This week is Tennessee Craft Week (October 2 – 11)!
The purpose of Craft Week is to celebrate craft artists, the work they create, and the businesses that support them. In collaboration with Tennessee Craft, we are spotlighting the 2020 Grand Prize Winner of Tennessee Craft Week’s Instagram Contest – Asia Mathis.
We got to speak with Asia and ask her a couple of questions about her work as an Artist. Asia earned a B.F.A. in ceramics and painting from Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). She has upcoming exhibits of her work in Nashville, New Orleans, and Texas, both in-person and virtually. You can check out her work at this year’s Virtual Fall Tennessee Craft Fair.
This year’s Celebration of Craft will be scheduled virtually for artists to share their art, online events, online craft fairs, studio tours, creative videos, and their process of making artisan work.
What inspired you to become an artist?
Being a clay artist was simply the only thing I ever really wanted to do. I enjoy many other things such as writing poetry and nature exploration. I suppose I could have gone into some sort of natural science career or tried to be a professional poet.
But no matter what I was doing my mind was (and is) always thinking, “How can I turn this experience, idea, or feeling, into a sculpture?”
I found clay, and that was that. I feel driven to create these images that pop into my head, swim around, and finally reveal themselves in the clay.
Why ceramic sculpture? What drew you to this artistic form?
In high school, I didn’t know what I would do as a career. I just knew that I did not want to fall into the trap of hating my work.
I loved reading and writing poetry, and vaguely thought I would pursue a career in creative writing. In my senior year, our art class was mainly focused on clay; in fact we had a whole clay studio. Our art teacher was a clay artist herself. That year I figured out what I wanted to do, registered as a ceramics major and went on to get my Bachelors of Fine Arts (BFA).
At the risk of sounding incredibly corny – the clay spoke to me. I couldn’t get enough of it, and 30 years later I still can’t. I do get the urge to throw on the wheel from time to time, or make hand-built functional ware.
The pieces I feel most compelled to create must be sculpted, lit bit by little bit.
What are some techniques you use when creating your sculptures?
When hand building with clay, there are a variety of techniques one can employ. I use them all!
I follow the “rules” of clay when they benefit the work, and break them when they don’t.
I use stoneware clay, and build up my surfaces over the course of 3-4 firings, with my highest fire being about 2150 degrees F. This process allows me to change my mind, to cover and uncover surface, and to allow the surface to be born as slowly as the sculpture.
Your works have a theme centered around them. Can you tell us more about that and the process for your works?
My work centers around the human search for authenticity and belonging. The question of modern identity, or where we are truly at home when much of our ancestral culture may have dissolved, been actively destroyed, or is one in which we do not wish to be a part.
The same holds true for the environment, and the modern problem of being disconnected from the land, as well as wild creatures, which can create a kind of ‘hole’ in our identity.
My work reflects my personal experiences around these issues. I often have a flood of images arrive during a time of travel, or any immersive time in nature. These I usually sketch out, and use as a jumping off point when I start to build.
Do you have a favorite piece?
I made a piece this spring entitled “Joy and Sorrow,” which is probably my favorite right now.
With COVID, have you been spending time in your studio?
I’ve been in my studio more than ever! And have been so very grateful to have a studio attached to my home.
What are your feelings of Inclusion in the arts and as an artist?
Art is uniquely human, and inclusion in art is necessary if we care about being fully human.
Whenever we begin to exclude people from viewing art, having the experience of creating their own art, or showing their art to the world, we rob everyone of the amazing connections and communities we can build through the arts.
What’s on the horizon for you?
I am continuing to work in my studio. I’m really looking forward to when we can safely gather in larger numbers to celebrate, and discover (and buy!) the art that’s been created during this strange time.
Any Animals? Rabbits and deer.
Favorite Outdoor Activity? Hiking and making nature art with my kids. There are so many wonderful places in Tennessee to explore, while plane travel is still risky.
Favorite Artist of All Time? Ugh. I could not possibly pick just one. The great Georgia O’Keeffe who was so very deeply connected to the land. The amazing storyteller and writer, Clarrisa Pinkola Estes whose voice and soul is just warm delicious butter. My 3 favorite artists of modern figurative clay sculpture – Beth Cavener, Debra Fritts, and Adrian Arleo.
Favorite Park in Nashville? Shelby Bottoms.
What do you miss doing the most in Nashville right now? I certainly miss the craft fairs, gallery openings, and browsing the library shelves. But mostly I miss hugging my friends.