Joseph Pintz: Potter of the Month

The 2015 Potter of the Month series kicks off with a potter whose pots pepper my kitchen cupboards: Joseph Pintz.  Joe and I met at the O_tr_7iaQw4UaZneZSz5tbzIAjiwjy3a2q-yR9bX2B4Archie Bray Foundation in 2006 and became fast friends.  I’ve always admired Joe’s work and his work ethic.  His pots are timeless.  He pairs no-nonsense forms with rich patinas that speak of history and use.  What results are handsome, thoughtful, generous pieces that beg to be used.

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nesting bowls, earthenware, 5.25 x 12 x 12,” 2013

In the interview, Joe discusses how his background in anthropology helped shape his perspective of what it means to be a potter, how he balances a full-time teaching job with an active studio practice and where he looks for inspiration for new forms.  Enjoy!

How did you first get involved in ceramics? Can you briefly describe your background and education?  I took my first ceramics class at a local community art center while I was studying anthropology at Northwestern University. At first, ceramics was just a hobby but my interest continued to grow over the years. I decided to go back to school to learn more and was a post-bacc at Southern Illinois University- Edwardsville. At the same time, I was lucky enough to work with Dan Anderson as his studio assistant. I went on to earn my MFA at the University of Nebraska, while working with Gail Kendall, Pete Pinnell and Eddie Dominguez.

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breadpan, earthenware, 18 x 2.5 x 12,” 2010

How does your background in anthropology influence the type of work you make (forms/surfaces/etc)?  I think my background in anthropology not only influences my work but how I look at the world around me.  Through my study of anthropology, I learned how material culture functions within a society.  I find it fascinating that much of what is known about early cultures comes purely from the archaeological record.  Even a humble shard of ceramics can reveal a wealth of information about traditions, values, and beliefs.

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dinnertable, earthenware & wood, 35 x 78 x 32,” 2014

For thousands of years, the role of art was to communicate or comment on culture.  Art was not separate from daily life; it was a central part of it. The work of anthropologist Ellen Dissanayake focuses on this link between art and culture. She redefined art within a cultural context as ‘making special’; art takes everyday experience and elevates it out of the mundane.  As a potter, I strive to achieve this age-old goal in my own work.

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pair of chevron boxes, earthenware, 6.75 x 11.25 x 7.25,” 2013

How do you feel that your formal education (undergraduate/graduate school) prepared you for your career in ceramics?  Since I did not study art in undergrad, I had a lot of catching up to do while I was a post-bacc as well as in grad school. I worked hard and tried to learn as much from my mentors and from my fellow grads as I could. I was lucky enough to be able to teach several ceramics classes in grad school and that helped me figure out that I wanted to go on to teach at the college level.

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hayrake, flat hoe, serrated hoe, rake & gardening tool rack, earthenware & wood, 11 x 60 x 64,” 2013

While your tableware is in kitchens across the country, you also make sculptural objects. Can you talk about the two seemingly disparate bodies of work and what makes them cohesive?  I see my functional and sculptural work as different sides of the same coin. Both types of work address the idea of utility but in different ways. While we as potters are used to thinking of pots as functional, we can often overlook many of the other objects that serve as tools within the domestic realm. My series of life-sized ceramic sculptures based on kitchen utensils and gardening implements explore how these tools fulfill our physical and emotional needs.

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Pulper, earthenware, 7 x 18 x4”

How do you come up with new ideas? Can you walk us through your creative process when coming up with new forms/ideas?  I often find inspiration at the antique store or in obsolete objects that are made out of all different kinds of materials, from metal to wood to stone. Functional objects have a strong association with the hand and their worn surfaces tell a story of use and labor.

When working up to a new vessel form, I often start out by making a solid version and then hollow it out. I find that working reductively frees me up, allowing me to find the form more intuitively. If I find that I need to make a series of the same pots, I often make a bisque mold to help speed up the rest of the pieces.

You have spent countless hours researching layered combinations of terra sig colors, glaze colors and other patinas. Can you talk a little about your palette and why you gravitate to the colors/surfaces you do?  In grad school, I was fortunate to take a iH79piXbI5AEgj9-A6yx6aXosKteRu9-4rv21UoIa98glaze chemistry class with Pete Pinnell. I did a lot of testing of sigs and glazes and tried to come up with a surface that would have the same richness and depth as layers of old weathered paint.

eH2RC8oT8i6OZBfeHEVMX3kumDgs-lTz7fXM0mLWWbkFor my functional pots, I primarily use a white crackle slip and a pastel glaze that I developed in that class. I often use colored sigs with patinas and oxide washes on the more sculptural pieces (or the exteriors of functional pieces such as boxes).

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double dish, small dishes, bowl & cup, earthenware, double dish: 1.25 x 7.5 x 6.75,” 2013

Do you have a favorite form to make? If so, why?  I seem to make quite a lot of bowls and shallow dishes. As someone who loves to cook, I suppose that I like the options that these pots present for serving different types of food.

Do you have a favorite studio tool that you just can’t live without?  A4HsjRMt23HHTvF8H85AIkz3ODVCoWVrALL2L8SGEKAI am sort of a hoarder when it comes to tools (as the two huge drawers full of them in my studio would attest to). But, I regularly use only a handful of basic commercially made tools when I am hand-building my work.

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mallet

The one tool that I make myself is a wooden mallet that I use to pound out my slabs. I cover the surface of the mallet with canvas so it is less likely to stick to the wet clay.

Aside from an active career as a potter, you also teach full time and have since 2007. I have rarely seen someone balance both as well as you. What’s your secret(s)?  I wish I knew what the secret was to finding that balance! After my time at the Bray, I was lucky to get my first teaching position alongside John Balistreri at Bowling Green State University. After four productive years there, I secured a tenure track job at the University of Missouri.  Academia is challenging because it puts a high value on what you do in the classroom as well as your creative research.

Although I typically teach only two days per week, there’s always something more that needs doing on my school to-do list, from repairing studio equipment, to ordering supplies or serving on departmental committees. Also, the fact that I have my working studio at school right off the classroom makes it challenging at times to switch gears between my roles as teacher and artist. But, I enjoy working along side my students and I think it helps them to see firsthand how much effort it takes to be a working artist.

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mason jars, earthenware & wood, 55 x 62 x 5.5,” 2014

So, I have learned to be flexible and try to creatively fit in my making around the demands of the classroom. My workflow can fluctuate widely from week to week during the academic school year, but summer vacation offers the space and uninterrupted time to work on either larger sculptural pieces or to make a large batch of pots. I have learned that it is important for my own mental health that I make it a point to get some making time in on a regular basis.

You’ve spent time at residency programs across the country, most recently in Roswell, New Mexico. Can you talk about what your time as an artist-in- residence has meant for you and your work?  In 2006-2007, I was a year-long resident at the Bray right after finishing up graduate school. That year was very formative time for me; the residency gave me the time and support to focus on producing a solid body of work. I also was able to put in a lot of time trying to get my work out into the world to make connections with galleries.

MpwxqAshEMiXLJYoack8gbrmwG-wSZFeAWLjxgAviJILast year, I was lucky enough to able to do a year-long residency at the Roswell Artist-in-Residence program. After six years of teaching full-time, the gift of the uninterrupted time to be able to devote myself completely to my work was a true blessing. I am very grateful for this opportunity and to the University of Missouri for supporting my research leave.

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Kristen Martincic, double ladder pool, three-plate etching w/ aquatint on mitsumata, 14.75×18.5″, 2012

Your partner is also an exceptionally talented artist (probably best known as a printmaker?). You two have collaborated on work in the past. I am curious how you two feed off each other’s creative processes?  I was lucky enough to meet my wife Kristen Martincic while in grad school. I am grateful to have a partner who understands and supports the challenges of being an artist. We both put in long hours in the studio and often help each other troubleshoot problems. Kristen has a solid background in ceramics and we have collaborated on several ceramic pieces in the past. We are planning on a body of work that combines her interest in swimming pools with my focus on vessels for an upcoming two-person show at Turman Larison Contemporary in early 2016.  Here’s a link to find out more about Kristen and her work : www.kmartincic.com

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pair of pitchers, earthenware, 9.75 x 8.25 x 4.5″ (each), 2013

You recently redesigned your website. Can you talk about what prompted the change and why you selected the hosting site you did? Can you offer any advice to someone wanting to build/design their own website?  About a year ago, I moved my site to a customizable website template through Virb.com. Their designs are simple, clean and easy to navigate. I had recently started having my work photographed on a white backdrop and that prompted me to redesign the layout of my website.

When it comes to building your own site, I would say it is important to look at a lot of artist sites to get an idea of what you like and what you don’t like. There is no right or wrong but it is important that you have a clear idea about how you want to present yourself and do so in the most professional way possible. Be sure to get some constructive feedback from people you trust before your site goes live.

Which marketing venue(s) (website/blog/galleries/studio sales/etsy/craft fairs/etc.) have you found to be the most lucrative for your work?
What kind of advice could you give someone wanting to market their work?  Since quite a bit of my time is taken up by teaching, I am SqYW5G2gfZQD6gxy9UmOCyY5-viCihqpq00v_Ca90Z4happy to let the galleries I work with take care of the marketing. I have my work in about a dozen retail galleries around the country. Sales can vary a lot from place to place but there are several galleries that have really supported me and my work over the years: Schaller Gallery (St. Joseph, MI), Turman Larison Contemporary (Helena, MT), The Museum of Contemporary Craft (Portland, OR), and Penland Gallery (Penland, NC)

Learning how to market your work takes time and often involves learning some tough lessons through trial and error. First, you have to decide what road (or roads) you want to go down. While some artists choose to focus their efforts on establishing a local clientele, others choose to do the craft fair circuit, while others choose to have galleries deal with the sales (and many artists do a combination all of the above). Each route has its advantages and disadvantages, but I believe it is important to get your work out there and striving to take advantages of all the opportunities at hand.

If you go the gallery route, I would say that getting your actual work in front of a gallery owner really helps. So, when I was starting out, I applied to lots of juried shows. Several of the galleries I am working with now started off with my having one piece accepted into a juried show at their space.

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teapot, earthenware, 6 x 12 x 5.5″ (each), 2013

The other way I have gotten into galleries is by researching which ones I think my work would fit into best and whether they carried other artists who’s work I admired. Although the “cold call” technique doesn’t always pan out, it can’t hurt to try if you present yourself in a professional manner.

Finally, what advice can you give aspiring potters trying to make a living?  Working as a potter can take its toll on your body, so it is important to take care of yourself (a lesson that has become more and more apparent to me as I get older). For me, this means taking the time to eat well, getting enough rest, and finding time to fit in exercise.

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wheelbarrow, earthenware & mixed media, 57 x 23 x 24,” 2013

I think that anyone making a living in the arts has a tough row to hoe ahead of them. But with hard work, dedication and some tenacity, you can find (or create) a way to make it. As John Cage said:

“The only rule is work. If you work, it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all the work all the time who eventually catch on to things.”

For more info about Joe and his work, please visit his website: iconceramics.com

 

Birdie Boone: Potter of the Month

Just in time for Valentine’s Day…an interview with the lovely and fabulous Birdie Boone!  I first met Birdie in 2007 at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, MT, where her and I were fellow resident artists.  I’ve always admired Birdie’s work for its subtlety, depth and design.  She is a master of glaze calculation…constantly experimenting with color palette and surface quality.  Birdie’s work fits seamlessly into the rhythms of everyday life…the thoughtfulness of her processes evident in each finished piece.

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Looking to find more of Birdie’s work or perhaps wanting to add a piece of hers to your kitchen?  Here’s where:

Birdie has a solo exhibition at the Schaller Gallery (Feb 1 to Feb 19).  Dozens of beauties ready and available for a new home.

Birdie’s work will be on display at Studio KotoKoto’s (www.studiokotokoto.com) Valentine’s Day event starting Tuesday, Feb 5th at 9am PST.   Kotokoto is also featuring a giveaway contest for a pair of Birdie’s cups: 5-7-5: A Valentine’s Day Haiku Contest.  Here’s the link: http://www.studiokotokoto.com/5-7-5-a-valentines-day-haiku-contest/
 Entries must be made by Feb. 12th.

I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did!

How did you first get involved in ceramics?

Napali Coast Blue and Chartreuse Cuppas, various sizes, cone 5 oxidation, 2012

Napali Coast Blue and Chartreuse Cuppas, various sizes, cone 5 oxidation, 2012

My earliest experience with ceramics involved an appreciation of pots hand made by my best friend’s mom; I noticed them in a way that stood out from everything else around me. While I was still very young, I took clay classes in San Francisco, but I was in college by the time I realized how much it meant to me. Freshman year, I took the prerequisites I needed to get into a ceramics course and by my sophomore year, I had chosen to major in art.

Can you briefly describe your background and education?

I was raised in both San Francisco, California and in Abingdon, in southwestern Virginia.  I attended the College of William and Mary in Virginia and graduated in 1993 with a BA in Art/Art History. From 1999 to 2002, I taught ceramics and sculpture as adjunct faculty at Emory and Henry College, a small Virginia college. Then, in the fall of 2002 I entered the graduate program in ceramics at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. I received an MFA in Artisanry/Ceramics in 2005. Following that, I worked at the Worcester Center for Crafts in Worcester, MA for two years, then headed out to Montana for a long term residency at the Archie Bray Foundation. In 2010, I returned to teach at Emory and Henry College in Virginia for a year. In 2011, I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I currently live and make pots.

How do you feel that your formal education (undergraduate-graduate school) prepared you for your career in ceramics?  Is there anything you wish you had known before leaving school?

To be honest, when I left college, I didn’t expect to have a career in ceramics specifically. I went to a liberal arts school and word on the street was, “do art now because you may never have another opportunity!” I did love it though, so I worked hard to find ways to keep making. Early on, I thought I’d just hop on into grad school; I was not admitted and, true to character, swore grad programs to the depths of hell. Several years later, I realized I still wanted to have a career in ceramics, so I started looking at doing graduate work…again. My program (Umass Dartmouth) was really well-rounded, I have to say. I came away with a strong background in all aspects of ceramics, a very strong sense of personal accomplishment and also a sense of momentousness about the role of artists in our society. Although at the time I expected to find myself teaching rather than being a studio potter, I do wish I had heard more ‘real stories’ about working artists, especially in terms of whether the numbers can add up when pots are the only means of income (I later learned that this is rarely the case).

How would you describe your work?  How did you arrive at working this way?

Divided Dish, 9” x 5” x 2”, cone 5 oxidation, 2012

Divided Dish, 9” x 5” x 2”, cone 5 oxidation, 2012

My forms are soft, minimal, hand built pots made from slabs of clay. I always let seams and points of attachment remain visible as much as possible. Each pot has a layer of bisque/crackle slip under it’s glaze to help create visual depth. The glaze may be transparent or semi-transparent and often has a small amount of colorant, lending the glaze a pale/pastel softness of color. My pots tend to be intimate in size, encouraging a familiar engagement of the senses. The evolution of my work is a case of form following concept: ‘domestic intimacy’ is a term I coined to identify the importance of nourishment, both physical and emotional; the presence in our lives of soft, inviting objects that command a sensual recognition is what compels my formal/aesthetic decisions.

Would you explain your attraction to functional ceramics?

Ceramic objects that can be useful in our everyday lives have a way of affecting our natures. If my agenda as an artist is to call attention to important things, then what better way to deliver on this than by means of practical necessity? Our brains don’t have to work to figure out ‘what it means’. Meaning is absorbed through a pot’s characteristics as it is being used; even when it is not being used, it can affect its environment in a nurturing way.

What is the inspiration for your pieces?  How do you come up with new ideas?  Can you walk us through your creative process when coming up with new forms/ideas?

My work debuted with inspiration from my family and the experiences I had as a child, specifically regarding eating habits. As my work evolves, I continue to look to eating habits, but they are the experiences and insights of an adult in the present (and sometimes the future). In this, there are always new ideas. In addition, I look to the past, to domestic objects made from clay, metal, wood and fiber, both industrial and handcrafted. If I see something I like, I figure out what fundamental qualities draw my attention and then adapt them to my own certain representation. Over the years, I have developed a couple of structural formats: ‘Curvy’ and ‘Belly Bottomed’. In general, when I want to incorporate a new form, I will try to work it into one of these styles. If it’s successful, great, if it’s not, then the public never sees it! I have a paper pattern for each form I make and often a new form can be created by modifying one of my existing patterns. I cut a paper pattern that I think will get me close to the form I’m after, then cut out the clay pieces and alter them as needed as I assemble. Then I go back to the paper pattern and snip and shape. I do this until I get what I want. Recently, I have expanded the variety of forms I make by taking one form and then reproducing it in assorted sizes and shapes. For example, if I make a round bowl, I will make it in 3 to 6 different sizes and then I will make it ovoid and rectangular, also in assorted sizes. This really speaks to my inclination to work in multiples without making the same thing over and over again.

Having shared a studio wall with you at the Archie Bray Foundation, I know that you are fascinated with glaze chemistry.  I always admired the countless test tiles I’d see piling up in your studio space.  Can you talk a little about the importance of glaze/surface when it comes to your work?

The surface of a pot is just as important as the pot itself. Either can undermine the other if

Glaze test pottles, 2012

Glaze test pottles, 2012

consideration isn’t given to both. My love for glazes comes from the idea that a glaze surface has a few variables that can be manipulated toward a concept: light transmission, color, and tactile quality can all be chosen with intent. I appreciate the infinite possibilities that present themselves through glaze development.

 

Like Jeff Campana (last month’s featured potter), I know you moved around a lot post graduate-school.  How have these experiences after school prepared you for where you are now?  Could you describe some of the most influential or career changing experiences you’ve had since you’ve left school?

I think that working hard, holding a job alongside a studio commitment has reinforced my passion for making. Through all the frustrations of too little time, little or no money, and creative hinderance, I have learned what is really important to me. I don’t discount any experience, whether positive or negative, but I think the most powerful experience I had was my residency at the Archie Bray Foundation. It was a time when I not only fortified my commitment to making, but also a time for intuitive introspection (unlike graduate school, where introspection was paramount, but also forced). It was important to attain an awareness of my character because my work comes from such a personal place. The Bray afforded me the time and space to achieve that and I departed with a strong sense of direction.

Was there a point in your career that you made a decision to sell your pots for a living? Could you describe how you came to that decision?

That decision came just last summer, so it’s still green…it was a decision of circumstances because I was unemployed and not able to find work in the field. I wish I could say I was a goal, but the truth is that I’ve always been apprehensive about making a living from my pots. Nevertheless, I suddenly had the time and space to make work, so I did. I am still in the process of organizing a business model and think it’ll take the year, at least, to do it right. I hold great esteem for working potters like Ayumi Horie, Diana Fayt and Kristen Kieffer, but I have no misconceptions that I’m years away from that level of success.

How have your experiences so far been different or similar to your expectations when you set out?

from Domestic Landscape Series: Lemon French Toast with Blueberries (plates and espresso cups), various sizes, cone 5 oxidation, 2012

from Domestic Landscape Series: Lemon French Toast with Blueberries (plates and espresso cups), various sizes, cone 5 oxidation, 2012

I don’t know that I had expectations so much as aspirations: I always wanted to follow in my college professor’s footsteps, to pay forward the satisfaction from creativity that she had enabled in me. Events, however, have conspired to take me in a different direction. Of course, I expected to be famous by now, but I guess since people are living longer these days, stardom may be a little further down the road… ;P

What does a typical workday look like for you?  How much do you spend on marketing vs. making?

Okay, cat outta the bag kind of thing: I don’t have a typical workday, unless it can be that I piddle around doing nothing much until a deadline looms. Seriously, someone should give me a bagful of time management skills! When I am on a roll in the studio, though, it’s hard to stop and when I do something like work on my website, it’s also hard to stop. As I mentioned, the business of making pots for a living is still green. In theory, though, I currently set aside one day a week to do paperwork, etc…

How does an artist go about acquiring business and marketing skills? What piece of advice would you give to others just starting out?

cup detail, Heart in Hand(le), cups for Studio Kotokoto’s Hearty Cuppa Event, cone 5 oxidation, 2013

cup detail, Heart in Hand(le), cups for Studio Kotokoto’s Hearty Cuppa Event, cone 5 oxidation, 2013

Trick question (since I’m just starting out)! Trial and error is often the most informative way to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. I have also found it helpful to talk to artists who are successfully selling their work, look at how they market and note what might be a good fit for me. This does not mean that I let them do all the hard work and then just appropriate from their models. I am grateful for their support in terms of finding a path to success since there aren’t too many courses out there on how to market pottery in today’s economy. To those just starting out, I would definitely mention that you shouldn’t expect immediate success. Like any business, you have to increase exposure and, to some extent, establish a customer base and that simply takes time. Also, unless you are debt free and securely sheltered, don’t expect to do this without some additional source of income.

What is your relationship with galleries (on and offline)? How has that relationship changed over time?

There are a handful of galleries that carry my work. I maintain a relationship with these galleries based on the premise that they work hard to promote my work and attract a clientele that can appreciate my subtle aesthetics. I have to say that it has been frustrating when I don’t even sell enough to cover the costs of packing materials and shipping. I continue to send work, though, because galleries have the resources to provide a level of exposure that I can’t reach on my own. There is definitely something to be said about putting your work in the hands of someone (gallerist) who believes in what you do.

One thing I find intriguing about your work is the way that you conceive and install your pots in a gallery setting (particularly with your solo exhibitions).  As a fellow potter, my motivation to make work is based on the work eventually participating in a domestic environment.  I particularly love the fact that pots in the home are never stagnant, but rather are constantly resonating with potential energy.  The gallery space almost acts as an intermediary venue (between studio and home) that allows the viewer to focus on the “still” object free of domestic “noise” (which I find rather refreshing).  Can you describe how do you approach the gallery space as a venue for display?

Installation view, Dis(h)function (ABF Fellowship Exhibition), cone 6 oxidation, 2009

Installation view, Dis(h)function (ABF Fellowship Exhibition), cone 6 oxidation, 2009

I also regard domestic environments as natural habitats for useful objects. My motivation to ‘install’ pots comes from an impulse to give viewers in a gallery setting a sense of the emotional substance that may present itself (in past, present and future possibilities) once the pots are in a real domestic environment by assembling them allegorically within a fabricated domestic representation or arrangement.

Finally, what advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice/style?

It is my belief that solid work comes from within. You have to search internally for whatever meaning (voice) you want to ascribe to your work. You may be influenced by your environment, as we all are, but don’t let someone else’s agenda get in the way. Keep it about you. As a maker of pots, understand that bowls, cups, plates, etc…were invented long ago; you are not the engineer of these objects, but a steward of their legacy. A good pot is an honest pot, one that is true to it’s purpose (which may be both utilitarian and aesthetic), no more, no less.

To find out more about Birdie and her work, please visit her website: birdie boone ceramics.  If you’d like to view available work, visit the Schaller Gallery and Studio KotoKoto.