Casey Whittier, Kansas City, Missouri
Ceramics Monthly: What techniques do you use to make your work and why?
Casey Whittier: Rolling, dipping, pinching, squishing—you name it. Each work requires something different of me as a maker, and I stay open to that. I work from a question or feeling first and try to marry it with a way of making that brings the idea full circle. My objects are metaphors. Process, technique, form, and labor are concepts in my work—they are more than a means to an end. Using small, handheld extruders and a knife allows me to move from a single line or coil into a series of smaller lines and then into individual units, or links. My work is built one line at a time, one link at a time, one minute at a time.
Craft, historical processes, and materiality are conceptual focuses in my work. I research and adapt processes from ceramic and non-ceramic traditions like lace making, crochet, and metalworking. In addition to sculpting directly, I make and use molds, which allow me to translate a form from one material to another and repeat a form many times over. Firing individual units (like beads) and then stitching them together brings me in conversation with fiber, beading, and jewelry practices. My techniques are deceptively simple. I find deep meaning and endless possibilities in taking these different processes and expanding or adapting them through my work.
CM: What do you think is the role of a maker within our current culture and how do you think you contribute to it?
CW: Makers are translators, inquisitors, archivists, connectors, and imagination inciters. Art has a way of folding the extremely difficult and complicated things into the extreme joys, mysteries, triumphs, and beauties of life. When we do that through our work and our interactions with others, we make work that is vulnerable enough to be potent, relatable enough to be engaged with, strange enough to warrant attention, and salient enough to shift a perspective.
The obvious ways that I contribute are through teaching, exhibiting, and working with Artaxis (https://artaxis.org). However, I think it is actually much simpler and smaller than that—I use my practice to account for my time on earth, to research, to create connections, to ask unanswerable questions, and to model what I want to see. Being a maker keeps me connected and responsive to the physical world and the world of metaphor.
Not all of those things are evident in any one work of art, but they are integral to my process and to how I understand myself as a contemporary artist. I believe that artists are adept at seeing what is not yet evident. We re-imagine. We observe closely and record time and interaction through our creations. We make. In doing so, we start conversations, offer experiences, and find value and interest in unexpected places.