As a graduate of the WARM Mentor Program I was privileged to observe a range of mentor – protégée relationships. I would love to have the opportunity to share the experience I have since gained, and also to learn from the protégées in the program. While I haven’t been a formal mentor, I have had informal experience encouraging the career development of studio mates.
As a mentor I see myself as a guide and collaborator. The path we follow will be determined by the needs and interests of the protégée. I believe in the importance of listening and asking thoughtful questions. If a protégée wants artistic critique, I believe it is crucial to build on what’s working and use methods similar to the critical response process to provide constructive feedback.
Another important role of the mentor is providing connections and introductions to members of the arts community. I have gathered considerable experience with marketing because of my self-publishing experience as a writer, and also have experience working with art consultants.
Flexibility and a willingness to try different approaches are also important. Sometimes, gallery visits are a good tool, sometimes a session in the studio experimenting with new techniques together can work wonders. Most of all, the mentoring experience should be an enjoyable way to encourage growth for both parties.
For me, the contemporary world is an overstimulating place. When I am bombarded by constant information, flashing lights, and fleeting but intense images, I need to escape to my studio and dig my hands into clay or arrange finished clay elements into larger works as a means of meditation. I find it natural that my work seeks to provide islands of calm so the eyes and mind can rest and be restored.
I also seek balance by spending time in nature. My inspiration for my clay multiples and installations arises from natural patterns and textures, not only those I can observe in nature with the naked eye, but also patterns observed through telescopes, microscopes and in particle accelerators. Patterns have been a passion since I spent hours playing with beads and buttons as a five-year-old. I am drawn to abstract simplicity, partly by my science background and partly by an early love of Scandinavian design and mid-century modern architecture developed during my childhood in Germany.
My medium of choice is terra cotta – an ancient material that connects my work to prehistoric times. I choose primal shapes, hand-built or slip cast in multiples. The process is important, because I want each sculptural unit to exhibit the slight variations that mimic the natural world. I recently realized to my satisfaction that my earthy color palette closely resembles that of paleolithic art.
Unless I am creating commissioned work, I make a series of texturally related units and lay them out on the floor, arranging and rearranging until the piece “clicks.” The title of the work usually falls into place at that moment. I consider the piece successful if it evokes my gut-level sense of recognition.
"Cave Dreams," terra cotta with underglaze and terra sigillata
"Elegy for the Geese," terra cotta with glaze and terra sigillata
"Particle Dance," terra cotta with stain, glaze, and terra sigillata
"Prayer for a Tree," mixed media with terra cotta elements
"Upstream," terra cotta with stain, glaze and terra sigillata