It took months of working with this woman to find out that she was a ceramist. And when I finally saw her porcelain pieces, it all made perfect sense. As is always the case, an artist’s work is a direct reflection of the person she or he is, whether intentional or not. Charlotte’s work is quiet, elegant, unexpected. Her live-work studio made me a bit jealous; with the sunlight streaming in through the loft, I felt a sense of calm and an overwhelming desire to get to work. My admiration for her diligence only grew.
How did you get here? Why did you choose clay?
It was something to do while I couldn’t find a job, that was a frustrating time.
Do you remember the first time you worked with porcelain?
Yes, it’s because they were out of the stoneware that I normally buy. I’ve not used stoneware since I tried porcelain that day. Well, aside from my black clay.
What does a perfect day in the studio look like to you?
I mostly work in the studio on Thursdays and Fridays along with the time I have off during the weekend. A perfect day in the studio is when I can complete enough things that I feel satisfied when I have to go back to work on Monday. I enjoy sunny days with my big windows. I also enjoy days that start with coffee.
If you could pick one functional item to make for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Well, I’ve enjoyed making cups for the last year, so why not more cups. They’re almost instant gratification, and I enjoy using them as small canvases to do patterns on or experiments with new techniques.
If I sat down and tried to count all the talented people that I’ve met in my life, my mind would probably implode. And yet still, I find more artists to admire, more hands to watch. As I move through different stages in my creative career, I find that there is always someone riding alongside me, just ahead of me, or right behind me. We’re all connected and relate to one another through some form of aspiration or insecurity. This instant bond over “figuring it out” is key to moving forward.
You may have noticed that some of these interviews are termed “creative maker” and some are termed “creative master”. What makes someone a master versus a maker? For me, these two terms are very fluid and subjective. I don’t know if any artists I could relate to consider themselves masters. If they did, they probably wouldn’t be moving forward. For me, a master is someone who is sure in their practice, sure in their voice, and sure in the goals they set before them. By now, all the Creative Makers I’ve featured are probably now Creative Masters.
I fell in love with Rachel’s forms before I met her in person. Over last year’s holiday season, I picked up a porcelain mug at Crafted Westside and my cabinet was then forever changed. It was smooth, elegant, and easy to hold, the perfect size. I had to have it. Not long after, I found out that Rachel was actually a mutual friend. It was then that I realized the universe was telling me that I had to meet this woman. Well.. I ended up meeting her and the time I spent with her was everything I anticipated it to be. When you connect with someone’s work, you are ultimately connecting with them as a person. So obviously, I knew I was going to like her.
Can you describe the earliest memory you have working with clay?
It was second grade–we had Art class once a week, on Friday afternoons. I sculpted a whale out of clay and, just as I was instructed, I hollowed out the inside so that be wouldn’t blow up in the kiln. After a long week of waiting, he emerged from the bisk with a giant crack extending in both directions from his blow hole. Mrs. Rosetti suggested that I fill in the crack with glaze. That seemed like a good idea, so I selected the glaze called “blue-speckled gray” because, naturally, that was the best fit for my whale. I kept filling and filling and filling that crack with the blue-speckled gray glaze but the crack just kept absorbing and absorbing and absorbing the glaze. I did the best I could and put it on the cart with the others. The next week, I met my freshly fired whale, who was now indeed a beautiful shade of blue-speckled gray, with a crack extending in both directions from his blow hole. To this day, he lives on a shelf in the closet of my old bedroom in my parents’ house.
What do you love about porcelain and why do you continue to work with it as your preferred medium?
So many things….it’s as though porcelain is this other material which lies somewhere between clay and glass. We treat it like clay when we manipulate it in its raw form, but when embraced by the fire, it begins to dance in the fluid realm of molten glass. And when it emerges, it contains luminescence. It is not transparent like glass, but it lets the light through and it glows. When vitrified, a sanded surface becomes as smooth as skin–such a pleasure to touch, to hold, to place to the lips and take a sip… In the process of slip casting, there is a certain predictability–when the porcelain is released from the mold, the form will be that of the hollow space of the mold. However, once turned over to the kiln, the porcelain may shift and transform in unexpected ways. It maintains mystery in that way. Porcelain also contains the paradox of extreme fragility and ultimate strength–it can be the finest teacup, locked safely in a cupboard, pulled out for only the most special occasion, and, if dropped, will shatter into a million pieces. It is also rugged and durable–a toilet that we sit on or floor tiles that we walk all over. And it is everything in between–it’s all in a matter of how we approach it, and what qualities we choose to expose.
I stumbled into Take Heart with no idea or expectation of what would be inside. The sign outside said “modern, handmade, vintage” which are obviously three of the buzziest buzz words for crafty hipsters like me. Well, it turned out to be one of the cutest little shops I’ve ever been in Austin, or anywhere really.
You can find an assortment of lovely items in this shop, from beauty products to decor, stationary, art and more… the creative energy in this place is like a magnet for lovers of beautifully crafted objects (like me). The space was open and airy, with tons of sunlight flooding in.
One of the best things about being an artist is having other creative people in my life. We all forge our paths differently, but at our hearts we are the same; we have an irrepressible impulse to create beautiful objects and meaningful experiences. My hope is to eventually introduce you to every single one of my amazingly talented friends because their gifts deserve to be shared. They’ll be sprinkled throughout my Creative Masters and Makers series, which I fully intend to continue developing as soon as I get more time to interview!
Til then here’s a short introduction to my friend, Ashley Barnes. She’s beginning her journey into flourishing as a professional ceramist and her whimsical pieces are sure to put a smile on your face.