SAMANTHA HELIGMAN - Still Austin Whiskey Co.
seven questions by still austin

1. Tell us about a work of art you feel is woefully misunderstood or underappreciated. 

I always come back to ancient pottery. Shards and full pots have such a history of use that we will never fully know. Nor will we ever know—for the most part—who made these pots, what that artist had in mind when they created the thing, and how we as future people may take the intent behind a piece of pottery for granted. I could go down a black hole of thought about this.

2. You have a BFA in Painting and Photography, but you work in ceramics. Why did you switch?

The long and the short is, I had a free elective and I’d always wanted to work on the wheel. I was in art school, and I just wanted to try everything. I was in a bookbinding club and a knitting circle—because I also had a huge interest in fibers. My first love has always been photography, but I had no desire to work as a wedding photographer to make money. And I’ll be honest: I don’t think I could have made it as a painter. Pottery seemed simpler in the way of making something someone might need in their daily life, while still informing yourself and your vision for the piece. I could part with work more easily, and I can make a living.

3. What do you love to see in a piece of pottery?

Thought. That goes for both functional work and sculpture: I want to see the intent of the maker in the work—in the form and the treatment of the surface. I mix all of my own glazes, and I try to be very thoughtful in my choices of color and texture for my functional work. I think you should be able to see the artist’s intent on the piece.

4. You believe in making objects “that mean something.” How do you make a ceramic piece mean something?

Well, we could get philosophical and say “What is the meaning of meaning?” But mostly I look at it as how an item can become important to someone. I have very strong sense-memory. I see an old mug in my mom’s kitchen, and it brings me back to a time when my grandmother made me hot cocoa with tiny marshmallows in that particular mug. I want my work to evoke that feeling, to become entwined and imbued with memory.

5. What would you say to someone who’s thinking about a career in art but is afraid to make the leap?

Start slow. There’s no rush. Take your time to make mistakes. Learn from as many different people as you can. I still take workshops and classes; in fact, I try to take one at least once a year. Once you stop learning, you stop growing. Always be open to a new point of view!

6. What’s the secret to successfully throwing pottery on a wheel?

Practice. Time and Practice. Don’t get attached. If you made it once, you can make it again.

7. How do you take your whiskey?

With hot apple cider! 


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