When was the last time you saw a piece of pottery and wondered who created it or better yet, how they did it. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t until I met this woman that I even truly knew what beautiful works make up what we know of pottery and ceramics. So I want to introduce you to Sydney Ewerth–a phenomenal artist and an even greater woman. Sydney has inspired our newest category of content–#RawTalent because I promise you, what you’re about to witness is just that. Check out what she had to say during her interview with Goddess Isis:
When I asked Sydney to introduce herself to the readers of TGC, she said:
My name is Sydney Taylor Ewerth, aka Kid, aka Squid, aka “I don’t know, I got nervous and started making up names”. I am soon to be 24 and I recently graduated with my BFA (Bachelors of Fine Arts) with a concentration in sculpture and ceramics. Just a few of the many different hats I wear right now are my roles as a sister, a daughter, an artist, a substitute teacher, and a server. They all teach me different things and they all in some way have an influence on my art making. I work in mostly clay, ink, and watercolor, and for the past couple of years, my work has been pretty focused on the human skeletal form. More recently, this depiction of the skeleton has been a representation of a stripped away simplified little me.
What is your art to you? I’m still unsure how to answer this question without sounding like a rambling fool. Art is my love, the thing that nurtures me, while taking everything from me. It helps me connect the dots between different parts of my life. It humbles me. It reminds me to play. It forces me to face the things I don’t want to. It always pushes me to practice and learn and seek out new ideas. It is ephemeral. It constantly knocks me down and makes me question myself, till I eventually surprise myself like I never thought I could. It is the hardest and most incredible part of my life.
How long have you been fostering your passion for art? Oh man, my entire life! I was lucky enough to grow up with a family that always allowed me to get my hands dirty and make things. They always encouraged me to be silly, explore, and use whatever medium I could find as an outlet.
We are aware that you are an artist of many talents. Which form of art is your favorite?What does it do for you? You flatter me too much. I can’t say I have a favorite; different mediums do different things for me. Lately when I am working on paper, I find myself using India Ink, charcoal, fine tip black ink pen, liquid gold leaf, and watercolor. The different marks they make on the surface is so attractive to me. Clay is my baby though.
There are so many different tangible spheres you have to think about when working in clay. Structure of form, the various firing processes, glazing combinations, always considering the relationship this vessel will have with a person. There is no immediate gratification with clay, and I think that allows me to take a step back from the work. With so many steps, there are countless little wins along the way, and when you finally get to open the kiln to see the finished product it is like Christmas morning! Plus, who doesn’t like to get their hands dirty? I get to play in mud all day and I cannot describe how awesome that is.
What inspires the pottery you create? Well since I graduated college, I have been working in a clay studio here in Augusta called Tire City Potters. The shop is owned by Shishir Chokshi and it serves as a studio and store for functional pottery and a gallery for local artists. Myself and a few other potters sling clay all day to make functional work, meaning mugs, plates, bowls, vases, teapots–you name it. We make work that allows a happy experience with the work. You should feel good sipping coffee out of one of our mugs.
The TCP family has taught me more than just the structural aspects of working with clay. Sure, you should calibrate your plates to measure equally to the rest, but that allows them to stack neatly in a cabinet in someones home, where they will be brought out and placed on the table bringing a small sense of unity to dinner. We put love into everything we make. If we didn’t, you would be able to tell.
Outside the shop my relationship with clay is a little different. I have been trying to explore the duality in bone and clay and figuring out a way to form a relationship between the two. For the past year or so I have been intrigued with form on form marriages. I like to take ceramic forms I can throw on the wheel and merge them with mirroring bone structures. Building with clay on top of clay was a big part of that process. As I said before, art is a facilitator for helping me connect the dots to different areas of my life, and right now I am trying to wear my functional potter hat with my conceptual clay hat.
What words of advice do you have for others who are thinking of pursuing a career the same as or similar to yours? Don’t give up. Stay up all night, work outside of your habits, fail a bunch of times, research other peoples work, doubt yourself, but never give up. Ira Glass said it the best in my opinion.
“Your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.”
If you have not heard the whole thing, go look it up now. You will make bad work. You will question your skills and your concept and why you even exist on the planet. You might even go on hiatus (but probably not for too long because, really, who can stay away?).
You will doubt every inch of your being and from there, you will make again. You have to. Because if you are who you say you are, you won’t be able to not make work. I’m pretty baby fresh to this whole “artist” thing. I may be completely off base, but from what I can tell, it is a hustle. You will have times where you feel all you ever do is play catch up. There are moments when you feel pretty solid in your work, then you see someone else’s and you crash. But let those things motivate you. Come up with a regiment that makes you feel good about the amount and caliber of work you are making. Just don’t ever give up.
Do you have a favorite piece of artwork or pottery you’ve created to date? I get something different out of everything I make. I did a collaborative installation during my undergrad with a fellow art student and good friend, Anna Patrick.
We were doing an installation, which is site-specific art that works to transform the space it is installed in, on campus. We wanted to do a “pop-up” sort of piece, something that just showed up over night.
Working with the idea of light and trying to transform light and innocence into a tangible thing, we decided to use one of the big beautiful magnolia trees on campus and put a girl swinging under. We surrounded her with these “orbs” of light, that were yellow lanterns and yarn balls. We called it, “Pre-lapsarian Progenitors.”
The whole experience was so fun for me. I had never done something on that scale before, and I did not realize what kind of mindset you have to think in to put together a composition like that. Its like planning a party for the first time. You buy a couple a balloons and streamers and you are so proud of yourself, then you go to decorate and realize you were nowhere near close to getting enough decor to fulfill the idea you had in your head. Part of doing this installation meant I had to plaster my whole body. I sat there for what seemed like forever with plaster strips covering everywhere!
Then one night, we took everything out to the tree and hung it. We wanted to portray child-like innocence, and sneaking around at night climbing trees and giggling like little girls brought that out of us. The piece was put up anonymously, we did not attached our names, and it was so funny to see people react to it. Some reacted confused, some loved it, some accepted it and took photos and read under it. That was such a great experience, I will surely remember it forever.
What was one the greatest challenges of developing your pottery skills? What about your art skills in general? I am still developing my skills. I think the greatest challenge is finding that balance between a strong concept and solid skills. I have seen work that has impeccable composition, structure, use of color, but the artists statement seems like there was no thought put into it. I have also read the intellectual, sassy, mind blowing statements from the artists, and when I get to see their work, it doesn’t match up for me. “Skills” for me encompasses more than just being a strong draftsman or potter. You should be able to talk about your work and stay sharp on the language needed in the art sphere. That is a difficult skill and should not be taken lightly in my opinion.
Where is the weirdest place you ever created a piece of artwork? Probably the airport. I bring my sketchbook with me everywhere, but one time I forgot it (because without fail every time I travel I forget one thing I need) and started drawing on my plane tickets. That lead to a couple of pieces that are pretty important to me.
Do you have any funny stories, grand experiences, highlights you’ve experienced through making your artwork you’d like to share with TGC Readers? In order to graduate from our undergrad program, we had to put together an exhibition of our work. This was my first show, and like most of my fellow seniors, I was nervous. All of my professors, family, and peers would be there, and it was open to the public. In my experience, most show receptions have drinks and small hors d’oeuvres. Anxiety got the best of me and I went a little overboard with the food and drink selection. Especially the drinks. I split the gallery with another senior, Emily Pollard, and after awhile the reception turned into a big block party. In the middle of the gallery I had set up an installation that was made to look like a nest, it took up almost the entire width of the gallery, so people had to walk through it to get to the other side. One woman stumbled in from the bar next door and walked right into it, knocking about half of the circle over. This may have been in my mind, but I swear I heard a record stop and everyone in the gallery stared at this woman.
If you did not know already, when you go to a gallery, you do not touch the art, much less knock it over. I am not sure what compelled me to do what I did, possibly the couple of drinks I had to calm my nerves or maybe my uncanny ability to make any situation more awkward, but all I could think of to do as she stared at me in terror was to hold up the rock ‘n roll bull horns and yell “WOOOOOOOO!” in her face. She ran out embarrassed and the reception continued on. Not my proudest moment, but I hope if she ever reads this she knows I thought it was funny. Its just art. No big deal. Ha!
Are there certain ‘comfort’ conditions you have to have in order to create? For example, Goddess Isis can write anywhere on the planet she feels, but she needs her Ray Charles radio and coffee to get in the zone. Coffee and music. Those are essential for the production process. And I like to be alone. I am very easily distracted, and when I am alone I can focus better. I don’t mind working in front of people, but a lot of times my process means working through something, getting stuck, mumbling to myself… I would just rather not be a crazy person in front of people.
What is the ultimate goal you have for yourself as an artist? I don’t think I have any one singular forever goal that I need to obtain to fully achieve “artist status.” My goals right now are to figure out how to make work without the structure of school supporting me, to have another solo show soon, and to stay open minded and positive that the next step in my life is coming and it will be amazing. But those goals will change, as will my art. I guess if I had to pick one goal to keep with me till I die is to never settle. I hope I will always have the diligence to learn more and push myself further.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with TGC Readers? Everyone has their thing. Be serious about it, perfect it, learn it, trust it, dedicate yourself to it, stay motivated and appreciative that you have it–but never take yourself too seriously. Once you do, you take away the joy and fun and fulfillment that thing gave you in the first place. Stay happy, and do what you do like only you can do it!
I have an Instagram where I post photos of my work among other things. Instagram is an amazing tool for me. I love to see the beautiful things people see through their little lenses, so be my friend @SydTheKid09… I want to see what you do! I recently started a Tumblr. It is pretty simple, but I am always looking for more artists to love and appreciate. I wanted to have an open forum to appreciate any and all art, letting the work speak for itself. Might be some juicy food your for eyeballs. I also manage the Tire City Potters Etsy Shop and Instagram, there is awesome work on the shop and a couple silly photos on the Instagram.
I know. Amazing, right? I hope you were able to learn as much about clay, pottery, ceramics, and what an incredible person Squid is as I did. [To Sydney]: We’re so glad to be able to share your light with others around the world. You have opened our eyes to a form of art and self-appreciation that we hadn’t always recognized before now. Thank you for inspiring. -TGC