Recently we had the chance to sit down and have a conversation with our current Resident Artist Adrienne Eliades. Adrienne comes to us from Portland, OR where she is a studio potter and teacher at Portland Community College. Adrienne specializes in layered and detailed ceramic surfaces. During her residency she has been collaborating with us on some really beautiful pots. Stay tuned to be in the know when they hit our web shop in a few weeks.
What made you decide to become an artist?
It’s been a slow burn. I started as a math major in at The University of Wilmington but ended up in the ceramics studio. I think that going to school in North Carolina where there is such a rich tradition for clay had a lot to do with me ending up in clay.
After school I ended up working in a restaurant because I had no idea how to make a living with my degree. I kept up with my studio practice through work exchanges for studio space but I wasn’t making a lot of cohesive work. I also wasn’t motivated to get it out in the world because I was making so much money in restaurants. I grew tired of working 60 hours a week so I applied to grad school because I wanted to explore my creative practice and eventually become a professor.
While in Grad School at The University of Florida I assisted established potter Sunshine Cobb and she advised me to focus on my work and worry about teaching later. Through being in the studio more I realized how much I wanted to be there and how important my studio practice was to me. Grad school also taught me how to network and work to actually make it as a ceramicist which was incredibly motivating. After grad school I decided I wanted to try out being a studio potter. I moved out to Portland with my partner and without a plan, but it has worked out well. Portland has such a rich community of artists.
What’s your clay love story?
It’s been love/hate. Ever since I was a kid I’ve been making little crafts and drawing. It’s always been something I enjoyed. We had a computer teacher in highschool who was a potter and got funding for a mixed-media art class. He bought the school a kiln and some underglazes and clay. On Thursday nights he would donate his time and we would all go hang out and work with him. That experience really opened my eyes to the community aspect of clay which is so appealing to me.
Do you work with other media?
I used to but it’s been hard since in the past two years I’ve been really focusing on trying to establish myself in the ceramics field. I do draw and paint a bit and most of my drawings of patterns generally end up on my ceramic work. I’d like to spend more time drawing and painting in the future.
What are some inspirations or influences in your practice?
I’m super influenced by the marks people make on the world. I’m really interested in architecture, furniture designs, concrete screens, mid-century wallpaper and fashion design. Graphic patterns are what I’m generally drawn to and in the past few years I’ve definitely focused on surface more than form. I’m also incredibly interested in the evocative nature of color.
I am not necessarily telling a story with my work. Rather than narrate, I like to leave the surface abstract and open so that other people can interpret it as they want. As far as function goes I like to design a form for a specific food or use. My dad’s a chef and I grew up thinking about food all the time, so when I am designing a form I think about what food I’d like it to be used for. My cookie trays are my love letter to chocolate chip cookies.
What brought you to The Bright Angle? What was your interest in this residency program and growing as an artist?
I did a residency in Denmark last spring. My goals for the residency was to learn more about slip casting and mold making. I have often heard that I should learn to slip cast because my work looks slip cast. I got the residency and wrote a grant to the Northern Clay Center so that it was financed. I was so thankful for the opportunity.
I am always interested in these types of opportunities. It’s so helpful to get out of my studio and expand my practice without the same constraints that I have in my own studio. I had seen what The Bright Angle was doing and heard good things so I was very excited and humbled to be asked to come for a residency.
I’ve only had my own practice for a couple of years and I’m trying to figure out how to sustain that. My work is so highly decorated that I can’t make enough to make a full time living and keep my work affordable. It’s important for me to keep my work affordable because I want people to feel comfortable using it. I’m beginning to think about ways I can make more work more efficiently and realizing that I don’t necessarily need to have my hands in every part of the process. It has been helpful to be at The Bright Angle and see a production studio in action so I can think about designing forms that can also be reproduced in my own practice on a smaller scale.
What is the best piece of advice you have gotten as an artist?
The one that sticks out to me the most is from my teacher Linda Arbuckle. She would always say that young students have their life in their face, meaning they have so much going on around them that it detracts from what they want or should be doing. As I’m getting older I am trying to take more time to step back so I can be more objective about what I want for my career. I have made the decision to be more strategic about what to apply for and what I can actually afford to do. Also remembering that success and making money are not the same thing, especially in this field. There does have to be a balance of the two because if you’re not making money you can’t do it. When you’re first starting out it’s important to say yes to everything, but as you progress you get to a point when you can’t anymore. I’ve just started saying no to some things and that feels good.
As a side note I advise artists to not place monetary value on everything they do and their time. It’s not a regular job where you can make that work, and when you’re first starting out that habit will drive you crazy.
How do you want someone to feel while using your work?
I think my pots are pretty happy. I’d like people to feel cheery and upbeat, like it’s a bright spot in their day. I’m a pretty cynical person so sometimes the bright and cheery nature of my work surprises people.
What was your favorite find in Asheville?
I’ve tried to move here about three times throughout my life and it’s never stuck. I’ve always really loved Asheville but it’s been so nice to spend time here and get a locals point of view. I have loved getting to know the clay community here and see how supportive everyone is. I’m always interested to see how different artists and communities connect and make it work.
What’s your favorite part of the process?
Decorating on greenware, definitely. I mostly use Tyvek or paper stencils that I cut with my die-cutter. I use slips and AMACO underglazes, and recently I’ve started playing with Terra Siggilatta as well. Anytime I get to play with color is the most fun.
What’s your favorite part of the movie Ghost?
Probably the office scene where the bad guy gets his comeuppance and Patrick Swayze is typing on his computer to scare him.
What part of the process do you feel is the most self-revealing?
Probably when I’m decorating. I’m super type-A control freak and I think the tightness of my work relates that pretty well. I have to over complicate everything I do and that is evident in my work.
What’s your role in the ceramics field?
I’ve started teaching workshops and I think I’m really interested in creating content in the ceramics field beyond objects. Teaching people to communicate their creative sensibilities to the world has been really fulfilling. I hope that I’m adding to the greater dialogue of ceramics but I feel like I’m so new I don’t know if that’s true.
Where do you want to travel?
I have traveled a bunch. I try to get out of the country once a year if I can swing it, and this year it will probably be Japan and Indonesia which will be a solely pleasure trip. I’d like to go everywhere, honestly.
What keeps you going?
I am kind of a closet competitive person. I’m not outwardly competitive but when I see someone who is around my age and in my field who is doing well I want to do well too. I’m kind of greedy when it comes to opportunities so I’m always applying for things. I’m also pretty hard on myself, I always want to be challenging myself to do more. I’m not a very complacent person, but when you’re a full time artist I don’t think you can be. When you’re not working you’re not making money, and sometimes when you are working you aren’t making money.