Inside the Artist’s Studio with Chris Oliver

I grew up in southern New Hampshire, which is an amazing mix of idyllic small towns, strip malls, and beautiful pine forests infiltrated by power lines and dirt bike trails.  I have to stop writing about New Hampshire or I’ll never get to anything else.

After high school I moved a couple of hours west and attended Marlboro College in Vermont, which is a tiny school (250 students) on a hill, basically in the middle of the woods.  I graduated from there with a BA in Sculpture.  The bulk of that work was in clay, which I loved at the time for its immediacy.  By this I mean you start with something that is almost formless, or I guess just very malleable, you learn about its material qualities and from there can push it in so many directions with almost nothing beyond your hands.  In hindsight, the work I made looked very old fashioned.  At the time I loved looking at people like Noguchi or Barbara Hepworth.

Chris Oliver with his piece "Double Beaumont" in our Structurally Speaking exhibition. Best in Show!

Chris Oliver with his piece “Double Beaumont” in our Structurally Speaking exhibition. Best in Show!

After finishing that degree I stuck around Marlboro for a few years working for various local potters and doing some carpentry.  During that time I lived in a cabin in the woods, which was incredible.  You had such a direct experience with everything, and it was always changing how you did things based on the specific time of year.  That cabin was also my first remodeling project, which has become pretty central to my life and art since.

I rented space in an unused dairy barn for $15 a month and built a tiny studio out of metal roofing I had found at the dump.  My friends called it a “meat locker” because it was a freezing cold, tiny galvanized enclosure that I’d work in through the winter, usually at night.  We didn’t have a metal shop at Marlboro and this was something that I had always been interested in, so that’s what this space was dedicated to.  I had a small welder and a few basic tools and made a bunch of work that again looked antiquated. By this time I had moved up a decade or two and was looking a lot at Chillida, who often used steel like clay in some really beautiful ways, as well as looking at Anthony Caro.

I used these pieces to apply to graduate school.  Looking back, I’m pretty sure I didn’t get in based on the work I submitted (although I probably would have if it had been the 1960’s because I had a good design sense, crafted things well, and was pretty inventive), but probably based on the few photos of the “meat locker” I’d left the chair of the Sculpture department (Ed Mayer) at SUNY Albany.  My guess is that he saw those and thought “this guy seems really determined and he’ll probably do something good here if we can get him to not be so stubborn.”

I spent three years at SUNY Albany in the MFA program, which was amazing.  Now I was looking at was from the 60s and 70’s (of course!).  Michael Heizer drawing in the desert with his dirt bike, Smithson and all of this entropic Earth Art, and also got really into Gordon Matta-Clark and how he would use houses as a material.

While I was in Albany my thinking about art began to shift from it being something fairly separate from “regular life” to being just another part of it.  As this pertained to sculpture this meant a shift from making autonomous objects to things that directly interacted with the world.  Of course, artists had been doing this for sixty or eighty years, but I really had to work through some pretty strict formalism and still think that it’s so important.

I began working with things that were right around me that I had always been interested in but hadn’t used as art material before.  I made this very small building that filled itself with water when it rained because of the shape of its roof.  It’s size was similar to a springhouse I had collected water from daily when I’d lived in that cabin in Vermont, but its function was purely to create a space for aesthetic experience: it had a hole that you could stick your head in and another that you could stick your hand in to touch the water.

3'x3'x4', wood, cement, steel

The Salt House, wood, cement, steel, 3′x3′x4′, 2005

Inside the Salt House

 

Another was this funny red and white viewing apparatus on skis that you could drag around to isolate parts of the ground and look at.  It looked like a Radio Flyer straight from the 1950’s, and was meant to be used by some family interested in aesthetic experience, but saying that this experience is no different than some other activity like sledding or riding around in a wagon.

img036

Nine years ago I moved to Ithaca where I’ve worked as a carpenter off and on, but primarily help run a large wood/metal/digital shop here at Cornell where art and architecture students build just about anything you could possibly think of, and many things you or I would never think of based on the sheer quantity of incredibly creative people that come through the program.  During this time I have adopted “the digital” in the form of 3-d modeling in the computer, 3-d printing, CNC milling and laser cutting.  Sometimes I use this technology for purely practical purposes. This summer I’ll be milling foam molds for a series of large model swimming pools that I’ll be making with fiberglass and also plaster molds for a 48 pack of full-scale elongated ashtrays that I’ll be slip casting in ceramic.

Other times this technology is conceptually part of the piece.  Last year I printed a stack of picnic tables as the state parks stack them for winter.  I loved the idea of taking this most basic American form, the picnic table, and putting it through this cutting edge process.

The Picnic Tables

 

photo 1Double Beaumont (the piece in Structurally Speaking at Main Street Arts) was conceived in this fashion. I found the first ranch floor plan that came up in a Google search, used this to generate a Rhino model (3-d digital drawing) and starting messing with it in the computer.  I then used this drawing to go full circle and build the piece with pine and nails.

Double Beaumont, V-Ray rendered Rhino model, dimensions variable, 2013

Double Beaumont, V-Ray rendered Rhino model, dimensions variable, 2013

H2

Double Beaumont, Pine, Nails, 5'x'5x8', 2015

Double Beaumont, Pine, Nails, 5′x’5×8′, 2015 

You can stop by the gallery to see Chris Oliver’s sculpture, “Double Beaumont” in our current exhibition Structurally Speaking. Chris’ piece won Best in Show!

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by Rochester painter and sculptor Zach Dietl.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Zach Dietl: Defining Your Space

Wear Flannel EverydayMy name is Zach Dietl. I’m a painter and sculptor, born and raised in Rochester New York. Currently I’m showing downstairs in Structurally Speaking as well as Upstairs at Main Street Arts in the Self-Portrait Invitational. This is my first blog post with Main Street Arts and I’m excited to share some of the thoughts and processes behind my work.

With a bend and a twist, it turns into this

Translation, Steel, 52″ x 23″ x 18″. 2014.

My background is in painting and sculpture. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts from SUNY Geneseo where I focused on oil painting, metal fabrication, and mold making. I recently finished my Masters of Fine Arts at Rochester Institute of Technology, where I extended my practice to include Metal Casting.

My work is an attempt to explore, organize, and define the complexity of the world around us. While making Translation, I was interested in the work of analytic philosophers such as Bertrand Russell and Gottlob Frege, who attempted to use logic and math to explain the natural world. Translation is a geometric form which captures a simple movement. I started by welding tines to a length of 1/2 square steel. I then simultaneously bent and twist the middle of the square steel to transform the flat object into a graceful form.

Amplifier, Steel, 24" x 24" x 24"

Amplifier, Steel, 24″ x 24″ x 24″. 2014

Translation does not tell a story, or refer to other objects. It is an object of pure geometry which focuses on form, proportion, and movement, and material. These simple qualities are defined and presented as evident truths, without commentary or question.

For more information on Zach Dietl you can visit his Behance site at www.behance.net/Zachdietl. Stop by the gallery to see his work in our current exhibition Structurally Speaking and in our Self-Portrait Invitational.

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by laser cut jewelry artist Kelly Nye.

Q & A with Joanna Poag

The Upstate New York Ceramics Invitational at Main Street Arts will feature functional and sculptural ceramic work by 13 artists from the region. This invitational represents some of the most exciting contemporary ceramic work being made in upstate New York.

The exhibition will be held July 11–August 29, 2015.
Online purchasing will begin in mid-July.

Joanna Poag

Rochester ceramic artist Joanna Poag

Joanna Poag

Q: Where are you from originally and where are you now?
A: I spent most of my life in the Rochester, NY area (moving from Washington, D.C. when I was seven) and I’m still here!

Q: When did you realize you wanted to be a ceramic artist?
A: I had been introduced to ceramics in middle school, but it wasn’t until college that I really became interested in clay. Even then, I wasn’t sold on making it my career path until my final year in school when I had to make a body of work for the senior exhibition. The year of focused making both conceptually and technically was so exhilarating and engaging, that I knew I wanted to have my hands in clay from then on.

Q: Did you make other types of artwork before finding ceramics? Do you currently make other work?
A: Before ceramics, I photographed and painted. Since finding clay, although I enjoy momentary explorations in other mediums, I haven’t seriously pursued any form of art-making outside of ceramics.

Q: Do you have an artistic hero or an artist you look up to?
A: Ruth Asawa! She never stopped making and exploring a variety of forms while living a balanced, full life with her family.

Q: What is your largest source of inspiration?
A: I am always on the search for structural patterns in the natural world. I’m interested in how systems function healthily (homeostasis), so I explore everything from musical patterns to movement patterns of animals to growth structures of plants to string theory.

Q: Do you look forward to opening the kiln? Or do you wince at the thought of something going wrong in there?
A: Opening the kiln TERRIFIES me. Every. Single. Time. I always start by cracking it a smidge, and if I don’t see anything troublesome then, I open it a little further and a little further, until finally I’ve opened it the whole way and can assess the damage. I think I get worked up because I can’t physically see what I’m trying to manage from the outside of the kiln. I guess I have control issues.

Q: What is it like being a ceramic artist in Upstate NY?
A: So far, it’s been wonderful. The community has been so supportive and I’ve been able to find plenty of opportunities to continue my artistic growth.

Q: Where else are you showing your work this summer or fall?
A: Right now the plan is to take some time and work out some exploratory forms that I haven’t quite perfected. No shows planned for the summer and fall as of yet, but stay tuned.

Q: Is there anything strange or unique that people might not know about you?
A: I have a serious addiction to salsa and tortilla chips. Bring on the salt!

Sculpture by Joanna Poag

Sculpture by Joanna Poag

Equilibrium Series by Joanna Poag

Equilibrium Series by Joanna Poag

Equilibrium Series by Joanna Poag

Equilibrium Series by Joanna Poag

Equilibrium Series by Joanna Poag

Equilibrium Series by Joanna Poag

Progression by Joanna Poag

Progression by Joanna Poag

Where can people see more of your work/follow you?
Website: www.joannapoag.com
Instagram: @joannapoag

Check out the previous Q & A with ceramic artist Peter Pincus.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Kelly Nye: Utilizing the Hand and the Machine

My current work is a unique hybrid of traditional handcrafted metalwork and laser cut modest materials such as cardboard and acrylic. As an educator, I have access to a range of technological devices and machinery. I have chosen the laser cutter as a tool to obtain precise repetition that I would not be able to duplicate by hand.

My work often flows in series format, one, in which I hand pierce organic, lacy floral adornment drawings with a jeweler’s saw in thin gauge metal. In opposition to what I can achieve with this traditional metalsmithing method, I also use the laser cutter to reproduce linear gemkutz  in a light mass produced fashion. The laser cutter affords me the ability to use the acrylic pieces, both the positive silhouettes and the negative shapes, in a multitude of compositions.

from a room with some lace and paper flowers series

from a room with some lace and paper flowers series                                                                                   hand pierced 24 gauge base metals, Montana Gold spray paint

I do not make jewelry in the traditional sense of the word. I make objects that pertain to the concept of jewelry or adornment but span beyond the wearable to pieces that can be viewed as drawings or sculptures that hang on the wall rather than the body as site.

another ****ing birthday, year 34                                                                                                                          laser cut cardboard, Montana Gold spray paint giant necklace

another ****ing birthday, year 34                                                                                                                          laser cut cardboard, Montana Gold spray paint giant necklace

I currently teach Jewelry and Metals and Foundations at Columbus College of Art & Design (Columbus, Ohio) where I received my BFA in 2006. I moved to California right away seeking a greater expansion of knowledge base in the metalsmithing field where I received my MFA in 2010 from California State University Long Beach. I focus on teaching the basic building blocks of smithing and fabrication, but incorporate digital technology into my curriculum. This allows the students to understand the use of alternative materials, connections and production as it relates to the jewelry field.

The two necklaces above were from a collaboration with my students based on a previous project that I made for myself titled another ****ing birthday, year (34). This was my piece gifted to the participating students for my 34th birthday and in turn, they created an amazing assortment of brooches, crowns, and bibs for me using the laser cutter as the primary tool for production.

brooches for 2015 SNAG Conference in Boston this week

in process brooch production for 2015 SNAG Conference using laser cut acrylic and molded plastic gems and frames

I am in the process of preparing a trip to Boston to attend the Society of North American Goldsmith’s Conference. Here I will be exchanging the above brooches with fellow metalsmiths. Our field is so vast and we all share unique skill sets. The subject matter of the gemkutz series actually is derived from the area of Fine Jewelry  & Goldsmithing which I am interested in but have no formal training. So I have taken the aspects of this field and translated it into a more accessible, abstracted visual translation using opposing materials. I have recently collaborated with Christine Cooper-Hill, a veteran goldsmith on our piece big gems. The diverse skills of stone setting that I learned from Christine, will progress and expand in future works as I am experimenting with setting in the acrylic rather than the more common choice of metal.

just fantastic, that is what I really think

just fantastic, that is what I really think                                                                                                           acrylic, nu gold, flocking, steel wire

My work has always been exaggerated, both in size and concept. Working in small series allows me to express the visual ideas necessary by completing several designs using similar repetitive elements that unite to compose lace-like decorative structures based on jewelry forms. The exhausting of a single shape or silhouette has become a major part of my process, especially in the gemkutz series.

seafoam marquis

seafoam marquis earrings                                                                                                                                            laser cut acrylic, Montana Gold spray paint, gold leaf, sterling silver post

The linear designs are based on diamond and precious gem facet  diagrams as they would be translated three dimensionally into a stone, such as Asscher, Emerald, Marquis and Trillion cuts. The fluidity between drawing and project begins at the early stages of the process as the images are created in the vector rendering program Adobe Illustrator. The laser cutter reads the files and cuts, etches, and scores accordingly into an assortment of material including paper, fabric, leather, etc. The conversion from a two-dimensional drawing/layout to a flat three-dimensional form is most interesting to me as an artist, and why I began referring to these pieces as drawings, because I believe they can exist as both drawing and sculpture.

sky earrings

sky earrings                                                                                                                                                                         laser cut acrylic, Montana Gold spray paint, gold leaf, sterling silver post

Material choice has always been a major role in my work as I have consistently united the semi-precious with the mundane and mediocre. I use sterling and fine silver, brass, copper, bronze, and nickel silver married with felt, textiles, silicone, and plastics. The combination of the two speak in terms of contemporary jewelry as a method of tradition and technology. Mold-making also plays a role in my work and I view the laser cutter as a form of this process; it is a tool or extension of the hand to reproduce effectively and with exactness.

big gems

big gems collaboration with Christine Cooper-Hill                                                                                          laser cut acrylic, brass, cubic zirconia

The gemkutzs series, rethinks aspects of traditional fine jewelry. Based on gemstones, settings, and linear gem cuts, these pieces made of modest materials present wearable statements opposing the standards of the fine jewelry trade. Influenced by nostalgia of the 80’s and 90’s, asymmetry, vibrant colors, and spray paint are ubiquitous through this series. Artistic statements are my fashion intention.

For more information on Kelly Nye you can visit her website at www.thekellynye.com and follow her on Instagram @kellnye. Feel free to contact the artist via the email on her site. Or stop by the gallery to see her work in our current exhibition, Structurally Speaking.

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by textile artist Doerte Weber.

Q & A with Peter Pincus

The Upstate New York Ceramics Invitational at Main Street Arts will feature functional and sculptural ceramic work by 13 artists from the region. This invitational represents some of the most exciting contemporary ceramic work being made in upstate New York.

The exhibition will be held July 11–August 29, 2015.
Online purchasing will begin in mid-July.

Peter Pincus

Penfield ceramic artist Peter Pincus

Peter Pincus

Q: Where are you from originally and where are you now?
A: Rochester and Rochester

Q: When did you realize you wanted to be a ceramic artist?
A: My junior year of High school, I took a ceramics class on a whim. My life as I knew it changed the instant I stepped into that classroom.

Q: Did you make other types of artwork before finding ceramics? Do you currently make other work?
A: All clay, all day. I used to work with metals, but that was unhealthy.

Q: Do you have an artistic hero or an artist you look up to?
A: Chris Thile, Josef Albers, Sol Lewitt, Julie Mehretu, Christina West (Can I say that? She’s been blowing my mind lately with jaw dropping figures.)

Q: What is your largest source of inspiration?
A: My family is the primary source of inspiration for my work. If you were to view what I make as abstract figurative sculpture that uses the language of pottery, as opposed to function tableware, you may discover much emphasis placed on relationship dynamics. I try to use my time in the studio as a way of reflecting upon my life, and the most meaningful thing to me is the way in which my wife, Laurie, and myself have grown as individuals and as a team over the past 13 years.

Q: Do you look forward to opening the kiln? Or do you wince at the thought of something going wrong in there?
A: Who wouldn’t? That is the best part. For better or worse, it is the moment.

Q: What is it like being a ceramic artist in Upstate NY?
A: It is incredibly affordable and practical. Thanks to the Internet, I’m physically in WNY, but I can be everywhere else at the same time.

Q: Where else are you showing your work this summer or fall?
A: Artisan Gallery in Wisconsin, AKAR Gallery in Iowa, Studio KotoKoto online, Morean Art Center in Florida, and a super secret special venue that I’ll disclose soon!

Q: Is there anything strange or unique that people might not know about you?
A: I’m only making vessels while I wait for the world to uncover my mandolin prowess. Though, I may be waiting forever…

Artwork by Penfield ceramic artist Peter Pincus

Vases by Peter Pincus

Bottles by Peter Pincus

Bottles by Peter Pincus

Urns by Peter Pincus

Urns by Peter Pincus

Urns by Peter Pincus

Urns by Peter Pincus

Where can people see more of your work/follow you?
Instagram: peterpincusporcelain
Website: www.peterpincus.com

Peter Pincus wrote four Inside the Artist’s Studio blog posts for the Main Street Arts blog! Check them out here: Inside the Artist’s Studio with Peter Pincus

Check out the previous Q & A with ceramic artist Colleen McCall.

Q & A with Colleen McCall

The Upstate New York Ceramics Invitational at Main Street Arts will feature functional and sculptural ceramic work by 13 artists from the region. This invitational represents some of the most exciting contemporary ceramic work being made in upstate New York.

The exhibition will be held July 11–August 29, 2015.
Online purchasing will begin in mid-July.

Colleen McCall

Elmira ceramic artist Colleen McCall

Colleen McCall

Q: Where are you from originally and where are you now?
A: Born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas. Settled in Elmira, New York now.

Q: When did you realize you wanted to be a ceramic artist?
A: After a summer working as a scenic artist in a hot warehouse in downtown Kansas City I realized that I never wanted to paint again. Creating 2-D illusions on 20 by 60 foot theatrical back drops made me want to work more than ever in three dimensions.  I immediately switched from a painting concentration to ceramics my first semester of college.

Q: Did you make other types of artwork before finding ceramics? Do you currently make other work?
A: My ceramic education was strictly sculptural.  During graduate school I made life-size hollow torsos inspired by the classical ideal, phrases in modern dance and gesture. It wasn’t until my daughter was born that I started making dishes for her and her friends as a way of keeping my hands in clay.  Periodically I revisit my sculptural work but for the most part I am focused on creating highly decorated functional ceramics.

Q: Do you have an artistic hero or an artist you look up to?
A: Without hesitation Andrea Gill, I have always admired her many abilities as an artist, mentor, parent and spouse.  My ceramics work today is certainly influenced by her playful use of pattern and color. While Andrea was never my advisor during graduate school, she kept silent watch over my two years in the program.  At the conclusion of my MFA Thesis show she presented me with a handwritten critique of my sculptures complete with affirmations of my talent and character. That note set me forth on my path as an artist and as a person. Additionally, Andrea set me up with my first residency at the Harvard Ceramics Program which allowed me to continue making my life-size work.

Q: What is your largest source of inspiration?
A: When choosing forms, patterns and colors I try to stay true to that defiant three year old in me. The same little girl who would never match her Garanimals clothing. The matching shirt would have an applique of fabric from the proper corduroy pants. Boring. Effortless. With my pottery I like to encourage individuality.  The collector has to make it their own through unique combination or in collaboration with other cherished items.

Q: Do you look forward to opening the kiln? Or do you wince at the thought of something going wrong in there?
A: I’m always unloading the kiln with gloves on.  Not sure if that means I’m always excited to see what’s happened or just behind on a deadline.  For the most part the kiln opening is joyful.  I work with mostly commercial clays and glazes that are formulated to be dependable.

Q: What is it like being a ceramic artist in Upstate NY?
A: There’s a lot of opportunity in Upstate New York to exhibit, sell, teach and collaborate. Folks are generally eager to support the arts and appreciate the connection and richness that handmade ceramics brings to their daily lives.

Q: Where else are you showing your work this summer or fall?
A: The Ithaca Artist Market again, hopefully. No word yet which issue of Pottery Making Illustrated my article will be in. I’ll keep you posted.

Q: Is there anything strange or unique that people might not know about you?
A: I never intended to make functional ceramics but now that I do it seems so perfect.

Bowl by Colleen McCall

Bowl by Colleen McCall

Basket Bowl by Colleen McCall

Basket Bowl by Colleen McCall

Red Sampler Tray by Colleen McCall

Red Sampler Tray by Colleen McCall

Where can people see more of your work/follow you?
Instagram: colleenceramics
Facebook: Colleen McCall Ceramics
Website: www.colleenmccallceramics.com

Check out the previous Q & A with ceramic artist Ashley Lyon.

Inside the Artist’s Studio: At the Loom with Doerte Weber

My Lillstina loom at home

My Lillstina loom at home

Having returned to weaving after a long absence, I find myself inspired by Bauhaus Weavers. Most of these women entered the Bauhaus Community thinking they would produce art like the men using glass, metal and all the media we associate with the Bauhaus period. Instead, they were forced into weaving and having taught themselves how to weave, created beautiful and unique works of art. Like them, I am self taught and German. I have lived the past 29 years in San Antonio, Texas. I consider myself a structural weaver, using diverse modern materials with old traditional patterns.

I am inspired by my surroundings. In November of 2011, I had the good fortune to visit China. I was amazed at what I saw in Beijing. Here, old and new, traditional and modern style come together. You can see it in the buildings, big doors, and ample use of bamboo while skyscrapers reflected the sky with shiny glass.

modern day living

Modern Day Living; 2013; cotton warp, plastic bags, bamboo wood, novelty yarn, metal heddles, hand dyed cotton fabric; 30 in x 27 in x 0.5 in

This was the first piece I wove in the Series “Modern Day Living”. I enjoyed the variety of materials I could use and how they expressed my vision.

skyscrapper

Skyscraper; 2013; cotton warp, cotton ribbon, novelty yarn, bamboo wood, metal heddles; 29 in x 48 in x 0.5 in

Followed by a skyscraper and lastly by the piece you see in Structurally Speaking:

dysmorphic_disorder

Dysmorphic Disorder; 
2013; 
cotton warp, silk ribbon, bamboo sticks and clear plastic wrappers; 
89 in x 42 in x 1

When you first look at the piece, you see the symmetry. But if you take a closer look, you see a “difference” in the pattern of the green.

This series is still in progress. I am working on several smaller pieces to put together as an installation.

For more information on Doerte Weber you can visit her website at www.doerteweber.com. You can also learn more about her work on her blog or her Facebook page. Stop by to see her piece “Dysmorphic Disorder” in our current juried exhibition, Structurally Speaking.

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by multimedia artist Denton Crawford.

Q & A with Ashley Lyon

The Upstate New York Ceramics Invitational at Main Street Arts will feature functional and sculptural ceramic work by 13 artists from the region. This invitational represents some of the most exciting contemporary ceramic work being made in upstate New York.

The exhibition will be held July 11–August 29, 2015.
Online purchasing will begin in mid-July.

Ashley Lyon

Hornell ceramic artist Ashley Lyon

Ashley Lyon

Q: Where are you from originally and where are you now?
A: I was born and raised in Southern California, Orange County. I left at 18 and moved to Seattle for Undergrad, then to Montana and Colorado for residencies and then back to Washington State for 2 years before moving to Virginia for Graduate School. Following Graduate school I moved to NYC and then 3 years ago I moved to Hornell, NY for a teaching position. I currently live in Hornell.

Q: When did you realize you wanted to be a ceramic artist?
A: I took a lot of ceramics courses in high school, they invented independent study courses for me because I had already taken everything the school offered and I still wanted to pursue it further. In college I tried to focus on something else- I thought perhaps I would become a doctor or a scientist or a writer. When it came time to declare a major the advisor pointed out to me that I had the most credits in art courses despite my desire to become something other than an artist. So this convinced me I should probably just do art. I had to decide between a painting major and a ceramics major because they would not let me do a double major- so I picked Ceramics because at the University of Washington the most exciting things and interesting discussions seemed to be coming from that department. Anyone could major in ceramics whether or not they were using clay- many people were not using clay and this just added to the richness of the program- you could still be a ceramics major by embracing a process that had more to do with the “sensibility” or an approach to clay without actually using it. This completely shaped how I think about it and use it in my own work today.

Q: Did you make other types of artwork before finding ceramics? Do you currently make other work?
A: I make and have made many other things: drawing, painting, videos, photography, textiles. My main other medium that I exhibit professionally along with my ceramic objects is photography.

Q: Do you have an artistic hero or an artist you look up to?
A: There are many, many artists I admire and look up to, I consistently admire and learn from the work of Juan Munoz and Robert Gober. Upon seeing each of their works for the first time I immediately knew and understood all of it- it was a feeling in my gut and my heart that was incredibly inspiring.

Q: What is your largest source of inspiration?
A: I can’t really describe a singular source of inspiration. My impulse to make a piece comes from many things, places, people, and images. Sometimes it is something I’ve seen on the internet, sometimes it is something someone says or something I’ve read, sometimes it is something I’ve witnessed randomly on the street, at a bar, at a restaurant, anywhere really. Sometimes it is a special person or a special object but it can also be something completely banal or someone I don’t know. The main thread is that I tend to start with objects, images, or moments that I have had an intense empathetic connection to. My pieces change and shift significantly as I make them in the studio. Chance, accidents and mishaps are a large source of inspiration and influence upon the final artworks.

Q: Do you look forward to opening the kiln? Or do you wince at the thought of something going wrong in there?
A: A lot of my work is never fired because it is built to become a photograph, but because I embrace accidents and mishaps I have a very neutral relationship with the kiln when I do fire a piece. I look forward to opening the door but rarely do I see what I expected. This is exciting.

Q: What is it like being a ceramic artist in Upstate NY?
A: I have made my work in many places across the country and internationally so making in Upstate NY does not feel particularly distinct for me in relation to my work. I do love it here. I feel good in my soul when I am struck by the natural beauty of everything around me; the seasons, the growth, the colors, the textures. This does not have a direct influence upon my work but it does influence my happiness in life.

I own a large building (a re-purposed Methodist church) that I have remodeled over the last 3 years with my partner Ian McMahon to be our home and studio and an art center. This building was affordable for us to purchase and remodel because it is located in Upstate New York. This is perhaps the most significant influence of location upon my artwork. I have complete access to a very large affordable space, which has been a dream studio for making large-scale sculptures and photographs.

Q: Where else are you showing your work this summer or fall?
A: Nothing planned or scheduled yet! I will be teaching a ceramic workshop at OxBow this summer and am looking forward to that. I am deep in the throws of applying to everything under the sun… and am excited for what the next year may hold in store for me!

Q: Is there anything strange or unique that people might not know about you?
A: I am Co-Founder and Co-Director of an artist-run exhibition center in Hornell, NY: The Belfry.

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Where can people see more of your work/follow you?
Websites: www.ashleylyon.com and www.belfryarts.com

Check out the previous Q & A with ceramic artist Bethany Krull.