Welcome to our next installment of "Meet a Member"! We are excited to introduce Briggs!
Name: Briggs Shore
Years working with clay: About 10 as a hobby, and about 3 taking it seriously
Type of work made (sculpture, pottery, etc): Wheel thrown dinner ware and functional pots
What region of the state do you live in? Whidbey Island
Describe your process and materials: I use mid-fire porcelain (mostly Laguna ^5 Frost), and a variety of colored slips for decoration. My work all starts on the wheel, gets trimmed and smoothed, and then I incise lines in simple patterns. These lines get filled with black or dark slip then cleaned up with a metal rib to look sharp. Then, I'll brush colored slip on the inside and foot of the pot and sign the bottom. After bisque, I spend some extra time sanding to make sure all the surfaces are very smooth and any slip smudges are cleaned up. Glazing is a simple coat of clear inside and out. I fire to ^6 in an electric kiln. A quick clean and bottom sanding after they come out of the kiln, then they're done!
What is your favorite tool? A steel pen I found in a machine shop years ago. It's what I use to sign my pots and the tip is very sharp, but not thin like a needle. I love it.
Please share your favorite clay tips or trick: After you learn the basics, the clay is your best teacher. Making a piece is a give and take process, especially when you're working with porcelain which definitely has its own ideas about what it can and can't do.
When and/or how did you get started working with clay? I remember the first time I saw someone throw a pot on a wheel. I was 5 and it looked like magic. I don't remember the first time I got to finally try throwing, but I knew it would be my life's passion in college when I just couldn't stop taking ceramics classes despite my Interior Design major. I've had a number of teachers, but not one specific mentor. I've found places to work in clay in each city I've lived in, treating it as a hobby or side project for a number of years as I pursued other careers. In 2015, a friend encouraged me to have a booth at her group's craft show. Soon after, I found the Ceramics Center in Cedar Rapids IA, and they invited me to become a Resident Artist. It wasn't till around this time that I realized that I could make this my profession, and started seriously applying to shows. The last few years have been moderately successful, and I'm so very grateful that I've been able to focus on something I love so much.
How has your practice change over time? I've been in a lot of different studios with different rules about what types of clay and glazes can be used. In all of them, I've tried my best to create work in my own style. Thinking back, I'm kind of pleased that I've been so true to my aesthetic for so long. While I've explored differences in shape and form, my look has always been very clean with simple color block or line designs. I feel like I'm searching for the perfect form, and each new studio environment has given me a new opportunity to find it.
What jobs have you had other than being an artist? Did this influence your work at all? In college, I waited tables to pay my living expenses. I got an Interior Design degree in 2007, tried designing kitchens and baths for a couple years, then moved on to managing a non-profit. When the funding ran out there, I went back to waiting tables. I worked as a graphic designer for a couple years, then when I was obligated to move across the state, went back to waiting tables. My life and career has been a roller coaster. I'm very grateful that I found serving early in life and actually find it a wonderful partnership with my studio work. At my restaurants, I'm sociable and outgoing, and always moving quickly. At my studio, I'm quiet and introverted and move slowly and thoughtfully. Also, serving pays well and has allowed me a measure of financial stability I didn't have in entry-level jobs. Always tip your servers 20%. We work hard for it.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given working with clay? That thing I said above about the clay being your best teacher. I really wish I remember where I heard it first, but I definitely took it to heart. You have to pay really close attention to what the clay is telling you. Push just a little to hard, or move too abruptly and it will not give you the result you want. This way, you learn to feel every minor bump and wobble in the turning clay, and learn how to thin and smooth them.
What’s the best advice you ever gotten about creativity or being an artist? I actually just got my favorite piece of advise from a friend this morning: You are your own boss. You decide what day is a studio day, which pieces are good enough to sell, and how hard to push yourself. This was both comforting because it gave me permission to take a day off when I wasn't feeling well, and really sobering because it reminded me that my success is totally dependent on me.
What inspires you? I actually don't think I'm inspired as much as I'm motivated. I feel like I've been on the same journey working toward the same perfection of form for a lot of years now, and that motivation has never waned. When people talk about inspiration, they're usually talking about getting new ideas, but I feel like I've been chasing the same big idea my whole career, and I think I might chase it for the rest of my life. For some people that might sound exhausting, but for me it sounds comforting. I just want to keep my hands in the soft clay and inch it closer and closer toward the perfect shape and surface, a little better every year.