Rickie Barnett, Bakersville, North Carolina

Ceramics Monthly: What strategies have you developed to handle the challenges you face?

Rickie Barnett: Once I realized the healing capacity of making stuff, I started thinking about it in a different light and respecting it more. It became all I wanted to do and it grew into something that I’d do almost anything for. This led me to putting myself in quite a few uncomfortable situations, but I always grew from those experiences. To be honest, I often didn’t give myself any other option but to keep moving forward. At times when I’m feeling like a total failure, I ask myself, “Is it just as stupid to quit as it is to keep going?” If the answer is, “Yes,” then I keep moving forward. 

1 Giving Up The Fish Ghost, 16 in. (41 cm) in height, ceramic, slips, underglaze, glaze, stains, wood, mixed media, fired to cone 1, 2022.

I have little systems in the studio, like if a piece breaks or I receive a bummer rejection letter. I give myself 24 hours to mourn the loss, letting myself fully feel all those emotions, and then I go back to the studio. Having a solid emotional safety net of friends and mentors has also helped me to keep my focus on the goal. I often just remind myself that if others can do it, I can do it. I tend to seek out people who have a life similar to the one that I want, and I turn to them for guidance. I also make myself go into the studio every day, even if I don’t end up working. Sometimes I’ll just sit there and look at the work or at empty shelves, and nine out of ten times, I’ll just get bored and start working.

CM: How do you come up with the forms and surfaces that are prevalent in your work?

RB: I have pretty bad eyesight and an active imagination, which leads me to find shadow figures pretty much everywhere. Old oil tanks become horses, mailboxes become deer, hillsides turn into giant faces, etc. It leads to a lot of gasping but, all in all, it’s an okay time. Most of my imagery is based on that kind of landscape. 

2 Dream Racer, 23 in. (58 cm) in height, earthenware, Kanthal wire, slips, underglaze, glaze, stains, fired to cone 1, 2022.

In the studio, I tend to always start out with a loose plan, pinching tons of little parts that I can choose from along the way. I find that having these options helps me to have moments of play where I can explore—stacking and arranging elements as I go. It is a way of giving myself the freedom to be spontaneous as I build and respond to the piece. While the piece is still greenware, I paint it with thin layers of slips and underglazes, carving back through them to create patterns and imagery. Once the piece is bisque fired, I continue to build up the surface with additional layers of thin underglazes and washes. Each piece gets fired about four times. Building up these surfaces of thin layers helps the piece to have a weathered but decorative appearance, resembling how we often wear our own experiences. 

Learn more at www.twoheadeddiver.com.