Febuary 2011 Spotlight Artist!
better known as VIKA
Where are you located? Fresno, California
What do you call yourself?...
artist, beadiest, ceramic artist, potter.??? Artist
How long have you been working in clay?
I fell in love with ceramic as a kid, in elementary school art classes (when schools still had dedicated art teachers). Took art, theater tech and ceramic classes while in college but never considered that I might be an artist. Realized I missed it and took ceramic courses at the local university after I had my first child, and bought equipment. That was twenty years ago…I just kept working and internet made studying easier (I went online in 1996 and got my first firing lesson via Internet Relay Chat not long after…learned to crochet that way, too.) The university was not a good place…had a male professor who firmly expressed the belief that women did NOT make good potters and should not be in this line of work. Mocked me at times…terrible. Working on my own over the internet was perfect. Most recently, I did a year’s stint as an instructional technician in ceramic for the local community college. Programmed and ran a large Geil shuttle kiln, taught faculty and students how to use it, mixed gallons of glazes and generally had a great time…ceramic heaven.
What clays do you use?
Three most used currently are: Laguna ^5 Porcelain, Laguna ^6 Frost, Aardvark ^5 Cassius Clay. I use a couple others, but not as frequently as these three.
How do you fire?
I single fire. I glaze directly on the greenware and take it to vitrification in one firing. It cuts energy consumption by about 1/3rd. I’m working on green practices, besides liking how the work turns out in the process. I also do transfer firings, transferring images I’ve drawn onto glazed surfaces using iron transfers. I use electric kilns, several that I bought second hand. Kiln sitters, along with witness cones, my nose and eyes (with shield glasses so I don’t end up with cataracts in my old age!).
Where is your working space/studio?
I’m laughing at this question. About two years ago, I came to the realization that about 1/3rd of my small home had been given over to art. I was surprised; it had happened unconsciously. I realized I’d better take myself seriously and be more intentional. I took over the family room and a spare bathroom, as well as better organizing my garage space for firing processes. The three rooms are connected, which is quite handy. I’m still working on organization and on keeping my stuff out of the rest of the house!
(It’s not easy to do when you are the only adult and don’t have to listen to anybody.)
Do you work alone?
Yes, I work alone. The teenage sprout recently offered to help. I was surprised. We’ll see what happens…
Name the steps you have to making a finished piece of your work.
Wedge and roll
Pattern the slab
Crop (I take my processes from photography; I have more freedom without molds)
Clean and bevel
Load & Fire
Clean and sort
I layer a lot of my glazes, creating offspring… you know it’s a losing proposition to pick favorites! On top of that, I have glazes I prefer for certain designs. So hard! I would say that I think that for low fire glazes that hold up well at midrange temps, I’d pick Mayco. For straight midrange art glazes, Laguna. Spectrum’s midrange Satin Clear is indispensable. I like gunmetal, satin and mattes, also bare clay.
Favorite themes, design inspirations?
Bricklayers' paving patterns, the repetition of Talavera tile designs, Asian chops and family crests, Islamic iron screens and tile work, and Japanese etegami.
I chose a palette from Central Asia, from Islamic tile work, almost twenty years ago, after visiting Kazakhstan. I stray from it in places, but those colors are still at the core of my work, appearing again and again. Carpets from the region also influenced me. When I struggle with reds, I am always thinking of the wrestling with materials that faced the region's carpet-makers, who arrived at deep to fading watermelon, and reds that leaned toward violet, using madder and various insect products. Now, we both struggle with modern reds so potent they are unnatural.
Ceramic artists you admire?
Hmm, I don’t think of myself as a ceramic artist, but as a mixed media artist. For quality and life/professional-outlook, in addition to inspiration: Shiho Kanzaki (ceramic), Kristin Gudjonsdottir (glass and metal), Kinuko Y. Craft (illustration), Alla Sviridenko (silk painting), and Karen Hung (metal work). I think there are actually more and I will kick myself later for not mentioning them.
Where do you sell and show your work?
Showing is on the agenda for this coming year. I’m in the middle of nowhere and the logistics have stood in the way. Trying to figure that one out! Locally, my jewelry is at The Lofts salon, and buttons at Janna’s Needle Art. I also have my buttons in a shop in San Francisco: Urban Fauna Studio.
Advice to newbies?
Do good work, from the beginning; don’t take shortcuts or skimp. Do your own research.
And: finishing work matters.
There are many who have excellent art skills but leave finishing work undone.
It always disappoints.
Favorite piece tool or piece of equipment?
Kemper tools are indispensable. Water curb (dry wall for bathroom and kitchen sink areas) is an inexpensive item that goes a long way, is cheap and has many uses. My camera; I use it to document work, take pictures of things that inspire me, populate my etsy and record items left on commission (paste the picture right into the invoice…much easier to track than descriptions, especially over the phone).
Thanks for the awesome interview Victoria!