What was your journey as an artist?
I used to always be interested in art but I
didn’t really begin taking myself seriously with it until my senior year of high school. I specifically remember this one project where we were supposed to draw self portraits and I kept wondering, what on earth did I look like? It’s safe to say that initial portrait wasn’t necessarily a great one but it encouraged me to do more research and to keep pushing the limits. I started with drawing eyes and noses then drawing
celebrities, learning to shade, and attempting to learn the proportions of the figure, but if you look at those drawings now (I still have them!) they are terribly elongated and asymmetric. I never anticipated going to school for art until my high school art teacher and my mother kept insisting I did something I loved. Although, I did change my major at least three times back and forth from psychology and art between my
freshman and sophomore years.
Contrast, stoneware, 19.5" x 13.4", 2017
Have you always considered yourself a
Actually not at all. I came into college with the expectations of graduating with a BFA in drawing but during my 3D Foundations course at UNCG I was really interested in making the skull heads. It was one of my very first projects
coming into college and it was my favorite because it required attention and dedication. I’d come in after hours quite a bit just to get the proportions and details right.
I didn’t find wheel-throwing until last year (August 2016) and I was really awful at it. I think what made me so interested in it was because I was so god-awful at it in the beginning. I binged on instructional videos, I came in nearly every day, night, and even on the weekends when I wasn’t working because I wanted desperately to be better.
Then, I was. Sort of. I still have so much to learn and this is just the beginning. I think what also influenced me to be a ceramicist is how the clay gave me solace. If you were to walk in the studio at any given moment while I was there, I’d be
listening to music or TED talks and completely zoned in to what I was doing and it was the least stressful thing in my life. The past year (before I found clay) was incredibly rocky and difficult but the clay was therapy. It gave me moments of
tranquility and put my mind and heart at ease. I can’t imagine doing anything else at this point in my life now.
What is your process when it comes to creating these stoneware vessels?
There isn’t one, well not necessarily. Whenever I begin a new project, it starts with a lump of clay that I center and form a cylinder (most
times). Then I kind of just wing it and let that former mound of mud become what it
wants. I only focus on ensuring that my forms are different from others and that I’m
pushing my self each time. Either with the form, or the technical aspect of making them. Sometimes I do make sketches of ideas but those also come out of spontaneity as well. A lot of the things I make don’t make it to the final stages most of which I slice in half (checking for consistency and wall thickness) or I’ll just chuck
them into the reclaim bin because they don’t fit up to my standards. I actually have a closet filled with bisque ware because of this. I feel that from each failure I learn something new along the way. That’s one of the things I enjoy (and also hate) about ceramics, you can do everything correctly but there will always be something you can learn from the processes.
In your artist statement, you said that
your work is a reflection of yourself and the world around you. Can you talk
about how issues regarding race and the recent political climate inform your
For a very long time I’ve been sort of silencing myself and who I am as a means to make those around me comfortable and in turn being very, very uncomfortable with myself. I think that may have been learned behavior for me. It wasn’t until my senior year of college that I even started wearing my natural hair out.
It’s a journey that I think is important for me. Race is a very, very sensitive topic for some people and is very controversial but as an artist it is imperative for us to “shake up” these elitist spaces and be very much unapologetic about it because these are conversations that need to be held even outside of our communities. With this very ugly presidential race and even worse outcome, it’s important for me as an African-
American female artist to create work that has that subject matter so I can bring that dialogue outside of just my community and into these spaces. Art, I think, is a social practice, and as an artist I have this responsibility to create work that encourages change and creates informed discussions on both the controversial subject matter and also work that speaks to the beauty and value of African-American culture.
Obsidian, stoneware, 7.6" x 4.5", 2017
You just recently completed a residency at Salem Art Works. How was that experience?
It was amazing! I was able to participate in
an Anagama firing which inspired me to learn more about kiln building and firing techniques. (A special thanks to Jordan Becker, Adam Ting, and John Lucas for getting that set up for us and Anthony Cafritz for covering the cost of firing.) I didn’t get the opportunity to create as much work as I would have hoped but just the experience of being in an environment with other established artists and very serious
ones at that, was such an important and influential experience to have.
I think coming out of this college setting and entering an environment where there was no
curriculum that I had to follow sort of allowed for me to make work freely. Also being
in a mountainous area, although at times cold, was just amazing. At SAW the residents and interns were required to camp outside and initially I hated the idea of sleeping outside in tents but I think that was because I was so used to having the privilege of having sleeping indoors. It wasn’t a bad experience, I actually enjoyed it including the incredibly cold nights and rainy days. It was something that I think I
needed to do, I’d actually like to camp more often.
There was also this amazing
community there. We’d eat, cook, and clean together which made it feel much more
homey than I expected. Everyone was so kind and open but also very serious about
their craft. That’s something that I really enjoyed about SAW, although we’d all converse and be social we all respected when it was time to work and get back to why we were all there. That respect is something that I don’t think I’ve really
experienced prior to coming here and to be in an environment where there was a mutual respect of the time to work and time to interact and be social, was really cool.
I think for artists it is especially important to be in residential art spaces and having
these interactions with other artists because we can sometimes be creatures of habit and I think for me, SAW changed that. I feel that I am more willing to exist outside of the comfort of my studio and venture out. I am so grateful for Patricia Wasserboehr, Nikki Blair, Jon Smith, and the College of Visual and Performing Arts at UNCG for allowing me to have this opportunity.
Intimacy: Tri-Handled Vase, woodfired stoneware, 7.5" x 4.5", 2017
What do you hope to achieve with your next body of work?
I think my only hope is to be as transparent as I can be with myself and create informed work that makes people ask these important questions. Not only that, I want to explore what it is to be African and both American in “post-racial/post- Jim Crow era” and in this
current Trump-era in a country that isn’t as racially and culturally accepting as it
seems. I also want to explore having this cultural ambiguity that we as African-Americans have due to oppression and our ancestors being sold into slavery and having their African identities ripped from them. As a child born from the great-great-grandchildren of slaves, my cultural and familial identity is lost and I can’t speak to
my grandparents or look through family documents to get a rooted sense of who I am
because slaves weren’t allowed to keep those kind of records. I would like to be an advocate for my community and create a body of work that speaks to these culturally and racially specific subject matters.