It might be instinct, but I enjoy watching what others are creating in the studio. It is no surprise if you find me wondering around and asking question to my fellow artist friends. This week, I had the chance to visit with one of my classmates, Donna Flanery.
Donna was raised in Idaho with her twin sister. She moved to Montana where her sister and family still live today. She received a BFA in ceramics from the University of Montana. After graduation she participated in artist residencies at Northern Clay Center and the Archie Bray, as well as spent time in China. She now resides in Gainesville, Florida, where she is working on her MFA in ceramics at the University of Florida.
Donna’s work and processes have always been instinctual. Recently, she has taken time to research the Dada and Surrealist art movements and is currently using cloud mapping as a technique. Her surfaces are rich with narrative and have a beautiful painterly quality.
Right now Donna is working on some large storage jars with figures and animals that are beginning to appear on the surface. A lover of low fire red clay, she has spent most of her career utilizing it, but recently explored the possibilities of white clay making a series of mugs. We talked about the depth, or loss of depth, in the white clay as opposed to the red. She uses a combination of wheel throwing and hand building techniques, but prefers coil because of the surface texture it leaves behind.
I asked Donna what her most prized possession was. It didn’t need to be related to ceramics. She said, “My Yixing teapot!” She was disappointed that she recently broke the lid, but is working to make her own replacement. While studying in China, I visited Yixing and I purchased my very own prized teapots. Yixing teapots are typically made of red or brown clay (although I have seen some yellow and green). They are not glaze fired because, over time, the teapot is able to absorb the flavor of the leaves. Some say that if used long enough you don’t need to add leaves to make tea. If ever in China make a stop in Yixing, Jiangsu province… You wont regret it!
I asked Donna what the most rewarding part of her work was. She said, “The painting process and expressing myself.” I also asked her if she had any advice for aspiring artists. “Do not be in a hurry. Be aware of where you are and your development. However, do not be too eager to jump ahead. Realize that you will get better with time, and that, more often than not, artists are not born… they are made”, she replied.
Donna’s bright and friendly personality made my first offical studio visit very pleasant. Thank you Donna!