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(Mud)Shot: Sharon Virtue

Good morning, everyone! I'm so happy to share today's artist profile. Sharon Virtue is a gem of an artist- supremely talented, remarkably down to earth, and out of this world generous. I am so inspired by her vision and ability to bring art to people all over the world and still have time to create such a gorgeous body of work herself.  

So, I'll hush my gushing... you can all read for yourselves. Enjoy!

The Stats: Sharon Virtue @ Rubys Clay Studio with 23 years in clay…. www.virtuevision.org

Do you remember how or when, exactly, the clay bug bit you? In art school in the 80s in England, I was actually into film and tv, but ended up being frustrated by the lines for equipment, so I would go down to the clay studio, which was always empty.

Can you choose three words to describe your work? flamboyant, enigmatic, exciting.

I find that as ceramic artists we can get really focused on the ceramic art world and forget what’s happening outside of it. Can you name a non-ceramic artist whose work inspires you? There are many, and my own work spans many different mediums, Painting was my first love, and my work in community development around the world keeps me firmly grounded in the fact that what I do in my studio is not that important. I am inspired by Matisse, Micheal Jackson, Mythology and Magic…. and most of the sculpture from the ancient worlds from Africa, Oceania, Asia and Classical Greek/Roman Europe.

The directions you can choose as a ceramic artist are so many and so varied that we often have to choose a few areas to focus our expertise on. Is there a technique or skill, apart from your own, that you admire or aspire to? I have no formal training in ceramic arts, after my first NCECA conference I realized that most of these people have MA’s… so there are a million different technical things for me to learn. Better throwing skills, handbuilding skills, tricks of the trade, HANDLES….!!!

As makers, we are often surprised by what our audience likes best of our work. And our audience’s favorites aren’t always the same as our own. Of your own work, do you have a favorite piece or project? My sculpture, though I feel it is sorely neglected right now. I have so much more to learn and express, so many ideas never made manifest. the time that it takes to create a sculpture is so different to my process around smaller functional works that are easier to sell. My latest works I call Clay Poems, they are ceramic paintings, a bridge between my sculpture, painting and functional work.

Alternately, what is your favorite part of your creative process? (Sketching, glazing, pulling handles, installing, etc.) Working with form, from the wet to leather hard phase, and anything to do with surface pattern design.

Can you describe your studio space in a few words or sentences? Very small and dark. I call it the ‘Womb of creativity.’

What is the one tool you can’t live without? Sculpting tools… the ones made of bone with tiny little paddle shaped ends.

There are ceramic residencies, studios, schools, galleries, conferences, and museums all over the world. Where has your artwork taken you or where would you like it to take you in the future? My work as an artist in community development projects has taken me to Mozambique, Uganda, Brazil, and most recently Haiti. I have worked on several projects here in San Francisco. Searching for inspiration for my artwork has taken me on many journeys all over the world, the only places I haven’t been are Middle East, Japan, China, the Poles and some other countries in South America. My artwork has earned me residencies in Hawaii, Ghana and here in San Francisco, at the De Young Museum.

Artists are multifaceted people and we often have more than one passion. What is an activity outside of ceramic work that you really enjoy? Dancing, singing, sailing, roller scating, sketching, snowboarding , surfing, travel… just life in general, being alive is so special, we take it forgranted a lot of the time, how lucky we are.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from another artist? “Do what ever you want, you are the artist.” (Nick Cave after seeing his exhibition of costumes at the Yerba Buena Art Center)

Teachers always impress the importance of the sketchbook and designers often develop mood-boards as creative as their actual work. How do you collect inspiration? With my digital camera, and my memory if I don’t have a sketchbook.

If you could have a one-on-one workshop with any ceramist (living or not), who would it be? Akio Takamori (for now)… is he giving workshops?

How about some more preferences, perhaps a bit more trivial, shall we…

-Favorite color? the rainbow.
-Coffee or tea? nettle tea.
-Last good film or book? the lace reader.
-Minimalist or maximalist? both
-Dogs or cats? definitely CATS RULE
-Favorite season? they are all special, but I hate being cold.
-Music, silence, or NPR in the studio? depends on the mood, all of the above.
-Polka dots or stripes? Polka dots with stripes on them.

And a bit more personal… Sharon, aside from creating your own body of work, you make an impressive effort to bring art to other communities from right here in the Bay Area to places as far away as Rio de Janeiro and Mozambique. Primarily, these opportunities have been with disadvantaged youth. How have your relationships with these children, specifically, influenced your creativity? My life in general is inspired by the people I work with, but then for me the line between art and life is invisible, its a very holistic, symbiotic experience. My community development projects have helped me to realize how lucky i am to be able to make a career in the Arts. Working with both children and adults abroad and here in California I am made more aware of how important the arts are in our lives. I think most of all I don't take anything for granted and pay attention.

Do you have a blog we can follow? I have a website that needs to be updated but has more in depth info on my community outreach and my blog is http://virtuevision.blogspot.com.

Lastly, where can we see your work up close and personal? Ruby's clay studio, or my home.

Thank you so much, Sharon, for sharing with us. You are a total inspiration.

If you are interested in participating in an artist profile or studio tour, shoot me an email with a link to your website or blog.  :)


Linda Fahey said...

nice, JLu - Sharon is one of the most fabulous, giving and awesome sources of inspiration and positive energy. Her work is so gorgeous - As I've said about her; she is a creative force across her whole life, and for her friends, she is a gift.

awesome interview and pics!

lightbeinglynn said...

Just read.....I agree, Sharon is an inspirational woman. I love to see what she manifests and pulls and lifts from herself. She is an excellent role model for individuality and making whatever you want happen for yourself. Thank you for this interview. ~L~

virtuevision said...

Hi Jessie,
this is so weird, reading something i forgot i had written, ( except the bit about polka dots with stripes on them.....) ha ha... thanks so much for taking the time to interview me. you blog is FANTASTiC. and i'm honored to have been featured.
Sharon Virtue.

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