Artist Q&A: Meet Patrick Coughlin

Ceramics Monthly: Tell us about your studio space.

Patrick Coughlin: My studio, located in the heart of Fishtown in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is a mixed-use property that has both commercial and residential space. I keep a studio on the first floor and basement, and live on the second and third floors above. This close proximity of home to the studio has made all the difference in being able to have greater productivity while allowing me the ability to play, discover, and explore in those shorter time periods that commuting  to the studio often made impossible. That 30-minute period while dinner is in the oven can be a productive time to sketch out ideas, add some coils, roll out some slabs, or clean in preparation for when I have several hours to focus on a project or task.

After moving studios three times in five years, it has been a dream come true knowing that by purchasing a property like this one, I have secured a workspace that I have control over, where I can build long-term plans and strategies to expand my practice. This forward thinking was something nearly impossible to do when continually packing and unpacking work and equipment.

My practice has developed to incorporate a variety of materials and processes, creating the need for flexibility in the studio. Having a ceramics studio, fibers area, wood shop, kilns, plaster area, and glaze mixing/testing space means that there is a lot of changeover and transformation of the space to fit the practice at hand. Having the studio downstairs from the living space allows me to take that transition time seriously. When I was commuting to a studio, I didn’t always allow myself the meditative process of preparing the area for what I planned to do next. With all of my work and teaching obligations, it was difficult for me to make time for the process of cleaning and preparation when my studio time could be so sporadic. I wish it didn’t take the responsibility of owning property to force me to mop the floors every week or organize and put tools away. The stress of home ownership made me care about the space in a way that I never did when I rented—not that I was a slob, but sometimes I was. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be able to have this studio/living situation, and understand that it’s not always possible for everyone. But I do wish I had made the connection to that meditative headspace of cleaning and organizing as an essential aspect of making sooner.

CM: Please elaborate on how you generate income. 

PC: Being a part-time teacher means that my schedule and income are relatively unpredictable. I teach handbuilding, wheel throwing, foundations, graduate-level studio art, and industrial design mold making at two universities, and an advanced handbuilding class at The Clay Studio. During any given semester I teach anywhere from 5–6 courses between these 3 institutions. My schedule changes every three months, so having a regimented studio plan is nearly impossible. However, it generally allows for certain days to have big time slots available to spend in the studio.

Teaching is my primary income; the studio work that I make does sometimes supplement that. However, its income contribution is not one I can count on for meeting expenses. Having now been in this studio for just about two years, I am exploring the possibilities of foot traffic, in-studio classes, sales, and adding more commercial lines of work.

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