Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Interview: Paul Nielsen

Vital statistics (name, age, location, link to website/blog)?
My name is Paul Nielsen. I'm 32, I think, and currently live in Grand Island, Nebraska. My wife and I just moved back to Nebraska from Northwest Arkansas. I blog at TheAestheticElevator.com, and my in-progress artist website is pcNielsen.com

Where do you work in clay?
We're currently living in a loft over my father's antique store. My studio, which I've only been in a month since moving (and most of that time was spent unpacking and organizing), is in the basement of the building. I have a lot more space than my previous garage studio, but not having any windows might get to me after a while. I actually hope to do some sculpting en plein air, especially when storm season rolls around next year. Prairie thunderstorms are a significant theme in my work.

Do you have another job?
I do indeed. Despite graduating with a studio art degree in 2001, it's only been in the past three years or so that I've begun pursuing sculpture as a career. Since graduating I've worked in a coffee shop, remodeled houses and worked as a marketer/designer for a religious nonprofit. I still do the last two things on that list. It's difficult for me to imagine anyone being able to dive right into a career in the plastic arts without a day-job subsidized period of transition, so to speak.

Are your studio and occupation decisions made by choice or necessity? Please explain.
I'm not all that sure how to answer this question. In all likelihood there is a combination of both choice and necessity in my decisions that relate to all aspects of life. Do I wish I had more disposable income? Sure. Would I like a large studio with windows and a soda kiln? Of course. Am I thankful for what I have at the moment? Absolutely.

How do you budget your time (in the studio and out - family, errands, etc)?
While I'm probably more administratively gifted than the stereotypical artist, I am not very good at keeping a schedule. It's best for me to have a regular time in the studio, preferably on a daily basis. I use a calendar to plan both long-term and short-term. This helps me finish projects; I'm the kind of person who normally has ten different things going on at the same time, and bringing a work to completion can get put off at times.

The other things in life just sort of float around — in a semi-organized fashion — the minimum two or three hours a day I hope to spend on artwork. And it might be worth noting that my schedule varies depending on the time of year. I'm less motivated in darker winter months (it didn't help that my garage studio of the past three years wasn't heated either).

Why do you make pots (or sculptures)?
First off, creating objects — working with my hands — is something I'm just plain wired to do. If I'm not able to be doing it for some reason or another, I go stir crazy. I focus on clay because I love its character as a medium. I love the process from dirt to fire. I love the way clay responds to my hands when I manipulate it. I love the finishes.

Most of my work is sculptural. I'm more drawn to handbuilding than throwing, however I did build myself a kickwheel last year and hope to use it regularly in the future. I always have hopes of spending time on functional objects, however being an artist with a day job — and thus a limited amount of studio time — I usually end up just working on my sculpture.

How concerned are you about environmental issues?
I try and live a sustainable lifestyle: Recycle whenever possible, dream of someday living off of the grid (probably with solar power, maybe wind), salvage and reuse and don't be wasteful in the first place etc etc. This is largely informed by my faith in an attempt to be a good steward of God's creation. I prefer the word sustainable which implies, in my mind, a broader and more complete view of humanity, culture and environment than politically charged (and thus less productive) terminology like "green" or "environmentally friendly." I'm very cynical when it comes to politics in general.

Does this affect your work?
This comes through in my artwork mainly via my use of found objects or salvaged materials. More and more I've become alarmed at how wasteful American culture is, in a myriad of ways. Reusing objects and materials is a subtle way for my sculpture to communicate my dislike for our consumerist culture.

What do you do when you're having a bad day in the studio?
Most likely hit the trails on my bicycle. Or blog, or call friends to play Settlers of Catan (or some other German board game).

Do you create art in other mediums?
I focus on clay but refer to myself as a mixed media sculptor. I use a lot of wood and incorporate a variety of other natural materials and found objects; fabric and gemstones make somewhat regular appearances. I'm not, however, fond of synthetic stuff. You probably won't find plastic in any of my works.

Where do you sell your work?
At the moment you can purchase my sculpture in the Local Flair gallery in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, or by sending me a message via pcNielsen.com. I tried Etsy.com for a while, but with no success.

How did you approach those venues about selling your work?
I was approached by the person who started Local Flair. We knew each other before she founded the gallery. Sad, but true, who you know often factors into your success as an artist.

Do you have any questions you want to ask other ceramic artists, or artists in general?
Do you have a soda kiln I can borrow?


Anonymous said...

Kudos Paul great interview!

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