Ceramics Monthly: After you graduated with an MFA in printmaking, what inspired you to work for an industrial designer making porcelain service pieces?
Aaron Winston: Working with a designer was in many ways a response to a state of panic. I had been in school for so long and, faced with the reality of graduating, I wasn’t sure what to do. For years, I had intended to go right into the university system: teach adjunct, show work, publish, become a professor. But in my final year of graduate school, I began to feel like I wasn’t ready, like I would have more to offer as a teacher if I gained some life experience. So when the designer Martin Kastner (http://crucialdetail.com), who is married to my good friend Lara, asked for help prototyping dinnerware forms he was working on, I jumped at the chance. It seemed like a good way to utilize everything I had studied while also learning new processes and materials. And it was.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson I learned in that time is one Martin verbalized succinctly for me very recently, “Perfection is a word, not an achievable state.” I tend to focus on precision in my work, but perfection is a worthy goal only if you accept and learn from the inevitable failure to achieve it.
CM: How did you make the decision to pursue a position in arts administration and teaching at the Boulder Pottery Lab in Boulder, Colorado?
Aaron Winston: In the search for a studio where Kastner and I could experiment with the design process and fire the resulting prototypes, I found a good friend and teacher, Kouta Shimazaki who runs a community studio called the San Diego Ceramic Connection. I also discovered this incredible community that seems to be drawn to ceramics studios everywhere. People from all walks of life and all corners of the world speak this language of hands-in-clay. I realized that a community ceramics studio was where I really wanted to be and circumstances conspired to force the change.
I moved to Boulder in late 2005, found the Pottery Lab, and began to volunteer as a teaching assistant. In a few months, I was hired as a lab assistant and instructor. Eventually this led to a studio manager position and in 2015 I became the Pottery Lab’s director.
CM: What excites you most about your job?
Aaron Winston: I work with amazing people. Some of our staff started as participants in our kids’ classes, became volunteers, and then teachers and lab assistants. I feel fortunate to facilitate an incredible arts learning experience for students of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. I’m also proud of the outreach programs we provide for underserved populations. And, I love the challenge of finding ways to expand and improve what we offer to the community at the Pottery Lab.