Artist Q&A: Meet Linda Arbuckle

Ceramics Monthly: How have you taken your experience as a well-established maker in the field and passed that knowledge along to students?

Linda Arbuckle: I have tried to pass along things I have learned that have been helpful to me.

Being “well-established” is a constellation of things. It’s very important to make the best work you can and be true to your own vision. We all struggle with that on a daily basis, and I think it’s a journey, rather than a destination. Every time you ask yourself for something different than your last success, you have to take risks and be willing to make bad work. As a beginning student, I think I had a subconscious idea that one day your work as an artist “arrived,” and you were on that plateau for good. As I grew in understanding, I realized it’s a series of valleys and peaks. The growth in understanding is that being in a valley is part of the process, rather than a personal failure, and calls for better questions and MORE work. It’s important to keep looking and asking yourself how to make the work better and how to get it to grow. It takes a certain kind of person to enjoy a permanently open-ended question. It’s also good to look back now and then, as well as forward. For most of us, if we could have done two years ago what we are doing now, we would have thought we were hot stuff. Our reach constantly exceeds our grasp, and that’s a good thing, but one also has to look at how far we’ve come. People just starting admire that we’ve learned so much, just as we did when we began. As the saying goes, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

One of the ways to get established with your work is to get personally involved, participate in local and national communities in ceramics, and help other people. I am so very thankful for my peer group and for the many organizations that have helped me connect to them (NCECA, Penland, Arrowmont, Ceramics Monthly magazine, et al.). People in the ceramic arts are a very collegial group, perhaps because we fail so regularly. You can make really great work, but if you’re not known to anyone, you’re invisible. Get out and mingle. Help other people. A lot of good things come back along the way, and the support of a lively clay peer group is beyond price.

  • I have been inspire by Linda for many years. She has the right ‘take’ on who we are, what we do, and where we should focus. It is through sharing of ourselves and our art that we can move forward. Thank you for all that you are Linda.

  • Barbara S.

    This advice is oh so good to hear and oh, so true. Especially when one can’t afford to be a full time ceramics artist, one has to try as hard as one can and yet be forgiving of oneself with time and practice constraints. The inner perfectionist is often a killer of the fun one should be having in the process. Often it is the advice I get in these emails that give me the strength to continue my process, because I know it is going somewhere, even if at a slower rate than one think it should. So, thanks for passing this on, it is a great reminder between a new challenge, being overwhelmed, frustrated and enjoying the successes are all part of the the balancing act of being a ceramic artist.

  • Wise words and great advice. Sometimes as artists, we fail and improve at the same time a case of the happy accident.

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