Andrea Gill received her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, and her MFA from the New York College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 1976. She's been teaching at Alfred since 1984. Gill has won fellowships from the NEA and the New York Foundation for the Arts, as well as the Ohio Arts Council.
Her works are in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum the victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Rhode Island School of Design. In March, 1993 Ceramics Monthly Magazine featured her work and studio in a photo essay.
Ask the Artist
What's the most difficult part of creating your works?
- The most difficult time is getting started after a break: the questioning and self doubts are sometimes overwhelming. I work in spurts, due to teaching, family and other commitments. I do not run a "business" in the traditional sense of the word. Each exhibition is like a project, an idea that forms during the work process. Unloading the kiln is also a difficult time. There are always surprises, both good and bad. I have learned to not judge the work right away.
What sort of technology do you use in your work? Has the technology of your craft changed dramatically over the past 100 years?
- The technology and materials that I use mimic ancient processes, but are of the 20th century. My kilns are electric rather than wood fired. My clay is industrially produced, so luckily I do not have to dig up my yard to get my clay! Glazes are formulated with different chemicals to eliminate lead from my studio. Some colors I use are the direct result of 18th, 19th, and 20th century chemistry experiments. Other colors have been used for over a thousand years. I feel a strong connection to potters of past generations. I share with them the transformation through fire, or at least heat, of an object made of clay.
Do you have any advice for somebody just starting out?
- Advice: Get a good education: craft today is part of the larger art world. This may include ideas and work that seem distant from a humble pot, but the best ceramics being made today reflects on contemporary philosophy, art and literature.
- Find a good teacher or mentor who knows a lot about the material and will ask good questions.
- Start with impossibly high goals. Do not worry that the work never seems good enough. Exhibit your work, even if you only invite friends and relatives to the show.
- Look for and use opportunities within your family or community for places to have a studio or earn some money. Team up with other penniless artists to create a shared space.
Can you share a "secret of the trade" with us--something nobody else knows or that you found out only after years of experience? Put another way--what do you wish somebody had told you when you were just starting out that might have saved you hours of wasted effort?
- Making art is wasteful, because not every idea works. If I didn't waste all those hours, my work would not have developed. This is no secret to any one who has tried to write poetry, make art, or create a dance. So go ahead and waste those hours. Techniques grow out of need, so I can't think of any specific trick that would save time for any other potter, although I would be happy to share any knowledge I have.
What are we missing by experiencing your work through the Internet and not seeing/hearing/feeling/smelling/touching it in person?
- You will miss the experience of space, volume, texture, size, hardness; the feeling of a material once soft now made hard. If there is one thing that could be a connecting link among the diverse objects in a craft collection, it might be the importance of the tactile quality of the material the artist uses. These differences are minimized when translated onto a video screen. The viewer must depend on previous real experience with clay or glass or wood to understand what the image is representing.