At a very young age, I decided to become a ceramic artist and studied art and ceramics with that intention. I opened my studio immediately after school and began making pottery parallel to my research on more sculptural pieces. Both need absolute concentration and discipline. I chose to concentrate on sculpture.
I could make a living from my work, although I also teach ceramics and sculptural objects at the Pavillon Bosio, Superior School for the Visual Arts in Monaco. I sell solely through galleries. I made this decision from the start. I strongly believe that the gallery’s job is to promote and sell their artists, whereas mine is to create and make. I fortunately have enough galleries representing me in Europe to be satisfied. They are faithful, and we’ve developed sincere relationships and confidence. I do my studio work and they take care of the commercial side. We share the results. I sell to collectors, frequently architects, as well as to public collections. Because a great deal of time is spent teaching, I do not pursue grants or commissions, though I have accepted public commissions when asked and find the challenge interesting and often inspiring for future paths.
Galleries are suffering from the economic recession, of course. They’ve often asked me to do smaller pieces to adapt to the failing market, although this has never proved efficient. My collectors are looking for good work, no matter the size. I’ve been very fortunate, but everything is relative-I do not make a fortune!
I began young, in the early ’80s. It so happens that ceramics was favorable at the time, which got me started at a perfect time with all the necessary communication. My work has evolved and some of the same people who supported my work from the beginning have naturally followed this evolution. My work is more precise and my preoccupations change. I can’t say I’m any more confident than I was, but I’m feeding on 30 years of experience.
I travel extensively, which is a great source of inspiration, even if I’m not necessarily hunting for it. I’m also extremely interested in popular and traditional crafts. Another source is textiles, which of course I search for while traveling. My travels take me to places where people still live in traditional ways, like West Africa, North Africa, China, Egypt. One has to make the effort to get out, to see, to understand and to question.
My teaching is also inspiring. It makes me think, prepare, remain aware of, and react to what goes on in this vast world of contemporary art.
My first great decision was to accept the teaching position 20 years ago. I had to move my studio, and my family with it! It possibly freed my way of thinking because I no longer had the financial weight to deal with, but it also takes time, effort and it can be draining. I’ve learned to live these two lives as harmoniously as possible. My second decision was to stick with teaching. That sounds like a paradox but just as one feeds the other, the energy is also divided by two. I turn down interesting offers (residencies, shows, biennales) because I made the decision to continue teaching and I have responsibilities to my students. Some of these opportunities will have to wait until I have more free time. I’ve decided to work essentially with clay for the same reasons: I don’t believe one can disperse oneself and be strong in all mediums. I love to draw and paint, and would eagerly do more research with other materials, but aside from sporadic breakaways in these directions, I spend most of my time in clay.
It is important to be in good physical condition because my work is fairly large and heavy. I have learned to take care of my back! There are more and more wheels in the studio, leverage contraptions, and other hand made machines to make life easier and not carry so much weight. As far as chemicals, dust, and the many hazardous materials found in a ceramic studio go, I try to remember to use a mask when loading the kiln and should do so when cleaning but I admit that I’m not very disciplined. I’m very cautious when teaching my students so that they don’t develop these bad habits! We are well covered for health in Monaco, so that complementary insurance is not necessary.
Teaching takes approximately one third of my time. I have a full-time teaching position, meaning 16 hours per week. I am also coordinator for our first-year students. The research I do to prepare my classes takes time, but I’m also benefiting from that for my personal work. The rest of my time is divided approximately as follows:
A good half of it goes to the making, decorating, and firing of my work. I am often involved with organizing various events having to do with contemporary ceramics, which, unfortunately, can easily eat some of the reserved space for making. For example, I organized a show for members of the Renwick Museum, I was the link between France and China for the French Museum in Fuping, China, I am now helping with the organizing of the IAC (International Academy of Ceramics) general assembly and post-meeting tour in France next September, etc. I feel that contemporary ceramics are exciting in this country and though it is extremely time consuming, I find it necessary to help make it visible outside our borders.
Another quarter of my time goes to research, and the last quarter to paperwork and photography. I do not contract any of this out. My husband is also an artist, and we help each other.
Ceramic sculpture is making a visible breakthrough in Europe. Galleries dealing in contemporary art are suddenly looking at ceramics without the condescending attitude we’ve been accustomed to. Ceramic objects are now considered design, design is art, etc. The once very rigid opinion of anything having to do with ceramics is changing. Paradoxically, galleries dealing solely in glass and ceramics are having very difficult times. We have to present our work to the field of contemporary art rather than simply confine it in the comfortable world of ceramics. Ceramic galleries should take advantage of this opening to show their artists and defend them in international fairs such as the FIAC (International Contemporary Art Fair), Art London, Basel, etc.
All artists should remain open to just about everything in this world; world changes, different cultures, trends, new technology, economic problems, conflicts, society, different forms of art, scientific discoveries, and so on. I also think that young sculptors should do as many residencies as possible. Traveling is an indispensable mind opener, a great source for inspiration, and a way to understand the world, or at least be conscious of just how little we comprehend!
Where to See More
Galerie Kunstforum Solothurn, Solothurn, Switzerland
Galerie Sandrine Mons, Nice, France
Galerie Terra Delft, Delft, the Netherlands
Galerie Marianne Brand, Carouge, Switzerland
Galerie Capazza, Nançay, France
Galerie Terra Viva, St. Quentin la Poterie, France
Galerie Hélène Porée, Paris, France
Galerie Chantal Bamberger, Strasbourg,France