Welcome back to the weekly ceramic artists interview! I didn't hear from anyone for the past couple weeks and I was too busy to keep you posted anyway. The interviews will now be posted on Tuesdays. If you'd like to be up next week, here's the post with questions and my email. Thank you Carole for stepping up this week... I've been chatting a little bit with her on Twitter, but I just recently took a better look at her work. It's beautiful! It looks well crafted and creative, and I hope to see it in person someday. What do you think?
Vital statistics (name, age, location, link to website/blog)?
Carole Epp, 31, Saskatoon Sk, Canada
Where do you work in clay?
We converted our garage unto a studio. Had to insulate and heat it to get me through the minus 30 winters, but it does the trick. A dream studio really considering the living room and basement studios I’ve had in the past. The garage has been a bit taken over by my husband’s project motorbikes, but that means I have company late at night when I work.
Do you have another job?
My other job is my 18 month old. I was for a while trying to balance studio work, child raising and working here and there at the local craft council and teaching evening courses, but it was too much. My priorities are my family and my own practice, selfish as that sounds (or maybe just feels to me as I love to be more involved with the community) I miss teaching, my students were fantastic and I get a lot out of teaching. Oh and I’ve also taken up sewing in the last 2 years, it’s not a job per say, but I get obsessed pretty easily so it does take up a sizable chunk of my time.
Are your studio and occupation decisions made by choice or necessity? Please explain.
Right now we’re in a position where we have (as a family) decided that it makes sense for me to be focusing on my artist practice rather than a “real” job (although the latter would actually come with a paycheck…). The further I get from my college safety net the more vulnerable I feel and the more challenging it is to push your work, and make the connections you need to get ahead. I feel that taking any sort of break from exhibiting or making work would mean a difficult road to get back to where ever it is that I am now with my career. I feel the set back might be too overwhelming. Plus focusing on my studio practice means I’m at home to raise my kid, which is important to me. I’d rather that than him be in daycare raised by others. It means that my studio time is quite limited to naps and late nights, but you learn to value those moments way more and to be hyper productive when those moments present themselves. It’s always been important for both my husband and I that we follow our dreams and not live a life that will cause regret later on. If I gave up art for a better paying job, I’d live with regret. I’m lucky I have a very supportive husband and family, not everyone is so lucky.
How do you budget your time (in the studio and out - family, errands, etc)?
I work on my son’s schedule, he’s the boss. When he naps I work, sometimes he gives me 20 minutes, some times 3 hours. I try to get up a bit before him in the morning to have a cup of tea in peace and get some on line (twitter, blog, etsy) or computer (proposals, emails, writing, photoshopping pictures, etc) work done. Errands get done with the boy in tow during the day, work again during nap time, family time with my husband after work until my boy goes to bed and then more work. Sometimes I try to steal more time in the studio on the weekends. But honestly what I’ve just said is my ideal and it likely sounds like I get into the studio more that I really do. Being a stay at home mom means taking care of the home as well, and sometimes (often) things like clean laundry are more important that my studio work. Sad but true. If I was in the studio everyday when he napped or was in bed I’d live in a mess.
Why do you make pots (or sculptures)?
I make both. Why? Sometimes I think because I’m insane, sometimes I think because there is so much interesting processes in ceramics that inspire me and give visual voice to my ideas that I can’t be limited to a single output. But to the larger question, why do I make art – I make art to feel less alone, I make art because it is a form of communication with others, of understanding and of shared experience. It can bring joy, it compels thinking and productive change and because I’m at heart an idealist that believes we can change the world and my art is a simple action against the rise of indifference I see around me. It is my voice when I’m speechless, it allows my intuitive soul to speak, it allows me an outlet from my frustration, my anger, my love and ideals.
How concerned are you about environmental issues? Does this affect your work?
Highly concerned. It does affect my work in terms of subject matter as well as part of the reason I make the work I do as I often address environmental concerns such as over-consumption, disposability and new research and technologies such as those that affect our food and water supplies. I’m also trying to learn as much as I can to make my practice; firing, materials, recycling methods more effective. I’m no saint, I have lots of room to improve, but each day I’m aware and trying to work on it.
What do you do when you're having a bad day in the studio?
Right now any day in the studio is a good day, a blessing really as those studio days are few and far between. I daydream about the days to come when my little guy is in preschool…
Do you create art in other mediums?
I sew and do a lot of photography, but I wouldn’t say they’re an art to me. It’s a creative outlet but they’re more just arenas in which I dabble or play without expectation or pressure to create anything more than intuitive or visually pleasing surfaces and imagery. It’s strange but they are so completely separate from my clay practice. It’s a good thing, just interesting to contemplate why that is.
Where do you sell your work?
Commercial galleries mainly, plus this year I’ve opened online shops for my work. But as with most things they require more work that I initially realized and to adequately wear the hat of fantastic marketer and promoter for my online shops is something I just don’t have the time for, so they’re not a very profitable venue. I write grants to try to get my sculptural work made, when this is successful it covers the cost of production as well as subsistence so selling the work after that is icing on the cake.
How did you approach those venues about selling your work?
I write a lot of proposals to galleries. I send lots of emails too. Even at times an email regarding something else to a gallery with a simple link to my website at the bottom has opened doors for me. I spend a fair amount of time looking at the sort of work different galleries show so that if I spend the time to write and send them a proposal it fits their mandate and their aesthetic.
Do you have any questions you want to ask other ceramic artists, or artists in general?
Millions of questions…but right now I’m most stressed about trying to make a living and help support my family so I’m always just looking for advice on how to better run the business side of things. I guess I’m also curious if I’m the only insane one that misses college critiques sessions? I’d love some good honest feedback on my work, but never seem to find it. We’re all so supportive of each other in this community (which I’m not knocking, it’s a good thing) but sometimes the truth is a good thing as well to help us grow, as artists and as a craft medium in contemporary visual and material culture.
NEW question: If you could change one property of clay, what would it be? (optional question; from potter John Bauman in the second Monday survey)
Is this like “if you could have one super power what would it be?” hmmm… I’d like a clay body that could read my mind and have the ability to alter it’s form on it’s own so that when I lie in bed sleeplessly at night envisioning all the pieces I want to make but lack the time to make, the clay would be out there in the studio magically turning itself into the sculptures of my mind…wait on second thought, I’d miss the haptic interaction too much, I love to get elbow deep in the muck, I love the challenges the material presents. I love the questions even more so than I love the answers. I don’t know that I’d change anything.