I find it fascinating to learn about the ways people build a creative life. It can take so many forms and can incorporate our careers, our free time, and our community interactions.
I recently found an old query letter I had sent to Ceramics Monthly as part of an assignment in a magazine writing class in college. I thought I’d like to work as a freelance author after I graduated, combining my interests in ceramics and writing. Instead, about ten years after writing that article proposal, I joined the magazine’s staff.
I didn’t originally think of pursuing a career like this, because I hadn’t considered or understood the creative potential. Of course there is administrative work (as there is with all jobs, ask any artist!), but there are also intense periods of planning and research, and times of creative collaboration and discussion. The editorial staff considers what is happening in the field—the trends; the challenges and concerns; the new technologies and opportunities artists are exploring; and the context, content, and aesthetics of work being made and shown—and then we plan what to cover in each issue. Then there’s working with authors, asking follow-up questions to help round out discussions or expand on interesting points. We also engage artists in conversations about their work, processes, motivations, and careers. I find that these experiences at work have greatly enriched my studio practice.
Creative Work & Outreach
In this issue, we’re featuring several approaches artists have taken to leading a creative life through their careers and community interactions. Some of the artists teach (or taught), either at universities or community art centers, several are independent studio potters, and others have blended careers teaching or working in arts administration and working in the studio.
Each person started working in clay as a serious vocation or career at different points in their lives. Rose Cabat, who had always been interested in the arts, and had worked with clay as a young adult, started her career as a studio potter at the age of 42. She developed a strong body of iconic work with soft, flowing glazes (2) that she investigated and explored over the next 50+ years. Our Spotlight artist Aaron Winston started out as a printmaker before finding a home in the ceramics community.
One of the artists, Jared Zehmer has a job as a journeyman potter in Seagrove, North Carolina, where he makes work for various pottery shops in town, like the one above from Dirtworks (1). This job combines skills used as a production potter with the ability to work for multiple pottery businesses and have a flexible schedule. Zehmer finds that it has not only taught him how to be a better potter, but it also helped him to get to know a community of artists, and allows him time to make his own work in his home studio.
Two Clay Culture articles (pages 22 and 24) focus on artists who have combined their studio skills with an interest in helping others to raise funds for organizations helping community members in need (and introduce people to working with clay and using handmade ceramics at the same time).
Artists have more opportunities than most to build and expand on their creativity in a wide variety of careers, as well as to innovate and make connections in their communities. I encourage everyone to make effective use of your strengths, interests, and curiosity as you forge your own creative path.