Coloring Outside the Lines: My French Ceramic Retreat

Last week, I shared the first part of a two-part interview with James Briggs of Carroway + Rose about my upcoming trip to Vallauris, France. I'm thrilled to have a four-week residency to focus on ceramics!  

Today, I am officially 'on my way'. I will start my journey in Provence, where I will let the dust settle, smell the lavender and visit a friend at her Truffle farm in Carpentras. Then, I head to Vallauris!

The purpose of my trip is to have uninterrupted creative studio exploration time in an inspiring and historically significant setting, where many great masters spent their summers. I'll be leaving on June 19th and will keep you updated as I roam on my French ceramic retreat!

Here's part two of our discussion.

Vallauris ceramics
'Coloring Outside the Lines'

JB: Picasso created an amazing body of ceramic art in his studio in Vallauris. To many casual arts fans not familiar with that part of his oeuvre, talk a little about his ceramic art.

BM: When someone explores an art form that is not their training, they tend to break all the rules - partly because they don't know them and honestly, they don't care. This 'rule breaking' is inspirational. Picasso's work, like his paintings, took clay to make simple forms with strong graphic surfaces. He explores subject matters with his own 3-dimensional articulation. This is freeing to see 'what else is possible'. I love the idea of being around work that is outside of the mainstream idiom of ceramic art. 

This residency draws artists who are coloring outside the lines - or at least exploring outside the lines. This will be a great push for me, as I’ve spent my career making work that feels authentic to me but is driven by a marketplace. The residency explorations are unencumbered by the marketplace and the need to have people 'like' what I do. That's probably the reason I'm most drawn to it - and honestly, it may also be the hardest part to adjust to. Change can be uncomfortable - but I like being uncomfortable, because that means I'm learning. 

Picasso Ceramic
'Creative flavors rise up and the inspiration is endless'

JB: Change is often a catalyst for great creative expression. Do you have plans of what you’d like to create there?

BM: I don't really have any 'big plans' except to give myself the time to explore creatively. That starts on the walk to the cafe, then down the street to the studio, perhaps stopping at the market and picking up lunch. I have not had long, uninterrupted days in the studio, for such an extended period, ever! But now, I come with an intimate relationship with clay, an understanding of how my hands want to move this material and a list of ideas I want to test. 

If the ideas work and spark new ideas, I suspect my friends and gallery visitors in Gulfport will see the fruits of my labors in new work created here in Florida in the future. Inspiration is more of a stew than a stir-fry for me. I'm a slow contemplative who likes to soak in something for a long time and then realize it has transformed me. Then my flavors rise up and the inspiration is endless. 

JB:  To fellow artists considering teaching or traveling abroad, what advice would you pass along to them?

BM: I think it's important to get out of your life in order to both see it more clearly and change it. This gift of a residency gives me 'permission' to explore without producing. We should all take a break for ourselves and explore being over doing. If you can do it overseas - even better! Traveling the world makes our home on earth a much smaller place and that is always a good thing. 

'There are many languages besides the spoken word'

JB: Are there lessons you've picked up while teaching, studying, and traveling that you incorporate into your gallery in Gulfport?

BM: I think teaching overseas shows me that there are many languages and it's not always the spoken word. I watch carefully what people are doing and how they respond, and I act accordingly in helping or directing.

St. Pete has a nicely international flair to it, and I meet many Europeans, and eastern Europeans in my Gallery. I think just having an awareness of geography and other countries and traditions opens conversations that would not otherwise open. And working with the public is all about conversation. I find people's stories fascinating and that helps both when traveling and when back home.



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