MC; What do you love the most about being a potter/ceramist/clayworker?
PB :I love the fact that as a functional potter the items I make are enjoyed by those who use them. I know that everyone in a manufacturing business ‘makes’ items for people to enjoy even if the piece they make is a small part of the consumer’s life. What I mean is, when I sit at the wheel or design a piece I pick the piece apart and wrap my mind around the piece. Does it serve a purpose? Will it function? Is it visually appealing? Etc... All these questions I ask myself are in the perspective of others. In doing so, I am not thinking about myself but I am thinking about the enjoyment of others and their needs. Too often our society’s people are focused on “me”. Pottery helps me to focus on others.
MC: What inspires you ?
PB: Life inspires me. In an earlier blog post I talked about the people I serve when I teach classes. How they are attempting to not only make their lives a little more enjoyable but to use the knowledge they gain to help others as well. That inspires me.
I am not one to go out into the forest and find a trig only to rush back home and make 100 pots with some twig adornment. I don’t work that way. I get inspired where I see a need. Perhaps it is “Hunger Bowls”, or a struggling business that serves the community, or a family trying to memorialize a lost loved one. Life inspires me.
I would be lying if I didn’t say my wife inspires me. When I said I was thinking of going to college (for the first time at age 34), she said go for it. When I said I was thinking about quitting my full-time job to attend school, she said go for it. When I said I wanted to start my own business repairing homes and go to college, she said go for it. And when that business tanked along with the economy she suggested I attend school full time and not worry about working. My wife has been a huge part of my artistic growth. She has held me back when it was needed and told me to run when the time was right. She is in full support of the pottery business and I cannot thank her enough. She inspires me.
MC: Tell us about the processes involved in producing your work ?
PB;I try to be totally hands on when it comes to my work. Lately I have been digging my own clay. I think doing so make my work more personal. When I first got started I bought 500#s of clay from a local clay producer, I haven’t bought clay since. I wheel throw, pull my own handles, and formulate my own glazes. A local school gave me two large electric kilns and I made then into gas reduction kilns. I fire here at the Haywain Ranch out of the garage. Most everything I use is old and abused-and perfect.
MC:Describe your studio
PB:I am in the corner all the time. That’s where the studio is-the corner of the basement. I have two wheels; one for porcelain and the other for stoneware. I use ware boards and have brackets mounted to the wall to maximize space. I have three work areas; two for decorating and one for clay prep and reclaim. I suppose the easiest way to see it would be to check out my blog.
MC: How do you market and sell your work?
PB:We market as inexpensively as possible; word of mouth, farmer’s markets, and art fairs. We sell online also on Etsy- Facebook has been a big part of our marketing –and education as well. Of course we blog, Tweet, and Pinterest too.
MC:Are there any clay blogs that you ALWAYS look at, and why?
PB: No, not really. I’m a internet skimmer and unless something jumps out at me I usually don’t stop to read.
MC: How did you find Mud Colony?And what impact ,( if any), has it had on yourblogging?
PB:I don’t remember exactly how I got sucked into Mud Colony. But after I posted a blog –with no clay pieces—I was gently prodded to “show some work, damn it!” Of course, everyone’s very encouraging and the weekly reminders keep me on track, although sometimes I am late and Adriana lets me in with a finger shake.
MC;Best piece of advice you have been given about your practice ?
PB:Steven Hill told a group of us one time when asked about how to do something to “throw more pots”. So I did.
MC;What would be YOUR advice to someone just beginning their practice?
PB:Throw more pots! A potter doesn’t really get good until after he/she throws 10,000 pounds of clay. So, using Wisconsin math, throwing 200#s a day for, say, five years—that should do it. You’d be much good-er than when you started. And for Pete’s sake, don’t be afraid to throw away your stuff! Do it! It’s only clay. Make mistakes-screw up-and throw it away with a chuckle. It is the only way to learn.
Paul is a regular contributor to Mud Colony with his Blog -Haywain Pottery