Ceramics Monthly: How has your work and practice changed in the 5 years since being selected as a Ceramics Monthly Emerging Artist? What informed any shifts in focus?

Stephanie Galli: At first glance, comparing the works made in 2017 and now, my work would appear to be dramatically different. As a ceramic artist, I continually oscillate between the utilitarian and the sculptural. I had just received my MFA from Indiana University (IU) when I was selected as an Emerging Artist in 2017. While I made pots and sculpture simultaneously throughout my three years at IU, I focused solely on sculpture for my thesis. 

The shifts in my work are sometimes brought on by logistics rather than creative drive. For instance, there are many adjustments one needs to make when switching to any new studio, including materials, firings, and kilns. I have found that starting with pots is a great way to get a feel for the new setting. I can produce pots rapidly, which allows me to test all aspects of the new facilities. Since my Emerging Artist feature, I have changed studios three times for different teaching positions, granting me time to explore new clay and glazes for my pots.

Being in my fourth year teaching at Centre College, in Danville, Kentucky, I have had some time to vacillate between my two bodies of work and even exhibit them together. However, as I work toward tenure, I have found it increasingly difficult to carve out the large swaths of time that my sculptural process needs. I could continue to use the plaster molds and templates from sculptures made in the past, but that is less fulfilling for me. I need the process of investigation into form, surface, and material, which requires serious focus . . . and serious play. 

I look forward to sabbaticals and future summers spent in my studio, giving myself the space and time to make more sculpture. Until then, I am so fortunate to be creatively fulfilled, and able to make small batches of pottery throughout the academic year. Neither body of work will ever be superior for me. 

CM: How do your functional and sculptural works inform one another? Do these bodies of work pull from the same influences and research or sources?

SG: I view my work as an ever-evolving, direct response to my love for this medium. Each notch on my ceramic timeline influences what I make next. That’s what makes it authentically mine. I can look at the work I am making now and trace its roots back to my BFA thesis work. Okay, enough romanticizing. In all seriousness, there are many overlaps in the two bodies of work. Mainly, both capture moments of when the glaze is responding to high temperature and beginning to melt and move along ceramic surfaces in the kiln. Through simple black underglaze lines that bleed through the translucent glaze, users bear witness to the collaborative nature that the kiln has with my forms. The utilitarian vessel is meant to be held, used, and integrated into everyday life. This provides my work access to spaces beyond the gallery walls, and back into the tactile world in which it entered as clay in my studio. I strive to share these moments with the viewers of sculpture and users of pots, those who have never touched clay before and those who have been seduced by the medium for years. 

Photo: Michelle Burdine.

Topics: Ceramic Artists