Little Yellow Couch: You seem to us like the quintessential ceramicist. Like you’ve always had clay under your fingernails. Is that the case?
Cara Taylor: I went to school for ceramics. After I graduated I worked on the staff of a pottery studio and I thought, “I don’t think I want to do this for the rest of my life.” I went back to school to be an art teacher. I moved out here for grad school and started teaching and I didn’t really think of ceramics again. And then one day I saw an ad in Craigslist for a cooperative studio space. And I was like, “huh. That could be interesting.” And I simply walked in, sat down and with no rules, and started right where I left off. I thought about what I liked to do. I like to roll out a slab of clay, I like to cut it up. And then figure out what this flat form is going to become in a three dimensional space. It just happened, literally, one day.
LYC: Talk a little bit about your methods. We know you use the wheel and do some hand-building, but we don’t know what slipcasting is.
CT: What I do is I take this form you want to recreate over and over again. My mugs, for example, they need to have a certain shape to be useful. You make a mold of the form and pour liquid clay into that mold. And it starts to dry out…you know that stuff , that ice cream topping, called Magic Shell? It’s kind of like that! The plaster sucks the moisture out of the clay. The longer you leave it, the thicker it gets.
LYC: What practice do you like the best?
CT: I like the hand-building the best. It’s that part where you don’t know what it’s going to come out to be that I love. I really like having a slab of clay, cutting it in a shape and folding it. I have patterns for some things and I have a rough idea of what the clay is going to do. But if I want something new or I’m feeling stuck, I can cut random shapes and get back into that creative place. Also, when I roll out a slab, I cut out what I need based on my templates, like, three short vases, three tall vases….and then I look at the negative space, where the shapes were and I take what’s left over and see what I else I can do. I hate wasting clay! So it’s fun, it’s a challenge to see what else I can make.
LYC: And what about the glaze? You chose a colored glaze…what’s that all about?
CT: I just like this glaze, it’s got just a slight hue….it’s traditional. Celedon comes from old Chinese and Japanese pots. Also, for me, I don’t paint or draw very much. I’ve never been into decorating a pot in a painterly way. So I just dip them in the glaze, and I like that slight blue-green hue that you can’t always see in every light.
LYC: But you do do some lines, very minimalist…
CT: Because that’s all I can do! So I just do a simple line.
LYC: What inspires the forms you come up with?
CT: I’ve been thinking a lot about this. I don’t necessarily look at something and recognize that I’m inspired by it. I know what I like and there’s an element of surprise in the idea development stage. I’m trying to build in a fresh canvas every now and again. I’m really inspired by flowers, and this idea of collected objects. I’m also inspired by book binding, knitting, crocheting and I think for the first time it’s coming together for me now.
LYC: Right, you’re staring to use stitches in your vases….
CT: Yes, I’m really excited about the stitched aspect of my new work.
LYC: A lot of pottery we see doesn’t imagine what the vase will look like with the flowers in it. It just focuses on the vase itself. But you seem to really care about what the vase will look like with something inside it. For example, when we walked in, we saw that you were working on one of your pillow-form vase that had two holes instead of one. And you said, “yes, it gives you a different way to arrange flowers,” and it’s so important that the vase supports the flowers in the ways that best shows them off!
We also like how your vases lend themselves to a small bouquet or even just one stem. Your vases are saying, “go find that one flower that would look really spectacular in this particular vase,” so that both the vase and the flower are stunning.
CT: That’s interesting that you see that. I worked in a flower shop in Maryland for a short time. And I think I got really lucky with this teeny, tiny shop…and the woman was so great, she was so choosy. The arrangements had a flow and were draping…nothing was static. I feel like I walked away understanding that the goal here wasn’t a dozen red roses. Instead the beauty was in whatever was looking amazing in the shop that day. She was always saying, “we have French tulips, have you EVER seen a French tulip…?” and she was so passionate. And I know the time I spent there has had an influence on me.
LYC: Would you describe your aesthetic as minimalist? It’s certainly not stark or sterile or anything. But, because your pieces are essentially white, we really focus on the shape.
CT: Yeah, when I think of modern….I don’t know if I’d describe my aesthetic as modern or sleek. I always say that it’s organic….
LYC: But “organic” can have this hippie connotation, which is not at all what your aesthetic is…there’s a very, well, “modern” quality to it.
CT: Part of my drive is that I don’t want to make anything that would be described as “pottery.” Not just the glazes or colors, but even the forms, I don’t want to be seen as only classically trained…so in that way, I do think of myself as a modern ceramicist.
LYC: Your process sort of reminds us of sewing. Fabric has this malleability…and we love how you’ve done that with clay.
What is the biggest challenge to you as an artist who is also making a living as an entrepreneur?
CT: Well, the lack of time for sure. In terms of promoting myself, I feel like the hardest part with having an online identity is that I don’t want to tell and share everything all the time. It just makes me nervous to put my whole self and life out there. I’m just sort of getting over it, so I JUST put up my own photo online…
LYC: Yes, we saw the photo of you on Etsy but not on your website….and it’s such a great photo we want to see it everywhere!
CT: I know! I’m getting over my vulnerability around that but… I think the true challenge is that there’s a lot to do for one person. Trying to keep up with the social media, but then keeping track of orders, the billing, the business end, and trying to find time to be creative, to fill orders…it’s a constant juggle. But I’ve just switched to part-time teaching so I now have more time, and I’m going to sleep with exciting thoughts, and waking up with exciting thoughts…I’m so happy! And I’m really looking forward to whatever it is that I might be working on next!