Hi Toni! Congratulations on being selected as The Winner for the Cluster Residency 2021
How would you introduce yourself to the Cluster readers?
I love being busy, building new work,finding fresh connections, creating relationships,and pushing the boundaries of my work and my lifeto endlessly find new possibilities and experiences.My work in clay is about pushing out of the confined box/spaces that clay is typically known to exist in, pushing the materials, surfaces, glazes and forms outside of known expectations. To accomplish this,I tend to be in the studio a lot making both functional and sculptural work, always with a mindset open to change.
How did you get hereon your creative journey?
I allowed myself the permission to be who I am.The older and more experienced I become the less I find myself apologising for the path I have taken to reach my goals. It took time to discover that although my approach and timeline were not linear, the skills I developed on my path enabled me to excel during my BFA and beyond.There was a freeing/defining moment in my work and career where I turned my focus from the external pressures of people’s expectations towards the internal drive to make work that matters to me.This shift in perception marked a turning point in me and in my making, a turning point which I credit for opportunities such as this. I recognise this shift in my making was one found in privilege, it was not easily come by and was found at a point of my life where my skill would allow it and where I had the stability to pursue the work of my choosing.
What drew you to ceramics?
Specifically, I chose clay as I love to work in three dimensions and was introduced to the medium at a fairly young age.The time and access I had to develop and hone my skills built a love borne just as much out of familiarity as it was out of the endless possibilities of such a malleable material. Beyond the specifics of my experience, I’m drawn to a material we all have a connection to in one way or another. We hold it in our hands, we touch it, we use it, the original softness of the clay translating into how we hold and experience finished pieces in our daily use. I believe this tangible, tactile quality of the functional still remains in the sculptural.There was a life, a movement, a softness that existed in the clay while it was being formed, this energy remains and is so important in the work I make.
Tell us about the work you submitted…
It was important to me to show a variety of work that offered consistency for a full understanding of what I do and what I plan to make going forward.My work deals with nature and the changes that occur through the cycles of life, this is a theme that seems ever-present regardless of the project I am working on.
Fade From Black
How would you describe your creative styleand way of working?
I work intuitively, allowing the form to come together organically.The components of my work are primarily wheel-thrown building blocks.I always produce multiple blocks, more than needed, allowing room to make reactive decisions as the form takes shape,ensuring I am not limited or defined by the resources I have at hand. Surfaces, glazing, firing, and colour all occur in a flurry of activity as experience, speed, and reaction to results combine together to determine the finished work.
Key words to define your forms?
Movement, growth, form, patterns, systems, order, life, nature, colour – my work is about representing and interpreting the patterns of growth,complexities of movement, and signifiers of life and death found throughout the natural world – leaving the impression that the work is organic or somehow alive, familiar yet unknown.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
The excitement to find the next answer, the next result.The test kiln is a curse and a blessing, at a 12-hour cycle to find the next answer or the next failure, in the height of experimentation it never shuts off. The pleasure, regardless of the result, in opening that next firing, seeing what I have learned or what is yet to be learned is endless motivation and inspiration to continue and face the next day.
Social media and you: the good, the bad and the ugly. Tell us all…
The challenge to keep up with and maintain our social media presence,I think, is something we can all identify with. The pressure to appear complete and present a level of perfection can be all-consuming.I have found it counterintuitive that through the age of covid and the adoption of zoom and facetime, we have become more honest not less.Through the use of these technologies, used often in the face of personal isolation,we have opened our homes to each other, shown our families,appeared unkempt and honest. This created an opportunity for honesty and genuineness within our social media platforms that had not existed before.I feel, now more than ever, this portrayal matters most – this is who we are,we are all just doing the best we can. I have found freedom in this honesty.It has allowed me to share my progress, my inspiration and, in this sharing,I’ve been able to develop my own work further and understand myself and my inspirations in a way that was not so clear before.
Who are your idols?
The list is huge but defined by surface, presence, experimentation, colours and form, here are just a few: Ron Nagel, Barbara Hemsworth, Ken Price,Lauren Mabry, Viola Fray, Akio Takamari, Tessa Eastman
What’s on your creative calendar for the near future?
I am feeling tremendously privileged as I am going to be able to place a large part of my focus and time on creating work for this Cluster Craft Residency and eventual solo show in London. I am also thankful to have received a creation grant from Arts Nova Scotia that will support the development of a new body of work based on virology research supported by a microbiologist working at a University in the Prairies of Canada. I am teaching and attending several workshops throughout the year and am hiring my first studio assistant for a term position.
Once Was Red
Make your own work, make it the best you can,make it better, then push it further.
Tips, tricks and secrets for making it in the art world?
There are always many tips and tricks, a few things that I have found make a difference for me:Ask if you don’t know! You can’t possibly know everything and there are so many great and supportive people in our community that are happy to help out.Be a part of the community. Build your connections in the community you want to be a part of, support the up and coming, lean on the established.Remember that it is your reputation that you are putting into the world.Follow-up, follow through, and keep learning from each of your applications(both the wins and the losses). Remember, we are a small community, your positive impacts are going to be noticed, remembered and recognised.
Thank you for reading,Valeria, Daniel & Cluster Team.