When I was in Art school, I did not know what I was going to do, and surely was not thinking of a career. I was never that pragmatic. I loved working with clay and the ceramic department at Humboldt State University was very exciting to me. I loved seeing the amazing work being done by the students. Later, I continued on at the University of Washington as a graduate student in ceramics, working with Howard Kottler and Patty Warashina. I was very lucky to have met them and had their encouragement, which directed me to be the artist I am today.
The idea of making a living as an artist was not taught (at the university) as most students went into academic teaching jobs out of school. I chose not to go that route. Instead, I went directly to New York City. I soon got a part-time teaching job at NYU and then Parsons School of Design as a way to pay the rent. My work progressed and I began to show in a New York gallery. This enabled me to see the possibility of earning money from my work. A living was not the goal with the work. I was always concerned with what I was making, and I was surprised when it found a person who loved it enough to buy it. Even though I am assumed to be successful, I still have many old works that were not as lucky and are packed in boxes in the basement. I have always challenged myself and always tried to move forward with the ideas. I wanted the work to have a fresh look, and never wanted to bore the viewer—or myself.
Because of the current economic recession, I have begun a series of small works and this seems to have helped sales a bit. I began not really thinking of sales or of who really liked my work or not. In the beginning, I made large-scale pieces and most of them never sold. I was always in a mode of evaluation and always assessed what I was doing and how it was communicating. I have learned that something small can have the communication capacity equal to a large-scale work. This is something that has taken many years to understand. Scale was an early major issue with my thinking and, through my experiences, I have realized the challenge of empowering something small to speak as loud and clear as a large form.
I usually step back a few steps and then try and move forward again and again. This is a pretty constant cycle. As for creative recharge, it usually comes from the process of working itself. I always discover when I search.
I really never thought the decision to pursue sculpture as a living was a choice. I always knew I would make something in the way of art. I have made sacrifices with regard to not having a steady income (by taking a full-time teaching job). This has haunted me for 30 years. I go back and forth with what I have chosen, but have loved my freedom and credit that freedom with why I have been able to produce the work I have in the years since graduate school.
My health insurance is me trying to be as healthy as possible by eating right and knowing that I have limited exercise, although when I work I use my total body.
If you want to make ceramic sculpture, you first have to have ideas you’d like to make and not take it so seriously. I never thought of the work I have done as a profession. I guess I have thought outside the academic box and tried not to limit myself to clay or ceramics alone.
I really love to mix materials. I truly believe that my world has informed my work and will continue to do so. I try to think of the material of clay as a metaphor and remind myself of the cultural artifacts that we have in our culture that I can comment on with my work. I love all materials, but I especially love clay. I only worry about the material when it does not like to be treated the way I treat it. When it cracks, I have to deal with it, but I am not really focused on perfection so I give myself space to move.
Where to See More
Donna Schneier Fine Arts, Palm Beach, Florida
Duane Reed Gallery, St. Louis, Missouri
101 Exhibit, Miami, Florida
Pacini Lubel Gallery, Seattle, Washington
Imago Galleries, Palm Desert, California