Artist: Carter Gillies
Carter Gillies, GEORGIA
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I believe that the world is filled with magical and splendorous beauty. This is especially true of the natural world. Handmade crafts and food, the visual and performing arts, and love and human kindness are things that people do which taps into this transcendent quality. I make pots in an attempt to explore this. But beauty is not something that can always be approached from head on. My experience with clay has led me to pursue it only indirectly; never staring at it too hard, as it were, but keeping it in the corner of my eye. It is almost as if you need to move sideways lest you scare these elusive qualities from your work. So I try not to be too specific with my designs. My work is an intuitive exploration of themes and relationships where details spring to life as a part of the process rather than something planned or plotted out in advance. Each pot is a fresh attempt at bringing new magic into the world, and my choice of glazes only adds to the serendipity. This way collaboration of my hands and the clay will always lead to new expressions and the surprise of quiet beauty never becomes trite or stale. Ultimately, my pots are an affirmation of the value of one of a kind idiosyncratically hand made beauty. Mastery is revealed trough a straining toward the transcendent not in the regurgitation of proven forms.
To tell you a little about myself, I suppose I should start with how I became a potter. I wasn’t always artistic. In fact, I remember two early situations that were clear evidence that I probably was NOT meant to be an artist. So just how did I find pottery? How did I manage to end up leading the life of a self supporting artist? Well, about a year and a half into my coursework for a PhD in Philosophy I was convinced by some friends that I needed a distraction from my studies. I was pointed in the direction of a non-credit pottery night class one of them was teaching, and as they say, the rest is history.
From the first moment my hands touched the clay I knew my life had changed. Of course I had no idea what I was doing, but it seemed incredible that with just a squeeze or a push something was different about the world. And when those squeezes and pushes were done right the world could be a more beautiful place. A better place. This was so different from my work in Philosophy, where after weeks of hard work nothing about the world had changed but my anxiety levels and the gray hairs on my head. Touch clay once and the world is already different. AMAZING…..
So, after an additional year and a half of more agonizing Philosophy I realized my heart was no longer in it. That direction had simply run its course. But I HAD found something else I wanted to do. Pottery! I did my best to keep my hands in clay, and eventually made a good enough impression on one of the instructors that I was invited to pursue graduate level studies in the Ceramics department.
I finished my MFA in 1997. After graduation I eventually moved to supporting myself as an artist. For the last five years I have made a go of it as a full time potter. I also teach evening classes at the local community arts center, and I have discovered that sharing my passion for clay with others is incredibly important to me. I realized that if I have to give up making pots but am able to continue teaching I will still have creative fulfillment. That was an interesting revelation…. Making pots is easy. Teaching is difficult. Compared to being a good potter, being a good teacher is more like brain surgery. But I truly love it and try to continually learn to do it better.
So that’s me. Maybe not so unusual a story. We all find our paths to the things we love, be it work, partners, friends, a calling, a hobby…. And the world becomes a better place, if only that part of it that has us at its center. And hopefully, if we do a good enough job at it, the world for others becomes a better place as well. Being a good teacher and making beautiful pots is something I believe adds real value to the world and leaves it better off because I care enough to try.