Ceramics Monthly: What made you switch from a career in law to working with clay?
Mariana Baquero: I worked as a lawyer for almost six years at a couple of large law firms in New York City, and while the work was intellectually challenging and my colleagues were comfortably collegial, I felt something was missing in my life. I couldn’t stop imagining a different life, one where I had more meaningful interactions with people. A life full of joy and connection.
I kept thinking back to an experience I had in college during a pottery course at the Arts and Crafts Center in the student union at the University of Florida (UF). I was a political science major with no art experience, and making pots on the wheel felt like magic. But the feeling of community and connection is what affected me the most. That’s what I was missing, so I left my law-firm job to find it again.
After several years of exploration, I came back to UF for an MFA in ceramics. I graduated this past May and I was extremely fortunate to land the position of Arts Specialist at the Arts and Crafts Center in the student union at UF, the very place I had taken my first pottery class.
I have come full circle, helping people experience the joy of working with clay and creating that feeling of community and connection that so profoundly affected me all those years ago.
CM: What skills from your former career do you still use today?
MB: Law school is surprisingly good training for working with clay! I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that all ceramic artists go to law school, but I did learn some really good problem solving and organizational skills. Lawyers are trained to spot issues and come up with solutions, and that skill translated really well to ceramics as both fields require careful attention to process and detail.
I have also incorporated my experiences in law, along with my family history, into text and images on the surfaces of my work.
In my current job, I’m responsible for developing and teaching workshops and classes and running the ceramics studio. I use the communication, organizational, and problem-solving skills I learned as a lawyer every day. The center is a multidisciplinary community studio that serves people from all walks of life, students and non-students alike. I’ve found that being part of such a diverse community supports and nourishes my art practice.