Thursday, October 2, 2008

Balancing The Craziness ~ Tara Robertson

The sculpture pictured above is part of a series called "Offspring" and demonstrates the nurturing qualities of Tara Robertson. Literally dependant on each other, the two pieces of these sculptures require the other for balance, to be whole. For me, and what I have learned of Ms. Robertson they represent her in the delicate balance of rearing her daughter while cultivating her creative side through exploration of form in clay. It is that fine line that drives this stay at home mom, wife, teacher and artist, squeezing every second out of the day to get her fingers back in the mud.

Why clay?
Because I'm still just a kid at heart that loves to play in the mud. I have always been into art and tried my hand at acrylics, watercolors, oils, pastels, pencils, and even carving plaster. None of those things "squished" the way clay does. I just love the feeling of squishy mud in my fingers, under my fingernails, and (usually) all over my clothes. There's also something about the process that just brings out the creativity in me. I love all the physical labor, the wedging, pinching, scraping, cleaning, measuring, and such that comes along with working in clay. So much of what I make is a long series of repetitive motions and yet each piece has a life of its own.
If not clay, what?
This question is much harder than it should be. I'm sitting here reviewing my week. A typical day is: Wake up, jog, get daughter ready for preschool, clay, pick-up daughter, eat, put kid down for nap, clay, play with daughter, teach a clay class, make and eat dinner, put daughter to bed, watch a show or two, go to sleep. That's about it. I think someday my life will consist of more than clay and kid (and of course, the occasional House episode), but for now I'm just bouncing between the two. By the time I'm worn out from my kid, a clay break sounds heavenly, and by the time I've come to a point where I need to stop picking at a pot, playing silly games with a 3-year-old just hits the spot.
What gets you in the mood, what inspires you?
When my daughter was very little and I was struggling to get back into clay and handle all my domestic responsibilites on top of no sleep, another stay-at-home potter/parent offered me a wonderful piece of advice. "When your child goes down for a nap, drop everything and run to the studio." This has become my way of getting work done. All I need to be "in the mood" or inspired is for my daughter to be sleeping. She's asleep? Watch out clay--here I come! Because I know that if I wait and fold some laundry or browse the internet or anything, I'll miss my minutes of precious time alone in the lab getting my hands dirty.
Do you listen to music in the studio?
Always and forever. If not music, books on tape. I especially like to listen to really long classics that I would never take the time to sit and read.
Who is your favorite artist/artists and why?
I love women vocalists/songwriters who don't stick to the pop song formula (cliche lyrics with generic beats). Some of my recent favorites are Yael Naim, Feist, and Ingrid Michaelson
Whats your favorite quote?
"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep." from Scott Adams (The author of the Dilbert cartoons)
What is your favorite pleasure?
Gourmet hot chocolate. If I'm really going for guilty pleasure, I'll make it with whole milk and pile on the whipped cream. It's like chocolate soup. This has become an especially guilty pleasure in the last year because I've become lactose intolerant. It tastes so good, but then my stomach pays for it later.
What would you say to someone just getting started in ceramics who asks you for advice?
Keep at it. Also, strive first for technical skills. My first college professor was all about aesthetics, so I didn't learn how to throw or pinch with consistent thickness and always had problems achieving the forms I wanted because things would collapse or came out lumpy. My second professor (at a different school) had us reach some strict technical benchmarks during the first semester, and then let us be free to experiment. My work became worlds better with the second professor.
What do you think of the handmade movement and the artist as activist, or artivism?
I'm just trying to do what I love while balancing the craziness of parenting and career. I'll leave politics to people more intelligent and on top of things.
Can you tell me about your process, when you go into the studio do you have a set idea or do you just go with the flow, let the universe guide you?
I start with a pretty specific idea of what I want to make and how I want to make it. Although I know what I want, the process of making seems to open me to variations and spontaneous discoveries. I'll tweak this and change that if it looks better to me. I most enjoy "letting the universe guide" when doing surface decoration. I'll start with an abstract line or two, or a leaf placed in a certain spot, and then just fill in the space around it with whatever looks right to me at the moment.
Thank you Tara!


Tara Robertson said...

Thanks for the great feature!

NewMoonStudio said...

Wonderful feature, great artist!


tara is amazing!