On Tuesday we heard from Kathy Riggs of Ojo Sarco Pottery (see previous post Ojo Sarco Pottery, Part 1, Kathy Riggs) and today we will hear from Jake willson:
1. How long have you been making art and how/why did you start?
My career as a potter began in the mid-1980s when Kathy (my wife to be) and I met and I began to help her with some of the “grunt” work in the studio – loading kilns, mixing glazes, recycling clay, etc. I gradually took over the production of a line of slab pots that Kathy had developed, and began to explore other hand-building techniques.
2. Have you ever stopped making art?
I’ve been continuously involved as a potter since that beginning – the longest break was last winter, when Kathy and I took a “sabbatical” as park hosts at Goose Island State Park on the Texas gulf coast.
3. What is your art? Describe it and your inspiration for it.
I make hand-built pottery using a variety of techniques. Our work is all a high-fired porcelain.
4. When did you come to New Mexico? Why? What have you found here?
I grew up in Wyoming and attended college in California and graduate school in Wisconsin (none of it in art). After living for three years in Central America, I happened upon the High Road to Taos and discovered that it eased my homesickness for the ponderosa forests and Hispanic culture of Honduras. I bought our property in Ojo Sarco in 1979, and embarked on a project to establish an organic farm to sell to local restaurants and markets (this before organic gardening was quite as cool as it has since become).
5. What does it feel like to make your art?
I am slightly in awe of the fact that we are working at a craft that has been practiced throughout history in almost every culture. Though there are as many styles and techniques as there are potters, there is also something as simple and fundamental about the craft as growing and preparing food. I enjoy the thought of a connection between my hand in forming a pot and the hand of someone who will drink their tea or eat their soup or place a flower in it. I think it is that human connection that makes hand crafting essential at a time when technology would suggest that it is obsolete and irrelevant.
6. Is making art always easy for you? If so, in what way? Describe your process. If not, describe what it’s like when it’s not easy and tell us how you see your way through.
No, it is not always easy. The studio potter needs to master a wide variety of skills and solve a wide range of problems. In a typical day I may be called upon to be a chemist, an electrician, a mechanic, or a toolmaker as well as a craftsman.
7. What do you think it means to be an artist?
I tend to think of myself as a craftsman, though I think all artists are craftsmen and feel that any distinction between craft and “fine art” is ultimately meaningless. I feel that humans have a fundamental need for meaningful work. Being a potter meets that need for me.
8. Do you have any advice for others who want to become artists? For those who have lost their art but want to come back to it?
Master your medium! Whether you are a painter, a potter, a musician or a sculptor, you can’t soar before you can walk. You have to develop the skills with your tools and materials so that the mechanical aspects of your process are automatic, in order to free the intuitive and creative aspects.
9. Why do you create? Do you believe it’s a discipline or a desire or both? How do you get to your art? Is a regular work schedule a necessity or a hindrance?
For me, a regular schedule is a necessity. Continuity is essential in my work, and the volume of work required for us to make a living demands putting in regular work days. Since we also display our work and do retail business at our studio, we feel that it is essential to maintain regular and reliable hours.
10. Do you see art as product or process? Please explain.
For me it is both. The process – developing and refining techniques, building on discoveries and inspirations, striving for a better form – are important parts of the satisfaction, but if my work is of no value as a product the process is at best a hobby, not a career. I spend too many hours at it for it to be a hobby, and I wouldn’t have the luxury of doing it if I were flipping burgers to pay the mortgage.
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