clay which is loose and casual in nature. The clay and I have developed a wonderful symbiotic relationship over the years.

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

I have been a maker of things as far back as I can remember. The act is more than the mere fabrication of objects; it is my way of processing information as well as communicating, and runs the gamut from meditation to obsession.

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What or who inspires you?

There’s no short answer, but here are a few examples.

In 1972 I visited an exhibit at MoMa, African Textiles and Decorative Arts. The sublime nature of the work through the use of unassuming materials was striking. There was an intangible depth (something beyond physical attributes) in much of the work that I found engaging and which I strive to achieve in my own. The human touch evident in so many pieces stirred me. Many of the objects from that show – textiles, hats, implements of all kinds, and so on – remain influential. Through my show catalog I continue to contemplate these pieces.

I have another book, now out of print, called How to Wrap Five More Eggs. It contains page after page of images of ingenious Japanese packaging. Dried fishes strung together with raffia have an unexpected beauty. Humble materials are used to extraordinary ends. I am able to see these objects through a child’s eye, with no preconceptions, as so many pictured are unfamiliar to me. I value this perspective.

Lately I’ve been noticing the effects of urban decay – distressed street striping and rusted dumpsters in particular – with great interest and curiosity. This will undoubtedly affect my work in some way.

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How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?

I pay attention. I’ve been working at my art for enough years to recognize when I need a break, whether for an hour in my day or a day in my week. My studio is right outside my back door, and although I am quite disciplined this easy access allows for less rigidity in my work schedule. There are times when I push long and hard to meet deadlines, but time in the studio can also be seductive. I make room for the people in my life and my many other interests. Balance seems to affect my performance as an artist in a most positive way.

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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?

When I discovered that I wanted to spend my days in the studio above all else, business was inevitable. In my opinion, the work is never to be compromised. Trial and error has great value. Research. Learn from others. Be accountable.

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

Make honest work. If you’re stuck, start with what you know. Experiment. Take risks. Be courageous.

Thanks Lisa!!

“Take A Road Trip”

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

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Here are some of my bowls that came out of the last firings for my DIA commission.  I filled the rest of the kiln with some bisque I had lying around.  I was ecstatic to the DIA project but, it’s really nice to get back to doing purely what I want to do.  I work in terra cotta and white earthenware.  When I glaze my terra cotta I fire the work at cone 05 and when I glaze fire the white earthenware I fire to cone 04.  I have fewer glaze combinations that I like with the terra cotta, I so I tend to work in white clay a little more.  But here are a few from the last firing. 

The text on the bowls; in order: “Take a Road Trip”, What Would You Do If You Could Not Fail”, “I Hate Liars, Yet I Lie.”

I just found out the four vessels I made for DIA are going to Mr. Mamoru Tsuchino, Mayor of Takayama, Mr.  Kenichi Kaba, President, Takayama City Council and to Mr. Tadao Shimohata, President, Takayama-Denver Friendship Association and Mr. Barry Hirschfeld who is the chairman of DIA’s Tokyo based Ascent to Asia committee.  Laura from DIA said she would send pictures when they get back from Japan.  I can’t wait to see them. 

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