Today we take a sneak peek at Austin Riddle‘s Arrowmont Studio. I attended Arrowmont in August and spent a little time with each of the five resident artists for this series. Austin shared details about how he set up and organized this pottery space for his 11 month residency. These photos are not styled so this is typical of what his working studio looks like on an average day.
Austin Riddle’s Arrowmont Studio-Part I
HKPS:: When did you realize you were an artist?
Austin:: Growing up I was always working with my hands. I spent most of my time coloring in coloring books usually with my grandma. To this day, she mentions that I was very focused while coloring and always colored within the lines. As a teenager I spent my time building skateboarding ramps and different types of go-carts for my friends. I always had a keen eye for the importance of craftsmanship and took pride in the things I built.
HKPS:: What materials you work with?
Austin:: I make utilitarian ceramic objects with porcelain and fire in an atmospheric kiln called a Soda Kiln. My work is primarily thrown on a potter’s wheel with hand built alterations.
HKPS:: Is making art your primary source of income? Do you have a partner who helps to support you?
Austin:: Currently I am an Artist-in-Residence at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. By way of this residency, we receive a monthly stipend, discounts on materials, and free room and board. Through college, I sold my work in the summer time at the local farmers market in downtown Salt Lake City and holiday craft shows. It’s been about 4 years since I quit my “real” job at Starbucks to dedicate all my time to school and selling my work around town. While in school at the University of Utah, I was fortunate enough to work for the school as a studio technician in the ceramics and wood studios earning enough money to make ends meet and still be able to spend all my days at the studio.
HKPS:: How much time do you spend in your studio weekly/daily?
Austin:: I am very much a morning person and am most productive during the hours up until noon. My ideal studio schedule starts at 7 in the morning and goes until six or seven in the evening. This leaves enough time in the evening to decompress with friends and prepare for the next day in the studio. This is my IDEAL studio schedule, and it has been challenging while being an Artist-in-Residence at Arrowmont to find such a routine schedule. Since there are opportunities to meet and network with so many great artists at Arrowmont, my studio time seems to be cut up into 2-3 hour chunks throughout the day and night. Regardless of my living situation, I make it a priority to be in the studio every day for as long as I can.
HKPS:: Do you work in solitude/seek out solitude or enjoy company (music, other people etc)?
Austin:: My ideal studio space has opportunities for both a solitary personal working space and an area to interact with other artists. While in college there was no personal studio space and I longed to have a space of my own where I could venture into more vulnerable or embarrassing realms of my work without too many eyes seeing it. I took it upon myself my senior year to find a small studio space in downtown Salt Lake City where I could venture out into the embarrassing unknown and potentially fail without anyone seeing. During that one-year stint in my closed private studio, I learned a lot about my artistic practice. I found it hard to work longer hours without opportunities to interact with others and often felt lonely. I feel my current studio situation at Arrowmont is ideal. I have a private studio that I can close the door and get deep into my work, while I also have moments where I can walk out and interact with others. While in my studio, I always have music playing. When I find myself getting burnt out, working long hours to get work done for deadlines, I usually put on a podcast which helps me focus and push through.
HKPS:: Where do you make your art, how big is your studio and how long have you been in this space?
Austin:: My studio at Arrowmont is roughly 12’x18’. I have been in this space since June 2016
HKPS:: When you began working in this space did you plan any systems for the overall set up or did you let things evolve organically? How did past studio spaces or systems influence this space?
Austin:: Every studio I have set up over the years has had very similar beginnings, and I feel like I always try to mimic the previous set up with the idea that I had it all figured out. Each studio has evolved organically from that starting point as different needs arise.
HKPS:: Do you use personal objects & memorabilia in your art? Do you collect memento’s, found objects or other ephemera?
Austin:: I have always found comfort in objects, and that’s a huge part of why I make functional pottery. I collect vintage melamine dinnerware which I have in my studio and find constant inspiration in. I am a sucker for old rusted tin and metal objects. These objects have such an incredible embedded history through its weathered surface, a surface that I seek within my own work.
HKPS:: Do these collections ever overwhelm you and if so how and when do you curate-edit them?
Austin:: Even though I love collecting objects, I have great anxiety around having too much clutter in my spaces. I feel that I do curate the objects that surround me, leaving some in boxes waiting for their moments to inspire. I left a lot of these objects back home in Utah when I moved to Tennessee. It was hard to leave some these objects behind and I found myself bringing a small portion with me that were most relevant to my current body of work. I also wanted somewhat of a clean slate at this residency to start collecting more objects that held a history to Tennessee and Gatlinburg in an effort to incorporate more of this geographic area in my work.
ARTIST LEGACY & PROCESS
HKPS:: How much thought do you give to your artistic body of work in terms of historic value and the overall legacy you will leave behind? How do you store/archive your work or records?
Austin:: I think about the legacy of my body of work quite often. As a ceramic artist, I have to reckon with the fact that fired ceramic material holds the capacity to exist for thousands of years. This is exciting because hand made pottery has the potential to represent the lives of certain groups of people from generation to generation. You can discover a lot about a culture by looking at the objects they ate out of. I feel my job as a potter is to make objects that represent the things I find important and inspiring. Most of these influences are referencing a recent American history, the legacy of handmade utilitarian objects, and modern day social struggles. As far as documentation, I try to keep the best pots from every firing and photograph them before they are sold or sent out to shows. I also have a pretty active Instagram account which serves as a tool for storing and documenting process, progression, and ideas.
Next week we’re back to share more of Austin’s Arrowmont studio including tips on time management, storage, and studio organizing systems/tools. In the meantime, check out Austin’s work on Instagram or if you’re in Gatlinburg, stop by Arrowmont to see his studio (during open studio hours please:)! Austin is also busy preparing for the Utilitarian Clay Conference (September 21st-25th) and an upcoming show in Knoxville! Do you have any questions you want me to ask Austin next week? If so please leave them in the comments below!
*The idea for the Inside the Artist Studio series began while attending an art retreat where I curiously observed the differences in the creative cycle of order and chaos and what that looks like for different individuals. I’m very interested in sharing how organizing affects the artist’s creative process. Some systems and order are vital to our creative PLAY and learning to find a balance that works to enhance your creativity is what I hope to share with you through these interviews.
Is there a particular artist whose ‘Tool kit’ you would like to see featured? Leave a comment below and let me know!