Hello and welcome!
This week we had our AtmosQueer soda firing and studio grant fundraiser at L & L Libations. Thank you to everyone who came out. We got a lot of feedback from people who said that they could not make it, so when we got back to the studio, we took all the art out of the boxes and set it up on the shelves in the studio to give people the opportunity to buy this week. The work will be out until the end of the week, so come on down and buy something to support the workshop and the studio grant fund!
Summer Class Raffle
The deadline for signing up for the raffle for summer classes is May 26, this Friday, so if you haven't had the chance to sign up, do it now. If you know people who have been wanting to take Burnish classes but haven't been able to get in, let them know, summer is the best time to get in on the fun.
Our next critique club is next Tuesday, May 30th at 6 pm at Burnish. Bring any finished work you have questions about. We do our best to get to everyone. If you brought work last time and we didn't have time to get to you, bring it this time and let the group know that you didn't get in last time. This is open to everyone in the Burnish Community, all levels of mastery are welcome.
Artist Spotlight: Will Abraham
This week I caught up with Will Abraham, who has been working with clay at Burnish for two years. The following is what came of this informative interview.
What about clay is inspiring for you?
There's this beautiful short film called "Imagine a Body" that I saw at a film festival in Seattle in 2021 and think about all the time, and in it there's a sequence where an anonymous transmasculine woodworker says, "[In sculpting] you take a chunk of wood and you carve away what's not supposed to be there to reveal what should have been there the whole time... That's the person that I knew was there the whole time, but nobody believed me for so long." That's what inspires me about clay - the artistic elements are you, clay, and time, and you add or take away additional elements until the clay is art and you're the kind of person who made that art. Time is an ingredient, you as the potter are an ingredient. Working with clay makes the world legible to me, and that's what I find inspiring about it.
Are you a concept artist? A materials artist? A combo? I want to say combo, but I think I started as a materials artist, where I would become really interested in making something out of THIS clay body with THIS tool or making an object specifically so I could use THIS glaze. And then somewhere along the way I evolved into a concept artist. A lot of my ideas start with very random exploratory questions like "What would a ritual object look like in an extinct alien civilization?" or "What kinds of drinking vessels will people use 800 years in the future?" Lately I've also been making a lot of things starting from a concept like "how can I incorporate my interests in geology and theology into an object?" So I've become a concept artist, but it was entirely an accident.
When did you decide to make clay and art your life's work? My flippant answer is I didn't, it picked me by making everything else less interesting, so I just got out of my own way and let it happen. My longer, more serious answer is I have had a lot of different jobs in different industries and a lot of education to qualify me for those jobs, but most of that came from making choices out of fear and making life choices around that. I believed for years that creative work was only something that people who are economically very secure could do, and for most of my life that wasn't me. During the pandemic I found myself wondering about all the ways the systems I was told I had to believe in weren't keeping me or my community safe, and wondering why the hell anybody cared if I responded to an email or spent exactly 8 hours in front of a computer in my own basement when we were all living through a real life horror movie, with COVID and Nazis and murder hornets and wildfires. How I spent my time began to matter a lot more to me, and connecting with people around clay gave me a sense of purpose in a way most other kinds of work didn't. I realized that working with clay was my real work already, and then I made the choice to change my life in ways to make that happen as much as possible.
What are some of your creative goals? My big one is to use art to understand the world. I also have a lot of smaller goals, like "make this green more green" or "iterate on this form so the rim and foot work better together", but the big one is to keep refining my practice, keep improving. Growth for the sake of care, rather than growth for the sake of growth.
What are some of your goals for your art business? I'm in the early stages of my business, so that's evolving, but the guiding value for me is I want to make art that is accessible to a wide range of people economically, and demonstrate there is space for queer artists with disabilities from working class backgrounds in the pottery world, partially by donating a portion of my sales to organizations helping other queer people. My pie-in-the-sky dream for the deep, deep future that probably won't ever happen is to open a queer-led art exhibition and community bookstore space.
What would you say to people just starting out in clay/art? There's no credentialing body for artistic expression. You don't actually need permission to make art, and you don't need to know every method or material or chemical or tool to get started. If all you want is to make something that has meaning specifically to you, like pots with Bigfoot holding a bouquet of daffodils on them then you make yourself as many objects with Bigfoot holding daffodils on them as you want. If what you make successfully reflects your intent, it works, and if it doesn't, try again. Also, genuine criticism is a gift, but most of what people say to you about your work is actually about them, not about you. Take what you can use in your work out of what they said and move on.
A big thank you to Will for answering our questions, and being open to talking about his process. You can find Will's work on Instagram @willabrahampottery or at www.willabrahampottery.com
Tip of the week
When sculpting clay, be patient. Waiting after the initial build for your clay to dry a bit and harden up will help you to create smooth textures if you need them, or, conversely, create a better surface from which to carve. Clay has many different stages, and shaping and carving clay before it gets hard will result in lots of extra time fixing mistakes and cleaning up the clay buggers that inevitably result from carving soft clay. Even worse, if you start to stretch and carve the clay before it is ready, the piece can collapse. So, take your time, and make sure that the clay you are working with has the ability to withstand the treatment you are applying.
Ceramical Opportunities Far and Wide