Monday, June 29, 2009

Interview: April Grunspan

Between extra shifts at work, spending more time in the studio and the regular busy-ness of everyday life, I haven't had time for my own ceramic blogging. At least we have this weekly artist interview here, today from April in Texas.

Vital statistics (name, age, location, link to website/blog)?
April Grunspan, 55 years young, San Antonio, TX:

Where do you work in clay?
I work out of a local teaching/working studio called Sunin Clay. It's only a few miles from my house.

Do you have another job?
Wife, mother, and owner of three (soon to be two when the kids move out this summer) dogs and three Cockatiels.

Are your studio and occupation decisions made by choice or necessity? Please explain.
Happily, by choice.

How do you budget your time (in the studio and out - family, errands, etc)?
I just know Monday and Fridays are times for appointments, shopping, etc. Tuesday-Thursday is studio/work time. The weekends are for my husband. Of course, there are exceptions to the rules. But I find making the commitment to working in the studio makes sure pieces get made, even if the inspiration isn't always there.

Why do you make pots (or sculptures)?
There's a definite satisfaction in taking something that doesn't come easily, and seeing yourself improve from day to day. I also love the different focuses in clay: the clay itself, the science of clay and glaze, the variety of effects one can get using slip, underglaze, glaze, etc., and the incredible variety of techniques one can learn. There seems to be no end to what one can learn to do or ways to do it.

I also really enjoy working on Judaica (Jewish items). I find it a challenge to think of something related to the holidays or special occasions and, then, think of ways to twist it around with a different approach. Such items don't sell as quickly as my mugs. But when something special DOES sell it gives me a great sense of satisfaction because someone appreciated my vision.

How concerned are you about environmental issues? Does this affect your work?
I think it's important to understand that working in pottery requires both chemicals and power -- be it electric, gas, or wood. However, our creations are not ephemeral. There are pieces of pottery that go back thousands of years. So, it seems to be a slightly better investment of these resources than something like styrofoam or plastic.

What do you do when you're having a bad day in the studio?
I "play". I try a new technique, be it one the wheel, handbuilding, or using decoration. Recently, on a "bad" day, I started playing with sodium silicate on slabs of clay. The slabs, being easy to make, were an easy surface for me to work on. Another time I played with slip painted/stamped/stenciled on newspaper and then transferred onto, again, slabs of clay. During these sessions I don't work for a product, just for learning. Often inspiration follows.

Do you create art in other mediums?
Does food count? I love to cook; especially when there's someone else cleaning up. Thanks husband of mine!

Where do you sell your work?
Mostly through etsy. However, I've had sales from people seeing my work on Facebook or in my house. I'm also making custom mugs for a local, privately owned coffee shop. I love selling my work. But I really don't want to stretch myself so thin that the quality of my pieces suffers.

How did you approach those venues about selling your work?
The coffee shop came about organically. I was chatting with the owner (things like that happen in local, privately owned places) and she found out I was a potter. Things just went from there.

Do you have any questions you're dying to ask other ceramic artists, or artists in general?
I'm always curious how the potters who sell lots and lots of pieces manage everything. I'm not the most physically organized person in the world, so I really have to work at the non-pottery end of my business. Right now I average about one sale a week. When I have several in one week I get a bit frazzled with the packaging/shipping of several pieces at once.


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