I have been working with clay for about 12 years. Add a few more for high school and college years.
In 2009, I was involved in helping to promote Clay3. Back then, it was a regional ceramics competition held at Clay Space, a co-op studio in Warrenville. Since then, they have moved to Lisle and now the competition is a national event. I worked on designing the visual graphics and marketing materials. I found that celebrating other artists’ achievements very rewarding and over the next 10 years, I join the board of ceramics arts guilds and organizations that help promote and educate fellow clay artists. In this way, I felt I was helping myself understand where I stand as an artist and navigate the clay scene while helping others advance their work and careers.
When I started to promote my own work—submitting to be juried into various local, regional, national and international ceramics competitions, participating in local art festivals and holiday craft fairs—I found the effort exhausting. The acceptances and the rejections are a roller coaster ride of emotions. Affirmation of my work being good enough to be selected for the exhibition and in someone’s shopping cart is short lived and the rejection emails lingers too long in my idle thoughts. I longed for someone else to champion my work and me as an artist.
In 2017, I was invited by a good friend, Lee Middleman, to attend the Yixing China Ceramic Art Symposium. The two weeks spent with 40 artists from all over the globe gave me a new understanding of the world of ceramics and the people in it. Working side by side, reveling in each other’s techniques and methodology was an experience that NCECA couldn’t deliver. It was not a competitive experience, but a celebratory one. Making connections to meet again on a different part of the world some day.
The following year, 2018, I invited two Korean ceramics artists, Kim Young Soo and Shin Young Taek, and Adam Field from Helena, Montana, to Palo Alto Art Center to what will become the International Cultural Exchange Week. The concept was simple. Invite artists from outside of the US, along with a US artist who practice culturally similar work and share their practice with the local ceramics community at the Art Center through lectures, demonstrations, workshops and exhibition. The work to produce and facilitate this event was physically demanding. Long hours of managing artists schedules and logistics was not something I have done before. And, I found out that I tend to make big plans bigger. (Word of caution, don’t let me plan your wedding.)
Good work is rewarded with more work!
October, 2018. Kim Young Soo invited me to Sanbao Institute in Jingdezhen, China as one of 4 Korean artists to represent the tea lifestyle and culture. 23 days were spent working side by side with other masters of the arts, being presented along side of 20 other international artists at Doumu, a historic ceramic village and home to the 1000 year old wood kiln during their ceramics festival, and meeting Jackson Li, my generous host for the entire trip.
Next month, March 15-24th, 2019 International Cultural Exchange Week
celebrates Chinese ceramic artists from Sanbao, Jingdezhen, Shanghai, Changchun, Yixing and Fremont, California. Artists include, Jackson Li, Guangzhen Zhou, Xuan Zhou, Meiqun Gu and Hsin-Chuen Lin. For one short week, through lectures, demonstrations and hands-on workshops, Chinese ceramics will live in Palo Alto, California.
I have been fortunate enough to be at the right place in time, meeting key influencers and having the support of my colleagues.
I find the biggest reward from offering myself to help others. This program isn’t only to promote the invited artists and their work. It is for the community around me who want to learn, who want new inspirations, who want to see and do something new.