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Studio Visit: Brendan Tang, Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada
Posted By Ceramics Monthly On January 17, 2011 @ 5:05 pm In Ceramics Monthly,Open Studios | No Comments
Just the Facts
white earthenware (aka ghetto porcelain)
Primary forming method
Favorite surface treatment
I use two painting approaches in my current body of work. Airbrushing underglaze allows me to create a super polished look. More meditative is my practice of hand painting blue underglaze in the fashion of classical Chinese decoration.
Primary firing method
I’m in the process of moving house and studio. For the past three years, my studio has been located in the basement of my house in Kamloops, British Columbia. It is about 800 square feet, not including a room dedicated to the storage of works and packing material. I suppose the best part of my studio is that it is located where I live, which is great when you’re sitting a kiln or working late. But as many self-employed types have found, this can also be a studio’s greatest short coming, as you can never really get away from work (I suppose that’s where Facebook comes into play).
Since I don’t have a lot of natural light in my studio, I’ve painted the walls white and installed more lighting. The floors are concrete, so I use floor pads to save my back. I generally keep my electronics (cameras, computer, etc.) out of my studio space, but that’s not always possible when your office is also the guest bedroom.
My training in ceramics began with an apprenticeship at JoVic Pottery in Chemainus, British Columbia, and has continued through workshops, residencies (the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena, Montana, and Medalta Potteries in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada), and two degrees in fine arts (at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville).
I spend about 30 hours a week on creation of works, including research, planning, and hands-on time with clay. The rest of my time (about 35 hours a week) is spent on promotion and sales. This involves maintaining my website, writing emails, processing sales, and making arrangements for exhibitions.
I also teach courses or workshops on occasion (such as an upcoming workshop in Israel), and enjoy engaging with students as a visiting artist. It surprises me—and a lot of other people—that I spend so much time outside of the studio.
One of the dangers of my lifestyle is that I can become fixated on work, which can be hard on my shoulders and back. I practice Bikram yoga, which definitely helps the issue and satiates my “type A” personality. The intense physicality helps me get centered and out of my own thoughts and worries about work. As a Canadian resident, I thankfully don’t need to worry about buying health insurance to help cover costs when I need to see a doctor. In addition, I also add on an occasional massage or chiropractic treatment.
Now, I’ve never done the Myers-Briggs assessment (a psychometric test that identifies personality type), but I would guess that I rank high on the Extroversion scale. This means that I get a charge from social contact; however, this conflicts with the solitary nature of my studio practice. To combat my isolation, I’ve gotten into the brave new world of social networking. It’s actually a little embarrassing how much time I spend on online, as any of my friends would attest to—this includes my two Facebook sites and my website/blog. Through these venues, I gain camaraderie with artist peers who are also in the studio, ceramics or otherwise. I’d also like to think that these windows into my life give non-artist friends a sense of what artists “do”—for example, what my studio life involves, what my exhibitions look like, and places I’m traveling to for work.
Despite my attachments, though, electronic communication is no substitute for hanging out with folks in the flesh. The best way for me to recharge is through an artist residency program, which I try to do at least once a year. My most recent residency was at Medalta Potteries, and I am heading back there in early 2011. In late 2011, I’ll be at a residency at the European Ceramic Work Centre in the Netherlands.
My advice for making a living in the visual arts is to get the work out there. I’m always looking for different ways to get my work seen. For instance, I try to get my work posted on all sorts of blogs that have nothing to do with ceramics. In the past, I’ve had my work featured on BoingBoing.net and NotCot.org.
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