** This got held up since we were away on our trip, but Maggie's work is a gem not to be missed! **
As I was looking back on my pictures from my June trip to the US and writing up this post, I got to thinking how great it would've been if I'd had the time to interview some of the artists we met. It was a bit of a rush going in and out of studios with my family, so I know it wasn't possible at the time, however, it would've been cool, right? So then I did a little research on my favorite piece from the museum, contacted the artist, and asked if she would do an interview. I'm excited to say she agreed, so please enjoy this Living Colors post!
Maggie Jones is the primary artist behind her family's Turtle Island Pottery business. Check out the great short video (less than 3 minutes) to meet Maggie in person. Then head on down to our interview questions!
In your video you talk a little about how you got started doing ceramics. What was it that drew you into ceramics at that young age and convinced you to stay with it?
I disliked school and the art room was my only place of sanity. I felt a strong urge to develop fine crafted and useful objects. Function was important. My father was a mechanical engineer and always pointed out how things were made. My early years were spent drawing over blueprints on tracing paper with mechanical pencils he brought home, thereby becoming familiar with construction sites and architecture. He always got involved with whatever we were interested in and we learned together, painting or whatever. In high school I learned how to use the potter's wheel. The whole process of making useful and beautiful objects from the very source of the earth was and is intriguing to me.
You also talk about being a craftsman before becoming an artist. Did you ever get bored by your craft? If so, what sustained you and made you keep going?
Any kind of repetition can be boring but there are infinite ways to change any pattern. I became bored with the blue flower pattern that we started in the early 80's, but when I began the more sculptural and one of a kind work in the early 2000's the pressure to produce the old stuff was removed. Now I enjoy both and can go back and forth as needed.
What inspires you? Do you have particular artists, genres, music, or nature that really encourages you in your work?
Nature is my main inspiration. I love symmetry and look for balance in asymmetrical designs. The early Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts movement have motifs that are everlasting to me. Crystals growing, lava flowing and flowers blooming are all activities that have been going on since the earth was formed and ceramics incorporate all of these.
Have there ever been instances where you felt you've had to justify your choice to live as an artist? How do you handle those conversations?
No. Only personal reflections as in 'what good is being an artist when the economy is so bad and the world is falling apart?', or 'who can afford this stuff?', etc. I just have to follow my urge and realize that the money is still out there, it's just shifted around. People who love the work will support it as they can. The marketing aspect of running the business is a struggle and as I get older I'm more inclined to just create as the urge requires rather than create based on what the economics may imply.
Tell us a little bit about how it's been to work with your family. Did it draw you together more or generate new ideas? Did people assume certain roles in creating or running the business?
Like working with any group of people it has all kinds of issues. It was good for the kids; Molly was making and selling things and had actual accounts with shops when she was 5 yrs old. Both kids helped at the shows either with setting up, breaking down or manning the booth. Jesse did a lot of piecework in high school and college and made good money. My kids learned to pay their own way as soon as they got their drivers license. We couldn't afford to pay for insurance and cars for them, so they had to work it out themselves. It was the best thing we ever did for them. Freeman helps with maintenance and kiln loading; he also starts a lot of the wheel work. He has good ideas when I get stuck.
Have there been any defining moments in your creative journey?
I really can't think of any defining moments in my creative journey, It seems that the creative urge has been such a major part of who I am, even since my first memories. Sometimes I think that it's all I know.
What are some of the challenges of your profession?
Marketing, marketing and marketing, oh, promotion.
Do you have any favorite tools of your trade?
Usually small wooden tools to shape where my fingers can't reach.
What are 3-5 things you feel you've done that have really benefited your creative endeavors and that you would encourage other artists to consider?
Do what you have the greatest urge to do. Learn to speak up and be clear with customers. Never stop learning!
Maggie, thanks so much for making time to do this interview!
To buy some of your own Turtle Island pottery, check out Maggie's website and Etsy shop for purchases.
To see more from my North Carolina pottery excursions, click here.