Baked Earth: A Day In the Life of a Ceramic Terracotta Commission Artist
It’s a random Tuesday afternoon in September of any year. I am sipping ginger tea and trying to figure out what to do with the tail end of an already long day, when the phone rings and it’s a number I don’t recognize. I answer and it’s a potential client with an exterior aesthetic conundrum. “Well”, I say to myself, “here we go again!”
This month I am going to walk you through what it is like to be on the receiving end of an exterior ceramic commission.
Now…I love people. With that in mind, as a commission artist, in many ways I become a problem solver as well as a solution. I always want to get to the heart of what the client wants for his or her space, and often the gray area is that word “want”. What a client wants and what works best aesthetically for a space, may be two different things! So I end up being the voice not only for the client, but for the land, the property as it relates to other properties, the overall environment, the seasons, and of course the clay. Why are we using clay on this project? Why does using an earthen material make the most sense here? And so on.
Typically, I will begin with an interview. I will Skype if I have to, but the best way to get to know a project is to get on site during the initial phase. (Many times I‘ve shown up to a job site and actually found native clay on the property!) We then move into constructing the pieces. It has always been my practice to have an open door policy to my studio; I love the client to get involved with the construction process. This way we can troubleshoot together and/or celebrate any pieces that come from my hands. I realized a long time ago that when building things to the specifications of others, it’s important to be very clear and communicative, especially during the “wet work” phase.
I also like to discuss the inherent connection between interior and exterior space. Sure, we can do planters and water features , but what if you had a vessel sink in your bathroom or a fireplace surround, or an interior sconce or two with the same motif? The transition between interior and exterior spaces has always fascinated me as an artist, so that’s often what I strive for.
The last phase is delivery and installation. When I end up placing pieces and getting down and dirty in a garden, I know I have made someone very happy. I have made the environment happy, the property happy, the neighbors happy, and being the solution is always an awesome feeling! In this phase, I know that what I have made is not only SITE specific, but RESOLVE specific.