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Find me more frequently for the time being at Folk-Art-Life.


A Closer Look with Brett Freund

Brett Freund is an artist living and working in Maryland. He recently was awarded the Lormina Salter Fellowship at Balitmore Clayworks and last year he was featured as one of Ceramic Monthly's Emerging Artists for 2012. While Brett was bunkered-in awaiting the arrival of superstorm Sandy, we met up at the intergalactic cafe known as 'online chat' to discuss his work a bit more in depth. His use of traditional technique, non-traditional material, and contemporary imagery have created an exciting body of work that grows in many directions, quite like the crystals he references. I look forward to seeing where his work takes him in the future.


Jesse Lu: I did tons of 'thorough' research into you and your artwork, however, it seems there is very little written out there on the basics of your life story. Care to share a bit of your beginnings with us?

Brett Freund: Sure, I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA during a time when a lot of the old steel factories were being torn down and the city was reinventing itself. Pittsburgh is big enough to be exposed to big city ideas but small enough that as a child I could spend time running around in the streets with friends.

My parents grew up in homes where the men worked in the factories and the women stayed at home. There was a strong element of working class ethics in the city as well as a strong emphasis on education due to the large number of universities in the city.

JL: Blue collar has a loose connection to lowbrow as well. What's the connection in your own work? I've read that you are thinking about commodity, value, low-brow versus high... 

BF: Yeah I think there is a strong connection that happens mentally while I work and one that affects how I look at objects. I think about hierarchies between low and highbrow art a lot. For example who buys what and what context certain objects are created for. I make work based of formal qualities that I consider highbrow but I always want my work to look loose and chaotic. It's funny how so many aesthetics that came from low-brow culture become fashionable for being outsider.

I want things to look a little out of place but at the same time I want there to be a sense that I know what's going on either around me or historically.

JL: I noticed that about your vessels. It seems like you begin with this traditional 'pot' concept but then these crystals form around them along with the imagery, growing out from the epicenter. It kind of mimics how trends spread and adapt, no?

BF: I think that's an interesting way to see it but it's something that I haven't thought of. After undergrad I moved to Florida for a residency at St. Petersburg Clay Company. The first seven or eight months I was there I worked for a company applying rhinestones to dresses for Dancing With the Stars, all the while making folk-inspired, atmospheric pottery at the clay company. I began to see a difference between the environment that I was living in and the pottery that I was making. Living in Western Pennsylvania it made sense to work in that style, but after I lived in Florida things never felt the same. I think some of the best pots made reflect the environment that they are created in but also that sometimes trends in society can conflict with one's own taste. My work is currently reflective of a world that emphasizes precious objects, or any object that people use for identity purposes.

These are the just the things I think about but when I work there is generally a lighter mood in the atmosphere.

JL: I think folks who don't make art think of artists as dancing with this divine inspiration while they make their work. But that isn't really the case, is it? It's more like walking the dog and thinking about stuff, and then making a note to pursue one of those ideas, but then just making the work because it's fun to make things.

So... let's talk about the crystal. It's kind of a big deal in your work. Where'd it come from?

BF: I began using diamond forms in graduate school by gluing Swarovski crystals onto ceramics objects, the same rhinestones we used in the dressmaking sweatshop. I found that I didn't like the connection that the real rhinestones made so I began to use gem forms with slip cast parts. This concept evolved into the crystals because I liked that the work looked precious without being too refined.

JL: Hmm... again, a kind of dichotomy of value. 'Rhinestones' in and of themselves represent this intermediary position between the classy and the trashy, hi versus low. Let's talk about this in a different way...

You were one of Ceramic Monthly's 2012 Emerging Artists. (Congrats, by the way!) In your nomination introduction you said this:

"It's hard to ignore that I've felt hierarchies btw functional and sculptural objects from external sources."

Do you ever find it challenging to be a sculptor who uses ceramics and a contemporary potter at the same time?

BF: First off, thanks. The Emerging Artist was award I felt really honored to have, especially after so much hard work. I don't think you should ever have to define yourself, because if you do I think the end is near. I don't ever want to pinpoint exactly who I am because then it makes it harder to change. I feel as though working as a sculptor and a contemporary potter are the same thing. What I do find challenging is the kind of scale that you associate with sculpture and the resources and energy that it takes, not to say that smaller things have less importance. I have often worked in places that had limited space, for instance, all of the work that I made for the Ceramics Monthly Emerging Artist award was made in my kitchen.

A few times people have commented, after seeing my work in person, that they always imagined it bigger. Most people see my work through images.

You mentioned a kind of dichotomy before and I do think that's what can be tricky when talking about what I do. So many parts can be understood in different ways and in the end I don't really have any answers to the questions that I have with high-brow and low-brow issues but I find them really interesting to look for.

What I like about vessels, rather, that always keeps me coming back to them is the initial connection a pot has with a viewer. That basic form is easily understood and from there you can begin to expand on meaning. Some of my art friends complain about archetypes but I find them to be useful and unavoidable. I also like doing both types of work because anytime I explore my sculpture further my vessel work gets stronger, too.

JL: Working in different media or in different concepts is kind of a catch-22. I think the contemporary art scene kind of frowns upon it to an extent, as if focusing on ONE thing legitimizes your artwork in some way. And while focus can lead to mastering a skill or concept, I think it's important to remember that The Greats rarely stuck to one thing. It's that cross-pollination that leads to actual artistic authority. In my humble opinion, that is.

And I agree... there's a reason certain concepts, objects, or styles have become archetypes.

So, I'm going to be cheeky in regards to functional versus sculptural. Which came first in your work, the chicken or the egg?

BF: I'm not sure if the chicken is functional ceramics and if sculptural ceramics is the egg, but I do think sculptural ceramics historically happened first. For me, though, it may have been functional work that came first. The first piece I ever made was a pinch pot in high school and I specifically remember having salsa bowl in mind while I was making it. The next project, on the other hand, was a ceramic pumpkin assignment that had no function besides being festive. I had no idea what ceramics really was when I started but it quickly became my favorite class. I tried throwing towards my senior year and couldn't manage it for the life of me. When I started art school I thought I could never make it as a potter, and never considering ceramics as a serious sculptural medium, I got heavy into steel and concrete. That is, until I took an introductory ceramics course. It was at that time I learned to throw and became serious about clay. So I suppose I didn't really start out throwing but didn't become a ceramist until I did.

JL: I guess that I meant to ask if you started putting crystals onto your pots before you started making crystal sculptures. Maybe you did it at the same time?

BF: The nugget aspect of my work started even before I began applying the slip cast crystal parts onto vessels. I have only realized my current work within the last year and mostly by taking all the aspects of my graduate work that I liked and mixing them together.

JL: So what is it exactly that's crystallizing on the sculptural work?

BF: I've been over saturating borax in boiling water and then soaking my ceramic pieces in them overnight. It's fun to find what has occurred in the morning and makes waking up more enjoyable. What l like about it, besides giving the porcelain pieces a faux natural appearance, is that it creates a moment in the work where I don't have very much control. I know generally what the outcome will be, but not how the particular crystalline structure will grow.

JL: We don't really have as much control as we ever like to think... over anything really- our life, our art, our process, sometimes that ends up being for the better. If you could choose, though, one direction you would really like to take your work in the future, where would that be?

BF: My favorite aspect with making work is connecting with people and I'm constantly impressed with how certain artists have that ability with their work. Ron Nagle is somebody who comes to mind when I think about work that is small and intimate yet engaging. Another example is Brendon Tang and the way his work makes tradition feel so contemporary. I can see my work becoming more sculptural but maintaining its intimate qualities. I like watching trends and I can see myself mimicking some modernist aesthetics in the future.

JL: I love Ron Nagle's work and Brendan Tang is also pursuing some ideas that I find really interesting. And I can really see intimate work as a seed that's germinating in the contemporary scene. Especially as accessibility to original art becomes more and more important to everyday people, not just big time collectors.


A huge thank you to Brett for bearing with me as publishing this interview hit a couples bumps in the road. If you're reading and you happen to be in the Baltimore area between January 18 and February 17, Brett is showing some of his work in a group show, "Multiplicity: More than the sum of the parts," at Julio Fine Arts Gallery.


A Closer Look with Jenny Gawronski

Jenny Gawronski is a ceramic artist living and working in southern Colorado. Her work straddles the delicate space between functional pottery and sculptural installation, and it has long captured my imagination. Recently, she began teaching courses at Adams State University and through speaking with her it became apparent that teaching ceramics figures strongly into the vitality of her own artwork. It was just as much a pleasure to speak with her as it is to look at her work.


Jesse Lu: Tell me again about your personal history with clay and how you realized ceramic art was the career you were going to pursue.

Jenny Gawronski: I took my first ceramics class in high school at South High in Minneapolis. I had an incredible teacher named John Kantar, who was very inspiring to all of his students. He studied with Warren McKenzie when he was in college, so we were all introduced to the Japanese Mingei pottery style at a young age. I distinctly remember when I realized that I wanted to work with clay for the rest of my life. I was a junior in high school and I could not get enough time in the studio at school. In my pursuit of learning, I took classes at the Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis and night college classes at the University of Minnesota while I was still in high school. I was just so excited about all of the incredible work that artists were making and became obsessed with learning everything I could about the medium.

JL: I wish my ceramic experience in high school had been like that. Unfortunately, I had a bad teacher who put me off of clay for years. I'm grateful to my mom for encouraging me to give it another go in community college. Have your folks been encouraging of your work?

JG: I am so sorry to hear that! I also teach the art education courses at my university, so the state of art education is very important to me. Good thing for your mom. I am very lucky to have parents that have been very supportive of my pursuit of a life as an artist and educator. My parents have a huge collection of the horrible work that I made in high school and college up in their house in Minneapolis. I wish they would just hide it away in boxes in the basement!

JL: I know what you mean. My mom could have a retrospective of my work from age four on a moment's notice. I'm not so sure how I feel about that.

JG: It is a nice way to see how far our work has developed!

JL: That's a very glass-half-full way to look at it. {laughs}

So... I am going to give you three words to describe your work, they are...

JG: I wish the work would be seen as elegant, ritualistic, and engaging.

JL: I like those choices... And I think they fit well, especially considering the influences I see in your work. If I had to pick two that I see most directly, they would be the geometry of Islamic decoration the gracefulness of Eva Zeisel. How far off am I?

JG: That sounds perfect. One of my favorite books is one that Eva Zeisel wrote called "The Magic Language of Things." Such a great title! Eva Zeisel has had a large influence on my understanding of the importance of craftsmanship in my work. I am always striving for a higher level of craftsmanship as I try to be more confident with the forms of my pieces. I see Eva's work as a great example of those ideas.

With Islamic art, I am inspired by the incredible line quality of the work. I am obsessed with the beautiful shapes that are used in repetition that can be seen in Islamic tile and architecture. I am interested in the over lap of lines to create depth and interest in the work too.

JL: So if you draw aesthetically from those two models of design, can you speak a bit to your conceptual influences?

JG: Conceptually, I am interested in the role of ritualistic objects in our lives. I think a lot about my family’s history in the Jewish faith and the objects that have been used in the past to celebrate yearly rituals. I am interested in the ideas that specific objects can have the power to mark time, and how we can revisit those objects once a year, once a month, or once a week in the use of a specific ritual. I am interested in the possibilities of creating new rituals through the design and placement of objects. This translates into my work creating distinctive sets of ceramic pieces that encourage ceremonial experiences with food for my audience.

JL: I love how your tableaus speak to dining rituals and they make me think about how different meal-culture is from place to place. For instance how traditional Indian cuisine is meant for group eating, with various stews, sauces, and breads served family style with the intention of being shared by hand. What do you think our own dining rituals in this country say about the rest of our culture?

JG: This is a great question. I am very worried about the 'state of the meal' in our country and the larger conversation about obesity. I hope that my work can convey the ideas of eating and drinking as important acts that deserve time and thoughtfulness.

JL: Perhaps also community. I see our eating habits as reflective of the individualism that reigns supreme here in the United States. T.V. dinners, anyone?

JG: Yes, I completely agree with you. I will say that I also struggle with these issues in my own life, too.

JL: It's an inescapable product of our time and place.

So, shifting gears a bit... you've recently begun teaching at Adams State University in Colorado, I assume ceramics. Do you keep a personal studio space there?

JG: Yes, I teach all of the ceramics courses and I have a studio space at school for my glazing and storage and a small space in my house where I create my pieces.

JL: So, greenware happens at home and bisquing onward happens at the university? That sounds dangerous. Especially considering how delicate your forms are.

JG: You are correct, I throw the work at home and wrap it in towels and drive it to school. It is quite a process, but I really love working at home. Because I throw so many different parts and connect them together, I need to get the timing just right. Working at home gives me that opportunity. I also love seeing our 8 chickens running around our backyard from my studio window. They always keep me smiling!

JL: I grew up with chickens. I can't wait for the day I have a space to have them as well. They are such grounding creatures. It must help being able to step back into your little domestic world everyday. "All the ceramic courses" sounds like you're quite busy at the University, and I'm guessing teaching has put a bit of a restraint on how much time you spend working on your art. How does it affect your personal work?

JG: I absolutely love teaching. I get so much energy from the students and it really helps push the work that I am making in my studio. I work in my studio at night and on the weekends, sometimes when I have less available time to work I can stay focused on what I am working on more easily. For example, this summer I have been a little distracted by our mini farm with our chickens, dogs, and cat.

JL: What fantastic distractions, though. What else do you enjoy doing when you aren't teaching or making art?

JG: When I am not in the studio, well even when I am in the studio I spend a fare amount of time eating chocolate and writing letters to friends. I also love running and playing rugby. I have started to sew a little more, which is very exciting!

JL: Rugby? Really?! That's awesome.

JG: Oh, thanks! There is a women's team where you live...

JL: I've been invited to play rugby before. I'm just not very team oriented... {laughs}

I love that you are so into teaching. I just took my first step towards it myself, though I see myself working with really young kids. What is your goal in teaching young ceramists? What do you hope they leave with after being under your tutelage?

JG: I am very interested in what makes an effective teacher. In my ceramics courses I stress the importance of critical thinking and individuality. For all of the assignments that the students have they are asked a series of questions, shown incredible artists, and then they are required to create their own pieces in response to the assignment. We talk a lot about how they each handle the material differently and how that is important for them to pay attention to as they go through life. I also try to stress the importance of taking risks with their ideas and their pieces. I try to help all of the students reach their full potential as artists and critical thinkers.

JL: So... on a final note... What's the best advice you've received from another artist? Or advice that you like to pass on?

JG: I would love to pass on the incredible experiences that I have had with all of my art professors at Penn State, CU-Boulder, and LSU, but there is just too much to share. Instead, I will highlight two very influential LSU professors: Andy Shaw and Tim Berg. Their advice was embodied in demonstrating a strong work ethic and dedication to their studio practice. These artists were extremely generous with sharing their time and knowledge, both while I was enrolled in school and after I graduated. One particular lesson that I have carried with me is their advice to look beyond the typical ceramic influences to find inspiration from authors and other outside sources.

JL: I am definitely a believer in utilizing all the influences around you, especially those furthest from your own medium. It's the most surefire way to reach an original conceptual and aesthetic identity as an artist. 


I want to say a HUGE thank you to Jenny for sharing her time with (Mud)Bucket. Interviewing her was an absolute blast and I'm so happy to share our conversation on this blog. Please feel free to share any thoughts or questions in the comments section. Jenny and I would love to hear the reader response. 

Also... for future interviews or studio visits... let me know who you would like to hear from. I'd be happy to see if I can make it happen. :)


Video: Grayson Perry

Love this fantastic visit with Grayson Perry... One of my all time favorite artists and people.

All you have to do is put in the hours...


In the Workspace with Linda Fahey

Linda Fahey is a ceramic artist living and working just minutes south of San Francisco, California.  She's been a regular on the ceramic blog scene, with the popular We Swim with the FishesRecently, she has begun working full-time on her pottery. Watching her work blossom so quickly and brilliantly has been an absolute joy, both as a friend and as a fellow ceramist. Several days ago Linda and I spent some time writing each other about her studio space, the challenges of making a living as an artist, and her recent entry in a grant contest, Mission: Small Business.


Jesse Lu: Your studio space is a bit of a patchwork situation, which I find interesting and lovely. Could you describe it to us a little? How long have you been making work here?  

Linda Fahey: Interesting is a nice way of putting it. It’s taken over my house, so it's definitely a live/work set up.  I live by myself, so I can spread out.  I'm up on a hill and have a very nice ocean view.  It could be more organized, but overall it works well.  I do wet work in the actual ‘studio outpost’ which is in my back yard.   The studio is a simple modern frame shed, pitch roof.  Seven feet high ceilings at the lowest with a pitch to eleven feet at the front, with old french doors from a San Francisco victorian for windows, floor to ceiling.  It has great light during the day.  The outpost is 10' X 14', not huge, but cozy.  I have a large table, a bench for drying work and storing materials along the wall, as well as a couch and surround sound.  I like my music and books on tape.  I also work at my dinning room table (see photo) where I do a lot of the carving and slip decoration.  My kiln and glaze area are in the garage providing easier clean up. 

JL: When I was in school I had a class my final semester where we talked about all the ins and outs of the working life of an artist, and there was a good deal of conversation about choosing the right studio space. And it seems from books I've read and artists I've spoken to that there is kind of a split preference between having your studio in your home space and having it away from home. I know you've worked both at and away from your home. Can you tell us a little about those experiences, the differences, and which you prefer?

LF: Ooh, loaded question.  I’ve done both, and until recently, simultaneously.  Probably common for many potters.  Each has pluses and minuses.  The community space is fertile ground, isn’t it?  The energy of being part of a strong artist community and sharing space means you have immediate access to many styles of process - everyone benefits from that type of environment.  Working closely with your mates builds community and camaraderie. That's hugely important to artists- who, like little gangs of birds, can gather together to weather the storms.  I miss it sometimes because, until very recently, I went to Skyline College (Tiffany Schmierer is the teacher) two nights a week to focus on on sculpture work.  I’d been there for over five years, and also Ruby’s Clay Studio for a couple years before that. Now I’m exclusively working at home, sometimes long hours, and it can be a lonely business.  You don’t get the benefit of just hangin’ out with fellow artists and working out an issue or ideas, getting feedback and support, or just taking a break to eat or have a beer with your studio mates.  My constant studio mates are my two dogs, Dante and the tiny Pig.   They are great to have around, unless they don’t get their walk.  

JL: So your studio space at home sounds pretty awesome. You are perched up the hill in a little coastal forest of sorts, looking out into the Pacific, with a beautiful garden and your lovely pups to keep you company when you're not in the water. Can you talk a little about how the space that surrounds you inspires you and influences your work? What is your favorite part about your working environment?

LF: If by environment you mean where I live?  Pacifica is a beach town along the Pacific not far from San Francisco.  Living in a small coastal town would always be my choice.  I get fidgety if I'm away from the ocean for too long.  The ocean is unbounded, vast, constantly changing, along with the weather.  I’ve blogged about it a lot.  One day it’s a perfect sunny day, the next with fog down to the ground, and then it's sunny again.  I love it.  The ocean is a constant inspiration, a million shades of blue, green, gray and white.  I hear the waves at night.  We have tons of sea life, dolphins and whales - it’s beautiful.  I've been in and out of the water most of my life.  I’m doing much less surfing these days, but I have started paddleboarding which I’m excited about.  Being in the water looking back on land, it’s a big experience, the ocean teaches you a lot.  I don’t get that experience anywhere else nor a greater connection to the land, a greater respect for nature and it’s power.  Seriously, it's that sublime effect that only nature creates. You know, the double rainbow effect... we laugh, and it is funny, but it’s also something that is so much bigger than us.

JL: So being such a water baby... that must find it's way into your work or into the way you work. Beyond the obvious ocean icons we see in your art, I mean.

LF: My house is stuffed to the gills with books.  I’ve been reading every book I can find on maritime history and the age of discovery over the last few years.  It's fascinating stuff.  So, it’s not connecting to the ocean via the natural world, but the man’s ferocious appetite for mastering his domain.  It’s incredible what they did.  Setting off towards the horizon not knowing where it would take them or what was waiting for them.  Sometimes they would be out at sea for years.  We have no equivalent for that today.  And it changed the whole world forever.  For my own work I can't always get my arms around how I want to convey the relationship between man and the sea.  How do we feel about the ocean?  I’m often asked about the whales; it’s not just as simple as I read Moby Dick and well, there you go.  Put a whale on it.  The whale is the greatest metaphor we have for the sea.  It’s about the elements, the environment, and the feel of the sea.  The line work, water, moving and turning, churning, wind blowing, the feeling that the ocean is bigger than we know.  

I once swam with a pod of dolphins in Hawaii; it changed my life.  But by contrast, we are poor stewards of the oceans.  Why are we still whaling?  How can we need anything from a whale in this day and age?   We are the arbiters of plastic and so incredibly irresponsible.  There's an endless stream of container ships that march across the horizon line (two a week on average go to the bottom) and then we're considering more oil rigs after the BP fiasco? How are we not doing better, being more sophisticated on how we utilize our resources?  We can’t stop, but we can be way more intelligent about it, instead of greedy.  Everything eventually ends up in the sea.  So, yes, there's a lot more I can do with the subject matter. There are many stories I haven't yet told.   One thing I’d like to do is partner in art with some ocean non-profits to donate sales/help bring greater awareness to how we can use less plastic for starters.

And then... there’s the flower thing in my work.  It’s as simple as I love flowers and pattern.  simplicity and innocence, old and new.  

JL: Recently you posted an article from Etsy on your Facebook that highlighted the misconception about artists and their time. So much more than molding clay or layering paint goes into being an artist. Can you break down what a real 'artist's schedule' is like for you? And on the other hand, if you didn't have to think about making money, what would a fantasy workday look like for you?

LF: I did my corporate time, some 20 years in heavily structured environments.  Now that I have the whole day to structure in anyway I like, it’s been challenging. What's weird is that I'm generally good at time management. Or I was. Now I'm in a world without inherent structure, where I am in charge of developing, implementing, and adjusting the work schedule day to day - even throughout the day.  I've gotten much better at it, but find that I still waste a lot of time.  I just went out and bought a huge calendar for the rest of the year to plot a plan and create a project timeline.  A corporate world of one.  I have a lot going on at the moment, more than I have ever had, so it's critical to my success and growth to get a handle on it.  I make myself work a minimum of six hours a day on clay and two hours on administrative stuff.  The toughest thing is when I'm ramping up for an event.  All hell breaks loose and the schedule gets tossed and I end up working 16/17 hrs a day.  

My fantasy workday... nice question!   So, fantasy day in my fantasy studio/gallery, right? Up around 6,  little workout, make coffee or tea, beach walk with the dogs, then get on my bike and ride to work at the studio/retail/gallery space around ten-thirty. I'd open at eleven.  Come home, wine, eat, rest, read, have fun. Sleep and repeat. Shop hours: Tuesday through Friday eleven - seven, Saturday and Sundays eleven - five. Mondays we'd be closed. I don't know.  Sounds pretty good to me.  Actually, my day is already like that except for the bike part. And, well, the awesome studio/gallery part.  

JL: You've got it all worked out! 

That Etsy article also cited an article on Salon about the plight of the creative class and the relatively obscured economic hardship it's currently facing. Incidentally, in the last year or so you also came across some economic obstacles of your own, the end of your twenty-year career in the corporate world and a leap into the 'creative for pay' wilderness. You mentioned that figuring out how to schedule your self hasn't been as easy as you would have guessed. What other challenges has that leap into self-employment as an artist presented for you in the studio? How has it affected your craft methods??

LF: There have been numerous challenges with the transition.  I think it's important to evaluate your weak points and areas where you are uneven, don't be afraid to get feedback, not just on your artwork, but on your business approach as well.  I know- easier said than done, but there is enormous value there.  Setting realistic goals and attaining them is key.  Again, I draw from my corporate experience a great deal.  I have a hard time with the idea of obscured economic hardship.  I want to be respectful to those, including myself at this point, who cannot make a sustainable living without supplemental income.  Self-employment in any field is a gamble, and it takes a lot of courage to believe in what you are doing and to continue to do that in the face of economic realities.  Where you live, the demographic, the work, luck, grit- everyone has to decide what their bottom line is.   For me, I try to look at my situation as a consultant might, if I could afford to hire one.  How can I be more efficient?  How can I save money?  I want to be smart and make thoughtful decisions.  How can I market myself effectively? What are my goals for the next three months, or six months, or the next year?  How can I round out some of the areas that are not my natural strengths?  I think these are reasonable questions.    

JL: So it seems like this leap has forced you into being more creative in other aspects or your work, not just the 'making' part. I think when it comes down to it though, that type of full throttle, creative thinking is essential to success as an artist and as an entrepreneur. To that effect, your ambition and dedication to this new, 'creative for pay,' has begun to bear some exciting opportunities for you. You are making plans with two stores for future collaborations and you've been accepted into several local art fairs for the upcoming year. Furthermore you've just applied for a small business grant from the 'Mission: Small Business' project. Can you tell us about your project and what the grant would mean for you and your town?

LF: The grant would be a windfall.  It came across my Facebook page quite accidentally; a "friend of a friend" had applied and I voted for her.  Then the wheels started turning and I decided to go for it  Chase Bank/Livesocial set aside some 3 million to give to small businesses that have been in business for at least two years and could use some capital, a financial boost for small business next level growth.   I can only imagine the number of people who applied.  And of course, I consider the unlikelihood of it, but then again... you never know, do you?  As we discussed challenges artists face,  I'm thinking financial creativity.  I've been throwing around in my head the idea of a brick and mortar store for some time, combining a gallery space, retail space, and studio space- romanticizing, idealizing, and visualizing what that would be. A dream for many artists.  The grant would obviously bring this idea to life quite quickly... at least much more quickly than I could do on my own. 

Pacifica is a beautiful place, as I mentioned, a small beach community of 30,000 very near the ocean - a slightly odd little town suffering, it’s fair to say, from a bit of an identity crisis. We have an historic surf culture, which is enjoying a bit of a renaissance and growing by the minute.  We also have a blue-collar flavor here, mixed in with a lot of new people moving in, building homes, wanting growth.  There have been some positive changes, and Pacifica feels like it's on the verge of a new expansion.  We have new business popping up here and there and we have a lively art community. I’d love to see a more vibrant shopping/restaurant trend happening here.  

I believe the idea I have may add something to our community.  I'd like a space to do my work with a gallery and retail store front.  We'd host monthly openings and other events.  I would like to focus on emerging artists and bring in work with moderate price points alongside more upscale pieces, well made textiles, paper goods, and clothing, furniture.   I envision a well-curated, inviting, curious, and interesting environment.  I also think of the space as a gathering place, a comfortable general mercantile.  I want people to see Pacifica as a destination, and to get that art is approachable and affordable for everyone. I want to be more involved day to day with the people in my community and I hope to draw people here from all over.  I am lucky that the Bay Area is saturated with enormous talent to draw from.  

JL: You've always been very supportive of other artists and have built a community for yourself of like-minded creatives. This project seems like it would be an extension of that part of your life. I know working as an artist can present a social challenge at times as you spend many, many hours just with yourself. Some folks blossom in that kind of isolation, but I think you and I are not those folks. Do you have any tips or advice on creating a creative community for oneself, especially as someone working from home?

LF: Yes!  We're Ambi-verts, right?  Ambi-verts can more comfortably navigate the lines between introversion and extroversion.  I have learned that some of my work requires concentration and focus and working alone is ideal. On the other hand, I like doing sculpture work in community studio spaces and I feel it needs that energy.  My peers, the people I've spent years working with, we know each other's work, where we've come from, and we benefit one another with good insight and valuable critique. Building a solid community of people you sync up with is an important part of your artistic development.  If you're not in a graduate program then going to workshops, reading and/or writing blogs, seeking out information and knowledge on your own is important. Finding a mentor or someone fitting to review and give feedback on your work is crucial.  Get your work out there and participate in shows and sales. You have to work it, feed it energy.  You will create a robust circle for yourself by being part of the greater creative community around you. I think it's vital.

JL: Lastly, I've been reading this zine lately, Good to Know, from Pikaland's Amy Ng. The latest issue is about rituals and how artists use them, or don't, to help their work. I'm fascinated by this concept as I feel rituals are really important to help us zone into creative space/time, especially when you work at home. Rituals are signals to your mind that it's time to work, like putting on your suit and tie or hopping on the train to Downtown. Do you have any rituals that you use to put you in studio mode? Do you think rituals are important?

LF: I find the number one important thing I do each day is my walk.  I’ve got a routine in place and I plan my entire work day around it.  That is the main ritual for me.  Besides cleaning up my space before setting to work, I don’t have any elaborate rituals.  I do tend to “circle” around my work sometimes for days before starting a new series.  You remember the spirograph?  Well, I’m the pen.


We can help Linda Fahey with the Mission: Small Business grant by voting for her project here. Enter Linda Fahey from Pacifica, California to find her project. She needs at least 250 votes to be considered for an award, but the more the better. Please take a moment to help a fellow ceramist and blogger get through the first round of this amazing opportunity.



Hello everyone!

It's been a hot second since I last posted. (Right?) And I wanted to share with you what's going on with (Mud)Bucket. As you may well have noticed, I am finding little excess time here and there to post on this little blog. I am not, however, ready to put this (Mud)Bucket to rest. But I have reached yet another fork in the proverbial road.

If you need a regular fix of visual, ceramic stimulation รก la (Mud)Bucket, you can follow my pinnings on the Mud Bucket Ceramics board on Pinterest. I can also recommend following Mike McDowell Contemporary Ceramics board and Linda Fahey's Ceramics board.

As for this blog... I'm going to start focusing on original content of higher quality, such as artist interviews and studio tours. I can't say posts will be very often, but they'll be worth reading more than once. 

I hope that you all stay tuned and enjoy the show.

- Jesse Lu -
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