Five-Dots is a Cincinnati-based online publication that hopes to open a conversation between artists/craftsman and the public about their work, process, ideas, concerns about their community and workspace.
Made in Cincinnati vendor and fine artist Megan Bickel helms this project with partner and photographer Cassandra Zetta. They release a new interview with a local creative, artist or maker regularly on their site including — this interview with Amanda Bialk of Amanda Bialk Makes Art.
Stumbling upon ceramics in her last year at DAAP (Design, Architecture, Art and Planning) at University of Cincinnati, Amanda Bialk found herself in love with the medium, especially wheel thrown objects. Combining her love for organic and modern forms into her handmade pieces, she creates simple vessels that are functional and beautiful. Amanda's philosophy is that our homes 'truly define us'. Nothing excites her more than creating work that someone will treasure and display in their home. It seems her true intentions are in hopes that the public will allow her works into their home to love, and to hold.
Amanda is a hustler. Soon after graduating from DAAP, she finds herself in the beautiful position of coveted ceramicist holding stock at six different locations around Cincinnati and northern Kentucky, as well as an Etsy shop and a shop with local online merchant Shop Made in Cincinnati.
Five-Dots: How long have you been in this studio?
Amanda Bialk: I’ve been in this studio since March .
F-D: And you said earlier that you were in an apartment studio up until then?
AB: Yes, I had half of a bedroom within my apartment and then Jessie, my studio mate [owner and operator of RheinoCeramics] contacted me and let me know that she had a space open within her studio. So I came, checked it out, fell in love with the space, and moved in. A little bit later the other girl that shared the space with us moved out and my boyfriend [architect Michael Ferguson] moved into the space.
F-D: When you moved in here, did you have an idea for how you wanted to lay it out or did it develop organically?
AB: It developed organically, we had a bunch of shelving donated to us from Rookwood Pottery, and after a little bit of time this kind of turned into my little corner.
F-D: Has the location of the studio influenced your work in any way?
AB: Not specifically Price Hill, but for sure having my own space. It increased my production by a good deal. Having a kiln has been a big bonus, I was previously paying to use a kiln every time I had a batch ready. That’s helped a lot.
F-D: Do you mind sharing the cost of the kiln with us?
AB: Actually it came with space. Originally the space was one of our old ceramics professors from DAAP. They left this kiln behind, and Jessie fixed it up. So now we just use it. I am saving up for my own kiln, but I might just get a cheap used one and then take this guy. The size is great and I really like using it.
F-D: Can you describe a typical day for yourself in the studio?
AB: Every day is pretty different depending on what I need to get accomplished that day, especially with ceramics because there are so many stages. I might be at the wheel throwing, might be at the back of the wheel and trimming, or fastening, then firing, glazing, lustering. It just depends.
F-D: Do you have a procedure or outline for your week? Is there any outline that you try to stick to so that you stay organized? Or do you just work to get it done?
AB: It depends, I don’t receive my schedule for my day job [Amanda works full time at the 21C] until a few days before the shift cycle. So I just have to flex around that. If I work in the morning I’ll come here in the evening, and vice-versa. I do feel like I have maintained my studio pretty well and I’m able to get in here 3-4 times a week. It’s never consistent though. I just make it work. Every maker knows the challenge of working a full time job and working for your passion. I’m always a little sleepy. But, you know, that’s ok.
F-D: How would you describe your subject matter or the content of your work?
AB: I'm just about contemporary clean forms. There isn’t much else there other than making things that people will put in their home and treasure. . . But, [as far as content is concerned] my thesis work was discussing earth, with a primary focus on salt. There are different elements that are poured into ceramics and something that I do think about is the process of taking clay, something earthen, and making it into a usable object.
F-D: So is sustainability something that is really important for you and your process?
AB: Yes, for sure.
F-D: What mediums do you work with?
AB: Clay. Glaze, yarn, rope, luster-- my favorite. . . That's pretty much it.
F-D: Can you tell us more about this process and how it has evolved?
AB: When I first started selling, I was just selling whatever I had left over from school. After a while I noticed which pieces people were really interested in and started attempting to recreate them.
F-D: Do you have narratives in mind for each piece?
AB: Not really. I just make something and hope that others will like it, something that they’ll cherish; kind of like a modern heirloom.
F-D: Did you ever feel like you were exiting away from your fine art background when you began making these utilitarian items?
AB: Yea, sometimes. But I also feel really good about my work. Before graduating the work was a mix of photography and fiber art--the ceramics came later. I was usually creating large installations--I actually just recently did a large collaborative installation with Una Floral. We created a modern still life for [the exhibition, Still Alive] at the Middletown Arts Center. So that kind of fed my craving for installation based work as well as exhibiting. Our intention was to just have a floral exhibition up while the flowers decayed.
F-D: Do you consider your work to be autobiographical at all; does personal history work its way into your art?
AB: In a way yes, I guess I make things that I would like to have in my home. But also my academic background really plays into my business model. I’ve always been interested in placing my work into interesting spaces and photographing it. The marketing and photographing of my work is just about as important as the work itself.
F-D: Does your aesthetic come from anything in your personal history?
AB: I always combine vintage items with contemporary pieces. I like to incorporate old pieces of wood or vintage items into shots and stylings of the objects I make. It’s just a tendency that I have.
Five-Dots interviews are co-published by Made in Cincinnati in an effort to expand awareness of local artists and their craft. Interviews by Megan Bickel. Photos by Cassandra Zetta.