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.