Thursday, May 1, 2008

Interview with ClaynFiber

The fifth of an ongoing interview series profiling EtsyVeg members.
Interview by Kylie of SilentLotus.
Meet claynfiber… aka Gina

Infuse clay, fiber, and a whirl of offbeat creativity with a passion for Earth and animals, and you get all of the organic wonder that fills Claynfiber’s work!

Q. Etsy is a unique blend of artists with many different creative styles and approaches.

I believe in creating what I enjoy. I am most creative when given limitations or restrictions. It offers a starting point, and yet of course artists an always break the rules.

Q. What is your own "philosophy" or approach to creativity?

I believe in creating what I enjoy. I find that I am most creative when given limitations or restrictions. It offers a starting point, and yet of course artists can always break the rules.

Q. Your work is richly earthy and very organic. What are your inspirations?

Like many artists, much of my inspiration comes from nature. Artists are a sensitive or aware group, very much appreciative of our surroundings, and see beauty or design in everyday things. I remember an exercise I did in university where we cut out a three or four inch window from a piece of cardboard, and then went through magazines turned upside down so we couldn't read the print. We simply searched for interesting designs. We did the same thing in drawing classes, and we do it all the time with our cameras. Using an imaginary viewfinder as I look around me often inspires new design ideas.

Q. Your profile mentions that you sometimes “symbolically incorporate recycled materials” into your work. Can you say more about this? Can you tell us the “story” of a piece?

Most of us feel passionately about ways of giving back or helping this world- my passion is animals. And my husband's commitment to the environment has rubbed off on me. I illustrate these passions by incorporating recycled materials into my work. For instance, I had been using petals and seeds in my fiber studies, and was inspired to add used candy wrappers and other recycled items to my pieces. These small pieces can't help save the environment, but they can be a reminder to be aware of what we use and discard. The first piece I did with this concept was a vase with an attached fiber study incorporating rose petals and Reese's candy wrappers. I called the piece "Roses and Reeses". I refer to other, similar pieces as part of my "Roses and Reeses" series.

Q. Can you say why you feel that contributing to animal causes is important?

Those who feel strongly about saving and protecting animals from man's exploitation must donate in some way to animal charities to keep other beings from suffering and dying in even larger numbers. I have heard others say that they do not contribute to animal charities because there are so many people in need of help. I understand the desire to help other people, but if animals were fought for only after the people of the world were no longer in need, they would never be helped. Animal charities cannot continue their efforts without the financial support.

Q. Do you have a studio at home?

Yes. For claywork, "my half" of the garage holds my kiln, pugmill and a glazing area. Then just inside the garage is another room that houses my wheel, slab roller, work table, shelves, etc. In my "other" studio my sewing machines and all of my other craft stuff reside. This is where my pots go after they come out of the kiln to have their stitching, beads, or fiber studies added. Much of the rest of the house serves as studio space as well - the dining room has become a photography space and the guest room houses shipping boxes, bubble rolls, etc.

Q. Do you set aside time to create, or is it more organic (when you have the time and inspiration)?

I have to set a schedule when there are orders to get done, but most of the time I fit creating in whenever I can. Often I will be doing something random in the house and end up wandering into the the clay room or sewing room, suddenly finding my hands in clay or cutting out fabric pieces. A few hours later I'm in the middle of a project I hadn't even planned on creating.

Q. You mentioned that you were recently married- is your husband creative, too? Do you find it difficult to negotiate your own creative time or life philosophies around a new relationship, or did that come naturally?

Yes, my husband is creative. Although he is not an "artist", he has a great appreciation for art and design and an eye for choosing, arranging and placing work
in our house. I rely on his honest criticism when creating new pieces.

It has never been difficult to negotiate for my creative time. My husband is incredibly understanding and encourages me to work on my art. If I’m caught up with a project, he takes time away from his own job to help me set up for shows, puts up with a house taken over by pottery, and doesn’t mind that I leave the housekeeping so I can spend more time in the studio. He really is the best partner!

Q. What other artistic tendencies do you have? Do you have other crafty/artsy skills that you already do or would like to try?

Recently I have been doing more sewing. I've completed a couple of purses -one incorporating my clay beads into the handle and closure. I have always loved to make things- I want to do it all! Many crafters can probably relate to that statement. Sewing, my first love, took me to university for my Home Ec degree, where I learned to spin and weave. I’ve also taken many classes over the years, including a series in basket-making and one in tole painting techniques (which I used to refinish our dining room furniture). Then finally I was introduced to clay! I still take side roads, making a few pieces of jewelry, crocheting or painting, but I always get back to my clay and fiber.

Q. What would you like to try to make, that you haven't already? What is your dream project?

I’d love to create a full wall sized art quilt that incorporates some element of clay. I’ve added fiber art to pots, now I want to add clay to fiber art. My current project is to create a body of clay work for a one-month exhibition coming up in December of this year. I was so honored to be chosen as one of five Florida potters for the show. So I need to get busy on that project for now and just dream of all the others!

Q. Do you have a "day job?" Whatever that means to you?

I have had a number of day jobs over the years, from hardware buyer for building supply stores to travel agent. Mostly, however, I've been a high school teacher of Home Economics or, as it is more commonly known today, Family and Consumer Science. I enjoy teaching and find it rewarding, but it doesn't allow me enough time to work on my art. So I left full-time teaching and now teach part-time as a substitute teach for my old school.

Q. How long have you been on Etsy, and are you an Etsy addict? :)

I opened my Etsy shop in February. I try not to be an addict, as I find it can take up the day so quickly. I am trying to find a balance between keeping up with some of the forums, updating my shop with new work ,and maintaining time in the studio. I admire those who seem to be able to do it all!

Q. Is etsy a large part of your business? How else do you market your work?

So far Etsy is not a large part of my business, but I hope it will become that someday. I currently market through wholesale and local retail shows. However, as the past year has been very slow in both area, I plan to do more online retail marketing (Etsy!) instead of applying to shows for the next year.

Q. How long have you been vegan/vegetarian? How does being vegan play into the rest of your life?

I became vegetarian in 1989 after receiving an introductory package of information from PETA. I was so taken by the info about factory farming that within a few days I had emptied my fridge of meat and made the commitment to become vegetarian. I started with a lacto-ovo diet, eventually becoming vegan until a few years ago when I married. My husband, who is not vegetarian but loves my healthy cooking, and I made a compromise to keep meat out of the house but occasionally have cheese or free-range eggs. It’s not as difficult as in the past to be vegetarian. Things have become easier as vegetarianism has become main-stream. I just try to make decisions that follow my conscience.

Q. What is the last recipe you made? What are your food vices or cravings?

This week I made spanakopita with tofu, squash stew, bean and kale soup and I’m looking forward to trying a new recipe I found in Vegetarian Times for grilled sesame-tofu with ginger-peanut sauce. I enjoy cooking but my food vice is a sweet tooth, so I don’t do much baking or desserts because I’ll eat way too much!

Q. What is your favorite vegan/vegetarian store/restaurant/blog/website?

There is only one vegan restaurant that I know of in our area. It is quite a jaunt, but when we’re in the area we visit it. Even though most restaurants now offer vegetarian choices, I still prefer to cook and eat at home. I don’t have a favorite website or blog, but I do visit various sites like PETA, HSUS, ASPCA, and related blogs.

Q. Speaking of “your area,” you live in quite a vibrantly-alive part of the country. Is there anything particular in your area that you find especially inspiring or connected to?

I really connect with the warm weather and truly enjoy the wildlife here – both plants and animals. Before living in the south I didn’t believe that the moss in trees, long beaked fishing birds and iguanas actually looked like their paintings or photos. I still rush to see the iguanas when they visit our yard, or stop to touch a flower because it just doesn’t look real. And the bird song in the morning is so beautiful!

Q. There's also a lot of environmental change and turmoil that happens in your area with expansion efforts and conservation efforts often clashing. What's your take on that?

I wish the government and private enterprise would get a lot tougher in this area. Despite a water shortage and water restrictions, people and the city continue to water unnecessarily. New homes are built without cisterns when we have such a rainy season that cisterns could be filled every summer with city water rather that lowering the everglades totally unnecessarily. Recycling and garbage should be collected just once a week rather than the several times it is now. If people had garbage or recyclables collecting longer in their homes, maybe it wouldn't be so easy to throw them out and forget about what happens to them next. Such practices are the antithesis of "
reduce, reuse and recycle."

I’m happy, though, that more people are paying attention to the environment and going green. I hope that concerns for the environment will prompt more people to become vegetarian as well. If they don’t do it for the animals or their health, perhaps they'd do it for the environment. For whatever reason one becomes vegetarian we all win!

1 comment:

FireHorse3 said...

What a thoughtful and interesting interview... and a new favourite on Etsy!