It’s June, which means the Working Potters issue of Ceramics Monthly has hit the newsstands! I am always a fan of this issue because it gives a nice glimpse into how others (from all over the world) make this “studio potter thing” happen. In today’s post, Yasha Butler, an artist currently splitting her time between studios in two different countries, discusses how her nomadic lifestyle creates both logistical challenges and creative inspiration.- Jennifer Harnetty, editor.
PS. Read the rest of Yasha’s story, and see more images of her work in the June/July/August 2014 issue of Ceramics Monthly.
My work, like my life, evolves constantly. I currently split time between studios in Istanbul, where I grew up, and Barcelona. This is only the most recent pause on a path that took me through Oakland, Philadelphia, and New York. Before embracing a life as a nomadic potter, I worked in Istanbul as an interior designer. In a sense, my professional life in clay started in 2007 when I sold my first work. However, it was two years later, when I moved from a communal studio in Philadelphia to my own space in Brooklyn, that I began to call myself a ceramist.
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Art and place are intimately related and Barcelona and Istanbul have given me, like the cities in which I previously lived, a bounty of inspiration. The newness of each of these distinct environments refreshes me and leaves me continually inspired. Admittedly, bridging two cities is a challenge. The travel can be disorienting and I must source clay and materials in each location. Moreover, getting into the routine of work often takes a period of adjustment. Although I plan to move back to the US this coming fall and close my studio in Barcelona, I will always split time with Turkey. Istanbul has never ceased to be my home and I work hard to keep it in my personal and professional life. What I produce is an extension of my relationship with where I am now and where I come from, which is reflected in where I choose to work.
The simple and minimal environment of my studios captures my overall approach to ceramics. This aesthetic continuity has a positive effect on both my physical and mental wellbeing. My shelves, tables, buckets, sieves and tools are almost all white. Without the burden of visual clutter, I find it easier to focus on my work and my thoughts. For my health, I try to eliminate as much clay dust as possible by frequently mopping and wiping down all surfaces. Some of my ceramicist friends have joked that my studio doesn’t look like it is owned by a potter. For me, walking into a clean and organized space is a great way to start the day and I love having people over to my studio for tea or something stronger. Often, my husband can be found typing away in a corner as he prefers it to his office.
I truly love what I do, but I have had to embrace trade-offs, as there have been many slow periods along the way. I am still struggling to master the craft and to balance selling, marketing and running a studio. I am continually making mistakes and, hopefully, learning from them. I have certainly grown professionally and creatively in recent years, but many aspects of being a ceramicist are new. Although there is still a lot I need to figure out, there are three things I continue to strive for: fine tuning my skills, finding my own voice, and surrounding myself with talented and, most importantly, motivated people.