Amanda Bialk — contemporary, organic ceramics for self and home.
Amanda Bialk is an artist, maker of things and crazy cat lady. She works in a range of mediums, including photography, ceramics and fiber sculpture. Growing up exploring the woods near her home, her work has a strong focus on the natural environment as a medium that can speak for itself.
Amanda was originally supposed to be fine arts photographer, but toward the end of her college career she realized that all that time around dark room chemicals might have clouded her judgment.
She spent a month this past summer interning with Emily Reinhardt, an Omaha-based ceramics maker who goes by the moniker The Object Enthusiast (you can find her pieces at stockists like Anthropologie). She recently obtained her own pottery wheel, to wheel-throw items like her faceted planters, but she also focuses handbuilt works, like her chic ring dish with gold glazed polka dots.
How long have you been doing ceramics?
About a year and a half.
How did you get your start?
I got into ceramics just last summer. I needed a clay-related class for the art therapy certificate I was working toward — it was something I needed to do, not necessarily something I wanted to do. And it kind of changed my life.
How did it change your life?
I’ve always related my work to nature, and that’s what ceramics is, taking nature and making it something usable. Literally the clay — something from the earth that you can shape into something you can use everyday, something you can put in your home and love and see everyday, it’s just really inspiring to me.
Tell me about your first experience building something out of clay.
It was horrible! I’m pretty sure I posted a picture on Instagram of the wheel with the word “f***” underneath it. It’s really hard and when you get your start, if you have a good teacher, it can you bring you up. If you have a teacher who doesn’t push you, it can kind of be like, “OK, let’s get this over with.” It takes every part of your body. It hurts. It’s rough. The grog in the clay can break down your fingers a little bit. There are so many things that can go wrong; there’s so much heartbreak when kilns don’t work out, but once you get it, you get it and everything just makes sense.
What about the first piece that you ever made?
We had to make cylinders and I made six and they’re all horrible — and I love them. I still have them.
If you could name one of the things you love the most about making ceramics, what would it be?
This is maybe an impossible question. Probably opening up the kiln — especially the luster kiln — it’s like Christmas for any ceramic artist. It’s a great feeling to pull things out of the warm kiln and have it be exactly what you want it to be.
What’s it feel like to actually make something?
It’s what drives everything for me. Just starting out with such raw materials and in the end having something that someone can put in their home and cherish and look at everyday, that’s exciting for me. Someone will take something that I’ve made and put it in their personal space — their home, their bedroom — which is what I think really defines us as a person, the space we live in. They will look at something I made everyday; it’s meaningful and that is what drives me as an artist.