Artist Spotlight: Carly Gibran Hamid June 26 2020
When did you first realize you had an interest in ceramics?
My earliest memory of working with clay was at the Museum of Art, DeLand when I was 7. My brother and I took a class where we made clay trivets and I remember looking around at the work and thinking that mine was pretty good! Later, I took every art class that was offered at my high school… except ceramics. I wanted to take the class, but it never fit into my schedule. The strange thing about my high school was that the only way to access other art classes was to walk through the ceramics studio. Every day, I walked through the studio and observed, wishing I could take the class. After high school, I bought myself a potter’s wheel, kiln, and a tall stack of books to set up my own little studio. It was a slow start, but I was committed to mastering the potter’s wheel.
What are some sources of inspiration for your art?
I find myself revisiting the work of Louise Bourgeois the most. She had an intuitive understanding of form. Her sculptures feel like they were not created but have always existed. I also look to her monochromatic works. Creating a form that is powerful without leaning on color is a feat that she mastered. Other inspiration comes to me from outside the art world. I often find inspiration in my garden and on the beach. Dried leaves and seed pods are among my favorite natural objects.
How would you describe the style of your work now and how did it develop?
In college, I used a lot of bold glaze and followed examples from my books and instructors. After graduating, I realized I didn’t actually like the functional work I was making. I decided to start working primarily with porcelain and omitted most of the glaze colors I had been using. I found I still wanted to have a pattern on the surface of the work, however. Hand building my work and using slabs allowed me to use lino-cuts to add textured patterns to the surfaces without adding color.
For my sculptural work, I have always been interested in relationships between organic forms. Working with porcelain allowed me to make small detailed forms and then repeat these elements to explore how each individual form relates to the whole. Recently, I started staining my clay to add color back into my work.
Your Nature Study Series is a departure from your functional ceramics. Can you share additional insight into this series and how it came about?
This series is about observing relationships. Barnacles on rocks and mushrooms growing in mulch interest me because of the way the shapes and textures interact. I wanted to make sculptural work to explore organic forms but I didn’t want any single element to become the focal point. Separated from the whole, the individual forms are not particularly interesting, but they seem to come to life when they are part of a collective. The idea that they need each other is what I am most interested in. The first pieces in this series were made in the humid days following a hurricane. We lost a tree and our yard was littered with debris that needed to be gathered. As we worked, I examined all the lichen and mushrooms that came down with the branches. Each one was simple, but together they were impressive. As this series progressed, I started adding leaves and shell shapes to this body of work.
What does a typical day in the studio look like?
In a clay studio, there is a lot of work beyond making work. There are days spent processing clay, making glazes, loading kilns, sanding, glazing work, and maintaining equipment. But there are also days spent getting lost in the making process, with music playing and a dog or two hanging around. I have a few personal rules for my studio practice. When my kids are in school, I work the entire time they are gone. No appointments or interruptions. During the summer, I work in the morning for a few hours and again in the evening. If I am feeling out of sorts or uninspired, I go to the studio anyway. Even if I can’t make work, I know there is still work to be done. Usually, just being in my studio eventually inspires me to create something. I also have a rule that I always get the first task for the next day ready to go. Coming into my space and getting right to work sets the pace. Lastly, I never fire a kiln without an experiment in it. It might be a glaze test or a new form, but there has to be something with unfamiliar results. I think this practice helps push me in new directions.
What made you decide to work with porcelain and what are some of the challenges and benefits of this material?
When I bought my first potter’s wheel, the sales associate at the ceramic supply store asked if I also needed clay. Needing clay hadn’t even occurred to me! As a headstrong know it all 18-year-old, I blurted out the only type of clay I could name: porcelain. I didn’t know the reputation porcelain holds for being fussy and temperamental. I assumed that I was experiencing the normal learning curve for the craft. After about a year of working on my own, I began taking classes and used stoneware clay. I was shocked at how forgiving it was. I couldn’t believe that I could make large scale work without it slumping and cracking! After graduating from college, I was faced with setting up my own studio again. Even though I liked other clay bodies, porcelain had my heart. It might be fussy and have a large rate of loss, but the working texture of the clay is so enjoyable. The glazes are bright and when the work is thin, it can become translucent. It’s the translucency that keeps me engaged. I’ve been using the same porcelain body since 2003. There are still moments that I wish I had chosen a less demanding material, but I doubt I’ll ever switch.
Are the designs, textures, and glazes used in your functional work planned in advance, or do you leave room to experiment as you go?
I’d like to say that I have a master plan, but I start with a general idea and continue to make decisions along the way. Many of my textures and forms begin as sketches in small notebooks I carry in my handbag. When I am creatively stuck, I go back to my sketches. Sometimes the work I create is inspired by doodles that are several years old. My functional work starts with a pattern that I carve in linoleum. Instead of using the linocut for printmaking, I use it to add texture to thin slabs of clay. From there, I can manipulate the final work by what choices I make. The orientation and section of the textured slab I use combined with my choice of form offers a range of creative options to explore. Because all of my linocuts are 12 by 18 inches, I begin the work with a built-in limitation. It seems counterintuitive, but the limitations are both a comfort and a challenge.
Do you have a favorite piece that you have created or a technique you like working with the most?
Depends on the day! There are times that making mugs are the most satisfying and engaging work I can imagine. Other days, I can’t sit still for the repetition. I think that is why I have several different facets to my practice. Being able to choose between hand building, wheel throwing, carving linocuts, and studio maintenance allows me to move between tasks and stay engaged. Right now, I am in the midst of making wheel thrown vases and covering them with hand built sculptural elements. I am enjoying these because I am moving between different processes within the same work.
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