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12 Questions: Lisa York

1.Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I’m originally from the Washington DC Metropolitan area and recently relocated to Lyndon, Illinois. Some of my fondest memories are from my year working at Neema Crafts in Tanzania. One of my husband’s favorite stories to tell about me is that I lived in a school bus in the middle of the woods with no electricity or running water during the year I apprenticed in the Appalachian Mountain under Kevin Crowe.

2. What first inspired you to begin working with ceramics?

I was a painting art major and needed to take a three-dimensional class; I was hooked on ceramics after that one class and have not stopped working in clay since then.

3.What is your studio like? Could you share an image?

My studio is really convenient: It’s only a few feet from my bedroom. We purchased our tiny house (530 sq. ft.) this summer and my studio is what would have been the living room in the house. The house is a fixer-upper and I’m still pulling my studio together. Just last week, my electric kiln was installed.

4.What are some of your rituals in the studio to get the momentum going?

In the mornings, I enjoy sitting down for coffee, oatmeal, and reading; then I’m ready for the day. Momentum is easiest when I have already thrown some work that is ready to carve and finish. With that said, I do work in firing cycles: After a firing, I like to do a deep cleaning of the studio, reflect on how the pieces came out, and then draw and make notes on some goals for the next firing.

5. How do you overcome ‘failure?’

My motto is: “Don’t give up.” A sketchbook records lessons learned from the “failures.” Ceramics can fail at so many different phases of the making and firing processes, especially in atmospheric firings like soda and wood. Reflections include why certain pieces may have cracked, or evaluations of unsuccessful form and surface combinations. It’s equally important to evaluate the wins and how they were successful.

6. What is the most inspiring place you have been?

Tanzania, East Africa. My personal aesthetic of beauty, found in the raw and unrefined, developed while living in Tanzania.

7. Do you have any other interests or hobbies?

If I’m not in my ceramic studio, I am probably outdoors, walking around my community or hiking in parks with Maple, my studio dog. Travel has always been a big part of my life and formative to my artwork. I enjoy road trips, camping in the national parks, participating in art residencies abroad, and volunteering where I can.

8. Do you collect anything?

My kitchen cupboard is full of functional ceramics made by myself and other ceramic artists. Other than that, I mostly collect memories of wonderful experiences which are helpful when living in a tiny house that is also my studio.

On my walks, I snap pictures—of aging objects, of details in nature, and so much more.

9. What are 1-3 books that have influenced your life?

Creativity: The Artist Way by Julia Cameron

Life: The Bible

Education: Quite a variety. This month happens to be a good one: How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

10. What are the biggest challenges you have faced as an artist?

For many ceramic artists, it’s often access to facilities. I now own my own kilns, for the first time. It has been years of tucking away money, and waiting to have my own place to set up shop.

11. Who/What are influences for your work?

I have definitely been influenced by my mentors: Helen Otterson, Kevin Crowe, Joyce Michaud, and Catherine White. I have also found inspiration from travel, the outdoors and aging objects. Creating a series of work typically leads to ideas for the next series of ceramics.

12. What are you working on right now?

I am setting up my studio, working on some new ceramic and wood combination pieces, and having ceramics ready for the maiden soda firing of my new kiln as soon as I finish the kiln plumbing.


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