Claire Christerson Interview - The Hopper Prize

Claire Christerson

Claire Christerson on working with ceramics, finding inspiration in New York City, and creating pieces that feel both strong and powerful.

How did you get into making art?

Art has been part of my life since I was a child and started drawing. It was just something that I really enjoyed. As I got older, I pursued art in school, going to the School of Visual Arts, where I got a BFA in photography. Once I was out of school, I soon moved to painting, and in the last few years, have been focusing almost exclusively on ceramics.

I enjoy making things, and what I love about ceramics is that I am constantly learning: the most exciting thing about working with clay is its transformation from an inchoate shape to a recognizable object – be it a vase, plate, cup or whimsical snail. Another thing that I appreciate about ceramics is that at a certain point, the outcome is no longer in the maker’s control, but is up to the kiln.

Art is a medium for both introspection and communication. It lets me process something, express it and then let it go.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a variety of vessels that have very textured, sculptural elements, with a heavy focus on glaze experimentation. These include a series of vases that I have been making all year.

I am also working on new dishware as the holiday season approaches. Alternating between these two elements of one practice – making large vessels and smaller ones – is satisfying in different ways. That is, the large vessels take much longer to create and require many rounds of building and shaping. Smaller vessels, such as dishware, allow me to experiment with new motifs that can be developed into something more. I enjoy creating objects that people can treasure on their table for years to come.

The most exciting thing about working with clay is its transformation from an inchoate shape to a recognizable object.

Claire Christerson

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

Living in New York City, I spend a lot of time walking around. I love finding unusual details in buildings, such as intricate gate designs, floral patterns and reliefs, all of which I regularly photograph on my phone. A recent favorite is a wall relief on an apartment building that incorporated owls.

I am also inspired by nature and all different types of flowers, foliage, trees and lichen on rocks. Being outside and observing is essential to my practice, as well as making me happy and fulfilled.

Another source of inspiration is the Drawing and Prints Library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art . This year, I have enjoyed looking at old design plans for large scale vases, sconces, candlestick holders and stairways. I have had fun incorporating some of these motifs into my own work.

With this current body of work, I wanted to push myself to create vessels that are intricate, patterned and whimsical, and that feel more intentional with form and repetition. The glaze is important as well, as I wanted to create pieces that feel strong and powerful. My move into crystalline glazes is helping to achieve that.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

I usually take a broader approach to my practice; if something sticks, then I begin to focus more heavily on making this into a “project.” That said, I nevertheless have been putting less pressure on myself to have a project and to just want to keep experimenting and see what happens. It’s important to also have time out of the studio, and to be doing other things that offer sources of inspiration, such as reading. In particular, I enjoy reading fiction.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

I work full-time and am not in the studio everyday. When I am in the studio, however, I make sure to bring snacks and lots of water, so that I can spend a full day there. I work on different pieces during the same studio visit, since everything with clay is so time-based. That means I may be working on a vase, while letting slabs of clay dry so that I can later work with them. It’s nice to have this rotation. I like to listen to ballet music while I work, and lately have been enjoying listening to Swan Lake.

Who are your favorite artists?

Louise Bourgeois, Diamond Stingily, Beatrice Wood, Remedios Varo, SK Lyons, Astrid Terrazas, Jesse Stecklow, Heidi Lau, Kate Malone, Martine Syms, Aidan Koch, Yves B. Golden, Aaron Angell, Hilma af Klint, Val Shamma, Nora Normile, Odilon Redon, Chioma Ebinama, Emma Kohlmann, Freya Bramble-Carter, Sinjun Strom, Precious Okoyomon, Macayla Sandusky

Where do you go to discover new artists?

I go to museums and art shows. I also spend a lot of time on the internet just having fun looking at ceramics; I have definitely found many artists whose work I admire through that.

Also, my friends really inspire me.

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