Meet ceramics artist, Giselle Hicks. Her works are subtle and yet strongly moving in their simplicity and depth of beauty. Giselle shares with us why she chose ceramics as a medium, and from where she draws her artistic influence and inspiration.
Tell us about your background; what drew you to this work?I’ve been working primarily in clay for about 18 years. I received my BFA in Ceramics from Syracuse University and my MFA in Ceramics from NYSCC at Alfred University. There were a few reasons I chose ceramics as my medium. I was fascinated with the rich history. There is a ceramics traditions pretty much anywhere you go in the world, so ceramics was a way for me to learn about different cultural histories and traditions. The medium is pliable and incredibly versatile – I figured I would never get bored using this medium given there is so much to learn – technically and conceptually. I liked that potters tend to be communal. They like to eat together, talk about food, sit around the table, share studio space, equipment and recipes. And lastly, I remember my undergrad professor and his wife always had their doors open to students for meals and to share their collection. This was the first time I saw what it was like to live in a house full of handmade objects. Everything in their house had a story. Their home was very alive, very rich. I wanted to be a part of a life like that. The choice to work in clay was a holistic one – I liked the material, the people around it, the history and the lifestyle it promised. What is you design aesthetic and how has it evolved or been honed over time? I want my work to be simple and elegant, strong yet soft. I used to make work with lots of flowers or patterning. Eventually, I started thinking about the work I would want to live with or the work in the world that I respond to and it was quieter than the work I was making. Once I started to make the work that I wanted to live with, the pinched vessels emerged and the wall pillows/tiles shifted to the cool color palette and geometric patterns.
“I’m pretty married to clay. I think with it or I think in it. I like that it yields to my body. I’m interested in the chemistry and alchemy that the material has to offer.” What materials are you most drawn to, and why? I’m pretty married to clay. I think with it or I think in it. I like that it yields to my body. I’m interested in the chemistry and alchemy that the material has to offer. I often wish I could say what I wanted to say with my work with a pencil and piece of paper, but I’m interested in form in space. I think in 3D.
Tell us about your work – what do your designs most typically consist of, and has this changed over time? Right now, I’m mainly focused on making the pinched vessels. I started making the pinch pots in response to a frustration with some other work I was making that required lots of steps to get to the finished product. I wanted to make something with a process that was as simple and direct as possible. Coil and pinch is a basic fundamental technique and I use as few tools as possible when I make the vessels, so it’s just my hands and the clay. My goal is to create forms that explored volume, proportion, posture, shape, color and composition. The qualities I am looking for in the work are: generosity, stability, slowness, softness, simplicity and beauty.
“I love minimalist paintings and the abstract expressionist movement as a whole. That’s my favorite work to stand in front of and experience. I’m not sure if it impacts what I make, but it reminds how powerful art can be and how it can change how we experience or perceive the world around us. I like being reminded of that.” What influences and inspires you? I love minimalist paintings and the abstract expressionist movement as a whole. That’s my favorite work to stand in front of and experience. I’m not sure if it impacts what I make, but it reminds how powerful art can be and how it can change how we experience or perceive the world around us. I like being reminded of that. I always go to the Met when I’m in New York. I’m so moved that humans have made exquisite, beautiful objects forever. I find that very affirming. I read a good amount. I carry the writing of John Steinbeck, Wallace Stegner or Virginia Woolf with me daily. Lucie Rie, Ruth Duckworth, Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, Agnes Martin and Rachel Whiteread are the artists I look to for inspiration for their ambition, strength, originality and dedication to their work. When you lack inspiration, where do you go or what do you do? Honestly, I’m usually pretty excited to get in the studio. I haven’t felt a lull in a while. I have a backlog of ideas in my head that my hands are excited to get to. If I do feel a lull, I make something I know how to do… like a cylinder or a round pot. Usually once my hands get going, my mind follows. What is a studio necessity of yours? Good lighting and heat. I can make work anywhere, if I can see what I’m doing and I can feel my hands. (Can you tell I’ve worked in cold studios with poor lighting?) In your opinion, how do all great artists first begin? Showing up. Showing up. Showing up. What is your typical way to wind down at the end of the day? I like to go for a hike or a run. I enjoy cooking dinner too. It’s pretty simple.