Ceramics Monthly: How are you assessing your career on your 40th anniversary as a studio potter?
Lisa Naples: I have a profound gratitude for this (nearly) lifelong companion: my studio practice. My life has been touched deeply by this gift, this blessing. I’m pleased as I look back over this long career that at no time did I rest on my laurels just because something was a good seller. There has always been a persistent honoring of the flow of creativity; a deep knowing within that I’m facilitating that flow, that I’m in service to it. I’d yield to the whispering voice saying “Over here… come with me” that would take me away from making something that had become resolved and now was only being repeated. I’ve always had the sense that if I took care of that flow, the rest would take care of itself. So far, that has been borne out.
Every step on this journey has been informative for me. It’s shown me what to move toward and what to move away from. I did things differently when something didn’t work. And I couldn’t have known it wouldn’t work for me until and unless I had the courage to risk something.
CM: How are you recognizing and rewarding yourself at this milestone?
LN: Being included in this particular issue with emerging artists seems sweeter than sweet to me. I get to stand as a living example of possibilities (The, oh, yes you can craft a life as a maker in this day and age, possibility) along with so many other makers alive and thriving today. A reward I notice experiencing is a confidence and comfort around making and around facilitating others’ creativity. That’s huge for me. Another reward at this anniversary mark is a body that still serves. Given what it’s been through, including a punishing work ethic and an arrogant disregard of what it needed, it seems quite a miracle to me that it still can facilitate my play.
I’m also having a party to celebrate this milestone during my Spring Studio Sale at my home on May 19th.
CM: What is your best tip for an emerging ceramic artist?
LN: You’re creative. Figure it out. Reach inside of yourself for guidance. Don’t ask the larger culture if it’s okay. They can’t answer that question. Only you can. If you need a part-time job to make the ends meet, brilliant. If you don’t, brilliant. Neither is better. Just deal with reality. Believing that things are “supposed to be” a certain way is an argument with reality.
Playing with creativity is a gift of gifts. And creativity, in my experience is as tangible as gravity: always there, present, available for engagement. The gatekeeper for communion with it is stillness and then a willingness to play, process, and practice. Invite yourself to stillness as part of your studio life and wait for what arises. It’s not about what your mind thinks. It’s what comes from a place you can’t point to. I think it’s where they make the donuts!
Photo: Rena Thompson.