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Cultivating Creativity in Quarantine, with the Makers of SUPPLY UNICA

There’s no one who has been left unaffected by covid-19. For the ceramics world, our physical sense of community - especially studios - has been split asunder. But while we’re all away from each other, we’re still in this together.

This week we caught up with the makers of SUPPLY UNICA, and we asked them to share: What are you doing to cultivate your creative practice?

We hope their stories can provide collective encouragement to you and your loved ones.

Ali Gibbons

I set aside this time (March 15th - May 15th in my mind) a few months ago to focus on painting and reduced my pottery output leading up to mid-March. The timing of this decision ended up being very strange.

I've been working on watercolors and some oil paintings and have found that I'm very slow at painting right now. I am trying not to put any pressure on myself-- I'll take long breaks to wash my brushes, create new still lifes, cook, or bake bread (all things I normally do but have really ramped up in the past few weeks). The accumulation of paintings, even if it feels slow, is comforting.

Anna Crooks

My creative practice has honestly been looking pretty wacky and scattered, but that’s fine by me! Everything is nutso and the only way I’ve been really able to cope is by trying to take it easy on myself. Somedays, I pick up some sewing projects I’ve had piling up, or draw, or make jewelry, or try a new recipe, and some days I work on hand-building. I try to let myself get really into the task at hand, whatever it may be, and I end up feeling good about how I’ve spent my day. (I’ve also spent several days just watching t.v.! Trying to be cool with whatever my day looks like!)

So many people have been sharing their skills online, so I’ve been watching a lot of tutorials. Recently, I learned how to make brushes! Something that’s amazed me everyday is how adaptable people are, how quickly virtual programming sprang up to fill my endless hours and give people outlets for creativity.

At the beginning of April, I got to participate in “Phone Call” (organized by Ginevra Shay and Transformer) and read my poems to strangers over the phone. I found myself being really vulnerable and honest with people I had never met before, and got a lot of trust and vulnerability in return. There’s something really special about the ways people have found to remain intimate and create new avenues of intimacy in this really alienating moment. I’m sincerely hoping these networks of love, creativity, and inspiration can carry over and shape whatever our post-pandemic world will be.

  • View Anna in the first issue of UNICA
  • Follow @anna_y2k on Instagram

Elise Birnbaum of Oatmeal

While the whole country is either stuck at home or on the front lines, healing the sick, stocking groceries, cleaning the places that need to be cleaned, we find ourselves incredibly grateful to be able to bring our work home and to have a creative outlet during anxious times. We've been moving forward making lots of vessels in our makeshift dining room studio, cooking lots of food and going on lots of walks with our very bored dog.

This past weekend the sun was shining and we decided to try something we've always been interested in, but didn't really have the time or patience to spend a whole day doing without an expert guiding us or knowing the secrets of the trade. Pit firing is the oldest known method of firing pottery, it is as it sounds, you dig a large pit, pile in unfired ceramic wares and start a large bonfire atop it. Our attempt was a little less grand, we used our backyard fire pit and put just one small vessel in to see if it would work. Technically we should have used a low fire clay body, but all we had was the one we make our sculptural vessels with. We wrapped it in banana peels and copper bits, a technique to give it a little color, and let it burn for 6 hours.

The results were far from perfect, but it was a fun way to spend a sunny day outside. We feel a little less intimidated by the process and when we can get our hands on some earthenware clay and some more wood, we might just do it again!

Fernando Aciar of Fefo Studio

  • I go to the studio 5 days a week to keep structure, mental health, and body movement.
  • I only work in new designs, new shapes, furniture design, textile design, nothing from the past.
  • I'm also fiscally organizing the studio and restructuring the web-store.
  • Daily contemplation of birds singing.
  • 6 days a week of yoga and meditation.
  • Baking and cooking a lot. For me, this has been so incredible to go back to cooking - and keeping my 2 passions moving along (considering the terrible times of constraints). Seems like I have freedom. I feel very blessed.
  • For the future, I'm just looking into priorities and focusing only on what makes sense. Cut what is unnecessary.

Jonathan Van Patten of JVP Wares

[The following is a snippet from Jonathan's piece on quarantine.]

I’m allowing myself to weep when necessary, and laugh as well. I’ve slowed down because things will speed up again. I’m asking myself what I need to let go of, so I can make room for something new and unexpected to come into my life, even though I can not see it right now. I’m seeking to take care of myself to the best of my ability within these present circumstances.

Stephanie H Shih

One of the main reasons I work out of a community studio is because I live alone—and the idea of living alone and working alone always seemed too lonely. So much for that idea.

These days, I wake up alone in a queen-sized bed and make a cup of Earl Grey for one. I work alone at my banding wheel for 7 or 8 hours. I make dinner for myself. I eat it alone. But what I've found in a practice that would’ve felt cheerless in the past is a consistency that keeps me sane.

Sameness is comforting now: if everything stays the same then nothing gets worse. Most days, I paint until the sun comes up. Then I shower alone. I brush my teeth alone. I go to sleep in my queen-sized bed alone and there's no one to interrupt my routine. It's not as lonely as I expected; it’s an aspiration for tomorrow and knowing what comes next.

Troy Yoshimoto

I feel like when the hunker down orders first came I was worried about running out of things to do, but that definitely hasn't been the case. There are many projects that I've been wanting to start but just didn't have the time or the right mindset for. I feel motivated now more than ever to get these projects rolling.

Some projects I've been working on:

  • Indigo dyeing some ceramics with cracks in the glaze.
  • Fermentation: kombucha (with Marcus's help) and natto
  • Documenting my family's history in America via stories and photos. I especially want to focus on what my family went through during WW2.
  • 3D printing face shields for friends and those who need it.

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