5 Questions from 15 year old ceramics student Haliegh Reeves

I got a really nice email from a ceramics student that wanted to write a paper on my work. I was flattered and she asked some great questions. They were so simple and direct that I had to think quite awhile about the answers. I thought I would post them.

What really inspired you to make pottery/ceramic things.? what was your early work like?
I started sculpting in clay when I was in the 8th grade. I made small pinched, coiled and slab built sculptures. I remember working for hours on a sculpture of a hamburger and fries. Its funny to me now, but it was a reflection of what I was interested in. I began throwing in High School and completed an International Baccalaureate certificate in ceramics. My high school teachers were very challenging and encouraged me to push my own limits. I stuck with throwing because it held my attention. Throwing helped me calm down and focus. At that point I started making basic shapes like vases, bowls, and cups.

How have you advanced since you started? and what are you doing different now from then?
When I went to college I couldnt immediately start taking clay classes so I worked as a production potter. In this capacity I helped make forms for other potters. It was a great way to get paid for increasing my skill level.
When I started working on my BFA from Appalachian State University my ceramic teachers pushed me to try a variety of forms and techniques. In school I was introduced to the idea that functional pots could convey their information in an unique and interesting way. Im still very interested in the ability of pottery to communicate through functional use on a daily basis. Most of my work is hand held and I enjoy how touching an object conveys a greater variety of information than just looking at it.
My current work is a set of functional service ware for a small family dinner. I think about matching my work to a casual sunday brunch. The number of forms I make has grown over the years, as well as the complexity of the design. I now make platters, plates, butter dishes, pitchers, tea pots, mugs, condiment trays, and jars.

Who were your BIGGEST influences and why? I have been influenced by Rock Creek Pottery (Will Ruggles and Douglas Rankin) http://www.rockcreekpottery.com, Julia Galloway http://www.juliagalloway.com/ and Kristen Kieffer http://kiefferceramics.com/
All of these artists create work that is well crafted and aesthetically pleasing. The attention to detail in Kristen's work has given me permission to obsessively decorate. Hers surfaces are complex but not overwhelming. Neither Kristen or Julia's pots are overworked. They lay it on but not too thick. They know when to stop. Its hard for me to stop decorating so I admire their sense of economy.
I worked periodically at Rock Creek Pottery between 2003 and 2005. During this time I would talk to Will and Douglas about what they believed about pottery. They imparted their understanding of the Mingei philosophy  http://www.mingei.org/about/origins.php This philosophy deeply affected my understanding of why and how you could make a functional object. Working for them taught me that you can work within a tradition without being trapped by it. Their work is steeped in an Asian aesthetic but they embrace their postmodern sensibility by borrowing from many cultures and materials.

The most important teachers I have worked with are Julie Hamilton, www.juliehamiltonart.com, Linda Arbuckle http://lindaarbuckle.com/index.html, Matt Long www.fullvictory.com, and Lisa Stinson www.art.appstate.edu/faculty/stinton.htm
They all have devoted countless hours to teaching me about pottery and art. I tend to be a relentless student and they have always treated me with respect. One memorable turning point came when I was a junior at Appalachain State. I was talking to Lisa about switching from Art Education to Studio Art. She asked me "How can you teach art if your not an artist?" See was implying that I needed to focus on my own work before I could teach anyone else. I later switched majors and now consider my own art practice to be the foundation of my teaching.
I could go on about the rest of the teachers also. They have all be influencial in so many ways.

What inspires you to do the work you do? I noticed that your work has some feminine touch to it (but i really like it) what makes you do that kind of work then normal art work.? My work does have a feminine influence. I embrace the idea that clay is inherently feminine in its plastic state. If you could compare the working state of clay to steel, I would say clay is feminine and steel is masculine. This affects how I touch the clay. I want my work to be soft and gracious. I like that clay responds to every gesture I make. Every time I move my hand, even with the slightest pressure, the clay responds. This feels very fluid and natural. I have worked with wood and a variety of metals in the past and I am frustrated with the amount of energy it takes to get them to take a shape. With clay it is instant.

The floral patterns that I use are feminine as well. That is directly related to my interest in quilting and fabric, both of which are heavily feminine in our culture. I enjoy the complexity of quilt patterns. I tend to like objects that show layers of pattern. I also choose to reference quilts because they reflect my desire to uphold the family tradition of passing down heirlooms from generation to generation. I now own quilts and other objects that my family owned. My grandmothers were quilters/knitters so I grew up using handmade fabric items. I like this direct link to my ancestral past. The objects themselves become place holders for tradition.

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