The first time I saw Judit Varga’s work was in an exhibition at Baltimore Clayworks in 2010. At the time, we were both installing pieces for a show, and I had the opportunity to see the composition of her modular elements grow as she positioned them on the wall. I was drawn to the weathered and distressed surfaces of her pieces, which expressed a sense of depth, time, and exploration of experiences. The work activated my mind to wonder, to linger, and to let other distractions fall away, albeit briefly.
Mindfulness, or active, open attention to experiences in the present is something I strive for when looking at artwork and when I am in the studio. This heightened awareness requires me to slow down and notice details—like the different gestures of the curved forms and feeling conveyed by the cracked and distressed slip on Judit Varga’s Knots (below). I also take the time to respond to what I’m seeing or holding in my hands, feeling the way that the artwork activates my thought processes and engages my curiosity. Allowing this space and time for mindfulness helps to balance my daily routine, which is spent with my attention divided among competing demands.
There’s a connection between mindfulness and creativity for me, which is part of the reason I strive to be more present when working in my studio. I find that the clarity of being in the moment allows me to pay attention to small details, or find new connections between concepts I’m pursuing and the ways these ideas could be presented. It can also help me to let my curiosity to take over as I explore new avenues that may or may not lead to a finished piece.
Being present, aware, and receptive to their surroundings is key to the approach to cultivating creativity taken by many artists in this issue.
Deb Schwartzkopf invites artists to work in her studio in an intensive weekend session called Build or Bust! Along with this year’s participants, she discusses the impetus for the event, and the positive impact that this immediate and mindful creative exchange has had on everyone’s studio practice.
In her Clay Culture article, Penelope Eleni Gaitanis-Katsaras— inspired by her kids and by experiencing public art at Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens, New York—addresses a need for bringing more community-created, accessible art into her neighborhood.
A feature on Alex Thullen’s new work details how he combined collecting small fragments of building materials in his urban environment with his interest in Spanish architectural ceramics to alter and accentuate the textured surfaces of his work.
Adam Chau discusses how artists are using digital technology in unexpected ways to combine ceramics and design, by reacting to the potential in the processes rather than relying on expected outcomes.
In their Spotlight article, Talon Smith and Ben Pyles explain how their experience teaching one another about ceramics and screen printing evolved into helping their ceramics and design students collaborate on a creative project, while sharing and expanding their skills.
As you read the issue, I’d encourage you to think about how you cultivate creativity, and how you can help to foster creative growth in your community.